Digerati50: Of great tangible value to society

  • Fragmented nature of Southeast Asian region a challenge for all startups
  • Journey of learning and self-discovery, overcoming personal weaknesses

 After a 5-week break, Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 Vol 2, a special print publication released in February 2016. To download a special e-reader version, see the top right corner of this page. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].

Digerati50: Of great tangible value to society
AROUND Oct 2014, two successful lawyers decided to ditch their lucrative jobs to start their own company. Jeffri Cheong (pic, left) and Chong Fui-Yu (pic, right), cofounders of online services marketplace Kaodim, had always wanted to build something that could change the lives of millions.
The tipping point came with Chong’s realisation that what he really wanted to do was to build something that would be of “great tangible value to society. And the best way to do it is by building a company,” says Chong, who is also the chief executive officer.
In the Cantonese dialect, Kaodim means ‘get it done.’ In the beginning, they ran their startup out of Chong’s house, using MailChimp and other free online tools.  “Now we are in five cities – Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Baru in Malaysia; Manila in the Philippines; and Singapore,” says Cheong who is the COO. [Ed: Article was written in Dec 2015]
It was a challenge for the cofounders, keeping up with how fast the company has been growing since its launch in November 2014.  “Not too long ago, team culture, organisational charts, finance and billing procedures didn’t require too much attention – we just had to focus on coming up with ways to get more customers,” says Cheong.
“The company is growing so fast that there’s something new every day that suddenly needs my immediate attention. To tackle the fragmented nature of the region and being able to build a local app within systems that are scalable – these are challenges that many tech startups in the region face,” he declares.
“Additionally, there’s getting the entire Kaodim group aligned in all the markets we’re operating in, and making sure that everyone is working as efficiently and happily as possible,” he adds.
Kaodim raised a US$4-million (RM16.8 million) Series A round in November 2015 to fuel its regional expansion and product offering. And before that, impressively, they raised US$550,000 within four months of launching ie in Feb 2015.
According to Cheong, on-demand services, like Kaodim provides, is a billion-dollar industry. Yet, many people face difficulties in looking for a right professional to service their needs.
“Every few months, it seems technology is radically transforming every aspect of the way people live, and I realised this is the right time for people to harness technology to find the right professional to service their needs,” he says.  “This is a genuine pain point for millions of people in the region, and we knew a tech-enabled solution was being explored outside this region. We wanted to be the first to introduce such a solution into South-East Asia,” he adds.
Chong considers entrepreneurship to be a journey of learning and self-discovery. He says his toughest challenge so far has been firstly learning and understanding, then accepting, and ultimately overcoming personal weaknesses.
These include everything from the big stuff like leadership and management to seemingly smaller things like learning to listen and being more patient with people.
“I think I can say with some degree of confidence that I learnt more in this one year building Kaodim than I ever did in six years as a lawyer,” says Chong.
“There’s plenty more to learn and the challenge is to constantly reinvent myself to be the best that I can be at any given moment,” he adds.
Seeing that Kaodim is capable of making a huge difference in peoples’ lives is what keeps the two friends going, they say. To them, this is just the beginning.

Related Stories:
Kaodim aims to elevate services quality

KL startup Kaodim raises US$4mil Series A
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