Amy Read is a digital marketing expert with 20 years of experience.
In 2019, she founded TechSembly, an eCommerce and marketplace SaaS solution for brands that want to scale globally. Previously, she was founder of Gifts Less Ordinary. Along her journey, she found a market gap to pivot into, leading her to co-found TechSembly.
Amy Read was among the 12 women (co-)founders interviewed for our report Women in Startups: The SE Asia Edition. She shared her experience as a woman entrepreneur in Southeast Asia, including raising funds from VCs, and the perception towards women running tech companies. Edited excerpts:
Do you think it’s hard to get external funding as a solo woman founder?
It is hard. If a woman has a male co-founder who is in technology, the business is taken more seriously. There are very few women in tech. My co-founder is someone I have worked with at Gifts Less Ordinary. We spoke to 30 VCs. A lot of VCs grasp the business idea, but there is a lot of misconception that women can’t do tech. They have a conception of how women should behave. If you are too strong in your views, they don’t like it. That said, there are some incredible VCs in Series A and Series B rounds that I’ve met.
How long did it take for you to get your first funding round?
It took us about 18 months to launch the business. It started with conversations with potential clients, mapping out the product, negotiation, and putting in place security functions, to fully launching a SaaS business. Soon, we got funding from Her Capital. Over the course of the journey, we have built an online marketplace. As we serve more customers, we realise that it needs to be rebuilt on the technology and commercial side, and we pivoted to TechSembly.
Who do you think are your main competitors?
We wanted to compete against Shopify. The existing infrastructure was time-consuming to recreate against each region. I realised early on that if we localise our platform, we increase conversion by 70%. Custom charges, tailored to local region, and localisation is getting popular now. So what TechSembly does is to allow sellers to have multiple stores, to have local language settings, and separate or combine all analytics at various stores. For example, our client Peninsula hotel has multiple hotels and stores under its umbrella to manage.
Are you seeing more women founders these days?
Not as many women in tech as it should be, in my opinion. Women always come back to start their business from the kitchen table. There should be more women in tech, and they bring together completely different perspectives. The softer, more intuitive aspect can come from understanding a customer, and we need these in a team. To have a great team, we got to have it blended.
Do you think that participating in accelerators and startup ecosystems helped you?
I value meeting other women, we have offline meetings and we share about meeting challenges a lot and you need that support. At the end of a rough day, it’s great to know that someone got your back — for example, Tanya, who started the Ladies Investment Club that time. These are people with whom you can have a conversation over the phone after a difficult VC meeting, get feedback, make introductions, and help get connected with others.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
COVID has accelerated our business as more firms now need to go online. Our solution, which helps to customise each country’s or region’s settings, enable merchants to do that while maintaining a consistent branding or image. We have launched at the right time, right before COVID-19 happened.
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