Initial Startups: Behind the Scenes #1 – TripConomics

A lot of companies do have a need for their employees to travel frequently and sometimes, not always the same place. Has it been cost efficient?

It can be!

This is where TripConomics came in!

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A Brief Introduction:TripConomics helps companies reduce travel related costs, define & implement travel policy and receive business analytics on their travel program.

We spoke to the Founder, Mr Kenson Lim and one of the Pioneer Employees, Ms Hsu Ying Liu on the initial stage of TripConomics.

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The Team at TripConomics!

Interview Dialogue with Founder – Mr Kenson Lim

1) What went through your initial thought process on forming your initial core team? How did you go about attracting your core team member? If there were challenges faced, please elaborate.

I started out doing plenty of research, and meeting lots of industry people to better understand what skillsets and expertise would be required to pull this off. Next up was performing an honest evaluation of which roles I could fill myself, and which areas I needed help with.

Once I had a clear picture (relatively speaking), I started putting the word out for what I was searching for, attended events and asked for referrals, basically went out meeting as many people as I could. People often compare this to search to finding a spouse, and they’re right. You won’t find the ideal one easily. It’s a long long courtship, where both parties would have to sell themselves.

I started out selling my idea and my dream, and I soon realised that’s not enough. Everybody’s got ideas, but not many people have the domain expertise or the experience to execute on those ideas. Just as you don’t start out on a first date sharing about how you want to change the world and how successful you will eventually be.

When our team finally came together, we already had prepared wireframes and broadly validated the market. We started out on a very traditional dating process, going out for meals and coffee, sharing our past experiences, individual strengths & weaknesses. When we got comfortable, we then participated in a hackathon as our 1st project/test as a team, working together. Only after we came out of that experience feeling good did we begin on our startup journey proper.

So we’ve got 4 co-founders now, comfortably filling all the major functions/skillsets required.

And thus far, we only had to supplement our resources with part-time hires and an intern.

2) What were your initial plans for these pioneer employees when they first joined you? How is the execution differ from you initial plans, and in what ways?

Our 1st hire was for a part-time role, to continue development on our hackathon project, with the plan that it would eventually be a stand-alone product. We very much wanted to bring her on full-time, unfortunately, she’s a bonded scholar who had just returned and begun serving out her bond, breaking that would be costly for her.

So now, she works mainly from home during her free time, and comes into the office once a week on the weekend. This has worked out exceptionally well for us. It’s really amazing, how much someone with passion for the product can achieve in such a short period of time while working only part-time.

So the product is almost ready to launch, pretty much 2 months ahead of schedule.

So there’s maybe a lesson here. Small companies usually hire too late. What I mean is, they hire when they absolutely have to, and by then, there’s a time pressure to get someone in quickly to get the work done.

This often times results in a compromise, especially in culture fit.

Bringing in someone who does not share the vision of the product and company, inevitably results in mediocre work and very quickly demoralises the team.

3) What will you advise to budding founders if they are looking to form/hire their initial core team?

Don’t rush it. You wouldn’t rush into a marriage. Your team is going to be your closest family members for a very very long time (if you’re lucky, if not, company closes, you won’t see them much then).

We spend more time as a team then with our children or spouses. So it is very very very important, that everyone gets along, all expectations are clearly stated and aligned among all founders. There should be absolute transparency with the entire team, founders and employees.

A killer idea isn’t going to bring potential hires/founders to your door. If you don’t have domain expertise or relevant experience/success in the area, the least you can do is to have a clear, executable plan on how to get to profitability and do everything you are capable of to keep the business moving forward while building your team.

 

And next, we move on to the side of the story by one of the Pioneer Employees,

Ms Hsu Ying Liu, a Marketing Intern at TripConomics.

1) What make you choose to intern in a Startup when there are intern opportunities in Banks, MNCs, etc?

Because startup companies usually have a very small core team who try to cover all aspects of business, such an environment will expose me to wider aspects of business development and management.

Internships at established companies such as major banks and MNCs usually are more rigid in job scope, and you will likely have limited exposure in terms of interacting with other employees and meeting customers. In other words, interning at a startup will likely mean greater responsibilities because whatever you do will affect the direction the startup is going toward.

In addition, you get to know the core team personally, and that’s an incredible experience because you learn how they make certain business decisions, you gain insight into the fields they are strong in (e.g. programming), and you absorb their startup spirit.

The last learning point is perhaps the most important as you learn from these talented people how they sustain their passion, put daydreams into action and persevere despite this foggy uncertainty about the future of their business. People at startups are refreshed and recharged everyday, whereas the culture at big companies can be stagnant and counter-productive. I much prefer such an environment where there is palpable passion and perseverance at work every day.

2) When you initially join TripConomics as an intern, what are the kinds of initial challenges faced?

I joined TripConomics as a marketing intern. I was not exactly a techie/geeky kind of person, so most of the time I had no idea what the programmers were talking about over lunch. I was a little intimidated to ask questions or chime in with an unrelated topic as well. However, they turned out to be very nice people who introduced me to the beauty of coding and computer science. They offered to answer my questions and explain abstract concepts to me, and I am very grateful for that.

Another initial challenge will be eye strain from staring at the computer for long hours. But I got used to that.

3) Has your role differ from when you first join? If yes, please elaborate. 

Although the generic term “Marketing” encompasses my entire job scope, initially I thought I would only be involved in online marketing. For the first few weeks, my tasks included writing blog posts, preparing pitch decks and simple research. However, as I get to understand the nature of TripConomics more, I get more involved. I followed Keson, the co-founder to meet potential customers; I conduct usability tests for our online products as well. I am fortunate to have an employer who allows me to try out different things.

4) Challenges are inevitable in a startup environment. Prior to joining TripConomics, are you ready for these challenges? Or did you know what you might have to face? 

To be honest, I had very little knowledge about startup environments prior to joining Tripconomics. What I knew was the amount of uncertainty startups have to bear as they work toward their goals, and the competition they face from established competitors in the same field. It’s only after joining Tripconomics that I have a clearer picture of how startups have to sustain their drive despite rejection and setbacks.

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Now, we’ve come to the end of the interview and if you want to know more about what TripConomics can do for you, click on this link: More about TripConomics.

Startup Jobs Asia’s next interview will be revealed soon! Stay tuned!

 

Full Series of Initial Startups: Behind the Scenes #1:

CarbonStory / Crowdonomic / FlagAHero / DropMyEmailFlocations / Rewardz / Save22 / Mentorica / LoanStreet / Pinoy Auto Traders / Tripconomics / Collectibly

 

Read more Startup Tips here!

 

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Article contributed by Startup Jobs Asia‘s Team.

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