Besides free artisanal coffee, popcorn, and ice pops made out of soda, Singapore’s old school favourite, the kacang puteh, was one of the many free goodies that were available at Tech in Asia Singapore 2016.
Tech in Asia Singapore 2016 was held on 12th and 13th April, at the Suntec City Convention Centre. Young and fresh-faced, we attended the event hoping to take away important learning points from the many talks (which we did, of course). Since we were there, we also jumped at the chance to speak to fellow start-ups to learn about their founding and journey. The event’s Bootstrap Alley was perfect for start-ups to gather and mingle, and so we made a beeline for it—not just for the kacang puteh.
We talked to a lot of people and every start-up has its unique story. Many of them have exciting products, but given our background in recruitment and talent-mapping, we were especially interested in their hiring practices. We’d like to introduce you to our favourite five:
Kang Junyoung (left), Founder and CEO, with HW Kim (right), Co-founder and CSO of Withmeal at their booth in Tech in Asia’s Bootstrap Alley.
The first booth we stopped by at Bootstrap Alley was run by a Korean social dining app, called Withmeal. Kang Junyoung, the well-conditioned CEO, shared that he started the app because he was always eating and having drinks alone. “It’s not sad,” he chuckled in defense. “People say it’s sad, so I’m like, ‘Why don’t we make a service where people won’t think it’s sad?’” He thought that such an app could perhaps help people with common interests—or at least similarly wired taste buds—get together. Users can choose to become a host or a guest. As the latter, they can look for events to attend based on a variety of categories, such as Sports/Diet, Business/Career, Culture/Arts, etc.
The app is currently run by a team of seven. “We try to do everything ourselves, from developing to marketing, so we need a lot of people,” Junyoung shared. “The hardest part of getting people together is finding them. I didn’t know what type of people I need. I thought, maybe I need developers, and then maybe I’ll need designers and marketers.” Interestingly, even though they are app developers, Junyoung does not trust online job portals and prefers the old-school method of putting up job ads on University notice boards. “It’s ironic for an IT company,” he laughed. “I put up about 200 postings in 20 universities; about 30 people called me. I went there, and I interviewed them, and they interviewed me. They chose me too. About 50% rejected me, saying, ‘I don’t think you have enough background’. So those are the people we have right now, in our team. It took me two months to get a team of seven. It’s not bad; I was lucky.”
We asked Junyoung if there is someone in the world that he would really like to work with, and he answered, “Conan O’Brien. He does not exaggerate. I think I can work with him 24/7. He’s very humorous.”
Lik Yeo, Co-founder of Surfing Suitcase, posing for a photo in front of his booth in Tech in Asia’s Bootstrap Alley.
Intrigued by its name, we stopped by the booth of Surfing Suitcase (thanks to the ubiquitous bootstrap alley branding it was almost impossible to distinguish between the different booths). Co-founder Lik Yeo—his creative business card reminiscent of Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, dangling from his lanyard—was there to greet us and share his story.
Surfing Suitcase is a mobile/web application that curates working spaces for small companies or lone workers. Unlike incubators, Surfing Suitcase does not own any of the places it finds for its clients. Almost like a real-estate version of our own TalentDash (we map out potential employees instead of real estate), the platform serves its users by helping them look for spaces based on their preferences, for example, having strong wifi, power points, or being quiet and conducive.
“We get people who sign up with us, and they offer spaces—it can be co-working spaces, cafes, or extra office space that they can get some money out of while they grow their company. A lot of these excess inventories do not really get full staff, so we’re helping them fill up.”
The idea is the brainchild of Lik and his friend, and the both of them later roped in two more friends to help out with the start-up. They are hoping to get one or two more talented folks to join their team, but because they have not gotten any funding, it is hard for them to hire someone. “It wasn’t really ‘recruiting’ per se, but just having to pitch our idea to them; hope that they are invested in the idea, and maybe give a little bit of money to them. It’s not like: ‘I’m looking to hire someone’,” Lik said. “At the end of the day, you want someone who is motivated about your product. You want them to help you to think about and work on the weaknesses.”
Tony Jin, Founder, and CEO of BestTop Career, at his booth in Tech in Asia’s Bootstrap Alley.
As a talent-mapping platform, we felt that our concept resonated with BestTop’s tagline of “Customised Career Advice”, so we approached the bespectacled Tony Jin, founder, and CEO of BestTop, to find out more.
“BestTop is a platform to facilitate the process of people looking to connect industry mentors. You can select the mentor that you’re interested in, and talk to them. You pay them hourly rates, depending on the mentor,” Tony explained. The platform offers two main services: Individual Career Coaching and Group Sharing Session; the former allows students to receive one-to-one coaching with their mentor, and the latter works as a networking group for students of similar goals, with one mentor.
