Speaking at HSBC’s Island Exchange, Ohmyhome’s COO and co-founder, Race Wong shares about her startup journey.
We managed to speak to the former Cantopop star to find out more about her startup journey, the future of Ohmyhome and her best advice for startup founders in Singapore.
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Could you share a little more about Ohmyhome and what it does?
Ohmyhome is Singapore’s first one-stop shop O2O Property Technology company. We make housing transactions simple, fast and affordable by taking care of all matters related to it- search, post, DIY guides, loan calculators, list of ready buyers & tenants and mortgage consultancy. On demand services such as agent services, documentation, legal services are also easily accessible. In two years, more than 2,300 homes have transacted through Ohmyhome which represents a combined value of more than S$1 billion. I am proud to say that we also have the most efficient agent salesforce in Singapore.
Could you also share a bit about your role and what you do at the company?
I am the Chief Operating Officer and the co-founder of Ohmyhome. My focus is on designing solutions for our customers as well as internally. At Ohmyhome, we put strong emphasis on efficiency and user experience. Apart from implementing practical tools to make home transactions more seamless for our customers, we continuously push for higher productivity internally.
As an entrepreneur, what were some of the biggest difficulties you’ve had to face in the early days of starting out the business?
Our hybrid model combining Do-It-Yourself and fixed-rate agents is the very first in the market, and is unique like no other hence some amount of education was required to show that Ohmyhome agents could provide quality service at a wallet-friendly price. We took the time to introduce our cutting-edge technology and dedicated customer service team that allowed us to deliver effective results. We managed to garner many supportive customers who positively reviewed us on Facebook and referred us to their friends and family. This was how we quickly become Singapore’s #1 HDB app.
We also found it almost impossible to accurately pre-plan and estimate the popularity of our model until we officially launch, mainly because we’re a new model with no ‘case studies’ to refer to. Some experts will say ‘hire for the future’ but it’s just not possible due to the limited resources of a start-up. As a result, our founding team was extremely lean. Rhonda and I had to fill up all the gaps and worked round the clock before we had the key positions filled.
The company recently raised $4m in Series A funding in 2018, what do you think led to the success of that?
We believe in building a business model that creates value, deliver long-term solutions, generates sustainable revenue and scalable to other markets. I think that our investors like our business model, saw that we have the confidence and skills set in materialising our business plan and a strong team behind us to execute it.
What were some things you and your company did differently in the lead up to getting funding?
Every round of fundraising has a set of silent requirements which is not set in stone because it varies between industries and the VCs. VCs themselves lean towards different types of business models and stages of funding.
What we learned was to engage with potential VC very early, way before the actual fundraising period, for us to better grasp what each VC look out for and if they even have any interest in our business model or industry. Most of the VCs we met are kind and helpful to give us pointers and suggestions on what to focus on. As founders, we need to know how to filter out what’s noise and what’s good advice.
Do you have any advice for startup hopefuls looking to get investment in the future?
A lot of what we read out there are mostly the cream of the crop and success stories, it gives many people the dream of a unicorn when they see others succeed within a short few years.
On the contrary, I think that startups should think like a traditional business but on steroids. The fundamentals of starting and running a business shouldn’t be very different. I don’t promote money burning businesses in hope for the next funding to survive. Startups need to access their potential market size, how crowded the market is, how to generate sustainable revenue and if you are providing a long-term solution.
As startups, we need to be cautious on just counting on fundraising to get us ahead, because should the market turn, many startups will go bust.
Lastly, what advice do you have for startup entrepreneurs who are new to the scene?
Starting a business is no easy feat, you’ll need to have resilience, grit and a ‘can do’ attitude. The journey will be fraught with roadblocks and humps so these traits will help you get your business off the ground. There’s no doubt that it’s going to be a tough road ahead.
Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re in the business for the right reasons, you’ll keep working at it regardless of the challenges. Once it comes to fruition and you see clients thanking your team for the above and beyond service, that sense of satisfaction is indescribable.
Lastly, always put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask what else you can do for them. When you provide a good service and your customers can sense your sincerity in your intention, customers will be willing to support you. That’s how we won over clients time and again.