A conversation with the Beeconomic founders
The Chong brothers talk about their group buying site.
Chris and Karl Chong
Beeconomic.com has been causing a lot of buzz lately, especially with it being a Singapore company. It is a "deal of the day" type of site, where you can find discounts available for things ranging from pole dance lessons to baked goods. It is gaining in popularity between both consumers and businesses, with more and more business joining the network.
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Started eight months ago by brothers Karl and Christopher Chong, the bargain site has seen a fair bit of success. Recently bought by Groupon, the leading "deal of the day" site in the US, it seems like the owners are aiming high.
In fact, there has been speculation that the company could be worth as much as $24 million. However, the company's true value isn't really confirmed, and the founders weren't willing to comment when asked.
What they have shared is that they are planning on moving to a much larger office in the near future, and will be expanding their sales force to around 20-30 people. They also promise that they'll be bringing even better deals for their users by taking advantage of Groupon's global connections.
Speculation aside, the Chong brothers were willing to take the time to answer a number of other questions.
Did you ever think that your site would become a hit so quickly?
Karl: Singaporeans are into bargains, so it seemed logical to start the site. However, we didn't expect things to happen so fast, and especially didn't expect the Groupon buyout to happen so quickly.
Chris: In the beginning, we had to knock on the doors of businesses and convince them to work with us. Now, new businesses, like a restaurant that was opened by some New Yorkers who moved here, are coming to us and asking for help.
Karl: Also, in the beginning, there was very little knowledge about what we were trying to do. No one in Singapore really understood the idea of group buying, and we had to explain the concept to both stakeholders and consumers.
Do you think your success would have been possible without social media like Twitter and Facebook?
Chris: Yes. Useful concepts can latch on quickly. It's about giving users a reason to talk about your product. The deals that we offer are inherently social in nature. Beeconomic helps find your customers a reason to make noise on their social networks. Businesses don't need to spend a dime to create a buzz using our service.
Karl: Owners need to focus on other things, and we provide a one stop solution for all of their marketing needs.
Did you ever imagine that you'd be starting a business together? Your family background is Singaporean, but you grew up in Sydney. Can you tell me how your affiliation with Singapore shaped your success?
Karl: Well, there's always a personal element to starting a business. Fortunately, we grew up knowing how to work hard and appreciate success.
We've both had to make sacrifices. The two of us bring our own personalities to the table, and this is worked to our benefit.
Chris: We work with a unique dynamic. Both of us were molded by the fact that our great parents had a great work ethic. I think the entrepreneurial spirit was fanned by watching our parents start their own business. Karl's also been an inspiration, and I'm thankful to my brother for bringing me on board.
What advice would you give to would-be entrepreneurs in Singapore?
Karl: If you have a bright idea, you have to hang onto it. You really need to believe in what you're saying, and you will need to be willing to sacrifice and take risks. It takes a lot of hard work, and you also need to treat your employees well.
Chris: You need to take chances while you're still young, and be hard working but willing to take risks. I've learned a lot of useful skills by being involved with this startup, many of which you cannot learn in formal education.
However, I still think it's important to complete your education. I am going back to Sydney to complete my degree, which means I'm going to be missing out on a year of direct involvement with the company. That's a bit of a sacrifice, but I believe it's important for the long-term.
Karl: I disagree with the need to complete university. I think that if you have the right idea and skill set, you should go for it. People will believe in you.
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