At MaGIC’s online E-Nation, we sat in on Agility and Adaptability: Speeding Up The Innovation and Pivoting Strategies.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Sivapalan Vivekarajah, co-founder & Senior Partner, ScaleUp Malaysia Accelerator.
3 panellists from homegrown tech startups were invited to share their experiences with how they adapted their companies to this pandemic. They were:
- Wai Hong Fong, Chieftain and co-founder of StoreHub
- Ang Xing Xian, co-founder and CEO of CapBay
- Lennise Ng, CEO of Dropee
They shared their experiences as leaders of tech startups and how they managed to weather the storm during fast-changing times like these for both their businesses and customers.
“No matter what’s happening out there, there are always opportunities and you have to look for those opportunities. When you have those opportunities, you can build successful companies,” Dr. Siva deduced from their sharing.
1. Taking An Existing Solution And Making It Better
Digitising one’s business was a choice before the pandemic hit, and now everyone is pushed to learn how to be more tech-savvy to adapt to moving online.
“There are 2 types of individuals here. For those who are more tech-savvy, they actually survive or at least they are thriving during this period.”
“But for those who are less tech-savvy, they are actually struggling a little bit to actually adopt this,” said Lennise.
Hence, these startups took it upon themselves to move from a backend system to a frontend one to help their customers with cash flow.
For StoreHub, Wai Hong recognised the difficulties that their F&B customers would face with going online, as they’d have to rely on major delivery platforms.
“The challenge here is, with all the other major delivery platforms, they actually charge like 25-30% on the total order value to these restaurants. So their margins are big, one-third of it is gone.”
“If you’ve actually run a restaurant business before, you will realise that that’s not sustainable at all,” Wai Hong shared.
Beep allowed their restaurants to liaise directly with customers and not be limited by the distance that’s usually set by other major food delivery companies.
“We barely spent any marketing dollars but there are over half a million transactions going into restaurants that’s cash flow going into biz,” he said.
2. Solving Your Customers’ New Problems = Company Growth
CapBay recognised a problem in the decrease of financing early payments as businesses were no longer supplying to each other as much anymore.
While they didn’t have the expertise in loaning, they identified 2 places in which they could be of most help.
Firstly, CapBay paid off government tenders for companies.
Secondly, they rolled out different types of financing with slightly longer terms to allow businesses to buffer the cash flow during the pandemic.
“We probably have the highest growth during this whole quarter,” shared Xing Xian, thanks to the new business opportunities for CapBay to take on.
Slightly before COVID-19 hit, Dropee was seeing a surge in business demanding for their P2P e-commerce solutions.
3. Smartly Grabbing Opportunities That Come By
Wholesalers needed to connect directly with their customers online to understand what inventories move the fastest and what financial problems they currently had.
This was important for the wholesalers to decide what products to recommend and how much credit terms to provide them with to extend their cash flow.
Dropee’s investors saw this as an opportunity to grow, and that’s how Dropee raised quickly and closed the funding round.
“In fact, this was actually our fastest round of raising, we raised within 1 ½ months,” Lennise shared.
4. Talent Matters When It Comes To Growing The Biz
Dropee’s growth in business led to growth in team size as well.
Before the pandemic, they were a team of 20, then they doubled and are now close to 40, and are still hiring out there, most specifically engineers.
StoreHub also realised this opportunity in growing their team as well.
“We have a team of 10 people in our HR right now in our company, and they saw a massive opportunity for COVID-19, with the amount of talent being released into the market,” he shared.
They currently have 20 positions open and were able to get 3,000-4,000 candidates applying for jobs at StoreHub within a week.
“There are a lot of talents to be released right now. A lot in the hospitality sector, a lot of people there that not a lot of us tech entrepreneurs necessarily get access to in the past,” said Wai Hong.
5. Doing What’s Necessary To Keep Your Team On The Right Path
While growth has been plentiful for these tech entrepreneurs, they still made sure to regularly align their employees with the company’s goal and growth, especially with working remotely.
One thing that Xing Xian found helpful was to set and communicate the company’s direction upfront to keep everyone on course with the company’s goal.
Setting that is very important for his employees to be aware that even if the executions are changing, the direction is not.
Wai Hong, on the other hand, believes in the importance of “radical candor” when it comes to leading StoreHub towards growth.
“We all want to move fast but we’re not willing to pay the price of what it takes to move fast effectively, and that is oftentimes stepping on people’s toes and being able to say things people don’t like.”
Instead of beating around the bush and being unwilling to call things out, Wai Hong believes in the opposite to truly drive a company in moving fast efficiently.
- If you’ve missed out on attending E-Nation this year, you can still access this session and others after registering here.
- You can read more on what we’ve written about MaGIC here.