Benjamin founded Higher Identity in late 2010. The company built EMERGE App (emergeapp.net) with a vision to put affordable software in the hands of all businesses selling physical products (distribution, wholesale, trading & e-commerce model). The visions’ to revolutionize small business are ran through technology.
Benjamin also founded Drooling Apparel Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. (previously called Drooling Closet) during his student days. The company produces customized t-shirts with a factory in Malaysia. It grew into a strong local brand, serving major companies, school and government agencies in Singapore. Benjamin now serves as a non-executive director at Drooling Apparel, where the company remains profitable.
1. Hello Benjamin, Can you tell us how it all started? When did you decide you wanna become an entrepreneur?
I was still in school when I felt the entrepreneurial itch. I was studying for my diploma but I wanted to make some money on the side. Being independent and being able to travel the world on a whim are things that I really dig. And traveling during your student days is the best time to do this! Hence, I needed some serious pocket money.
2. How did you get the idea to launch EMERGE App? Where do you think you are making an impact?
Estimated 95% of product wholesale & trading company globally use spreadsheets, hardcopy paperwork & memory (yes, memory) to manage their orders, inventory & billings. This is extremely unproductive and especially if the team is small. This man-hours loss instead should be focused on sales related activities to grow the business.
I wanted to help this gigantic industry adopt software at a much faster rate. I along with my team developed a cloud solution: EMERGE App, focused on user-friendless, affordability & flexibility. For traders not keeping stocks, keeping partial stocks or selling entirely from stocks, simplicity is the key to disrupting in this industry.
I started EMERGE App after failing to find a suitable solution online for my t-shirt business I started during polytechnic school days. I believe if this problem if faced by me, millions of entrepreneurs worldwide will face it too. Developing EMERGE App was not an overnight thing, and I along with my team met at least 150 product wholesale & trading companies around the region to understand their pains before launching the App. Also, while creating EMERGE App, we also implemented the software as customised enterprise solutions for companies that had actual inventory and order management issues. This experience was also translated making EMERGE App as it is today: a tried and tested problem solver.
3. What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered while working to launch the app?
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, I have faced many challenges on the journey and here are the top 3 challenges I have faced.
Founded in Singapore with lack of engineers, to begin with, it was extremely difficult for us to attract great talents with long working hours and depressed wages. Initially, we relied on foreign engineers but after a short while, the Singapore government wanted to protect jobs locally and decide to make it difficult to hire foreign engineers. It was awfully difficult for us then but we overcame it by setting up our Vietnam team.
Employee share options in Vietnam
We wanted to attract the best engineers in town with a lowered salary & planned to issue employee share option program to our team. However, the response was poor as Vietnam does not have a history of employees being issued with Shares. Despite the response, we committed to it and it has worked well for us
Managing cash flow
As we bootstrapped from the beginning engaging in software customization projects, every cent that was going out had to count. It was years of regular sleepless nights going to bed not knowing if you are able to issue month-end salary. This taught us to invest our money wisely and perhaps one of the most important aspects of running a startup: cash.
4. Where do you see the company in the next 5 years?
– Serving 30,000 wholesalers and distributors
– Focus on building features to solve our users’ headache
5. What can you tell young entrepreneurs who are pursuing their dreams?
Keep it simple – Don’t try to over complicate things!
Different stages of a startup will have different priorities and it’s essential to only focus on a few priorities at any stage.
For example, if you’re just starting out, you need money to build the product, you focus on fundraising and try building the product with whatever little resources you have.
When you have the money and the product already in the market, you focus on growth such as acquiring customers
So I would say, entrepreneur, should know when to focus on what.
6. What are you most excited about at the moment?
EMERGE App being used in 40 countries (and counting) on 5 continents.
7. The last word or final thoughts?
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Let’s be realistic: you will fail, you might succeed. We hear about people’s successes all the time but rarely about their failures.
In the beginning, I couldn’t possibly tell you about what will happen tomorrow or even the week after. There was so much going on that I had to focus and stay on the course.
And remember you don’t have to walk the entrepreneurship path alone. Start attending local and regional startup meets. Pass your business card around. Borrow brains, insights, and wisdom from seasoned entrepreneurs. This will help keep your sanity!