Could this be Southeast Asia’s next $1 billion start-up? | CNBC Make It

How much can I
get for this phone? Okay, let’s give that a try. Could this be the future of selling? Try to sell this phone.
iPhone 8, right? And let’s see. So you see your price? $530? I’ll take that. One man who certainly
hopes so is Siu Rui Quek, co-founder and CEO of online
consumer marketplace Carousell. Our mission at Carousell is to inspire every
person in the world to start selling and buying. And he’s embracing
artificial intelligence to do it. We’re doing a lot of things around AI. You know,
we want to make selling even simpler. So, today, you can already take a photo,
your category will be suggested, your title will be suggested,
your price will also be suggested. It’s the latest innovation from the
seven-year-old Singaporean start-up. One investors say could supercharge its ascendency
into Southeast Asia’s billion-dollar ‘unicorn’ club. I think Carousell is one of the few big
deals coming out of Southeast Asia. That would be some feat for three
entrepreneurs in their thirties. But it’s the kind of ambitious goal
they’ve had in mind since day one. Their story starts
back in 2012. Quek and his co-founders, Marcus Tan and Lucas
Ngoo, were business students interning in Silicon Valley as part of an
entrepreneurial exchange program. There they were inspired by presentations from
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. I think the one commonality all of them
had was just this whole fascination for using technology to solve
problems and make a big impact. And so Lucas, Marcus and
I, that became our passion. So, returning to Singapore, the boys
got to work building a prototype app for a classifieds business
to help sell gadgets online. Back then, platforms like eBay and Craigslist
had already opened up the market for online consumer-to-
consumer classified sales. But, according to Quek, in Southeast Asia, where
smartphones are more common than desktops, consumers wanted a faster,
mobile-first solution. The internet population here largely have leapfrogged
the desktop internet, to come online through mobile. So I think from a user experience standpoint,
we actually really serve them well. And users seemed to agree. Within three days of
launching in August 2012, the app was ranked second among the
top free lifestyle apps in Singapore. But they soon hit
a bump in the road. Use of the app stopped growing, and the trio
realized they had to pivot to make listing even simpler. I think, when we first launched, the first couple
of months was actually quite challenging. User growth was pretty flat. So we emailed everyone who signed up.
We asked them, “Where did you hear about Carousell?” We asked them what they actually liked about
Carousell, what did they not like about Carousell. And I think those insights were the most
important, because when you take away where you need to improve, what you’re not so good at,
it leads to innovation, it leads to product improvement. That shift brought
them back on track. Months later, they received a $35,000 university
grant to keep the business going, before securing more than $700,000 from major investors, including
Rakuten, Golden Gate Ventures and 500 Startups. My name is Vinnie Lauria of Golden Gate Ventures.
I’m one of the early investors in Carousell. They had that passion, that drive,
which is number one you need. They were solving their own pain point, their
own problem, that’s number two check box. And then the way they thought of building a product.
They made something that was completely different. You know, mobile, local,
classifieds, on a mobile app. Fast forward seven years, the company
has now recorded 250 million listings and received $150
million in funding. Its latest partnership with OLX Group has put
the company on a valuation of $550 million. That funding has fueled its expansion
into six new markets around the region. And a host of new listings categories, including
clothing, property, autos and even jobs. For us, we’ve never really obsessed
around unicorns, or valuation. It’s always about, how can we serve a community?
How can we solve meaningful problems? How can we really serve this mission of inspiring
every person in the world to start selling? And, for us, that’s what we are obsessed
about, that’s what we’re focused on. And, you know, if you do that really well,
I think valuations, titles like unicorns, it’s a byproduct and will
come because of that. Though Carousell has its roots online,
like many e-commerce marketplaces, it’s also seeing the value of
having an offline presence, too. For the likes of Amazon in
the U.S. and Alibaba in China, that expansion has taken the
form of physical grocery stores. Meanwhile for Carousell it means hosting community
events where buyers and sellers can transact in real life. I’m Eileen and this is Eden. Eileen and Eden are founders of Vintage Wknd,
one of 300 boutique retailers at Carouselland, a three-day shopping
event in Singapore. The pair started selling vintage clothes on the app
three years ago and have so far made $40,000. We’ve sold more than like 15,000
items. So far so good. Paid off, yeah. Monetization will now be the
name of the game for Carousell, which boosted revenues fourfold
and cut losses last year. The founders plan to do that via online ads,
premium user packages and subscription services, with a focus on their Singapore
and Hong Kong market. It’s a very simple business model. It’s actually mainly
advertising, mainly premium visibility products, and also subscription packages that we
sell to car dealers and property agents. Add to that AI developments, managing a team
of over 400 and expanding to new markets, and it sounds like a tall order. But Quek, Tan and Ngoo
are men on a mission. In fact, they even previously turned down an
offer of $100 million to offload the business, so determined were they
to carve their own path. And, according to Quek,
they’ve still some way to go. You’ve often said you’re maybe only 1% done. Where do
you stand on that now? Surely you’re a bit further along? You know, I constantly tell the team
we’re less than 1% done, even today. You know, our vision is to create this world and
lifestyle where second-hand is the first choice. Sometimes that sounds
audacious and crazy. But five, 10 years ago it was kind of crazy
to think you’d hop in someone else’s car to get from point A to point B, but
today you have Uber and Grab. Five, 10 years from now,
we want Carousell to be creating this lifestyle where
second-hand is the first choice. It just makes so much sense. You save the
earth. You save money. You make money. You go on to create possibility for other
people. It’s just win, win, win all around.