The one-and-a-half-year-old company is made up of two full-timers and two part-timers. The former being none other than the two founders, of course. “My co-founder mostly manages the financing, and I handle everything else,” Tony shared. As they are still relatively young, they are not able to afford full-timers, so the founders enlisted the help of their friends as part-timers. “You have to have the passion, and be reliable. Personally, I prefer reliability over competence. In young start-ups, you have to literally do everything. Everything is on-the-job training and everything is a learning process, so, the person must be willing to learn,” Tony explained.
The company is looking for summer interns. “For us, we have our platform. Our user base is mostly students and they are looking for jobs. We also have our social media channels, so looking for candidates is not really a problem for us.”
Ruby Balasingam, Assistant Sales Manager of Beely, and her colleague, Azri, in front of their booth in Tech in Asia’s Bootstrap Alley.
Beely, which is based in Malaysia, is a “gamified point-farming” mobile application. It allows users collect loyalty points in stores via Bluetooth, saving users the hassle of having to take their mobile phone out and open an app for point collection. With that feature, users get to harvest one point for every five minutes spent in a Beely-powered location. The points can then be accumulated until users can use them to redeem special items. As users continue to use the app, they can accumulate experience points, which will enable them to level up and earn specials or collect bonus points.
We spoke to Ruby, the Assistant Sales Manager of Beely, who was manning the Beely booth with her colleague, and asked her if she knows what methods her CEO used in growing the team. “I used TribeHired; that was how I got hired. The other method would be via start-up job boards,” she shared. According to Ruby, Beely was launched in October 2015, and it is currently the only application that the app development company is focused on. “My CEO came up with the idea, then he got a team of developers to work on it. We have thirteen people in the team now.”
We must confess that we have never heard of TribeHired, so we asked Ruby to explain it to us. “TribeHired is a website based in Malaysia, where people upload video resumes of themselves. CEOs will then look through them and if they want you, they will hire you. They will then pay the platform after hiring you.” Using her personal experience as an example, Ruby told us how she used the platform to put herself out there. “I got a call within a day of putting up my video, and an interview was scheduled in the next week. It was all very fast,” Ruby noted. “It’s not exactly time-consuming for the companies, but I suppose it can be quite costly.”
Jin Zhe, Founder, and CEO of Mooder, cheerfully promoting his platform at his booth in Tech in Asia’s Bootstrap Alley (Source: Jin Zhe’s Facebook).
Mooder, with its quirky two-way smiley, piqued our curiosity. According to Jin Zhe, the founder, and CEO of Mooder, the logo serves to remind people that joy and sadness are polar opposites of each other and they can only be defined in terms of the other. “The complete picture of our emotions can only be appreciated when we have experienced both emotional spectrums equally. Essentially, Mooder’s logo is the ying and yang for emotions,” Jin Zhe explained.
Having graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Jin Zhe draws his inspiration from the likes of Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg. He believes in the importance for a technical founder to put in the legwork of developing the initial product, and with that, Mooder was entirely developed by him in the span of one year.
Dubbed as the “social network for emotions”, Mooder’s blue interface and three-column layout remind us of Twitter. “The Twitter-like interface was adopted to provide a familiar user environment to reduce the barriers of user-adoption,” Jin Zhe explained. The platform currently has over 450 users and 1,600 posts. “We intend to target the young demographic in the long run; people who seek to have an emotional outlet. The current user demographic comprises mainly of NUS students because they are the most readily available community to reach out to,” Jin Zhe shared.
The start-up is currently a one-man team with a handful of interns who will be starting work over the summer. We asked if Mooder is planning to expand its team soon, and Jin Zhe replied, “We have raised pre-seed from MediaCorp and we are also on the AliCloud 2016 program, so we are now looking for team members. Although people with marketing, business, and psychology backgrounds will be ideal, it is more important that the individual believes in Mooder’s mission, which is: To connect the world’s emotions by creating a permissible context for emotional exploration and awareness.”
Our five start-ups show that every business goes through its own unique process of building its team and product. It is no secret that the team is one of the most important components of a successful start-up. Without it, who could build and perfect the product, or develop the business? Most of the time, however, limited funds can be the one roadblock to finding the right team members. It simply is too costly for start-ups to experiment with their most precious resource: the human resource. So, apart from taking a play out of these five companies book, allow us to introduce another way. Excuse the shameless plug of our very own start-up, but if you are in need of a team (member) for your start-up, we will find you just the person you are looking for—or didn’t even know you were looking for yet.
Update at 10:30am (GMT +08:00): Mooder’s story has been revised due to initial inaccurate information.
We would like to thank everyone who shared their story with us. If you have any interesting story to share, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.