- Raises US$550K within three months of launching
- Founders overcome being ‘chicken shit scared’
FEAR can be a great motivator in itself and, you can also use fear to help you overcome an existing fear you have. This was what Jeffri Cheong and Choong Fui-Yu, founders of services marketplace Kaodim.com, did last year to help them overcome their paralysis of launching a startup. In the Cantonese dialect, “kaodim” means “get it done.”
The two friends, both successful lawyers, had always wanted to do something on their own but got caught up in the rat race after graduating as lawyers. Success in the corporate world when one is young, serves as the ultimate wet blanket to any dreams one may have of wanting to change the world and walking to their own drum beat. And both were enjoying success.
But last year, when both were 29, they decided it was either time to “stop being chicken shit scared,” as Choong puts it, somewhat inelegantly, or risk having the following terrifying eulogy on their tombstone – “Here lies, Jeffri Cheong ... He was a good employee.”
(You can also read Cheong’s blog post on this.)
The chilling realisation that this could well be their fate, was enough to kick them out of their comfortable corporate cocoon and to get cracking on Kaodim.com. The services marketplace is not just aimed at helping Malaysians find the right service provider for their various needs, but to ultimately “accelerate and elevate the quality of service that plumbers, roofers, contractors, electricians etc, give to their customers,” says Cheong.
They recently got a dose of acceleration themselves, in the form of a RM2 million (US$550,000) seed injection, led by East Ventures and with 500 Startups as an investor as well. A third investor was not disclosed. Impressive for a startup that only launched in November 2014.
[RM1 = US$0.27]
Traction has been growing. In December, the site had around 500 service providers with 400 jobs received and, 1,300 quotations returned. According to Cheong, the site currently sees about 4,000 job requests a month, averaging 133 job requests a day. Even more impressive, he claims a 45% growth per week in job requests.If true, this will see the site clocking in over 16 million job requests by Dec 31!
Currently, the site is free to users and service providers but the founders are thinking through various monetisation strategies, which they decline to share for the moment. It will always be free to consumers, however.
The growth in job requests coming through is validation to the team that customers are confident of hiring service providers through Kaodim as they trust the company has verified and vetted the service providers. Each job request is guaranteed a maximum of five quotes.
Users' privacy is assured as Kaodim does not share personal details such as mobile or email with its service providers. Customers choose to contact the service providers only when they want more information or are calling to give them the job.
Customer reviews is another element on the site that helps users vet service providers. “These are genuine and real reviews (and ratings) from customers who've hired service providers in the past and they serve to assist other users in making their hiring decisions,” says Cheong.
This customer review feature is also used by Carama.com to help motorists find quality car and motorbike workshops.
The funding will be used to expand into South-East Asia while growing the team. They will also expand into other services that people need every day including food catering, translation services and much more. An app is in the pipeline to enhance the experience for both users and service providers.
Friends in right places
Having the right friends has also helped them big time. In their favour was the fact that Cheong is a good friend of Khailee Ng, a DNA Digerati50. They have been schoolmates since 13 and remained close after their school days.
One can see Ng’s influence on the duo. In the interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), they spoke of how important it is to go lean, not fuss over the details, test assumptions and if they fail, to quickly move on and try something new without wasting time. They also spoke of the importance of marketing their product online with the founders learning about which keywords are more effective for them and how to maximise search engine optimisation (SEO).
But they also know K. Anand of Endeavor Malaysia and Lee Ching Wei of iMoney.com.
“That was also a big factor in us getting out to launch Kaodim, knowing that we were being advised by people who were genuinely keen to see us do well and were themselves successful,” says Choong.
Endeavor’s Anand saw similarities between what Kaodim wanted to do and what Lee’s iMoney was doing and connected them. Both have acted as mentors to Cheong and Choong, who are grateful for the advice received.
“(Lee) has brought service providers, the banks and insurance companies, and connected them to consumers. He has shared with us how to create a win-win situation for both sides,” says Choong.
Another encouragement for the duo was that the elusive monetisation strategy for creating a marketplace for service providers seemed to have been found. “Thumbtack.com in the United States seemed to have found a way to monetise the service they were providing, which is to charge the service providers a fee to bid for a job,” notes Cheong.
While this may not be the exact model Kaodim uses, the fact that its site is gaining traction and has raised money early in in its startup journey, gives the founders confidence that they will get the monetisation strategy right.
And with that, the nightmare of having “He was a good employee” inscribed on their tombstones will likely be no more than an amusing story to share.
Working for a startup: Parents and tough love
500 Startups appoints Khailee Ng managing partner
iMoney gets US$155,000 grant from Cradle
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