Be less ambitious. That’s not a common advice you’ll hear from entrepreneurs, since an outsized ambition is the very thing that defines startups. Yet for EvenPanda, which if you recall, is an online activities marketplace that launched in Singapore last year, overambition was what killed it.
While ambition isn’t bad, it must be tempered by realism. As co-founders Maria Kuvshinova and her husband Andries De Vos explained, EvenPanda failed because it tried to do too much.
“We over-engineered our approach, worrying about building infrastructure for scale when we should have worried about our basic value proposition,” the founders wrote in a blog post.
Instead of focusing on a couple of key areas, EvenPanda provided users with a disparate buffet of choices: From a Triathlon Starter Bootcamp, a tutorial on creative processes and design, to a Sunday brunch with Russian homemade pancakes.
Besides Singapore, the bootstrapping startup launched activities in Vienna and St. Petersburg. “We allowed our scope to be dictated by our wedding plans in Europe,” they said.
So they reached a decision. Let EvenPanda die, and pivot on to Clubvivre.
Instead of hopping all over the place, Clubvivre is now zooming in on private dining with executive-level chefs, charging north of SGD 180 (USD 147) per person. Instead of three cities, it’s now just one for a start — Singapore.
The name change is apt: Vivre (pronounced vee-vruh) is French for ‘to live’ — it fits their brand and, intentionally or not, marks their rebirth.
Gone also is the constant fretting over shoring up supply and demand of lessons: Their strategy now is to worry less about supply by securing more long-term partners. This frees them to focus all their energies on finding acquisition channels, distribution partners, and streamlining the product.
Private dining is an interesting proposition. Each experience can cost thousands of dollars, and for that money, guests can enjoy a Balinese Roasted Pig Feast by private chef John Sawarto or savor exotic wild game with meat master Bjorn Seegers from the South African Bush, just to name a few.
Clubvivre is certainly a niche product, targeting expats and Singaporeans with discretionary income who desire exotic experiences. Chefs could find the website attractive because it gives them an easy entry into starting their own businesses.
“With pressures on top chefs being so high and financial reward relatively low, many are trying to become entrepreneurs though venturing on your own can be tough,” Maria told me.
Another key difference is that while EvenPanda is a peer-to-peer marketplace, Clubvivre handpicks its collaborators. The effort of finding chefs with a stellar track record, great personality, and passion beyond money would hopefully be offset by their commitment to the site.
The revenue model and technology, however, has stayed mostly the same. The startup earns by marking up its fees, while the online platform enables users to make bookings and pay in one sitting.
Having just launched this week, it’s too early to tell if it’ll catch on. There’s also a matter of securing distribution partners, so the team will be busy wooing banks, lifestyle and member organizations, as well as loyalty programs this year. Executives from large corporations and banks might be interested as well — perhaps as a way of entertaining their guests.
Clubvivre’s agenda includes fundraising too: It’ll be pitching to investors at a Founder Institute event. A funding round would enable them to scale to other well-off cities in the region.
With no shortage of early stage money sloshing around in Singapore right now, Clubvivre has every opportunity to succeed.