Welcome to Future Sharks Benjamin! Tell us a little about yourself:
Benjamin founded Higher Identity in late 2010. The company built EMERGE App (emergeapp.net) with a vision to put affordable software in the hands of all businesses selling physical products (distribution, wholesale, trading & e-commerce model). The visions’ to revolutionize small business are ran through technology.
Benjamin also founded Drooling Apparel Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. (previously called Drooling Closet) during his student days. The company produces customized t-shirts with a factory in Malaysia. It grew into a strong local brand, serving major companies, school and government agencies in Singapore. Benjamin now serves as a non-executive director at Drooling Apparel, where the company remains profitable.
City where you’re from: Singapore
Hobbies: Playing tennis, traveling.
Favorite quote: “Sales solve everything” – Mark Cuban
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Initially it was the excitement of selling things and making money at the same time. Soon after, i felt that i needed and wanted to be able to scale the value that i can bring to the society.
Who were your biggest influences? Was there a defining moment in your life?
There wasn’t a single defining moment, always been selling things since young. One thing lead to another. I guess it was my parents who were also doing business. Hence, the environment was right
What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
Estimated 95% of product wholesale & trading company globally are using spreadsheets, hardcopy paperwork & memory (yes, memory) to manage their orders, inventory & billings. This process is extremely unproductive and especially if the team is small. This man-hours loss instead should be focussed on sales related activities to grow the business.
I wanted to help this gigantic industry adopt software at a much faster rate. I along with my team developed a cloud solution: EMERGE App, focused on user-friendless, affordability & flexibility. For traders not keeping stocks, keeping partial stocks or selling entirely from stocks, simplicity is the key to disrupting in this industry.
I started EMERGE App after failing to find a suitable solution online for my T-shirt business he started during Polytechnic School days. I believe if this problem if faced by me, millions of entrepreneurs worldwide will face it too. Developing EMERGE App was not an overnight thing, and I along with my team met at least 150 product wholesale & trading companies around the region to understand their pains before launching the App. Also, while creating EMERGE App, we also implemented the software as customized enterprise solutions for companies that had actual inventory and order management issues. This experience was also translated making EMERGE App as it is today: a tried and tested problem solver.
A cornerstone of EMERGE App was when 2 employees decided invest their own money into the company. EMERGE App is also backed by venture funding, and leading investors include TNF Ventures & 21 Black Partners.
How is your product different and unique? What’s the vision?
EMERGE App focuses on companies that are growing (3-10 employees) and selling both online and offline will find it difficult or near impossible to find a complete solution for their inventory and order processing needs. Our user access control, order, purchasing tools & pricing structure puts EMERGE App above our competitors.
The SaaS for E-Commerce inventory management focus purely on the online order & fulfillment workflow where else the traditional software companies selling on-premise ERP / inventory management solutions are way too costly for our target customers.
- Become the #1 go to solution for wholesalers, traders & distributors globally
- Provide end-to-end solution from software, integrations, logistics & sales channels
Who are your customers? How do you find them?
We focus on companies that are growing (3-10 employees) and selling both online and offline will find it difficult or near impossible to find a complete solution for their inventory and order processing needs. Our user access control, order, purchasing tools & pricing structure puts EMERGE App above our competitors.
Our customers find us via organic searches, communities.
Did you experience failure along the way? What did you learn from it?
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, I have faced many challenges in the journey and here is the top 3 challenges I have faced.
Founded in Singapore with lack of engineers to begin with, it was extremely difficult for us to attract great talents with long working hours and depressed wages. Initially, we relied on foreign engineers but after a short while, the Singapore government wanted to protect jobs locally and decide to make it difficult to hire foreign engineers. It was awfully difficult for us then but we overcame it by setting up our Vietnam team.
Employee share options in Vietnam
We wanted to attract the best engineers in town with a lowered salary & planned to issue employee share option program to our team. However, the response was poor as Vietnam does not have a history of employees being issued with Shares. Despite the response, we committed to it and it has worked well for us
As we bootstrapped from the beginning engaging in software customization projects, every cent that was going out had to count. It was years of regular sleepless nights going to bed not knowing if you are able to issue month end salary. This taught us to invest our money wisely and perhaps one of the most important aspects of running a startup: cash.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
Keep it simple – Don’t try to over complicate things
Teach us something about marketing
Marketing is all about connecting people, you got to find people who have the problem which you are trying to solve.
To connect with right people you got to find right communities.
One of the breakthrough we had was finding the communities where our target customers hang out.
It can be a forum where your ideal customers hang out or Quora or any Q & A site.
Keep finding more communities and start partnering up.
Can you recommend any favorite websites to learn that topic?
- GrowthHackers.com – You will thank me later about this, it’s a place where you can get tons of ideas on new growth channels, retention.
- Angel.co – Place where I try to reach out to find the right investors for my startup.
What should an entrepreneur focus on?
Different stage of an entrepreneur will have different priorities and it’s essential to only focus on a few priorities at any stage.
For example, if you’re just starting out, you need money to build the product, you focus on fundraising and try building the product with whatever little resources you have.
When you have the money and the product already in the market, you focus on growth such as acquiring customers
So I wound not say what entrepreneur should focus on, but know when to focus on what.
What are some of your favorite books?
- On Building Business – Secrets of Building Multi-Million Dollar Businesses by Adam Khoo
- On Building Product – Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
Where do you see yourself and your product in a couple years?
Serving 30,000 customers.
Thank you for joining us here on Future Sharks Benjamin! Best of luck to you in your future endeavors!