Mobile Waiter was a Malaysian food delivery startup in 2013 by Ken, Phoebe and Joey, 3 good friends who wanted to offer a variety of food choices at affordable prices to locals.
It operated for a couple of years then suddenly ceased operations a while back, so we spoke to Ken recently to find out what happened.
“We were doing pretty well at the time,” Ken said, “However, we later ran into some operational issues, and we also mismanaged the whole operation and it became serious enough that we ceased operations.”
After Mobile Waiter was shut down, Ken went to Australia for 2 years to help another startup there with food delivery.
The Australian startup was called EASI, and later Ken and Phoebe went to Los Angeles to aid in the expansion of EASI there.
EASI did well with their help, so why couldn’t Mobile Waiter do the same back then?
The cause of Mobile Waiter’s end
Ken pointed out 2 issues he found affected Mobile Waiter’s success. First was the culture of their riders. “The staff culture is different overseas,” he said.
While he couldn’t fully disclose what exactly happened with Mobile Waiter’s staff, he said that they weren’t as trustworthy as he had thought them to be.
The other issue was the local market. According to Ken, their customers were unable to spend what Mobile Waiter needed to cover its cost of operations.
Overseas, people could afford to do so and were willing to pay delivery prices. Mobile Waiter tried to cater to this issue by offering RM1 deliveries with no minimum order.
However, that would prove to be their downfall. They had thought that the volume of orders would be enough to sustain their business, and Ken himself admitted, “We overestimated the volume as well; we thought the demand was high so RM1 could cover it.”
“Maybe it would’ve taken some time, but our runway didn’t reach its time.”
Mobile Waiter’s management team had also been quite small, and Ken, Phoebe and Joey, another friend who started the business with them, had to take care of too many things at once.
This led to them handing off the operations of the business to their other staff, something which also led to Mobile Waiter’s end, as their staff proved themselves to be unreliable.
“That’s why we learnt from that,” Ken said.
In 2018, he and Phoebe established another Malaysian startup with similar logistics to Mobile Waiter, except this time it was with laundry instead of food.
It’s called SPiNiOON and Ken said that they often call it “Mobile Waiter version 4”. However, they’re managing it better than Mobile Waiter so far, thanks to the lessons they’ve learnt and applied.
“Currently we have 25 B2B clients, and we’re doing quite okay,” Ken said.
“We got an angel investor as well, and our current revenue is about RM40,000 – RM50,000 per month.”
SPiNiOON takes care of laundry needs from pick-up to delivery and is ideal for customers who have no time or space to do their own laundry.
They include businesses that deal with lots of laundry as well, like massage vendors who need cleaned robes, towels and sheets for every customer.
This is where SPiNiOON comes in to save them the hassle of doing it themselves. “Our clients are mostly the top 3 biggest massage vendors in the market,” Ken said.
For SPiNiOON, Ken carries out the logistics part of operations the way he did for Mobile Waiter.
Some pieces of advice
Ken said that it was important to understand the market you’re trying to serve. “You need to know your customers well even when you have a very good idea,” he said.
Leaving Malaysia to go to Australia and Los Angeles was also a good change for him, he felt. Travelling enables one to get the bigger picture, “because when you’re only in kampung, you can only make decisions based on what you see, so always that decision might not be the best one.”
When one experiences difficulties, they should step back, experience other things then come back and tackle the problem again.
Regarding lessons learnt, Ken said, “You always hear about them from your mentors but you’ll never understand it until you really need it, then you really know what they meant.”
One thing he knows for sure is that there are “no shortcuts. That’s the process.”
- Find out more about SPiNiOON here.
Featured Image Credit: SPiNiOON