Earlier this year, we shared the story of how San Francisco-based startup Verlocal began, and about its inaugural Verlocal Design Fest 2018 that was held at Funan Showsuite last month.
Verlocal came to our sunny shores about a year ago, led by Ryan Chew, Local Director, who saw the underutilised potential of the freelance community in Singapore.
We find out more about the company’s plans in Singapore and the change it will make here.
Singapore’s First Community-Driven Marketplace
According to Verlocal Singapore, there were more than 40,000 professionals, including freelancers and solopreneurs, in our nation’s arts industry in 2016.
In a statement released by NTUC that same year, they found that there were about 200,000 freelancers in Singapore.
That’s a large number of people who have to manage their business from frontend to backend, including accounting, marketing, legal, and the like, all by themselves, as the statement pointed out.
Director of NTUC’s Freelancers and Self-employed Unit Ang Hin Kee said he hopes to “to bring together different parties that can support freelancing as a viable and sustainable career option”.
Their objective was to create a platform where freelancers could have access to tools and resources to aid in making their careers as freelancers, solopreneurs sustainable and viable.
While our Labour Movement positioned themselves as the middleman for freelancers to understand their needs, coming up with frameworks and connecting them to solutions providers, Verlocal sees themselves as a provider of a service for freelancers that can alleviate the pains of a fragmented body of workforce.
The birth of Verlocal in Singapore was brought about by the “need for supporting platforms and social infrastructure”, they explained.
They hope that with the first community-driven marketplace in Singapore, creative freelancers here can capitalise on their skills, turning passion into profession.
Anyone can attend workshops, buy crafts and handmade products, and commission services from these freelancers and individual professionals on the Verlocal platform.
Their product, Verlocal Pro, is a platform that integrates features like the booking software function, customer relationship management (CRM), ads management, and a marketplace in one.
Ryan shared, “Freelancing is becoming more and more popular in Singapore as people start to value the freedom to pursue their passion rather than material possession.”
“Innovation in SaaS (Software as a Service) and marketplace platforms like Verlocal act as a major pull factor as it lowers the barrier for more freelancers to look for business, and manage their business.”
A Way Of Making Ends Meet Effectively
Ryan explained that Verlocal Pro reduces “the need for startup capital” for freelancers and solo small business owners since the process of keeping the backend in order is simplified, and they can focus on building their individual brands.
He went on to say that it costs a lot for freelancers if they’re not prudent, as they are “used to” hiring people to “reduce administrative load” and taking it upon themselves to create an e-commerce site with an “effective booking management system”.
“Currently, the Verlocal platform allows anyone to easily convert their existing website and their social media accounts into an e-commerce booking platform…” he said.
“We combine that with the Verlocal Marketplace where we showcase our hosts’ listings so as to bring them more customers.”
Using Verlocal Pro not only eliminates the burden on generating a payroll, but also on managing all the resources, be it the people, logistics, inventory, and all that comes with starting a business or building a brand or portfolio.
Verlocal has more than 100 hosts onboard since venturing into Singapore about a year ago, and Ryan revealed the total Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) is “close to half a million dollars” so far.
People have participated in activities such as rock climbing classes, calligraphy courses, pub crawls, local tours and more.
To date, Verlocal has raised over $3.7 million in funding and is growing 30% year-on-year, Ryan revealed.
“At the moment, I would say we are in a unique space whereby we are both a marketplace as well as a SaaS provider. However, we do see competitors making product innovations towards our space.”
He continued, “What really sets us apart is that we are at least one or two steps ahead in terms of product innovation with more exciting features to seamlessly integrate our two value propositions.”
“The first, to help the self employed get more business, and the second, to help the self-employed/SME manage and scale their businesses.”
What The Future Has In Store
I asked Ryan what are some differences between Singapore and San Francisco, and he answered that the focus on verticals are different.
“San Francisco sees more traction in classes for handmade products, while Singapore sees more traction in the culinary and activities space. The biggest challenge would be to build the product that offer features that benefits the different verticals,” he said.
“As a result, the product will become more holistic in catering to all verticals for the creative entrepreneurs.”
On the response of the first Verlocal Design Fest in Singapore, Ryan said that overall, the event was successful.
“About 100 people attended the event over the course of two days and the hosts enjoyed the experience of sharing their passion. In fact, they all came together to write us a ‘thank you’ card, which made all the hard work worthwhile,” he told me happily.
The multi-million-dollar injection, Ryan said, would be used mainly for product innovation, and to expand Verlocal Global’s operations and enter new markets.
“Australia is probably the next market we are looking at. We see Singapore as a strategic hub to kickstart our Asia campaign due to government support as well as strong pool of human capital,” he told me.
Verlocal will continue to look for “innovation in this space” to “increase the touch points and usability” for growing sales and lowering costs for their hosts.
“We have a few exciting partnerships to look forward to with big names looking to share their passion through the Verlocal platform,” Ryan said.
Featured Image Credit: Verlocal Singapore