Startup Feature: Jake Gee & Sam Ho, Co-founders of obbo
A Simple Mission for SMEs – Let’s Go Digital & Forward Together
Obbo, the acronym for Offline Businesses Backed Online, is a digital discovery and marketplace platform, with a simple mission to digitise and help local brick-and-mortar businesses and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to do business globally, digitally. Check out https://obbo.sg to find out more.
Serving the Nation, Serving the SMEs – For Singapore, by Singaporeans
Co-founders, Jake and Sam met while they were serving their National Service (NS) full-time.
The idea sparked during reservist when Sam was sharing on how industrial and manufacturing companies are endeavouring to increase online presence and visibility for their products and services. At that time, Jake was working at Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and his portfolio was heavily involved in leading several digital transformation projects with project directors for the organisation. They synergised their areas of experience and the rest of creating Obbo Marketplace were history.
One of the nights, they also had the opportunity to have Ng Chee Meng, our previous Chief of Defence Force of the SAF, around to provide them guidance and advices on building successful entrepreneurship.
ACE: What excites you most about working on your startup?
Enjoy That Process
We are enjoying the process on a daily basis (laughs), especially when our team receives words of appreciation through emails from typical mum and pop stores as we help to simplify and support their day-to-day process of inventory management, marketing, online negotiation, procurement and delivery through Obbo Marketplace.
From the procurement and buyers’ perspective, we have created in-built connectivity tools for them to interact with the sellers and make purchase quickly and seamlessly. What keeps us going and motivated is the fact that these feedback and enquiries are coming in on a daily basis and we have observed how two sides of the users (both buyers and sellers) are benefiting from the platform.
We have done the first step and established the fundamental – building the demand for aggregation and creating the traction from two sides. What is even more exciting is that we have consolidated our lists of pain points from our SMEs, created new use cases and attracted many renowned brands to work on strategic partnerships. These are also companies who have shared the same visioning and believe in our daily mission.
ACE: Any interesting challenges or roadblocks you faced in your business and how did you go about overcoming them?
Consistently Be The Humble Fool
The biggest challenge would be the initial struggle to get the first few customers to buy in and understand what you are trying to do, especially when your product is raw and new. We went through hours of rejections, harsh remarks, reprimands and even became objects of scorn and mockery by some of them (laughs). Remembering our roots and being mission-focused, we took those comments positively – by going back to the drawing board, working out new approaches and reiterating the process continuously with our teams. The constant value that we emphasize to our people is – Humility. With humbleness and modesty in mind, we look to serve our SMEs with passion and acknowledged that their feedback is heard and answered.
ACE: How do you feel about the BACECamp Programme and how has BACECamp helped you?
Support and Network
The BACECamp Programme has trained us to think even more critically and look into gaps and loopholes through our interactions with the industry experts and mentors from the sessions. We were thankful for the advices and guidance that were provided from BACECamp – a definite must-go recommendation for startups who are seeking for support and expanding their networks.
ACE: Any key highlights or successes to share post-BACECamp?
Mark of Validation
With ACE’s recommendation, Obbo Marketplace was awarded the funding to push and grow our business development efforts that were planned for the year. This mark of validation has also created confidence from new SMEs and businesses who have rejected us previously to come in as well. Our numbers are growing very aggressively on a daily basis and we are excited to share more highlights and milestones in the coming weeks through our social media channels.
ACE: : As an SME Talent Programme (STP) approved company, how has the programme been and how has it helped your company with your talent needs?
Talent and Human Resource
STP has helped our company to identify and develop talents from the local institutions. Through this programme, we’ve shaped clearer learning objectives for our young talents to have a better idea of whether a startup is for them as well as assessed what they’ve learned and how they’ve enjoyed their time with us.
ACE: What are your company goals for 2019? Any exciting upcoming plans or projects to share?
Focus on the Mission
Obbo Marketplace has grown from the initial 50 industrial hardware companies in Q1 2018. Today, we are connected to businesses in the verticals of industrial & manufacturing, health & pharmaceutical, office supplies, kitchen appliances, lighting, information technology solutions, marketing services, design & creatives, professional services etc. For 2019, we have set out a number of key strategic goals and deep tech-focused initiatives that support the array of products and services on the marketplace.
On top of that, with the new Global Ready Talent programme (GRT), this initiative is apt to support startups like us with regional expansion plans. Our company has conceptualised within our work plans for Hybrid Internships as well as Management Associate Programme to strengthen local in-market knowledge prior to longer term overseas exposure opportunities and development.
ACE: Words of advice to new startup founders
Always remember – find passion in what you set out to do for you to enjoy that process. – Jake & Sam, Obbo Marketplace