A startup´s brave decision

The founders of TakeMeTour from Thailand took a brave decision two years into their startup: They changed the whole concept of their website in order to succeed.

The startup duo Jinda-Apiraksa Amornched Taro and Noppon Anukunwithaya have recently won the Digital Winners Champion award by Telenor, they are 8 employees and plan to expand to another country.

Taro got the idea when he was studying and living abroad.

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Cooking pad thai with locals is one of the tours you can book with TakeMeTour

-Family, friends and people I barely knew came to visit me in different countries. They wanted me to show them around and take them to places only locals knew. I thought, why not create a website and connect international students with travelers from Thailand?

Together with his co-founders they spent a year building it on evenings and weekends, since they both had day jobs as engineers.  

-The website was good, people liked the idea and I spread it around to my friends all over the world. Many looked at the tours online on our website, but called us on the phone book instead of doing it online.

The manual booking took a lot of time.

-Every day we came home from work and worked on the website until 2 am in the morning, and then got up and went to work at 8 am.

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Taro, TakeMeTour

So they researched more and realized that Thai people were not used to online booking. Also, the use of credit cards was still limited and people were not comfortable to pay online. He says it changed a lot in the past four years, but it is still an issue for many in Thailand.

-So, we decided to quit our jobs and change the concept of the website.

Their new goal became to connect international travelers with local Thai people. Users could offer unique local experiences to a new growing customer base – free independent travellers.

-We thought that we didn’t have to change much on our website, but we were targeting a new and more tech-savvy audience, so we had to build a better-looking website.

img_9350That meant to start almost from zero. They found themselves in the new industry – travel.

-We are passionate about travelling, but we none of us have background from the travel industry at all. We learned that there are many traditional travel agencies trying to attract travelers and the competition is high.

He says that not coming from travel business is a good thing.

-We have a fresh mind and look at things from different angles.

On their website you can book tours like going to the floating market with locals, riding elephants and even course in how to cook your own pad thai. To understand their new customers they contact them personally and ask for feedback.

-We are engineers and we are used to logical thinking and we are data-driven. We learn from our mistakes and all the time try many different approaches. We document the results from each try and analyse it.

What does your data show?co-founders

-90 percent of our customers say that if they don’t use our service, then they will just travel by themselves. It shows that we are not the competitors to the traditional travel industry. We are not eating your pie, we are making it bigger. We are passionate about the sharing economy and tell this to the government as well.

What are your plans for the future?

-We are planning to secure a home base here in Thailand and expand to other countries.

How is to be an entrepreneur in Thailand?

-The startup scene here is young compared to for example Singapore. Four years ago, I didn’t really know what a startup was and I just wanted to make something. Before if you told friends and family that you are doing a startup, it would be like “what does it mean?” It is still something new here in Thailand, but it is getting better.

He adds that there is different approach to failure here compared to US.

-In the U.S., if you fail a couple of times as an entrepreneur it is a good thing. It means that you get enough experience to build a real business later. Here in South-East Asia it is not good thing to fail. This is also getting better, but I think we should welcome and accept that as an entrepreneur to fail is a good thing.

Airbnb have just launched a new approach called Experiences, where apartment-owners can give unique travel experiences to the travellers. It is a bit similar to what you do in TakeMeTour? What are your thoughts on that?

-I think it is actually good for TakeMeTour and similar business as a whole. The launch really boosts the awareness of people at scale. So more people know the concept and want to travel with local experiences. Since we are now the largest marketplace for local experiences in Thailand, this should affect us more positively than negatively.

 

TakeMeTour changed the whole concept of their website once they learned more about their customers.

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Julie Ng, Vase.ai

The new Malaysian startup Vase.ai is helping entrepreneurs and business-owners to do exactly that – understand their customers needs.

Vase.ai came really far in the competition Digital Winners Asia and got a lot ofpraise from the jury.

No wonder why, since the company was established only 8 months ago. They are already earning money and getting traction.

The idea was born at the hackathon Angel Hack where three co-founders Julie Ng, Ng Zhen Hui and Asyrique Bin Asyraf Thevendran met.

-Many participants needed to validate their ideas, but there was no cost-effective way to do proper market research. So, we decided to create a platform that enables people to research their customers in just 24 hours. Our mission is to democratize market research for entrepreneurs and others.

She says they help customers to craft the right questions, pick the right target audience, analyse data and summarize it all in a report.

How do you manage that?

-We have direct relationship with correspondents, we collect information from our panelists about their lifestyle preferences and behaviours. That allows us to target niche segment in a deeper way. Our survey conversion rate is high -over 60 percent.

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The Vase.ai team

Julie says that they have customers from small and medium sized enterprises and large enterprises like AXA, Digi Telecommunications, Universal Music Group, Great Eastern etc.

Why do you blog on your website about market research?

-We are a young company in the B2B spac. Potential clients like our product and results, but some of them question our experience. To convince them in using our product for the first time, we found that blogging and releasing our own trend reports is an effective channel to showcase our capabilities further.

Julie studied in Hong Kong where she participated at Startup Weekend. That led her to her first startup Verybite in 2013.  She learned a lot from this.

-I think finding a right team is crucial to succeed as an entrepreneur. On my first startup we were a designer and a business person. We had to rely on tech people from outside the startup, and the company was growing so slowly. This time we are three founders, and we know a lot about business, statistics and technology.

Taro Amornched from TakeMeTour talked about young startup scene in Thailand. How is it in Malaysia?

-The startup scene here is even younger, but the quantity of startups is growing fast. Events like AngelHack and SW are important when it comes to building startup communities and inspiring more people to become entrepreneurs.

She says that she often attends them to get to know many new people and may be even recruit some of them to the startup.

Julie believes that two factors are important to create a good startup scene:

-One is having more startup success stories and entrepreneurs who can then pass on the knowledge. We are growing on that front with several successful Malaysia startups but more of that to grow the scene.

The second factor is money influx. It is relatively more challenging to get money from the start in Malaysia.

-For example, in China and USA you can get capital even you only have an idea. In South East Asia, investors want to see traction first.