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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll do my best to reply.
Weileen was very kind to arrange a small NOC special.
“I want to stay with 9flats because …”