January 4, 2012
Paul Srivorakul is a cofounder of Ensogo, the Southeast Asian daily deal site acquired by LivingSocial in June 2011 for an undisclosed amount. Below, he shares some insights on the challenges he faced and where the daily deal industry is headed.
Tech Cocktail: Can you talk about a tough decision you had to make, or a difficult period for Ensogo?
Srivorakul: In the early days, we had a challenge with one of the original founders. As we scaled the business really aggressively, one of the founders couldn’t keep up. It was tough; it was a very difficult situation for us to part ways, but he did still own some shares in the business and he was definitely happy with the final outcome.
In any startup, in the early days, it’s all fun and happy. But as you have to scale and scale big, some people cannot – they just have limited skills. Some people are made for early startup days. Every 6 months to even a year of a startup, you really need a different skill set of people, and if people aren’t growing into those positions, it’s really tough.
We also had a tough time getting an ecommerce license. Even in Indonesia now, it’s like pulling teeth. We were rejected 4 times by the payment gateways here, which is KBank in Thailand. We had to deposit $12,000 to make sure we could get a payment system for credit cards.
Tech Cocktail: What can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?
Srivorakul: One of the challenges – even in my day, when you were starting a business – was we didn’t think big enough. I think that may be one of the reasons why people don’t want to fund too many startups out here, because they’re trying to solve problems that are too small, when there’s actually bigger problems to solve. When they think big, and when they talk big, they will attract potential investors as well.
Tech Cocktail: What do you see in the future of the daily deal industry?
Srivorakul: I have thoughts on our markets, more than the US. It’s just going to get more niche and more vertical. For example, if you’re going to go into daily deals and into travel, you’d better have good travel deals – and to have really good travel deals, you have to have really good travel salespeople and travel operations team and travel customer service team. Whether you’re tackling travel, retail, health, B2B – there’s so many different verticals, especially out here – I think that’s where the industry’s definitely heading.
And it’s not just about deals either. There are things you can offer that users have never tried before, something that’s exclusive or just a unique experience. In the Philippines, for example, we launched two new Kit-Kat flavors [orange and mint], and it’s interesting that the food companies are starting to use our platform as a way to test products in the market.
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