TradeGecko: How These Hardy Geckos Are Best At Their Trade

It is a common saying that Singapore – the business hub of Asia – is also slated as the entrepreneur epicentre for the world’s largest and populous continent. TradeGecko, a startup focusing on business-to-business (B2B) web application for brands to transact with retailers using a dynamic supply chain management system, would know better.

The startup, which grew substantially from a mere team of three to 55 has scaled great heights in attracting a customer base in over 90 countries with its platform achieving to facilitate transactions worth over S$ 1,151 million (US$ 850 million) within a short span of three years. Today, TradeGecko, a familiar name within the startup space, is one of many companies exemplifying Singapore’s maturing and progressive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The startup ecosystem eventually lured TradeGecko, led by three young New Zealanders, to anchor their team here in Singapore despite being offered several term sheets from top-tier venture capitalists (VCs) from Australia, Europe, India and Silicon Valley following their outstanding success in building one of the most comprehensive yet easy-to-use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) system for small and medium enterprises around the region.

Asia’s Growing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Market

The Asia Pacific (APAC) SaaS sector is certainly whipping up an appetite with its market expected to grow from S$390 million (US$ 528 million) in 2008 to S$4,321 million (US$ 5,853 million) in 2015, at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 41.0 per cent from 2008 to 2015, as detailed in a MarketsandMarkets report.

With Gartner predicting Singapore, among other countries including Australia, Hong Kong and South Korea, having greater stability of their Internet infrastructures, SaaS growth is said to continue soaring. In the year of 2008 alone, advanced SaaS marketplaces of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore contributed more than one-third of the Asia Pacific market.

Hence, the decision to remain striving on the Red Dot island was obvious to founders and brothers Cameron (Chief Executive Officer) and Bradley Priest (Chief Technical Officer) along with Chief Marketing and Development Officer Carl Thompson.

Never mind that United States (US) is the largest global SaaS market at at 60 per cent of market volume; the trio waived off the opportunity to land themselves elsewhere in the world and instead, settled for Singapore’s developing startup scene as the challenge to be the pioneers in driving the SaaS marketplace in Asia proved to be the ultimate deal-breaker.


Singapore’s Silicon Valley / Smart Nation?

Mr Priest who believes there is a Silicon Valley in every continent with Singapore being no exception, explains that while Berlin is Europe’s Silicon Valley of Europe and Israel is Middle East’s Silicon Valley, Singapore is Asia’s Silicon Valley with a thriving family of venture capitalists, investors and entrepreneurs and a collective interest to move towards a Smart Nation vision.

A 10-year masterplan, Smart Nation piloted by Singapore’s Inforcomm Development Authority (IDA), aims to equip business enterprises, the economy and the labour market with info-communication technology to improve the competitive edge of the economy and society. This includes the adoption of open source technologies where data, insights and solutions can be shared openly by consumers and producers.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry government agency Spring Singapore recently encouraged retailers to adopt cloud-based technologies through an e-commerce platform. TradeGecko shared news that they are currently collaborating with the Infocomm Development Agency (IDA) to be the platform for local businesses to tap onto its inventory, order and supply chain management platform to facilitate transactions via such cloud tech integration. With such technology adoption, retailers would be able to maintain operational efficiency amid a labour crunch, increasing rents and weaker sales, with more opportunity to operate globally as well.

Speaking from experience having managed businesses ranging from apparel to web design, Mr Priest said that his fellow TradeGecko founders became frustrated due to a lack of a viable end-to-end solution to manage inventory and back-end administration on the market. Seeing how the Singapore government locally-based venture capitalists and accelerator houses “hard at work” developing the entrepreneurial scene, the trio decided to come to Singapore’s shore “to try their luck”.

With “only a bag of clothes and a laptop” and this dash of luck, the founders sloughed day and night to set up TradeGecko.

The I-Want-To-Be-An-Entrepreneur Mindset

Given the array of government supportive network of accelerator programs and grants amidst a backdrop of a developed IT infrastructure, Singapore might be the haven for many investors, venture capitalists and startups like TradeGecko to flourish.

Mr Priest does admits however that it may take a few more years before more local companies embrace the concept of cloud-based system integration or its SaaS software as it involves a shift in corporate culture and the companies’ business model. It may also take some time for Singapore’s people to fully embrace the concept of embarking and initiating an entrepreneurial career.

“Today, Singapore is still the place where there is a lot of encouragement for its young to become managers and executives where it seems that everyone’s parents want them to be working in a prestigious place like a bank. People care too much about job titles and it would not be a good idea to be working in a startup,” Mr Priest explained.

Having been one of the judges in the recent Tech in Asia Hackathon 2014, Mr Priest observed that while the young he met during the event had some interesting business ideas, not everyone would want to start a startup.

Despite such ambivalent state of affairs, Mr Priest was assured that while society would be slow to change its mindset about pursuing entrepreneurship as a career is still commendable, progress was steady.

“The startup scene is definitely growing and it is attracting more people to join in the space. 90 per cent of those who attended the Tech in Asia Hackathon 2014 were students and hopefully they will continue to be at the forefront of venturing into become an entrepreneur and starting out on their own.”

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