Digital News Asia (DNA) continues a weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy. These articles are from Digerati50, a special print publication released in January 2014. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].
‘Emails from strangers expressing their gratitude … is one of the greatest feelings in life’
Wants iMoney to be that big brand that everyone recognises … and not just in Malaysia
LEE Ching Wei may be a fresh face in Malaysia’s startup scene, but he has certainly gotten plenty attention with his debut venture iMoney.
“Every day, we receive thousands of visitors to our website, many of whom take the trouble to thank us for the hard work we’re putting in. Receiving emails from strangers expressing their gratitude for what you’ve done is one of the greatest feelings in life,” says the determined entrepreneur.
A financial comparison website, iMoney has received US$155,070 worth of funding from Cradle Fund, in addition to US$500,000 in seed funding from Asia Venture Group, since its launch in mid-2012. In late 2013, it also secured another US$2 million in a Series A funding round led by Jungle Ventures.
Ching Wei’s entrepreneurial journey began much earlier however, during his university days in Melbourne as a “poor Malaysian student” needing to find ways to maximise his budget.
Two months into his time in Melbourne, he noticed that parking was an issue, with many working-class adults paying high prices for a spot near their office.
At the same time, he noticed many vacant parking lots at student apartments located downtown – mostly because apartments in Melbourne come equipped with designated parking lots, and students seldom own cars.
“So, being opportunistic, I started a parking rental service – essentially, renting from students at a low price, and re-renting out to working adults at a higher price! That gave me some student pocket money,” he says.
After graduation, armed with a degree in commerce, majoring in finance and accounting from the University of Melbourne, Ching Wei picked up his financial chops as an investment consultant at Frontier Investment Consulting, one of the largest investment-consulting firms in Australia.
It was upon his return to Malaysian shores in the beginning of 2012 that the notion to launch his own business really solidified. Ching Wei already knew that he had no interest in returning to the corporate world and wanted to strike out on his own.
“Being a returning resident, I had to do the things that many people take for granted, such as getting a bank account and credit card. That was when I found out how difficult and complicated the entire research, comparison and application process was in Malaysia.
“Coming from a more developed country like Australia, I was used to relying on simple web-based solutions to do these very things. This was really the spark of the idea behind iMoney,” he says.
Ching Wei admits that it has not always been smooth sailing however.
At one point as founder, he was wearing multiple hats and taking on too many responsibilities, as he was not willing to invest in resources such as people and infrastructure.
“The business ended up suffering due to the lack of good and fast execution in multiple areas – not surprisingly, since there is only so much a person can do,” he adds.
Thanks to guidance and mentorship, he overcame his hesitations and started building a team, delegating and trusting more.
“A lot of what we have achieved to date is largely down to this – the amazing people around me who are much better at what they do than I would ever be,” he says.
These days, Ching Wei is fully focused on making iMoney grow and fulfilling its full potential, spending every waking moment thinking about ways to multiply each aspect of the business – be it visitors, conversions or relationships with financial institutions.
“I’m nowhere close to being done with iMoney. We have big, ambitious dreams. We want to put the company on the map, and be that big brand that the mass market recognises not just here in Malaysia, but also in the region,” he says.