It was during their time in university when Ryan Foo and Solomon Poon, both 25, were required to regularly network over alcoholic drinks.
They felt embarrassed when their skin turned red within minutes of consuming alcohol — a phenomenon that has been coined as the “Asian flush”.
Asians apparently lack the enzyme to break down alcohol’s main by-product called acetaldehyde, which then leads to these unpleasant problems of flushing, intoxication and hangovers.
According to Ryan, there was nothing in the market that can help to mitigate Asian flush. Most of the existing solutions are geared towards treating hangovers instead.
The duo then saw this as a viable business opportunity, and decided to create a comprehensive formula that deals with both Asian flushes and hangovers.
Combating Asian Flushes And Hangovers With A Capsule
Ryan and Solomon are both Singapore Management University (SMU) graduates, with the former majoring in law and the latter in economics.
Together, they conceptualised DrinkAid in January 2020 and started developing a formula to combat Asian flushes and hangovers.
Solomon, a certified nutritionist, used to have his own line of supplements to aid with fat loss so he has garnered reputable contacts in the supplement supply chain.
It took us nine months of trial-and-error and research to find the perfect formula. Since we both suffered from Asian flush, we were the perfect (and only) candidates to test out the efficacy of our pills.– Ryan Foo, co-founder of DrinkAid
When they have finalised the formula, they enlisted a group of beta testers to try out the product. The results were extremely promising — 98 per cent of them reported no hangovers, and reduced Asian flush.
Motivated by the results, they decided to apply to SMU’s Business Innovations Generator in hopes of getting the necessary funding and network to commercialise their product.
We were pleasantly surprised when we received news earlier this year that we were selected out of hundred over startups, because of our unusual product offering and the fact that we are operating out off this unconventional industry (by the standards of the startups we see these days).– Ryan Foo, co-founder of DrinkAid
Turning Profitable Within A Month
Every DrinkAid pill is formulated with organic herbs and potent antioxidants to help you quickly recover from the nasty side-effects of alcohol consumption.
It is is the only product in the market backed by a white paper with 20 detailed studies.
According to DrinkAid, consumers should take two capsules before drinking to prevent flushing, headaches and nausea, and two more after drinking to sober up quickly and prevent hangovers.
A box of 12 costs S$19.90, while a bundle of six boxes are priced at S$89.90.
They were poised to launch in March until the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
This was pretty fatal to our business because if the consumption of alcohol comes to a grinding halt due to the circuit-breaker measures, the demand for our product would be effaced as well.– Ryan Foo, co-founder of DrinkAid
They saw a glimmer of hope when the government announced its plans on opening up the economy, but it was quickly diminished when tighter restrictions towards alcohol consumption were also announced.
In late August, the duo decided to take a leap of faith and launch the product in hopes that people are still drinking, albeit in smaller groups.
Thankfully, they gained quite a bit of traction within the first few weeks and eventually managed to “cross the five-figure region in revenue within just three weeks, according to Ryan.
They also turned profitable within a month with 1,000 units sold. Since its inception, they have since doubled that figure.
“Our gamble paid off,” summed up Ryan.
With clubs forced to close and businesses not allowed to serve alcohol after 10:30pm, the demand they have been getting so far proves that people are still drinking within their circles — even to the state of inebriety — during this time.
“We also suspect that the higher demand could be attributed to the fall in people’s alcohol tolerance because they haven’t been drinking much,” reasoned Ryan.
Struggles Of A Bootstrapped Startup
Looking back on their entrepreneurial journey, Ryan said that they faced a lack of funds and skills, which he views as common issues that startup founders come across.
Rather than letting it deter them however, they “saw it as an opportunity to acquire the skills necessary for [them] to develop and grow the business entirely by themselves.”
For example, none of them knew anything about product or website design so they spent about three months to learn the basics, and another one to two months to implement whatever was learned.
By the time we launched the business, we were capable of creating a website entirely from scratch and create product mockups — just from watching free materials on YouTube.
There is a certain virtue in bootstrapping your business as much as possible, but you must be willing to put in the hard work.– Ryan Foo, co-founder of DrinkAid
Gearing Up For The Reopening Of Clubs
The government is planning to announce plans to take Singapore through Phase 3 of reopening the economy soon.
So far, there has been no news of clubs possibly reopening soon but DrinkAid plans to market their anti-hangover capsules more aggressively when they do.
According to Ryan, DrinkAid already has overseas orders coming in from countries such as London, Japan, Australia, Korea, Hong Kong and even Cambodia.
They are also in talks with corporate customers to supply DrinkAid to their events in future, as well as partnerships with popular nightclubs and bars to promote a more responsible and conscientious culture of enjoying alcohol.
Looking forward, we plan to distribute DrinkAid in physical stores at strategic locations as well, such as 7-11s near clubs and bars.
Eventually, we want to distribute DrinkAid in other Asian countries, with our priority being China.– Ryan Foo, co-founder of DrinkAid
With anti-flush and hangover drugs available at convenience stores and drinking venues, we no longer have to worry about making a sport of ourselves at networking sessions.
Featured Image Credit: Asian Flush Care / DrinkAid