Swapit Got Accepted into Cyberport Incubation Programme – Secures Access to $330,000

Cyberport_png_1845d38b-7b79-4492-9994-f72565ed78b9We are proud to announce that Swapit just got accepted into the Cyberport Incubation Programme. Yesterday, we have signed the necessary papers and we can now call ourselves “Cyberport Incubatee”.

Here is a quick intro the Cyberport Incubation Programme:

The Cyberport Incubation Programme is at the front and centre of Cyberport Entrepreneurs, supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups with financial assistance and a range of business and professional services to accelerate their growth in different stages.

The programme reimburses Incubatees with up to HK$330,000 over a 24-month incubation period to help them jump-start their businesses.

You can find out more at the official website: Cyberport Incubation Programme

swapit_marketing-dollarAs stated on their website, as an incubatee we will now receive a HK$50,000 cash grant as working capital. Furthermore, we will be able to access up to HK$280,000 in subsidies for staffing, marketing, advertising and professional services.

We’ve chosen to join their “off-site” program, which means we won’t be having an office at Cyberport for now.

Furthermore, there are additional benefits associated with being a Cyberport Incubatee. We will receive several rounds of mentoring from industry experts, have access to some Cyberport facilities and services – free of charge, and even get free hosting credits from some of Cyberport’s partners like Amazon Web Services and their AWS activate program.

The whole Swapit team is excited to be part of the Cyberport community and we are looking forward to a successful 2 year program.

Have you tried Swapit yet? It’s now available for iPhone and Android!
Free Download: http://get.swapit.la

Press Release: Hyper-local Marketplace App Swapit Secures Follow Up Funding from Private Equity Investor

swapit-blog_leapWe’re proud to announce Swapit’s second investment from a private equity investor who brings a lot of domain knowledge to the table. Only 2 months ago we received investment from Aria Ventures.

We’re excited to grow our group of partners which not only provide capital, but also extensive domain knowledge and vast strategic experience in our markets.

Here is the official press release:

Leading Marketplace Platform Will Use Funds to Accelerate Growth.

HONG KONG, Feb. 22, 2016 – Swapit, the unique hyper-local marketplace for trading pre-loved items, announced today they have raised an undisclosed amount of funding from private equity investors. This follows the seed funding they had raised from Aria Ventures in December 2015. The financing will be used to fund Swapit’s continued market domination in Hong Kong, regional market expansion and for further investment in its proprietary technology platform.

“Swapit has shown fantastic growth over the past quarters and months and we are happy to see other investors following our lead investment.” said Kevin Kwong from Aria Ventures. “Patrick and the team are dedicated to bring their hyper-local marketplace to the broad masses and create a global market leader. Swapit is a great example of a Hong Kong startup, which has a global vision and executes perfectly on their roadmap while being based out of Asia’s world city Hong Kong.”

“This follow-up investment proves that our compelling vision for a hyper-local marketplace is being shared by many investors. We have been growing 100% month over month, over the past quarters and we are planning to accelerate that growth. With our current financing, we are well positioned to become the market leader in Hong Kong and across Asia Pacific.” said Patrick Kosiol, CEO of Swapit. “We’re excited to grow our group of partners which not only provide capital, but also extensive domain knowledge and vast strategic experience in our markets.”

Founded in 2015 in Hong Kong, Swapit operates a hyper-local mobile marketplace that brings together buyers and sellers, who are already nearby each other. By providing an exclusive real-time experience combined with their award-winning design, Swapit has already attracted thousands of traders across the territory. Furthermore, Swapit has been accepted into industry-leading accelerator programs, such as SoftLayer Catalyst, Microsoft BizSpark and Facebook’s FbStart, which provide access to over US$200,000 worth of products and services.

About Swapit

Swapit Limited is a technology-driven company that is revolutionizing the way people trade pre-loved and new goods in densely populated areas. Led by mobile entrepreneurs with a combined industry experience of over 40 years, Swapit is built from the ground-up, as a largely scalable business to ensure rapid growth and high margin revenue generation. By focusing on a superior customer experience, the Swapit team makes product decisions purely based on excelling customer happiness. For more information, visit: http://www.swapit.la

The Swapit logo is available at: http://press.swapit.la

About Aria Ventures

Aria Ventures, a division of The Aria Group, provides early stage seed funding to technology startups globally. Its mission is to find talented entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that have the potential to be a significant disruptive force in their respective industries.

The Aria Group is a Hong Kong-based family office with a multi-strategy investment platform and invests in various asset classes globally, including fixed income, equities, real estate, private equity and other alternative investments such as hedge funds. For more: http://www.ariagp.com/

A PDF version is available as well.

