We completely f**ked up in our first 8yrs: Catcha’s Patrick Grove
By Goh Thean Eu June 8, 2016
- iProperty rejected 74 times and iflix rejected 115 times before landing funding
- 5Ps to build a disruptive business: Problem, passion, people, pivot, perseverance
IT took the now high-flying Catcha Group eight years of stumbles and pivots before it finally found some measure of success.
“The first eight years, we completely f**ked up ... we launched a search engine, we launched a free SMS service, and even launched a dating service,” said cofounder Patrick Grove.
“There’s a list of things we tried, failed, and f**ked up – but we learned so much,” he said in his keynote address at the Catcha-organised Wild Digital conference in Kuala Lumpur earlier today (June 8).
Grove noted that Catcha started in 1999 – it was one of the earliest in South-East Asia of what were then called dotcoms, in the first Internet wave – and it was only in 2007 that it recorded success.
“We had eight years of pivot, after pivot … after pivot,” he said, describing this as the most important trait entrepreneurs should have.
That trait was among what he called the ‘5Ps’ of building a disruptive business, with the others being problem, passion, people, and perseverance.
“I think the ability to pivot is the most important traits of the 5Ps … for me, the chief executive officer should be more of a ‘chief pivoting officer.’
“When you’re involved in a startup, it is not about managing executives, it is about having the ability to experiment, test, and to take a chance,” Grove said.
Catcha’s journey itself epitomises another of the 5Ps: Perseverance.
Grove revealed that Catcha’s property portal company iProperty Group was rejected 74 times and its Internet TV service iflix was rejected 115 times before either successfully raised their first round of funding.
“We were looking to raise US$3 million for iProperty, and it wasn’t easy. We never let the word ‘No’ get in the way of building the business. We were rejected 74 times before we got the first ‘Yes’,” he said.
Those struggles are now a thing of the past. Last year, Australia’s REA Group – which already owned 22.7% of the company – acquired the remaining stakes in iProperty for A$578 million (US$414 million at the time).
Business plan? Bah!
When building a disruptive business, an entrepreneur should also be able to identify the problem his or her startup is trying to solve, Grove said.
He also argued that ‘passion’ and ‘people’ are far more important than a solid business model.
“Passion should always come first before a business plan. If you are looking to invest in a business, it is important to look for an entrepreneur who is passionate about solving a fundamental problem.
“There’s always time to figure out the business plan as long as you have the people and the passion to figure it out.
“Basically, you need to find a big beautiful problem that you are passionate to solve; work with rockstar people to solve it together; and keep pivoting until something works.
“If nothing works, have the perseverance to try again and again until it finally works,” he added.
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