February 04, 2014 00:00 By Asina Pornwasin The Nation
Thai developer of SE Asian e-commerce platform makes the finals of prestigious 'Seedstars' competition
Having started up in business less than six months ago, Chilindo, a Thai software company, has its sights set on becoming a successful online auction platform for the Southeast Asian market.
Meanwhile, the ambitious company is one of seven Asian start-ups taking part in the “Seedstars World” final round of competition, which takes place in Switzerland today.
Chilindo brings a new way of shopping into Southeast Asia by combining e-commerce with “gamification”, using a pure auction model where all products start from just Bt1 – with no reserve price.
The company was founded by two highly experienced Danish serial entrepreneurs, Caspar Bo Jensen and Thomas Kjeldgaard, both of whom have previously built up large companies.
Jensen shipped more than 3 million products from China to Europe, where he sold them using a similar business model to that of Chilindo. This has given him the knowledge needed to succeed in setting up a warehouse and logistics operation, as well as getting products at the right wholesale price.
Kjeldgaard, meanwhile, previously built and sold a company named Pagemodo, which is a Software as a Service (SaaS) business for the custom-design of Facebook pages.
He has been using Facebook for a long time as a marketing channel and knows how to drive huge amounts of targeted traffic, which is vital for success when running an online auction business, where targeted traffic and conversion is crucial.
He said that in the future, Chilindo would offer consumers the opportunity to place their own products on the e-commerce site so they can enjoy the ease of selling products where they do not have to worry about website traffic or handling the payment, as Chilindo handles it all for them.
“Chilindo will take the best part from eBay that makes it easy for consumers and small businesses to sell their products online, which we will combine with the best part from Amazon where Chilindo delivers a wide category of brand-new products still delivered on a pure auction model, with no reserve prices and all products starting from only Bt1,” said Kjeldgaard.
Rapid e-commerce growth
He added that Southeast Asia was growing very rapidly, especially in e-commerce. Consumers are starting to adopt online shopping more and more, as they love the convenience of sitting at home and shopping, and getting it delivered right to their door. This is especially the case in Thailand.
Chilindo is currently focused on Thailand, but it will expand to nearby markets in the future. The best part of the operation is that the company offers a wide range of products that fit into a lot of niches, so the opportunities are huge, said the Dane.
“Now, we have around 250 different products, but are planning to add between 80 and 100 new ones per week in the near future. In addition, we are running around 500 active auctions per day, which will rise to about 1,500 auctions daily,” said Kjeldgaard.
Moreover, when an online auction site is up running with many hundreds of auctions per day, it is hard to copy as it will always be the site with the most products that gets the largest market share, he said, adding, “This is our strength. Chilindo has been live for around five weeks, and it only took us around 3.5 months from the idea coming up over a beer until we launched,” said Kjeldgaard.
Meanwhile, Chilindo is representing Thailand as one of seven Asian start-ups competing with regional winners from Russia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America in the “Seedstars World” final round.
Twenty start-ups from emerging markets and fast-growing start-up scenes such as Bangkok are competing for the first prize of a US$500,000 (Bt16.5 million) equity investment, with the winner set to be announced in two weeks’ time as the “Seedstars World Best Start-up”.
Pierre-Alain Masson, Switzerland-based Seedstars World co-founder and jury member, said Seedstars World was allowing the start-ups that had reached the final stage to climb on the stage and get the attention they deserve.
“When we think about successful and innovative projects, we automatically think ‘Silicon Valley’. But what about the rest of the world? There are plenty of untapped opportunities and thrilling start-ups hiding around the world that just need to be discovered,” he said.
During its journey across the globe last year, Seedstars World held pitching events with the help of regional partners throughout Asia, with events staged in Bangkok, Bangalore, Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo.
The team discovered the great potential of early-stage start-ups across the region, the strong tech ecosystems that many Asian governments and society are building, and got to know the entrepreneur mindset of Asia’s start-up scenes.
“Up to 100 start-ups applied per country, through an invitation-only registration process, and only up to 20 per event were selected by Seedstars World with the support of their partners and international experts, to pitch their ideas.
“The winners of the regional pitching events have been invited to come to Switzerland to participate in the final competition,” said Masson.
The eventual five finalists will go on stage to pitch their projects in front of an international jury, composed of successful and world-renowned entrepreneurs and investors: Alex Farcet, Stefan Glanzer, Martin Velasco, Hendrik Brandis, Colin Turner, Marco Corradino – and Masson himself.