96 Replies to “Could this be Southeast Asia’s next $1 billion start-up? | CNBC Make It”

  1. They just have so much money investment to buy olx in Southeast Asia then merge it into carousell. Its all about money pump in.

  2. "To create a lifestyle in the world where second hand is the first choice."

    That I can agree to be the seed (pitch) of the next $1Bill. Pretty great vision! Goodluck!

  3. This type of software service already in India ….copy cat …like olx ..quiket market place …. nothing special 👎

  4. In India there are so many Sites like this, I wonder how Carousel will survive in global market but I appreciate their effort though.

  5. Great video but please use a camera stabiliser if possible. The footage is semi shaky and doesnt contribute to the best viewing experience. Nevertheless, keep up the good work!

  6. They have change a lot since i registered 3 years ago. Not bad i would say. For Americans out there, this website is like Craigslist but Singapore version.

  7. Its been 7 years. It's not a start up anymore. Its a business. That was misleading. A startup is 1 or 2 years old. 7 years ago the ecommerce wasn't this big.

  8. Another overvalue "copycat" start up that are looking for a quick buck. Someone is going to buy them soon. How is this considered "innovation" when its basically a "ebay/amazon" clone with some interesting features? There literally hundreds of apps and outlets out there aiming at this market. Once this becomes popular bigger companies like Amazon or eBay or shopify could easily add these features into their app or just buy the company and eliminate competition. Similar to what Facebook did with Whatsapp. Take a look at most of these so called innovation companies in Asia and you would see most of them are just copying existing ideas in the west and adding their own small changes. How are these companies suppose to be worth billions?

  9. My colleague’s Friend was scammed to pay a deposit for an iPhone and the seller thereafter disappeared. Hope he makes a police report to have the scammer arrested.

  10. AI integration means nothing! Valuation means nothing! What was the "revenue" last year? What is the "revenue" year-on-year since 2012? My reason for this comment: Best example today, WeWork

  11. You posted this video at the same day as Indonesian govt announced OVO (fintech) as the new unicorn in Indonesia? Do your research properly lmao. I kinda thought this video was about that.

  12. Aren't there already a bunch of Indonesian and Singaporean online marketplace apps like Bukalapak, Tokopedia and Shopee? They have already existed for around a decade now

    I forgot to mention, there's ZALORA and too

  13. It cant compete with facebooks matketplace. Thats just too bad. Facebook must not have all internet ideas in one place.

  14. They say it’s AI, but in fact thousands of Chinese get the photos of items and manually suggest the price and name for those items😂

  15. Olx had a simpler and better platform if your intent is to look for products.. And Facebook Marketplace is miles ahead with their platform..

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