This press release can also be found on PRLOG at Hyper-local Marketplace App Swapit Secures Follow Up Funding from Private Equity Investor

 

Press Release: Hyper-local Marketplace App Swapit Grabs Seed Funding from Aria Ventures

swapit-blog_leapWe are proud to announce Swapit’s first investor who shares our passion and chose to join Swapit on our journey ahead.

Aria Ventures is taking a leap of faith with us and we appreciate the trust they put in our team and execution.

Here is the official press release:

Leading Marketplace Platform Will Use Funds to Dominate Local Market and Prepare for APAC Expansion.

HONG KONG, Dec. 10, 2015 – Swapit, the unique hyper-local marketplace for trading pre-loved items, announced today they have raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Aria Ventures, a division of The Aria Group (ARIA). The financing will be used to fund Swapit’s continued market domination in Hong Kong, regional market expansion and for further investment in its proprietary technology platform. Kevin Kwong, CEO and Managing Partner at ARIA, will join Swapit’s board of directors.

“Swapit has rapidly developed a leadership position in the fast growing mobile-first market for trading pre-loved goods.” said Kevin Kwong. “What Patrick and the team have developed over the past months is impressive, and we’re excited to be working together to create a global market leader. Swapit is a great example of the type of founder-led, capital-efficient business that we like to invest in.”

“With their headquarters in Hong Kong and extensive investments in the region, ARIA is an ideal partner as we continue to scale our business regionally into specific markets in the Asia Pacific region.” said Patrick Kosiol, CEO of Swapit. “We’re excited to have a partner on board that provides us not only with capital, but also vast strategic experience in our market.”

Founded in 2015 in Hong Kong, Swapit operates a hyper-local mobile marketplace that brings together buyers and sellers, who are already nearby each other. By providing an exclusive real-time experience combined with their award-winning design, Swapit has already attracted thousands of traders across the territory. Furthermore, Swapit has been accepted into industry-leading accelerator programs, such as SoftLayer Catalyst, Microsoft BizSpark and Facebook’s FbStart, which provide access to over US$200,000 worth of products and services.

About Swapit

Swapit Limited is a technology-driven company that is revolutionizing the way people trade pre-loved and new goods in densely populated areas. Led by mobile entrepreneurs with a combined industry experience of over 40 years, Swapit is built from the ground-up, as a largely scalable business to ensure rapid growth and high margin revenue generation. By focusing on a superior customer experience, the Swapit team makes product decisions purely based on excelling customer happiness. For more information, visit: http://www.swapit.la

The Swapit logo is available at: http://press.swapit.la

About Aria Ventures

Aria Ventures, a division of The Aria Group, provides early stage seed funding to technology startups globally. Its mission is to find talented entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that have the potential to be a significant disruptive force in their respective industries.

The Aria Group is a Hong Kong-based family office with a multi-strategy investment platform and invests in various asset classes globally, including fixed income, equities, real estate, private equity and other alternative investments such as hedge funds.

A PDF version is available as well.

This press release can also be found on PRLOG at Hyper-local Marketplace App Swapit Grabs Seed Funding from Aria Ventures.

Swapit Secures Support Worth $30,000 from Facebook’s FbStart Program

swapit-blog_fbstartSwapit has just been accepted into Facebook’s FbStart program which gives us access to $30,000 worth of startup services. With great honor, we appreciate the trust brought towards us by the FbStart team. Here is what FbStart is about:

FbStart is a new program from Facebook designed to help early stage mobile startups build and grow their apps.

At Swapit, we are dedicated to take full advantage of the tools and services given to us. Some might not apply to us, but others are really useful. To give you a quick overview of what we can tap into, here is a list of companies that are partners of FbStart and provide some of their services to us:

Category BUILD – Everything you need to build your app and your business

Parse, Adobe, Appmethod, Asana, Balsamiq, GitHub, Mobile Action, Namecheap, Proto.io, Rocket Lawyer, Transparent Business, UserTesting, Yandiki

Category GROW – Grow your app’s reach and engagement with these great tools

Facebook, Facebook Marketing Partners (Nanigans, Glow, Ampush, AdParlor, Social.com), Desk.com, Hootsuite, MailChimp, Transifex, Workable, Zendesk

Category MONETIZE – Start earning revenue from your app with our monetization partners

Stripe

Here is a quick overview:

2015-09-29_fbstart_program_partners

Again, we are absolutely delighted to be part of the FbStart eco-system and are looking forward to work together. We have already integrated Facebook into Swapit. We are looking to do much more on that front and revolutionize the way people trade pre-loved items nearby.

