Mend-Orshikh Amartaivan is a social entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of erxes Inc, an open source growth marketing platform. He is also the Founder and President of The New Media Group which provides professional consulting services in several areas focusing on marketing and IT.
Additionally, The New Media Group has cultivated a strong corporate culture of social responsibility and is dedicated to assisting non-profits and other organizations working to build a better Mongolia as well as Empowering Human Centered Business.
He’s been organizing TEDxUlaanbaatar since 2011 and is the board of directors of Bid Chadna NGO, established its non-government organization to help increase the employment rate among the disabled people. He is passionate about social entrepreneurship and possesses a strong desire to create new solutions to social problems and then implement them on a large scale to change society for the better.
You’re a very busy man, currently co-founder and CEO of Erxes Inc. (an open source growth marketing platform), founder & president of The New Media Group, a board member of the Mongolian Marketing Association, and the one who brought TED Talks to Mongolia (as Chairman of TEDxUlaanbaatar). What are your career highlights and what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my teammates, the ones who’ve been with me from the beginning until today. They are my most valuable assets, that’s for sure. We’ve been through a lot in the past 9 years, including a few bad decisions I’ve made one after another. I lost a good many teammates in the past, but my teammates are the ones who have been through all the obstacles and we learned from them together. We’ve grown up together and aim for the best. It is said, “Go alone if you want to go fast. Go with your mates if you want to go far”. We could not have outrun the difficulties on our way here as entrepreneurs alone, but we have never given up on our dream to become the first Mongolian IT company in Silicon Valley. I think it is important to never give up on your dreams. I’m always grateful that I’m working with my teammates who are super strong, passionate, persistent and full of aspirations.
In 2016 you started Erxes (an open source growth marketing platform), what motivated you to start this business? Has there been a great take-up of open source growth marketing platforms by Mongolian marketers?
The reason for starting Erxes in 2016 is we aim to show that Mongolian engineers can build an open source software that can give a positive impact on the world. Before 2016, my team and I started four different IT startups, but because of insufficient funding, business model and development of a startup ecosystem in Mongolia, we failed. We were competing internationally by using the money earned from the domestic market, which was bootstrapping us. As a result, our previous four startups were not successful. Ideally, we were working such as to attract funds to make good products in the IT field, and after repeated failures, I realized that we needed to find the root issues to why our startups failed.
Therefore, we started looking for answers to questions such as, “What does it mean to be Mongolian?” “What is the Mongolian reputation in Asia?” “What data is available for us?” I think Mongolia is underdeveloped in the IT field and almost makes no contribution to the worldwide IT field. In the recent six or seven years, the issues we were facing as entrepreneurs was marketing software which was very expensive and difficult to use. At that time, we tried software such as Hubspot and Intercom, and found, along with other startups, that we faced such difficulties such as the payment increasing when our customers increased, limited functions of the software and impossibility in changing some functions to fit our own businesses. Therefore, we asked the following questions from other startups worldwide, not only from Mongolian startups: “Would you use open source marketing software which could be downloaded and used free of charge if there was such a thing?”
The answer was “Yes!” Therefore, we built our team and started the project in 2016. Currently, there are over 2,000 startups in over 60 countries using Erxes, with 80 to 150 additional downloads every week. We have 17 enterprise clients, including the 3rd largest bank in Mongolia, telecommunication providers, and automotive distributors. Recently we’ve started working with a British gaming company who has over 500,000 customers. We aim to show who we are and what we can do by our products which are useful for people; we believe we can do.
You’ve been running The New Media Group, which is a creative marketing & software development agency, for almost 10 years. What changes have you seen in the Mongolian marketing landscape over this time?
In the last 10 years, I founded The New Media Group and through it successfully completed projects for our clients within the framework of the main focus of the Mongolian creative marketing and software industry. We have worked in many of the well-known projects in Mongolia, and for our clients, we cooperate with domestic and international corporations.
I have observed that Mongolian marketing agencies determine their advantages and focus on them alone. As the agencies focus on their strengths, it is common for them to cooperate in large projects together. Previously, agencies tried to do everything, on what was possible for them to do alone, such as developing a marketing strategy, creating a logo design and corporate identity, developing social media content, and developing web and mobile applications.
However, recently some marketing companies have focused only on web development, while others have chosen to focus only on marketing strategy and communication. So they are more focused on what they good at. In the future, Mongolian marketers may compete in the international market and face new challenges in being acquainted with new products and services. Additionally, in the last 10 years, many world famous brands have come to Mongolia, and various marketing activities to introduce in the Mongolian market are frequently conducted. I hope the day to introduce Mongolian brands such as cashmere and IT in international markets will come in the next 5 years! I also hope Mongolian marketers will work as world marketers.
