Wobb set to spread its wings regionally

  • Work culture-centric job search platform on track for regional expansion
  • Acquires employee benefits and engagement startup WorkExcite


Wobb set to spread its wings regionally


WORK culture-centric job search platform Wobb, which began life as a company culture blog in late 2014, is on track for regional expansion following a few successful rounds of funding.

In 2015, Wobb raised seed funding from angel investors in Hong Kong and Australia and also secured a CIP 150 Catalyst grant totalling RM150,000 from government-backed Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd. Two months ago, Wobb received the CIP 500 commercialisation grant from Cradle totalling RM500,000.

Wobb differs from other job search platforms in that it is mobile-centric, as opposed to web-centric and offers jobseekers a peek into a potential employer’s culture. The app offers office photos as well as employee testimonials so that jobseekers may get an idea of what their potential employer’s company culture is like.

In an interview with Digital News Asia recently, Wobb founder and Wobb Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Derek Toh (pic) shared that the company has raised a total of US$400,000 so far from the Cradle grants and angel investors. He added that once the company is cash flow positive, it will embark on regional expansion.

When pressed for a specific timeline, Toh frankly said that it would depend on how Wobb performs this year. “Based on our revenue growth in January so far we have already doubled our revenue we had in December. So if it continues at this rate, we may launch into other markets early this year, if not late this year,” he said.

The plan is to target high-growth markets such as the Philippines and Indonesia this year, partly due to language. “Our mobile app and website are in English, hence the launch in Philippines can be done straightaway. And when we go to Indonesia, obviously we also understand their language and we have to re-write the app a bit, but I’m a bit more confident we can penetrate this market,” he said.

A quick Google search revealed that some of the job search portal companies in the Philippines and Indonesia include Monster, Indeed, Jobstreet and Jobsdb, all of which are primarily web-based. When asked if there were any mobile-centric competitors to Wobb in those countries, Toh replied that he is not aware of any mobile-centric job search platforms in Southeast Asia that have made it into the main market.

“To be fair, most job portals have a mobile app, which tends to be miniature versions of their website (which appears to still be their main focus). For us, we focus our development on making sure our mobile app takes advantage of mobile technologies that are available today to make job search more convenient and intuitive.”

Toh also sees potential in Thailand and Vietnam. The job portal spaces there are not too crowded currently and have a lot of room for a new entrant, Toh remarked. “If we raise a big round of funding in 2017, we might just go into all markets,” he said.

Previously, Wobb had mentioned plans of moving into the Hong Kong market. However, the plans appear to be on hold for now. “We’ve decided to first build a strong foundation in Malaysia to make sure we don’t spread ourselves too thin. Hong Kong is still a market which is of interest to us, but at the moment, we are observing other high-growth, developing markets such as Philippines and Indonesia as potentially more exciting markets to enter,” Toh said in response to a question on the proposed Hong Kong expansion.

Wobb is not actively talking to potential investors at the moment and will only do so once the plans for 2017 have been kick-started. “You know as they say, it’s better to talk to investors when you don’t need money rather than when you need money,” he quipped.

According to Toh, the plans to grow the company include growing 2017 revenues by three to four times over last year’s numbers and growing headcount from 20 currently to about 40 or 50 by year.

Wobb also recently finalised its acquisition of WorkExcite, an employee benefits and work engagement startup which was founded in September 2015. Although the startup was accepted into the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC)’s Accelerator Programme last year, the founders decided not to pursue the business, Toh said. He declined to disclose the acquisition amount.

WorkExcite’s subscription-based business model works by charging companies monthly payments for access to employee benefits from merchant partners. The perks are negotiated by WorkExcite on behalf of all its clients and the benefits include cheaper and easier access to gyms, healthcare, food delivery, gifts and other products that help increase the personal fulfilment and engagement of employees.

“So we help companies attract people and now we can also keep their people happier; that’s why we wanted to acquire this company,” Toh said. To a question on what metrics Wobb used for the valuation of WorkExcite prior to acquiring it, he replied that Wobb acquired the latter’s fully functioning platform, along with their existing vendor relationships to supply perks / benefits to employees.

“Their next phase was to acquire employers to start using these perks / benefits, and because Wobb already has over 2,000 employers on our platform, there was a clear synergy in our acquisition as we could hit the ground running.”

With growth being the main aim for Wobb, the startup is enhancing user experience with a new version of its mobile app end January. In essence, jobseekers and employers will not need to use their desktops or laptops at all once the new version is out. “You can download the app, and apply to jobs using your LinkedIn profile. You’ll be talking to your employers entirely only the app. We believe it will be a very unique product when it is ready,” he said.

When asked what his key lessons have been as an entrepreneur. “Making money is important. Really, it may sound like a joke but I know a lot of people who don’t see this as a priority.”

Another thing he has learned is that one has to be very hands-on, no matter how big the team is. “You’re the CEO, the founder, you go on the ground. I still talk to clients directly. I think that if you are a founder and you rely just on the team, things get filtered and it is flawed and you live in your own fantasy world.”

Managing culture is also of importance. “When you scale from a small company to a larger one, being able to manage that change in culture is quite important. That’s something I’ve learnt,” he said.

Toh’s final point is on the importance of resilience and going back to the basics of running a business. “I see people who are very successful are also very resourceful. Even if there’s a problem they just find a way to solve it. Resilience is even more important now, we have to go back to the basics. And try running as a real business and don’t expect some external funding to help you. If it does, it’s very good, but you should build your business with that in mind,” he advised. 

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