Have you tried Swapit yet? Download it at http://get.swapit.la

P.S.: Just in case someone is interested, this is the information I left the RISE conference this year where the FbStart folks talked to me. Seems it worked out to follow up on it.

IMG_20150929_144326_edit

Swapit Secures Support from Microsoft BizSpark Program

microsoft-bizsparkSwapit has applied for the Microsoft BizSpark Program and has been accepted right away. We are proud to have been selected by Microsoft to become part of their startup eco-system that allows Swapit access to Microsoft’s vast resources, locally and globally.

Here is how Microsoft BizSpark advertises itself:

BizSpark gives startups 3 years of free stuff – software, services, tech support, and Azure cloud. Your startup qualifies if it is less than 5 years old, is privately held, and earns less than $1M annually. And at the end of your 3 years, you keep all the software you’ve downloaded – at no cost.

Benefits of the BizSpark program Swapit can tap into:

  1. MSDN Subscriptions (worth US$40,000)
  2. Microsoft Azure Benefits (worth US$27,000)
  3. Windows & Windows Phone Developer Accounts (worth US$300)
  4. Office 365 Subscription (worth US$1,500)

So in total, Swapit can access benefits through the Microsoft BizSpark program of up to US$68,800. That comes on top of the invaluable network benefits we receive by being a Microsoft BizSpark member.

Related posts:

Swapit Competitor “letgo” Raises $100M in Series A – First Founding Round

One of our competitors in the USA called “letgo” just raised USD $100M “To Take Over Classifieds In The U.S.” according to TechCrunch. We have of course seen, tried and been monitoring letgo’s progress over the past months. As for our regional competitors in Asia, I also feel about letgo, that is merely a “beautified Craigslist” on your phone. However, they must be having some Unique Value Proposition that convinced their investors to throw a very large amount of money at them.

The most interesting point though, is that we found these news through Owler which posted: letgo raised 100M funding in Series A from Naspers. Interestingly, swapit is mentioned as the #2 competitor to letgo. That is an honor to us and it absolutely validates our approach and vision for the second hand market. While we are focusing on Hong Kong and Asia regionally, as opposed to the USA like letgo.

We don’t ask for $100M (which would be great too, by the way). So for investors swapit could be a bargain right now. Check out our recent blog post: Seed Round Fund Raising has Started for SWAPIT Hong Kong

Swapit Secures Support from SoftLayer Catalyst Program

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 11.25.41 amSwapit has just joined the SoftLayer Catalyst Program at their highest tier for startups. We are very excited to have been accepted to SoftLayer’s very own startup incubator who’s core mission is

to enable next generation technologies and empower the entrepreneurs that will bring them to market.

We are thrilled to get access to the benefits that come with SoftLayer Catalyst:

  1. Access to a significant USD infrastructure credit on the SoftLayer platform.
  2. Mentorship access to “pick the brains of the industry veterans and über-genisues”.
  3. Incubator Integration, which allows us to collaborate and access more support outside, but affiliated with the SoftLayer incubation eco-system.

We will tap into all three of these benefits to grow swapit as fast as possible.

Since, we have launched our investor outreach for our funding round, we have received absolutely great feedback and accomplished to join several programs that help us cover costs, validate our business model and raise our valuation.

Seed Round Fund Raising has Started for SWAPIT Hong Kong

swapit_marketing-dollarTwo days ago, we have officially started our fund raising process by reaching out to 25 interested parties. As there is a lot of confidentiality involved with this process, I won’t be able to share much of the details publicly. I do however, want to share our experience during this period as much as I can, while keeping confidential information, well confidential.

Long story short, I have sent out our updated Executive Summary and Pitch Deck to our potential investors. Some have provided great feedback and interest immediately, and others have promised to revert back to me within the next couple of days.

7 Follow Ups

swapit-blog_requestOf course, you should never wait too long for someone to get back to you. As an entrepreneur who is looking for funding, you’re basically a B2B sales person, but you’re selling your company, product and vision, instead of a service or a product. A lot of research had been done on sales techniques and in terms of “follow ups” a rather important statistical fact has emerged: It takes on average about 7 follow ups with a prospective party to sell a product or a service to that party. Of course, sales cycles are very different for enterprise products, consumer products and especially for fund raising. However, the main message to take away from this, is: Always follow up. Sometimes, the party you’re communicating with, is just busy and perhaps has forgotten about your message. Sometimes, they just didn’t understand your message at first glance and they deferred to process it to a later stage. Perhaps they have disregarded your message because they’re not interested right now. Doesn’t mean they might be interested later, right? Or perhaps the most silliest of all things happened: your email just went into their spam filter and they didn’t even get to read your message in the first place. There are so many possible reasons that do require a follow up on your side. So again, always follow up. My follow up schedule, for example, is about a week after I last contacted a person. So that’s what you can expect from me.

