Chat with founders from Gozo Labs

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This week, I had the opportunity to meet with up with the founders of Gozo Labs – Xu DaXiang and Quek Shu Yang. On a personal basis, I met Daxiang when I was in Yahoo!. He was with the search … Continue reading

Chat with Ng Weileen from 9flats Asia

What's up in unit 39c #sgstartups

Something's boiling at 39C North Canal Road

With reference to my previous post. I like to thank Weileen for giving me the opportunity to interview him. A short bio on Weileen – He is my senior from the NUS NOC Shanghai program and have deep experiences in running startups. He co-founded 2 companies - Southbund.com and Indie Tee Room. Both startup deals in the retail industry. After which he moved on to join 2359Media as the Director of Business Development. 

Now using his experience from starting up a company to business development he is now the lead for 9flats in Asia9flats founded by Qype founder Stephan Uhrenbacher who was also involved with Lastminute.com. And 9flats operates a similar model to US-based Airbnb by offering a market place for private accommodation.

 

 

I prepare some questions for him and he was very kind to help me answer them.

1. Can I say that 9flats is in the short-term rental market. If it is what is your take on the outlook for the short-term rental market in Singapore or even Southeast Asia?

weileen: I think that it is more accurate to say that we are in the vacation rentals market. The vacation rentals market is doing very well. If you google vacation accommodation and browse the results, you’ll be surprised at how many businesses are sustained this way, even with smaller selections. We expect to continue doing well as in good times, holiday-goers choose to go on pricy trips, and in bad times, they choose to go on more affordable trips. We cater to all, and our users reap the benefits of our broad selection.

2. Like every other sites and blogs will ask how do you compete with airbnb?

weileen: The one word answer is service. We have 6 international offices. Germany, Spain, Brazil, France, England, and now Singapore. Being in a local timezone, speaking a local language, and with help a phone call away, is priceless.

3. Particular to Singapore, the property law is much tighter. New flats owners can only rent out one of their rooms instead of a whole flat, would that affect your users? With your experience, are there more users looking for a whole apt or just a room.

weileen: If I understand correctly, this restriction holds only for HDB flats with 3 rooms or more. It is an inconvenience, and one that was formulated in response to Singapore’s changing demographic landscape. It is certainly my hope that the authorities will view what 9flats offers as an opportunity for Singapore homeowners to defray the cost of living, encourage acceptance of different cultures, and lower the aggregate cost of accommodation in Singapore.

4. The room ransack incident with airbnb. How would 9flats avoid that?

weileen: We have the industry’s best insurance protection scheme. Our policy is underwritten by Zurich insurance and valid worldwide. It covers damages for up to 500,000 Euros. (I believe Airbnb covers 50,000 now, and it is their internal program, not underwritten by any insurance provider) - I checked this is how much airbnb covers

We have also paid out damages suffered by our hosts as a goodwill gesture prior to our insurance program going live. The figure was in the hundreds, but it meant a lot to our hosts that we protect them. We were the first company to have host protection, and then the first to have proper insurance. In many ways, thanks to the experience of our core management team in the consumer internet space, we have been ahead of the curve.

5. And how is the take up rate in Singapore like?

weileen: Too early to say. Early signs are encouraging. We have the most number of accommodation listings for our type of service in Singapore. We are working upon our early advantage to solidify our hold on both listings and bookings.

6. Did the noc experience help you in managing 9flats?

weileen: Absolutely yes. NOC is a badge of your ability to survive in a thoroughly different culture. That is very important at 9flats, where we have staff from over 2 dozen nationalities. If you can’t get along with someone who’s in your face all the time, or can’t bridge the gap between yourself and someone who is deferential and self-effacing, you lose.

8.Would it be a plus fo you to expand into china as well?

weileen: That certainly goes without saying.

9. Unlike others, since you graduated you have been in the startup space. Why join startup and not MNC?

weileen: This can be a long topic. Briefly, it was the area of my greatest interest at graduation. Over time, my passion has only grown. Now I can’t imagine myself working at an MNC at all.

10. Advise to juniors and any discount to our readers? :)

weileen: I don’t like to give general advice. If you’re keen to talk, drop me a line at weileen.ng@9flats.com. I’ll do my best to reply.

Weileen was very kind to arrange a small NOC special.

Leave 9flats Asia team a message on it’s facebook page.

“I want to stay with 9flats because …”

 And weileen and his team with reward you with an exclusive 50 Euro voucher – that according to the exchange rate (22 Sep 2011) is about S$85.70.Where can you stay with 50Euro? How about getting a whole apartment for a night in Pattaya. Jomtien, Thailand?


Spreading the love of Startups

Usual stopSometimes matters in life come to a standstill. You are at a lost of what to do and  you just need a little push before you get pass the wall.

The same goes for cycling, I ride hard and fast but sometimes it feels so heavy and the bike just would not move. So what I did was to stop. Rest. Think about the positive and slowly get back into action. Plus there are always encouraging friends supporting me.

Since I am back into startup , I was thinking maybe I could be blogging about how fellow entrepreneurs are running their startups, what are the difficulties they faced how they overcome..etc I believe this kind of posts will allow me to learn from them and motivate me to push on further. I hope it will do the same for you.

"angmo" meaning English

But importantly, I hope through blogging I could further improve my writing ability:) Maybe I should start with my contacts from NUS NOC

Where can you get free startup mentorship?

Singapore!

Since I started my startup journey, there are so things buzzing each day. One thing is for sure the support for entrepreneurship in Singapore is certainly rising. Beside the funds that are available for startups (Spring, iJam), there is now also mentorship opportunities available from experienced entrepreneur even you are not funded. In the past, having an business mentor was only available to a startup when you are funded.

But through E27 - the sort of like “techcrunch” of Singapore (sometimes even better coz of free stuffs) I had the opportunity to register for the Startup mentorship with Vinnie Lauria. Sometimes when you are too in love with your product, you need someone from a different perspective to pull you back into the world of reality.

A brief intro to Vinnie.

Vinnie lives in San Francisco, CA and co-founded Lefora Forum Hosting, Lefora was later acquired by CrowdGather in the summer of 2010 with over 100,000 communities on the service in less than 3 years. He also started and organizes the 6,500+ member Silicon Valley NewTech Meetup, which is  a monthly forum for hot startups to present their technology. Currently Vinnie is also a mentor for the Founder Institute, which is a global network of startups and mentors that helps entrepreneurs launch great technology companies around the globe.

Met Vinnie on 19 Sep 2011, together with my partner zyy. Spent the first few minutes introducing ourselves than it was straight into mentorship. We gave a short presentation to Vinnie and with vast experiences in helping out startups, he was very quick to pick out the issues that we might faced during execution. Also begin a frequent traveller, he was able to share his experience on how our product could possibly work in other parts of the world.

3 advises that he gave to Intraix

  • Do not build your product just for early adopters, think for the mass
  • Do not be pin down by your business model
  • Brainstorm through the engagement methods, you like to have for your users.

Here I like to thank Vinnie for his inputs, and it will certainly help us to reduce the amount of pitfalls we will face.

p/s I would like to give credits to Jacky. In fact I got to know about the mentorship program first from Jacky’s blog. He is an upmost entrepreneurial guy and currently writes for e27