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  • 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.

How much can I get for this phone?

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

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    Summer posted on 2020/10/30
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