Post-acquisition, Trii.be’s journey enters new stage
By Benjamin Cher September 4, 2015
- Mobikon acquired Singapore startup Trii.be in August
- Tri.ibe has been profitable since getting pre-seed funding
THE startup community has been abuzz with news that Mobikon – a digital marketing startup specialising in the food and beverage (F&B) industry – had acquired Trii.be, a Singapore-based startup that has developed a customer feedback and analytics tool for restaurants.
This came in August, only about a month after Mobikon had landed US$2.3 million in a second round of Series A funding from Singapore-based Jungle Ventures, according to a Tech in Asia report, although CrunchBase describes it as a Series B round.
Mobikon has its roots in Pune, India but is headquartered in Singapore.
Details of the Trii.be transaction are sketchy, however, with the acquisition price not having been disclosed and with some media outlets reporting it as an all-cash deal (here and here), while others did not (here).
Trii.be cofounder Chua Chun Kiat, who has joined the Mobikon business development team post-acquisition, told Digital News Asia he is not at liberty to disclose details of the deal.
But he did speak about reaching that milestone almost all startup founders dream of – that of negotiating an exit.
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Beginnings and influences
Chua, an alumnus of the National University of Singapore’s Overseas College (NOC) programme, told DNA he spent a year working as a software engineer in a tech startup in Silicon Valley.
“This one-year stint in California was unforgettable as it gave me much exposure to Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem,” he said via email.
Like all undergraduates, Chua hoped to have a job waiting for him after he graduated. “I actively sent out my CV (curriculum vitae) to a few tech and management consulting firms,” he said.
“However, none of them responded – I guess fresh graduates weren’t highly sought after by these companies after all,” he added.
Not all was lost, as three of his friends – Wong Say Jon, Kenneth Lim and Jeremy Lee – roped him into their crazy business idea: A feedback automation tool for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“I recalled my NOC experience, got sold on their idea and decided to jump onto the bandwagon,” Chua said.
“As my cofounders would say, ‘We do it because we believe, perhaps at times naïvely, that anything and everything is possible’,” he added.
Chua credits Spring Singapore – a government agency tasked with helping Singaporean SMEs develop and grow – to introducing him to people who would turn out to be his early influencers.
“After we raised our pre-seed funding from Spring Singapore, we were introduced to Gary Teo (regional director at VML Qais); Donald Lim (vice president of concepts at Savant Degrees); and Manoj Sharma (founder of Cusjo.com),” he said.
“Gary, Donald and Manoj are successful entrepreneurs and they showed us the ropes on running a startup,” he added.
Trii.be’s rite of passage
According to Chua, Trii.be was profitable after its pre-seed funding stage, and did not even raise a Series A round before being acquired. It now has over 100 restaurants in Singapore as partners, processing over 500 pieces of customer feedback daily.
He said Trii.be’s feedback management and data analytics tool enables clients to improve their customer service productivity.
The startup has also been able to reach customers outside the F&B industry.
“We’ve had the opportunity to work with major players from other sectors, such as [property and lifestyle company] Wing Tai Asia and the National Museum of Singapore,” Chua said.
Despite this early success and big-name customers, the Trii.be founders wanted their startup to go to the next level, he shared.
“We realised that Trii.be had reached the point where we needed experienced managing directors or executives to bring our business to the next level,” he added.
And that’s where Mobikon comes in. “We have complementary technologies and we are serving clients in the same industry,” said Chua.
“Trii.be focuses solely on customer feedback collection and data visualisation, while Mobikon provides a customer engagement and marketing platform for restaurants,” he added.
Talks between the two startups ensued. Trii.be decided that working with Mobikon would be the best way to scale its platform and market reach.
Mobikon itself says it has more than 1,700 restaurants as clients in South-East Asia.
The Mobikon future
Asked about his entrepreneurial journey, Chua described it as exciting and rewarding – and nerve-wracking at times.
He singled out Trii.be’s two other cofounders, Wong and Lim, as being “especially incredible.”
“I’m very fortunate to have experienced two company exits in recent years, and my next step is to bring a company to an IPO (initial public offering),” Chua said.
Wong, Lim and Chua also founded dating app startup LoveOutLoud Asia, which was acquired by the Lunch Actually Group last October.
When asked why he was staying on with Mobikon, Chua said he believes in helping businesses improve and accelerate growth using technology.
“I have helped many businesses achieve that, and I believe there is still a lot to be done,” he declared.
“Together with Mobikon, we aim to revolutionise customer engagement in the F&B market, and be a game-changer in the industry,” he added.
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