TradeGecko, the Kiwi start-up that moved to Singapore in 2012 in search of capital, markets and nurturing, says it is taking in "millions in revenue" from tens of thousands of customers but is yet to turn a profit as it builds scale for its cloud-based inventory management software.
The company was founded by three Kiwi entrepreneurs – brothers Cameron and Bradley Priest and Carl Thompson. Frustrated at the difficulty of raising capital in Auckland, TradeGecko moved to Singapore to be incubated by Joyful Frog Digital Innovation, which had started at about the same time. Hugh Mason, chief executive of the Singaporean technology accelerator known as JFDI, says TradeGecko is ''far and away'' JFDI's most successful company to date.
TradeGecko chief executive Cameron Priest declined to give specific numbers. "We're not profitable but we're doing millions in revenue. In our business, we spend more upfront to acquire a customer and they pay us a recurring monthly fee so a customer might cost $1000 to get on board but pays $200 a month," he said. "So, as we aim to grow super-fast, we're focused on scaling cost effectively."
The company has customers in more than 100 countries and offices in Australia, Singapore, Canada and the Philippines.
Mr Priest believes New Zealand could take a leaf out of Singapore's playbook in terms of nurturing entrepreneurs. In a webcast for Kiwi Landing Pad, the organisation that helps high-growth New Zealand tech companies establish in the US, Priest put up a slide with a picture of Auckland titled: "Auckland. Beautiful. No capital."
"In Singapore, we've seen the government take an active role, with the NRF (National Research Foundation) pumping tens of millions into supporting the start of a seed-fund industry through the TIS (technology incubator scheme)," he told BusinessDesk. "We've then seen the NRF back that up with the ESVF (early stage venture fund) programme to encourage the creation of funds focused on larger rounds of funding. This has been hugely important.''
He said the other critical advantage was having access to experienced entrepreneurs and mentors "who can help young entrepreneurs navigate the turbulent waters of starting and scaling."
"You need a critical mass of experienced people in one place all supporting and trying to encourage companies to grow," he said. "It takes a village."
Investors in TradeGecko include Golden Gate Ventures, a Singapore-based venture capital firm that closed its second early-stage venture fund last month, having raised $US60 million, Jungle Ventures, Wavemaker Labs, 500 Startups and NSI Ventures. All the funding came via the company's involvement with JFDI.
TradeGecko's inventory management system, which is targeted at wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers, integrates with other cloud-based software including Shopify, WooCommerce and Xero, which recently opened an office in Singapore to target the southeast Asian market.
Singapore was ranked 10th among the world's top start-up cities in the 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of start-ups in Singapore nearly doubled to 42,000 from 24,000.
By contrast, Wellington has about 900 start-ups, according to Chris Whelan, chief executive of Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, which is owned by the city and regional councils. Wellington sees Singapore as a role model for fostering start-ups and Whelan says the city could boost its start-up population by emulating the southeast Asian city-state.
Jane Shanahan travelled to Singapore courtesy of Singapore Airlines
BusinessDesk receives funding to help cover the commercialisation of innovation from Callaghan Innovation.
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