As it gained foothold in the local motoring industry, Philippine startup AutoDeal is now planning to expand its business across countries in Southeast Asia (SEA). The company is also preparing to enter new business verticals of property and job markets.
In an interaction with DEALSTREETASIA, AutoDeal co-founders Daniel Scott and Christopher Franks spoke in detail about their plan execution while sharing their opinion about the startup space in the Philippines. They also provided an insight into how to condition oneself as a startup founder and team member.
Give us a brief background of your startup and what led to its founding?
Christopher: AutoDeal is a digital marketing platform for car brands, dealerships and consumers; we provide a means for prospective car buyers to research vehicles and then support them up to the buying process. The idea came to life not only as a means to bridge communication between dealerships and consumers, but also provide high quality consumer-related content that was not easily accessible anywhere else online.
Daniel: For car brands and dealerships, AutoDeal serves a lead generation and lead management platform which is able to provide useful industry insights through analytical tools. It’s a top-to-bottom process that provides services and data for car brands, dealerships and sales agents.
Could you share a brief narration of your startup’s journey?
Christopher: We started the Pinoy Auto Trader; which was merged and acquired with OLX (formerly Sulit.com.ph) in 2013. During this time we spotted a lot of untapped potential in the local car industry. Building on the relationships we’d previously established, we were able to create something quite unique for consumers looking to buy a brand new car.
Daniel: We quickly realised that there was an inefficiency in advertising new car brands online. After 20 years of existence, banner-ads no longer cut it and there’s a real loss of focus for the new cars within existing car classified platforms. With the Philippine car industry in a period of rapid growth, it was apparent that there was a need for a platform to support the consumer and to service dealerships with cost-effective leads.
What is your company’s status right now?
Christopher: At present, we are a 25 member team, with offices in Manila and Cebu. A number of automotive brands and dealerships have already subscribed to the platform and are servicing around 3,000 leads a month. We’re expecting this grow rapidly over the next few months, given our recent platform upgrades.
Daniel: 2014 was really about setting foundations, last week we launched AutoDeal version 2.0, which focuses on enhanced features for both our mobile and desktop platforms. We have recently started tracking the sale conversion for brands across multiple vehicle segments. This will help AutoDeal connect online marketing data to offline sales data.
How many investors does your company have? How do you plan to use the invested funds?
Daniel: We received $600,000 Seed Funding from FutureNow Ventures back in 2014 and have used this to promote rapid growth, in product development, marketing and sales.
What are your future plans for business expansion?
Christopher: We plan to expand the product overseas very soon. We are also looking to apply the platform to other industry niche verticals.
How do you plan to attract additional investments?
Daniel: We’re looking at investors who have a proven track record in vertical platforms and have strong industry connections within Southeast Asia. We’ve already begun networking in these areas over the last few years and have established relationships that we’re going to continue to build on throughout 2015.
What do you expect of the startup space in the Philippines this year and beyond?
Christopher: The startup space still lacks a strong infrastructure. There is no doubt about its potential, given the copious amounts of local talent; however, I think young local entrepreneurs need a better support system with proven and reputable mentors. The Philippines is a powder keg of potential for tech startups. Good guidance, better education and strong support from the government will really ignite it.
Daniel: Over the last few years the majority of investment announcements have been seed rounds of less than a million US dollars. I think we will progressively see a few more larger series A and B funding, as the ecosystem continues to evolve.
What’s the effective pitching strategy for you?
Daniel: First we prove our product and business strategy works – either proving client acquisition growth or revenue. If you can prove your business model in six months then you can convey the potential of your product to attract funding. Networking is key, building relationships with local angel investors who will carry out due diligence and just give you a jump start without the need for a major pitch.
What type of mindset do you think every startup founder/member should have?
Christopher: Be ready for the physical and mental demands of developing your own start-up. The scene is sometimes over-romanticised and we hear sugar-coated reality of what a start-up truly entails.
Start-ups require real grit, hard-work and determination. Every founder should mentally prepare themselves for the roller coaster ride of highs and lows that come with the territory of the start-up lifestyle.
During our first start-up I massively discounted the value of having good mentors, second-time round I’d say, this is most definitely one of the most important contributions to a successful start-up. Aside from that, don’t try and go the distance alone. Finding a co-founder and talented founding team is essential to sharing the load of any new start-up.