Experience in Raising Funds Successfully – and failing to execute

swapit-blog-interestsOf course, an executive summary and a pitch deck is by far not enough to provide to investors. You got to get down to the nuts and bolts and make sure your plan of going forward is rock solid. In the end, it is all about the alignment of capital to milestones.

Luckily, we have a bit of experience in fund raising. While we’ve done it once so far (all other companies were successfully bootstrapped) and the main work was done by our third co-founder at the time, we still have some resources we can look back to. This helps in getting the right papers done, covering the important topics. Back in 2012, we had this crazy startup called TreeCrunch, which did natural language processing of answers to open-ended questions. The founders funded the company with a significant amount, we got some grants from some organizations locally and we raised a pre-seed round of about USD $100,000. We have made a lot of mistakes in that process; especially at the time of running the company. We probably asked for too little in terms of funding and after that round, we didn’t continue to raise funds early enough. At the same time, our product and service roll-out was delayed and our customer acquisition funnel was not very successful in turning 30 mostly Fortune500 trial customers into paying customers. Thus, TreeCrunch ran out of money and had to cease operations. Lessons learned: raise enough and make sure to offset your cashburn as early as possible by generating revenue.

Why We Raise

Let’s fast forward 3 years and get back to swapit today. We have learned our lessons from that failure – and I am happy to tell anyone more about that and others over a beer. Now it is about time to get swapit kickstarted.

swapit_marketing-chart-growSwapit is essentially a marketplace app. Every marketplace lives from its marketplace liquidity, i.e. surpass the critical mass of demand and supply. We are at the forefront of marketplaces for pre-loved items in Hong Kong and our technological approach is superior to all of our competitors, regionally and internationally. Yet, that all does not matter if there is no liquid marketplace with active trades happening. We have worked hard to get to the point where we are right now and we are coping well with the ever increasing numbers of traders and transactions.

In order to continue growing at an exponential rate, we need to invest heavily in our marketplace liquidity. That includes fostering and nurturing our community of existing traders as well as attracting new traders to our platform. Therefore, we are planning to spend roughly 75% of the amount we are raising on building that marketplace community. This includes attending & sponsoring events, exhibitions, running events ourselves, attend & exhibit at street markets, as well as general marketing efforts like advertising (mobile, social, offline, print) and merchandise. All that is coupled with incentives to socially share their engagement with swapit and spread the word virally across different social media to their social circles.

Furthermore, swapit is currently Android-only, by choice. While the majority of our target audience are Android users, we do also have a large audience of interested folks who have an iPhone / iPad. Thus, roughly 20% of the funds we raise will go towards creating an iOS app.

swapit-blog_leapThese combined efforts entirely focus on capturing the Hong Kong market to its fullest extend. We believe, the funds will be sufficient to achieve those goals and be the dominant marketplace for pre-loved items in Hong Kong. To accomplish that we need to stop walking and start running. Running fast! Perhaps you’d like to take that leap together with us?

Interested to know more about our funding round?
Send me an email to patrick@swapit.la and I am happy to send you some details directly.

Haven’t tried swapit yet? Download it from http://get.swapit.la

Swapit Pitches To Get the CCMF Funding Scheme by Cyberport Hong Kong

swapit-blog_cyberportThe swapit team did submit its application to the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF) – Batch 2015.

It seems our application has been attractive enough to pass us through the initial screening process and allow us to present to the CCMF vetting committee. The CCMF program is structured as 6-month project and for that period. So, we applied with a clear roadmap for the next 6 months – focusing on how we bring swapit out of beta, into full production mode and how we are planning to capture the market for trading pre-loved items in Hong Kong.

IMG_9246

That pitching session is not public. Otherwise, I would have invited all of you. Please do feel free to wish us luck, though!

If you haven’t used swapit yet, you can download it at http://swapit.la

Recap: Tech in Asia Tour 2015 HK Event & British Chamber Business Angel Programme Vetting

Yesterday was a busy day. The swapit team attended the Tech in Asia Tour 2015 event and I presented to the vetting committee of the British Chamber of Commerce’s Business Angel Programme. Let’s reflect a bit on the experience of those events and especially the feedback we received about swapit.

