How this Snap-and-sell Startup became a Household Name in Singapore and Beyond

Marcus Tan, co-founder and president of Carousell, says they want to inspire every person in the world to start selling

Marcus Tan credits his mother for giving him the courage to take the leap with Carousell. After working for a year as a business development consultant at tech company Oracle, Tan, along with two other self-proclaimed computer geeks, decided to create an e-commerce platform for buying and selling of new and secondhand goods. “She was initially worried when I left my job, and I could understand where she was coming from, as it was an unconventional route. But she gave me full support,” says Tan. When Carousell was launched in 2012, his mother printed promotion flyers and distributed them on the bus, at work — wherever she went.

This lesson of being relentlessly resourceful when building a business has stayed with the three co-founders, Tan, Quek Siu Rui and Lucas Ngoo — all graduates of the National University of Singapore (NUS). From a headcount of less than 10 in 2012 to over 200 full-timers now, Carousell has become a household name in Singapore, and expanded to Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia and Hong Kong, with over 150 million listings and over 50 million items sold in the seven markets. Reportedly worth US $500 million, Carousell pulled in an $85 million Series C fund in May, which was led by existing investor Rakuten Ventures and EDBI, the corporate investment arm of Economic Development Board in Singapore. Other participants included 500 Startups, Golden Gate Ventures, Sequoia India and DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest bank.

The Journey

After spending a year as interns in Silicon Valley, part of the NUS Overseas College Programme, the three founders were inspired to use technology to solve meaningful problems at scale. “If you’ve ever bought or sold something on a forum or classifieds website, you will remember how difficult and frustrating it could be to list an item, or find something you wanted these sites on those forums. You often needed a pretty good idea of how the forums or online stores worked, as they were built for different purposes and not as a marketplace,” says Tan, the 33-year-old company president.

To solve this problem, they participated in the Startup Weekend Singapore in March 2012, and built the first Carousell prototype in 54 hours. “The basis of the idea was that selling should be as simple as taking a photo, and buying as easy as chatting,” he says. They won the competition. Carousell came to life in August 2012.

The Roadblocks

The initial phase is challenging for most startups. It was no different for Carousell. The founders were trying to establish themselves in a space dominated by the likes of eBay, Lazada and Craiglist, and they were well aware of it. Another key challenge was growing their community.

“There were times we had single digits of people signing up in a day,” says Tan. But they didn’t give up. “Two reasons: we were passionate about the mission and the problem. There are many challenges that you’ll go through daily in a startup, and the only reason why you’ll keep persevering and pressing on is that you care a lot about what you do,” he says.

“Secondly, we believed there were people like us who wanted to use Carousell. Although we had low sign-ups, there were early signals that we were building something people want. We had a community of early adopters who believed in us. We then decided to be laser-focused on the early adopters — the youth and the Snapchat generation,” he says, proudly. By creating campaigns to attract such audience, Carousell grew organically.

What has also worked in their favour all these years is the simplicity of the app. All one needs to do is take a snap of a product and start selling. Earlier this year, Carousell introduced CarouPay, an integrated payment system that allows customers to pay directly within the app, to make the platform more convenient.

This ease, however, has resulted in some controversial listings. The marketplace, for instance, was recently in news over maid servants being reportedly sold on the platform. “We have removed the listings and suspended the account. In this instance, we are assisting the Singapore authorities with their investigations,” Tan clarifies.

The company is now experimenting with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to augment fraud detection efforts and to flag out bad actors or errant users, and roll out features like auto-suggestions for categories, subcategories and even item titles.

The Right Attitude

Perhaps the biggest reason for Carousell’s success is their focus on creating a community. “We want to inspire every person in the world to start selling, with the goal of becoming the No.1 classifieds marketplace for anyone to sell in the world. The problem we are solving is a global one, and we have this once in a lifetime opportunity to be the world’s largest community marketplace because of the mobile phenomenon,” plugs Tan.

When it comes to his view on success, he humbly admits, “We are less than one percent done. We are just scratching the surface of this mission; there will always be more ways to improve.” Tan is ready to face everything that comes with the ever-changing world of emerging technologies. “My mother taught me to never give up. She’s the ultimate hero in my Marvel universe, and I will never give up.”

Article originally posted by entrepreneur.

This entry was posted in Business. Bookmark the permalink.
5 Work Laptops With 10+ Hours of Battery Life
Uncategorized

5 Work Laptops With 10+ Hours of Battery Life

For some small business owners, long battery life is the single most important feature a work laptop can have. If you're one of the many entrepreneurs who work long days, often away from a power source, and want a laptop that works as long and hard as you do, this…

Read

Alibaba is Going All Out on Cloud Computing Technology
Business

Alibaba is Going All Out on Cloud Computing Technology

The e-commerce giant's cloud service operates in 49 availability zones in 18 regions around the globe It looks like there’s no stopping Alibaba from expanding its footprint in the Indian market. After investing $300 million in online grocery store Big Basket, the Chinese e-commerce giant has partnered with mobile payment…

Read

How to Make Amazon Prime Work for Your Business
Uncategorized

How to Make Amazon Prime Work for Your Business

Amazon Prime is a membership program designed to offer customers perks for loyalty to the retail giant. Consumers who sign up for a $99 annual fee (or opt for a $12.99 monthly fee) enjoy free two-day shipping, free streaming of video and music, and access to e-books. But businesses also…

Read

She Proved That Nothing Can Get In The Way of Determination
Business

She Proved That Nothing Can Get In The Way of Determination

Shariah Edwards simply graduated from Power Center Academy High School, a contract school in Memphis, Tennessee. Presently, she's looked with an assignment numerous current secondary school graduates must do - - pick which school of those she was acknowledged to she needs to go to. Be that as it may, Shariah's circumstance…

Read

China Becomes World’s Biggest Online Community
Business

China Becomes World’s Biggest Online Community

Amid tight control, the country's population has set a record by crossing a mark of 800 million Internet users China has always been in the news for internet censorship owing to laws and administrative regulations. Amid this tight control, the country’s population has set a new record by crossing a…

Read

Management Theories Every Small Business Owner Should Know
Uncategorized

Management Theories Every Small Business Owner Should Know

Small business owners and managers can benefit from learning about the theorists whose work has given rise to many of the leadership approaches as well as the best (and worst) practices used to guide and grow organizations of all sizes. By putting these approaches within a larger historical context, business…

Read

Best Travel Sites for Businesses
Uncategorized

Best Travel Sites for Businesses

Falling victim to an eleventh-hour business trip is unavoidable. You're working on a project, firing on all cylinders with your employees and clients, and then a massive hurdle comes your way: You need to touch base with clients in Seattle, and you need to be there in two and a…

Read

9 Best Apps for Jira
Uncategorized

9 Best Apps for Jira

You may know Atlassian's Jira as a bug-tracking and software development package. But it's so much more than that now. For small businesses, Jira can help teams organize and manage a diverse array of projects, processes, and tasks for a spectrum of non-technical business specialties like law, HR, marketing, finance,…

Read

Don’t Wait for the Government: Entrepreneurs Are Keeping America Great
Business

Don’t Wait for the Government: Entrepreneurs Are Keeping America Great

Entrepreneurs are helping their local communities by introducing products and technologies for new markets across the country. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Although popularized by Donald Trump, the “Make America Great Again” slogan goes back to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign. It's associated with politics, but the idea isn’t about…

Read