Ideas that copy are common in the startup world
Hailo plans to win in Singapore via execution
A PRIVATE investor and sought-after mentor was in Singapore in September to attend TechVenture 2014, one of the top technology conferences in the country. As is becoming the norm with technology conferences, there was a pitching session with selected startups given the opportunity to sell their growth story to investors.
Surprisingly this investor said he saw a lot of ‘me too’ ideas among this group of supposedly top-tier startups.
I have already been hearing that about Singapore in the past, and of course it is a common observation made here in Malaysia too.
But guess what? I heard the same comment made in Norway when talking to a journalist and the founder of a startup there.
So if ideas are not the differentiator, what is? It would be easy to say the differentiator should then be the team behind the idea, but when I spoke to 500 Startups managing partner Khailee Ng last week, he shared that among the key things he looks at before investing is the “execution ability of the founder and his team.”
That has been a consistent theme across the 30-over South-East Asian companies Ng has invested in over the past one year on behalf of 500 Startups.
And it is this ability to execute that will likely determine who would be the winner in the taxi-booking app war in Singapore because the island-nation has just welcomed its latest entry into market.
One would think that the traction, brand awareness and funding resources behind the current top two players GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi would have scared away any logical thinking entrepreneur, but yet we now have UK-founded Hailo throwing its hat into a market that already has one of the best taxi services in the world. Are they crazy?
If they are, then they’re crazy to the tune of US$100 million because that is how much they have raised so far with some leading venture capitalists and funds from established telcos such as KDDI of Japan. Oh, and they even have a certain Richard Branson taking a bet on them.
And if you read Gabey Goh’s article on them today, you will note how they share their game plan for penetrating the market. They are also clearly smart enough to know when to call it quits, having pulled out of the US market to focus on Asia where they feel their business model, refined in Europe, can be replicated successfully.
The next obvious question is: If they dare compete in the efficient Singapore market, how long can they resist the temptation to enter the Malaysian market, home to one of the planet’s poorest taxi services? Where customers have to actually plead with a driver to see if he is willing to take them to their destinations?
But moving on now, joining TechVenture as one of the top technology conferences in Singapore is EmTech Singapore, organised by MIT Technology Review.
Digital News Asia, as a media partner, is excited about the conference not just because it brings almost 50 amazing entrepreneurs and super-smart executives together as speakers, along with almost 400 delegates, but also because our Digerati50 will be part of the delegates’ welcome pack.
This will bring the entrepreneurs we featured onto the radar of the speakers and delegates, who will be coming from all over the world.
Do sign up before Nov 7 if you wish to enjoy the early bird pricing for the conference. Meanwhile, our most-read story of the week was redONE winning the postpaid war against the Big 3.
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