It has always been a dream of mine to launch a startup right after school. After winning Startup Weekend Singapore, where we built the first Carousell prototype, we received encouraging feedback from our peers and others to build the product. This gave us confirmation that we were solving a meaningful problem that affected a larger community, and not just the three of us. It really inspired us take the plunge and bring Carousell to life.
I decided to take a leap of faith and drop out of my Honors Year at National University of Singapore to prioritize Carousell. Everyone was like, ‘How will you make money? The large classified companies and e-commerce marketplaces will kill you’. It was difficult especially in the beginning stages when Carousell was stuck with flat growth for months. But we persisted because we believed that we were solving a meaningful problem.
The biggest takeaway was not a single lesson, but rather being able to immerse myself in a tech-centric, risk-taking environment where people believed strongly in being able to use technology to solve problems, and make an impact on millions of people. That was really inspiring. In Singapore, we tend to take fewer risks because of the stigma of failure. As a result, we don’t set moonshot goals for ourselves that startups in Silicon Valley do.
As a startup, we were venturing into new ground with very few resources and a very lean team. Some of the harder days involved the three of us — Marcus, Lucas and I — going to weekend flea markets and distributing free bottles of water in exchange for feedback on our app and user downloads. We wanted to get real feedback from the ground to improve our product. We’re not just building a platform, it’s the community of users that makes it special.
There are over 600 million people in Southeast Asia, with almost 400 million not yet connected to the internet. That’s a lot of potential. We’re reaching out to a generation of internet users who leapfrogged the desktop era, and we have a chance to influence and shape the way people use their smartphones — whether it is to communicate, buy-and-sell, or share music.
Global investors have brought with them the mindset of the long-term strategy, to support the new wave. Five years ago, you were struggling to run a pre-revenue startup. No one would give you the money to increase your runway to build a service, gain network effects and execute a long term-strategy. But now we are in a more fortunate era where there is serious venture capital.
VC funding is certainly a great vote of confidence for entrepreneurs, but backing from VCs alone does not guarantee success. The relationship between startups and VCs can go several ways. Whether the funding support will hinder growth of the startup ultimately lies in the synergy between the two parties, and whether both work towards a common vision. VCs have a vested interest in helping startups to succeed, and as such are often happy to provide value beyond investment. This is certainly the case for Carousell. Our VCs have given us invaluable advice and mentorship, and have connected us with the right companies and the right people to help us move forward.
If you really care and believe in what you do, press on and never stop trying. One of our favourite quotes at Carousell is “we are less than 1% done”.
Slush in Singapore for its Southeast Asian debut speaks volumes about our burgeoning startup scene, and how we are more than ready to use technology to reinvent the future.
Fumiko Kato, CEO of WAmazing, is one of the speakers of Slush Tokyo 2018. WAmazing provides a free network service for the tourists coming to Japan. Since she founded WAmazing in 2016, the highly qualified system has been evaluated and the application has more than 80,000 downloads. Now, the service is opened only to tourists […]
Obvious Ventures was founded three years ago on a simple belief that the most valuable companies of our time will be the ones solving humanity’s biggest problems. Today, Obvious Ventures has invested in more than 40 world positive companies. I got a chance to hit up with their Founding Partner Vishal Vasishth who co-founded Obvious […]
Funding Circle has one mission: to become the world’s leading small business lending platform. Since 2010, they have channeled more than $5 billion to more than 37,000 small businesses around the world. This has created roughly 100,000 new jobs and produced an investor network of 72,000 individuals, companies and institutions. Behind this is CEO Samir […]
Leila Janah is the founder and CEO of Samasource, a self-funding nonprofit, which reduces global poverty by outsourcing digital labor to impoverished places around the world, and LXMI, the organic skincare brand. Both companies were recently highlighted on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list. Leila is one of the Slush 2017 speakers and I had […]
In just two days, the world will descend upon Helsinki. Entrepreneurs, investors, journalists, students, scientists and professionals will come together in Messukeskus, the biggest convention space in Finland, to experience the highly anticipated, full-packed days of Europe’s leading startup event. Who better to prepare us for the action than team captain, CEO Marianne Vikkula? Below, […]
Nokia is heading into the growing VR industry with OZO Live, a software solution that runs on reference hardware and enables the OZO camera to broadcast live VR experiences at scale. Visitors at Slush get to have a glimpse of premium live broadcasting of 3D 360 VR video as well, since selected programs from Black […]
Slush Music is organized on Nov 30–Dec 1 at the Cable Factory and Expo & Convention Centre in Helsinki, Finland. There is only a week left to Slush Music. Get your tickets now! Slush gathered total of 1,700 startups in 2015. This year won’t be any different – except the number went up to 2,200 and […]
Slush Music is organized on Nov 30–Dec 1 at the Cable Factory and Expo & Convention Centre in Helsinki, Finland. There is only a week left to Slush Music. Get your tickets now! Marko Ahtisaari, CEO and Co-Founder of Sync Project will be speaking at both Slush and Slush Music. We had a chat with him […]
Slush Music Presents is the blog series about the speakers and discussions that will be highlighted at Slush Music program this year. Slush Music is organized on Nov 30–Dec 1 at the Cable Factory and Expo & Convention Centre in Helsinki, Finland. Get your ticket to Slush Music now! From all copyrighted works, music is […]
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