Tech in Asia Tour 2015 HK Event

IMG_7737_edit

Tech in Asia is a media, event, and startup platform company. They host an annual event in Singapore that used to be called “Startups Asia” and has now been re-branded to Tech in Asia Conference. As it’s a startup event, they are having startups presenting themselves there. The event was split up into two parts:

(1) Investor Panel

Comprised of some of Hong Kong’s most active investors (Tytus from Fresco Capital and Simon from Nest.vc, for example) as well as Asia-based investors (Vinnie from Golden Gate Ventures), their panel discussion was interesting.

swapit-blog_hkThe most interesting part in that panel discussion was the point of: start locally, but expand globally. That’s exactly what we are planning with swapit. We are absolutely aware of the fact that launching swapit in Hong Kong will not be enough in the long run. However, it is important to get our home market right and be the absolute market leader in this field here.

(2) Startup Pitches

It was great to see some established startups like Notey as well as brand new ones to pitch their ideas to the panel of judges. Some pitches were great, others were hard to listen to could improve their pitch, but even others started slow and then peeked my interest during their pitch. Like Cafe X for example. While I personally believe their approach might be challenging to turn into a profitable and widespread business, I still find the combination between hardware & software, and the goal of making our lives more efficient, very interesting.

This Hong Kong “Tech in Asia Tour” event was one of several all across Asia to gather startups to join the main conference in Singapore in early May this year. I just wonder why startups from other countries, like Japan for example, were pitching there even though they have their very own Tour event in Tokyo. Of course we had applied to pitch at the event as well, but we were not accepted. I am still trying to get feedback as to why we had not been accepted, but haven’t received any such yet. Perhaps we should apply for the Tokyo event?

Anyhow, at the same time, we took this opportunity to talk to other guests at the event. We were interested in people’s first reaction to swapit and our approach to buying and selling pre-loved items. Furthermore, we were looking to recruit more beta testers for our beta 3 of swapit which will launch soon! Remember: After the beta is before the beta!

British Chamber of Commerce Business Angel Programme – Vetting

Earlier that day, I was invited to pitch swapit to the vetting committee of the British Chamber of Commerce’s Business Angel Programme. That was a very interesting experience.

I believe the pitch went considerably well – especially as I finalized the pitch deck two hours before the pitch. As with most pitches, there are always two parts to it: the pitch itself and usually a Q&A session afterwards. That Q&A is often being used to “grill” the person pitching on inaccuracies of the pitch or points that were not very clear. To sum it up, we have two crucial points that we need to work on until the next pitch:

swapit_marketing-dollar(1) Make Money

I really can’t emphasize this enough: MAKE MONEY. Obviously, we have a plan moving forward in how we want to recover our development costs and build a profitable business out of swapit. We are absolutely sure that monetization is an important part of our business. At the moment, though, we are focusing on creating the best user experience for our users. Thus, we have not finalized any monetization plans yet, but we have ideas around 4 different ways of monetizing swapit – eventually. The one main approach that I find most interesting is to charge a commission on higher priced items.

Especially, as we are not looking at integrating any payment solutions into our app — in the foreseeable future — we don’t have a transaction occurring inside our app and therefore, it is hard to charge that commission to the user. In the end, we are only in beta 2 of swapit and our plan going forward in the near future contains analysis and feedback from our beta testers in terms of how they are comfortable with paying for our service.

That was obviously, a point the vetting committee grilled me on. And they are right! We need to find a way to monetize swapit and lock down a commercialization model that is predictable and scalable. Otherwise, we won’t be able to convince any investor to trust us with their money and generate value for them.

(2) Value Proposition to Convert Users of Free Services

The second point the vetting committee pointed out is: How can we convince users of other free services (Facebook groups, Asiaxpat, Geoexpat, Yahooo! forums, Craigslist etc.) to move away from what they are using right now and use swapit instead.

It’s a valid question. I thought, I had pointed this out in my presentation already, but obviously, our value proposition was not clear enough on that. Especially, when you combine this question with the commercialization ‘in-limbo’ question earlier — it becomes a challenging issue to tackle.

While I believe that our location-based capabilities (find nearby items, navigate to far away ones), immediacy in communication (instant messaging) and ease of use (post just with your phone, incl. taking photos) are some very valid arguments for using swapit instead of old-school forums — they might not be compelling enough to convert those users over to swapit.

We do obviously have to work on this value proposition and we will do that.

Let’s see what comes out of the vetting process and if we will be invited to the main event that allows us to pitch to the members of the Business Angel Programme of the British Chamber of Commerce in two weeks time. If the issues the vetting committee has pointed out were too much of a concern for them, we are happy to re-apply in their next round.

In any case, we will work on those points and we will nail them down to provide a compelling pitch to potential investors.


Signed up for the swapit beta yet? Request your invite here: http://swapit.la