As an entrepreneur and marketer, what advice would you give to young people looking to build their career? Would you encourage them to start their own business, or try to get a marketing job at an agency or advertiser?
As an entrepreneur and marketer, I would like to give advice to young people to understand well what their own situation is. I was born in Mongolia, which is located between the two large countries of Russia and China. It is very important for young people to make decisions based on the data; for me, it was Mongolia as a landlocked country, its population of 3 million, and half of them living in rural areas. The situation is totally different for entrepreneur living in China or Indonesia.
In 2010, when I started my business, the only data I had was regarding the main source of Mongolian economics, namely mining, of which most companies exported products coming from this sector, and most other business owners imported products from abroad and sold them in Mongolia. My vision was exporting intellectual creations, as I saw the software sector was developing fast. The largest sectors in the world are in IT, and I saw a niche for us.
Based on the above-mentioned data, I started my company, completed certain projects, built up my team and produced products directed to foreign markets by our earned money. It might be totally different in China and Indonesia because of their large population and economic capacity. Facing issues every day, making mistakes and learning from mistakes, these are what give opportunities for startups to develop because of the above-mentioned instances are advantages for entrepreneurs.
They need to learn from every situation if they want to have a chance to work in foreign agencies. All people have the wish to reach success, and if they determine early the “where,” “when,” and “how” by understanding the particular situation, they can imagine how to reach their goals regardless of where they.
As the former CEO and current Board Director of the Mongolian Marketing Association, what activities are you doing to build skills and experience in Mongolian marketers? Is the MMA’s focus on education, awards, networking or knowledge sharing?
In 2014, the Mongolian Marketing Association was inactive, not conducting actual activities because of time constraints, and board members rarely met. I proposed that it needed reconstruction when I met the board for the first time. I introduced my plan to develop the Mongolian Marketing Association and was appointed as its CEO. During my appointment as the CEO, I recalibrated its board members and updated the charter by inserting succession and governance issues.
As CEO, I collected marketing directors of large companies on the board, and I recovered its membership in the Asian Marketing Association, which had been withdrawn, by attending conferences abroad twice. The main contribution of the Mongolian Marketing Association is conducting conferences and events such as the Social Marketing Forum and the SMART forum, not only in Mongolia but also continuously extending its collaborations with the Asian Marketing Association. I think I pushed its development in the right way and we recovered our organization which has a 20-years of history.
You brought TED Talks to Mongolia and are the Chairman of TEDxUlaanbaatar. Are there more talks planned for the near future? What topics are you most interested in sharing?
In 2011, TED talks were new and Mongolian youth had never heard of TEDx. No entrepreneur was introducing this in Mongolia at the time, so I thought it was necessary to conduct the first TEDx talk events with support from team & volunteers. Since that time there have been about 30 events conducted over the last 9 years.
This event is one of the most anticipated events, and every year it makes a record for attendance. For this year in 2019, all the tickets were sold out on the first day! The TEDxUlaanbaatar community team has about 1000 volunteer members, and it has become like a large family, which discovers people who have the initiative in their sectors, introduces them in interesting ways and supports them.
Additionally, there is a group named TED Translate, where the member volunteers translate TED talks. In the future, we have the aim to find many good speakers satisfied with the TED standards and introduce them to the community in order to translate the talks into English for the world to hear. We hope Mongolian speakers will be on the front page of the TED website soon! During the last 9 years, I have been continuously attending TED events and voluntarily contributing to the organization.
You have an impressive CV as an entrepreneur. Are you considering launching another business? What’s next for you?
I’m currently concentrating on working on a go-to-market-strategy of Erxes to go worldwide. In 2018, we selected the Blackbox program sponsored by Google, which I’m so grateful for. I’ve learned a lot and at the same time, I know there are areas to grow in. When 14 startups from 13 countries selected to join Blackbox Connect 23, we had an opportunity to meet with angel and venture capital investors in the USA, our open source growth marketing platform was highly appreciated.
That’s why I am inspired to continuously develop the Erxes. Currently, I have the aim to develop Erxes not only in Asia but also in world markets with the aim to make my company a success in Silicon Valley. I plan to focus on Erxes for the next 10 years until we achieve this dream to build the first Mongolian IT company in Silicon Valley, showing that Mongolian engineers can build an open source software that can give positive impact to the world.