The lean and simple startup way
By Lum Ka Kay April 1, 2016
- VMO founder managed SOTA and LocalSIMKad
- Spending a lot on marketing doesn’t guarantee success
STARTING your own company is scary, but VMO Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Vincent Kok (pic above) thought he should take a chance and do it anyway.
“It’s is always scary because you’re pouring your own money into it, so you’ll have this pressure where you keep wondering whether this will work out,” he tells Digital News Asia (DNA) in a conversation in Kuala Lumpur recently.
“There is a lot of fear, but my cofounders and I decided to go all the way for it. We’re not getting any younger, so let’s do this,” he adds.
Kok says he helped manage two startups before starting VMO, a venue-booking platform, in October 2014.
He was the chief operating officer of Creative Advances Technology Sdn Bhd (CAT) from 2007 to 2011. CAT is an MSC Malaysia (Multimedia Super Corridor) status company.
There, he took part in the development of Smart Online Travel Assistant (SOTA), a virtual marketplace for travel packages.
He then moved on to Sedania Corporation Sdn Bhd, where he worked on another project, LocalSIMKad, a roaming service for frequent travellers to avoid exorbitant roaming charges, from the end of 2012 to mid-2014.
However, it didn’t do well as its business was ‘disrupted’ by Malaysian telco operators which began to offer more affordable roaming and data packages, according to Kok, who was chief executive officer of LocalSIMKad.
It was also troublesome for customers to keep swapping SIM cards when they needed to use LocalSIMKad services, he concedes.
“We tried making it work, but we couldn’t,” he admits.
Marketing spend and success
One lesson Kok took away from that experience was to not spend too much capital on marketing, especially too early in the game.
“Don’t market a product too early, when the market isn’t ready for such a thing no matter how much you spend,” he says.
“Hence, we exercise a lot of discipline in our marketing spend by utilising search engine marketing and optimisation (SEM/ SEO) knowledge,” he adds, referring to his current startup, VMO.
Kok says he is also applying the Lean Startup Methodology with VMO, by launching into the market with a minimum viable product (MVP).
“So what you see today isn’t the end product – the end product will have a full booking system for operators and consumers.
“When we were building VMO, we decided to go simple, to test if people are going to use our platform to search for venues.
“If they’re not using it at all, then we’ll know we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” he says, adding that this is the reason that he didn’t come up with a mobile app for VMO immediately.
The mobile app for VMO will be available in 2017.
Kok says that a few months after VMO was launched, he realised that the number of searches on the platform was on the rise.
“We decided, okay there’s something going on here. And that’s when we introduced the booking engine in May 2015 – it wasn’t even available at the start.
“We’re learning each step along the way,” he adds.
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