Imagine this: you’ve just started working. Managing money of up to four figures every month is baffling you. Budgeting is a headache as is keeping track of monthly spending. The threat of debt or, worse, running out of money before the next pay day is a constant one.
Now imagine this: an app that not only tracks your spending and savings across different bank accounts but also presents your finances in an easy-to-understand infographics format.
This is Seedly, the brainchild of Singaporeans Kenneth Lou and his co-founder, Chew Tee Ming. The everyday personal finance assistant determines your financial health and helps you make smarter financial decisions. Six months since it started, Seedly is serving over 10,000 users with a clientele that is growing at seven per cent week-on-week. Kenneth tells us more.
How did you come up with the idea for Seedly?
Personal finance has been managed by excel sheets since the 1990s and it has not gotten any simpler. When Tee Ming was in Silicon Valley, he experienced first-hand the high cost of living as a student and the difficulty of having to watch his budget carefully.
He became intrigued by the idea of being able to view all personal finances, spending and budgeting in one place. So, he built the first version of Seedly when he was there. When he came back to Singapore in early 2016, we started Seedly with the aim of simplifying finances and getting better at managing money.
Who is your target market?
Millennials like us. We feel the best time to target them is when they have just started working because the need is the most real then - they are planning for major life events like weddings, cars and homes. Those older would have gotten used to managing their finances.
What challenges did you face getting started?
Getting first users to try the product. [Managing finances] is an inherent need but not often a pressing one.
On the business side, experimenting with various business models was also a key challenge. Users demand pretty high standards of UIUX (User Interface and User Experience) but are often unwilling to pay for the service.
We are trying out several lead revenue generation channels along with value-added features that will charge a small fee.
Your first start-up, Novelsys, failed. Did that experience help you with Seedly?
Because we had started Novelsys, we were able to attract investments for Seedly from East Ventures even before we graduated from the National University of Singapore because they were keen to invest in young founders who have had some start-up experience previously.
The other benefit of the failure was discovering what we were good at and not what we were not, and figuring out how best to build a team around that.
Who is your most serious competitor?
Winners focus on winning; losers focus on winners.
We are very product-focused and have targets for retention metrics and MAU (monthly active users). We believe that if we win the consumer and continually build relevant features, we will beat any competition.
What do you think are the qualities necessary to be an entrepreneur?
Determination and resilience. It is really not easy. You ever only hear about the good stuff, the highs of the entrepreneurship journey. But as to how you make it happen, no one really tells you.
Initiative is the other important thing. You need to test things out and learn, and listen to what customers are really saying as they use your product.
Any dos and don’ts for other start-ups?
Dos: Hustle and learn quickly. Build a good team, stay lean and find product-market fit before worrying about scale.
Don't: Listen to the haters, and go for too many events which waste your time and do not contribute to the core business.
What’s ahead for Seedly?
We are working on a version 2.0 which will be launched by mid-2017. This will be a huge upgrade.
Being based in Singapore, we aim to become the number one personal finance management app in the country and the region.