As part of the 500 Startups Durian’s fund, we often see first-hand how investing in Southeast Asia, a developing region, can play a core role in a region’s development and change.
We were reminded of this recently when one of our startups, GoGet, a portfolio company since 2015 (and 2016 distro dojo program graduate), told us of an encounter they had with the Malaysian government. GoGet is a service platform for errands. Their technology connects busy people to a trusted and verified person to perform these tasks for a fee (like dispatch, shopping, and food delivery).
Below is an account of the experience, which demonstrates how a startup like GoGet can have a massive social impact. It follows with a short interview with the founder of GoGet.
On November 9, 2016, something surprising happened at the GoGet office. A member of the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), a government-sponsored initiative to create a hi-tech business hub in Malaysia, walked into the GoGet office and asked for a meeting. Unannounced and unplanned, the GoGet team had no clue what to expect.
The MDEC representative started the meeting with a video. It featured Pavalan, a full-time GoGetter ( a person hired to perform tasks for GoGet), telling the story of how he had decided to get involved with GoGet after the death of a family member. Pavalan had been struggling to balance work and family, and GoGet allowed him to earn a living, while still being able to take his father to doctor visits.
The MDEC informed the GoGet team that the video had been shown to the Prime Minister of Malaysia in order to start a conversation around improving the lives of the nation’s lower income segment through a technologically empowered workforce.
Usually, it’s the startups that spend time and effort to showcase their impact to the government. In this case, the message had come from the top down. The video had been created entirely by MDEC.
From the Nov 9 meeting, the MDEC and GoGet agreed to partner on eRezeki, a national program that gives low-income Malaysian residents and citizens the opportunity to generate additional income. GoGet verifies and trains low-income individuals that are part of the eRezeki program to become GoGetters.
500 Startups believes in investing in a vision rather than just investing in companies. Investing in GoGet, we saw how GoGet had the ability to impact people, change the fundamentals of a labor market, and create opportunities for the economy. This is also what makes investing in Southeast Asia exciting.
The government of Hong Kong has also strongly supported GoGet in helping to bring positive impact to its low-income communities. GoGet is working to expand its business into the region through Hong Kong’s Cyberport Incubation Program.
We had a chat with the co-founder of GoGet, Francesca, over coffee. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What are some recent updates from GoGet?
A: This year for GoGet has been amazing. From January until today, we have seen growth supply & demand, internal processes, and our team. To name a few big updates of 2016, our GoGetter fees reached RM1 million (about $225K) in the first quarter of the year. That just goes to show how much opportunity has been created through GoGet, and a number of pockets that we have filled with honest hard work and genuine help around the community. It’s truly amazing to our supply growth as well. We hit over 4,000 GoGetters in our second year. Most of our GoGetters join us through word of mouth and through other GoGetter experiences. The MDEC video is definitely one of our biggest moments this year. We didn’t know about this particular story until the MDEC showcased it. It shows how much of an impact we are making. Lastly, our recent update about expanding into Hong Kong is one of our biggest milestones. We are looking to raise funds for us to continue our work and growth.
Q: Investment into a company brings about changes in the team and company. How has GoGet changed since 500 Startups’ investment?
A: For GoGet, we’ve been working closely with Khailee [500 Startups Managing Partner] since the early days, and his push for us to drive our marketplace to the next stage has always been a great motivating factor. Being part of the Distro Dojo has changed GoGet in terms of our capabilities. We have genuinely come out smarter and better equipped for our funnels and optimization for marketing.
Q: Distro Dojo is a program that emphasizes rapid experimentation, quick results, and iteration. After Distro Dojo, tell me how you approach feedback from the market?
A: We have a quote in our office, “Listen to the market. Listen to the voice of the customer. That’s the fundamental essence of marketing. Always.” This was something we learned from Distro Dojo that shows feedback from the market is everything. This is why the ideas of data, A/B testing, user calls, and user surveys were all heavily drilled into us through Distro Dojo. Since then, our team has been so much stronger in our understanding of our users, execution, and numbers/bottlenecks.
Q: To make the last question fun, what is one thing GoGet office needs infinite supplies of?
A: Cake. We eat a lot of cake in the office. We celebrate birthdays, farewells, every day is cake day in GoGet. Infinite supplies of cake would do good in GoGet.