Entrepreneur

He Was Told “It Won’t Work”—But His Platform Now Sees RM250k In Bookings Monthly

In October 2014, a beta for a venue booking platform launched in Malaysia.

CEO Vincent Kok acknowledged that even then, his platform wasn’t unique in what it was offering.

“Even back in 2014, we were not the first. There were already 2 players ahead of us.”

However, two years later, they received a 6-figure funding boost from Rhombus Connexion, followed by a successful equity crowdfunding on Crowdplus Asia earlier this year, raising a total of RM500,000—half of which came from Cradle.

So what was it about this platform that got all that attention and funding?

Arguably, one of VMO‘s strong points would be the over 1000 listings on its platform. Vincent shared that the figure should hit 1300 by the end of October.

The numbers continue to stack up on their side.

2017 has been good for VMO, and Vincent said, “For the last 2 months, we have exceeded RM250k in bookings monthly. Our revenue is 10% of bookings received. As of 30 Sep 2017, our bookings in 2017 exceeded both 2015 & 2016 combined.”

One of the venues listed / Image Credit: VMO

Vincent himself comes from a varied background that spans digital media development, travel e-commerce and SIM card services. He shared that he started VMO simply because he found it impossible to book spaces for events online.

“It started in a previous job which required us to book rooms for our workshops and we found that it could not be done online. At that time it was either through fax (imagine this was in 2009) or e-mails. There wasn’t a way for me to check availability,” he said.

He felt the gap was clear, and in its beta phase, VMO was generating leads for venues and passing it to operators for free.

In May 2015, they started charging for leads, and got their first commissionable booking that month.

However, it wasn’t smooth sailing for the platform all the way.

Over the past three years, there were some obstacles that they’ve had to overcome, and Vincent shared that the first was being told that “it won’t work”.

“I am a bit hard of hearing, so I didn’t hear that very well,” he joked.

The funding to get started came from his own pockets—he sold an apartment to use as capital. Along the way, he also had to work a few jobs to supplement his income, before his co-founders and co-funders came on board.

It was also a struggle to get operators on board, particularly when the idea was newer. VMO also evolved and transformed along the way, going from lead generation to booking inquiries to handling full payments online.

They now offer more of a comprehensive package for event organisers—besides just venues, you can also discover and book services like videographers, catering and emcees. It’s clear that they aim to be a one-stop site for event planning needs.

Things really shifted when more hands came on deck.

VMO’s team of co-founders are a diverse bunch, with skillsets ranging from operational and project management, advertising, media and technology to F&B.

Speaking of his three co-founders, Vincent cheekily told us, “I am the only one working full-time with a salaried position at VMO (because the others are all rich!)”

The VMO founding team (L to R: Tham Lih Chung, John Lim, Teoh Hoay Ming and Vincent)

He clarified, “My co-founders (and co-funders) work at VMO without a salary. They often say I enslaved them. The others have other things to do but they do contribute a significant slice of their time to VMO.”

Vincent gave the example of Tham Lih Chung, who got actively involved in VMO in Jan 2016. A player in the F&B space, Lih Chung is also the co-founder of Rhombus Connexion.

“His understanding of the problems that F&B faced helped us shape how we could better acquire merchants. His network also opened doors to more F&B operators joining in,” said Vincent.

The business is currently only running on the backs of the four co-founders, along with two more full-time staff, a relatively lean team.

VMO has come far from being a one man company, but they can’t just stay as they are.

Vincent mentioned how there have already been 3 new additions to the space since March this year.

“More players means we have to continue to execute better. I think offering the most choices to users continues to be a key goal for us.”

With that in mind, their short term goal is to hit 1,500 listings by the end of 2017. When it comes to revenue stream, they’re targeting to reach RM2.8 million bookings at the end of their financial year and “we look on track to do that”.

Their crowdfunding stint isn’t over either. Vincent said, “We have an up-round crowdfunding campaign coming in this final quarter. That should be exciting!”

Feature Image Credit: VMO

 

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