Digital Marketplace — Quek Siu Rui

Carousell is the marriage of its founder Quek Siu Rui’s passions for tech and community. In 2011, Quek found himself in Silicon Valley as part of a university exchange program. “My two co-founders and I fell in love with technology for its ability to make a huge impact on a lot of people’s lives,” he says. “So we started learning how to build apps.”

The trio was determined to create an app that added value to the community, so they looked for a problem to solve. “We had all these things at home like our Kindles, our GoPros, old MacBooks that were just collecting dust, even though they were fully functional,” says Quek. Before, he would list these items on online classified sites like eBay, but the process was cumbersome and tedious. “What if we could streamline it to 30 seconds?”

So the three friends set themselves the challenge of creating an app that would make “online selling as easy as taking a photo, and buying as easy as chatting.” In May 2012, they moved into a former light factory called BLK 71 in southwest Singapore. The building was converted into a co-working space — a government experiment to foster the country’s tech start-up scene. The cluster has since expanded into three blocks and is known as JTC LaunchPad @ one-north. The Economist dubbed it the “world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem.” Today, Quek’s 200-strong team comes from 19 countries, which he says “is only possible because of the critical mass of start-up opportunities here.”

In August the same year, Quek and his partners launched Carousell. Users upload photos of whatever they’re selling on the app and provide a short description with an asking price. Buyers can negotiate the final price, mode of delivery and payment method. Quek notes that active users spend an average of 15 to 16 minutes every day on it. Riding on the app’s success in Singapore, he has rolled out the concept in other Asian markets like Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Quek credits his success to a supportive start-up ecosystem in Singapore. “It’s more than just a physical working space,” he says, citing strong government support that was crucial to the early stages of his business. Enthusiasm is also evident in the private sector, too. “If you look at the past two years or so, at least a dozen venture-capital funds with $50 million to $100 million have started in Singapore.”

In brief:
Singapore’s technology infrastructure and abundance of start-up hubs make it conducive to testbed innovative concepts.

Industry diary:
Tech in Asia
May 15 and 16, 2018

This two-day conference brings together entrepreneurs, investors, corporations, developers and students to learn about the start-up community.

In places like Silicon Valley, it can be hard, if you’re not affiliated to a big incubator or accelerator, to cut through the clutter and the noise. In Singapore, you can focus on developing a great product.

Did you know?

Taking into account factors like access to skilled workers and performance at international coding tests, the 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem Report by Startup Genome, a U.S.-based organization, ranked Singapore the global leader in start-up talent.