Update: You can find my follow-up story on ShopSpot here.
Thailand’s mobile commerce startup ShopSpot has raised S$779,000 (US$630,000) from Jungle Ventures (with Singapore government money) and SingTel Innov8. Following a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) model, ShopSpot works like Alibaba’s Taobao does in China, but this startup is very much a mobile-first type of company.
With the funding announcement, ShopSpot co-founder and CEO Natsakon Kiatsuranon says that the app also took “a pivot”. What exactly, I’m not sure. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get an answer from Kiatsuranon in time for his 9.00am embargoed release. Anyhow, I gave the app a try and it works pretty well. It is as simple as it can get. For shoppers: Tap, swipe, view, and buy. For seller: Snap, add info, and sell.
I also like that the app makes it very simple to communicate directly with the seller. On mobile it makes it even more natural to chat. Sad thing is, no sellers have time to talk to me when I ask them for discounts (see image). ShopSpot also allows shoppers to view items based on location, another feature which enhances ShopSpot’s mobile-first approach. The nearer the item is to you, the more convenient it is to pick up from the seller, and the more likely that he or she will buy. Most sellers are either from Thailand or Singapore right now.
I don’t see any business model executed on the service yet. Anyway, it would be silly trying to monetize the app now. Asian users, in general, will run away if they know they’re being charged. Over in China, Alibaba’s Jack Ma held off from charging Taobao sellers for as long as possible in its early days. Ma’s intention was to gain as many users as possible.
ShopSpot and perhaps other C2C marketplaces like Tokopedia are following the same path. Only question is, can ShopSpot keep growing and raising money to the point when it can finally monetize and be self-sustainable. Taobao’s story is a one-off and I would credit Ma’s genius and also China’s massive, and to a large extent, homogenous market. It would be interesting to see how local C2C players tackle the uber-fragmented Southeast Asian market. Definitely tough, but certainly not impossible, and mobile commerce with big pictures and not much text might be the answer.
I’ve sent several questions to Kiatsuranon and will update as soon as I hear back.