Two Internet start-ups are netting themselves much attention with their innovative concepts
Article written by Avelyn Ng, published 16 Jan 2012 on TODAYOnline.com Business SME Section (click here to view)
SINGAPORE - Two start-up businesses are making waves in cyberspace. The owners of portals Referoll.com and Renttycoons.com are banking on their innovative concepts to help other companies function more effectively.
Both businesses are also getting a boost from SPRING Singapore through a programme that gives grants to start-ups.
Mr Ariff Munshi, 26, founded Munshi Labs and launched Referoll.com in November. The site recruits people to participate in clients' market research, and projects vary from enlisting a small group of product testers to hundreds of respondents for a focus group.
"We are a start-up that gives out money. We give people opportunities to earn some rewards by participating in all the projects we list," said Mr Munshi, who graduated from the National University of Singapore with a BSc Engineering Sciences honours last year.
Mr Munshi invested S$10,000 as capital and received a S$25,000 grant from SPRING. He hopes to break even by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Renttycoons.com is the first online portal in Singapore that facilitates peer-to-peer renting among individuals and businesses. It has attracted more than 10,000 visitors since its launch in October last year.
Founder Swito Yuber, 33, who conceptualised the website, was motivated by a desire to build environmentally sustainable communities. He invested S$20,000 to kick-start the business, and received a S$50,000 grant from SPRING's Young Entrepreneurs Scheme for Start-ups (YES! Start-ups).
"The idea of renting was based on an essential need to de-clutter and create more space within a house. We came up with the idea of renting based on the idea that one man's trash can be another man's treasure," said Mr Yuber, who is also managing director of Rent Tycoons.
The concept has been widely used in New Zealand but was somewhat unheard of in Singapore.
As such, Mr Yuber said he needed to build awareness and effectively educate people on the benefits of renting instead of buying.
For Rent Tycoons, the value-add lies in its service quality. Not only does it help customers source for items on a case-to-case basis, the site also has a built-in security mechanism.
"We have discovered new customer segments in the recent months. Many start-ups and rental businesses have taken an interest in Rent Tycoons. We plan to reach out to such businesses in listing their items on our portal and also to collaborate in ways that could expand their rental business," Mr Yuber said.
Rent Tycoons has over the past five months added an average of 90 items for rent on the website each month. It plans to increase the total number of items available for rent to 5,000 within the next 12 months.
Both companies are doing well considering their recent entries into the competitive Internet business industry. But Mr Munshi observed the challenge of sustainability. "Entry is relatively easy in Singapore. The hard part is spreading the word," he said.
But so far, the business is gaining traction. To date, Referoll provides profile-screening and monitoring of past records. It helps to cross-check if the participants who signed up meet the requirements of its clients and cancels out distortions such as repetition to ensure accurate sample representation.
Mr Munshi has put his investment and grants from SPRING's YES! Start-ups to good use.
"Besides website development, another large part of the money was spent on social media where the reach is wide. Coming up, we are thinking of introducing sweepstakes and a referrer system as part of our marketing plan," said Mr Munshi.