To expand TalentStore as a learning and development platform, we need to test it thoroughly under investor scrutiny. So, in April, after a dinner and drinks event, we decided to start a 13-week program called Founder's Institute Accelerator Program. Hosted in Malaysia, The Founder Institute is the world’s most proven network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses.
Since being founded in 2009, its structured accelerator programs have helped over 6,800 entrepreneurs raise over $1.75BN in funding. Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 100 countries, their mission is to empower communities of talented and motivated people to build impactful technology companies worldwide.
The appeal was there to be part of a global accelerator programme but more importantly, we wanted to check if the platform and marketplace could stand the rigor of an investor’s point of view.
This article is Part 2 of our journey and if you’re interested to start at Part 1, do check out the article here: Part 1 of our FI 2023 Journey.
Go To Market!
Part 2 of our journey really starts with the jump into the go to market and traction part of building a product or startup. This is effectively where the rubber meets the road and a large chunk of the programme focused on this section as it is a critical step to overcome.
How do you identify if there is a customer that resonates with your product / service solution? Is there a market for such a solution? Is it priced for scale?
These were some of the questions we had to probe further to get a deeper understanding of the market and the customer / supplier pain point.
On the pricing side of things, we wanted to always be transparent and within a marketplace concept, the typical route was to charge a commission on success of a transaction. This is the model that most marketplaces take (i.e. Agoda, Lazada, Shopee etc.). In a B2C product transaction space, it makes total sense as the supplier only pays the fee once there is “revenue” or a transaction.
No transaction - no fee. Pretty simple. However, this model falls apart once you get into higher ticket priced items or services where the supplier can connect directly with the customer. Think of Kaodim in Malaysia where the platform was used to connect handymen to customers for all kinds of home services.
The challenge with the model was that it was being used to connect customer and supplier but there was very little transactions that were done on the marketplace. There was a lot of marketplace leakage.
Therefore, when we evaluated the pricing and revenue strategy for TalentStore, we came to the conclusion that there would be significant marketplace leakage after the connection between supplier and customer had been established. Therefore, we decided to take a non-conventional approach and use a SAAS approach where we charge suppliers a fixed fee per month to list their services on the platform. The fee is not dependent on the number of services you list on the platform or the number of leads you get on TalentStore.
If you’re interested to delve deeper into marketplace revenue models, I suggest the link below to Shopery’s article on “A Guide to Marketplace Revenue Models”.
A good overview would be as follows from Sloboda Studio:
Link to entire article – 7 different types of marketplace business models that actually work.
Once we nailed down the pricing and revenue model, a lot of effort was put in to talk to customers and suppliers to get their voice on the matter.
One big aspect of the programme was to get on the phone and start calling future customers and suppliers to understand if their pain point was being solved by the platform. Did it add value?
This process was very long but insightful. We got a lot of positive feedback from both customers and suppliers and some useful feedback, too. It was a process that was humbling but insightful.
Once we completed those 2 big milestones, we pushed on to the next stage which was on product development.
The programme really helped narrow our focus in terms of thinking of weeks instead of months. We worked in sprints to make changes to the solution based on market, pricing, and customer validation. Creating real value and simplifying the message was critical so that we could focus on the pain point without creating a lot of product distraction.
The goal was not perfection but to get the minimum viable product out there and into the hands of suppliers and customers alike.
One good exercise was to develop our platform solutions goals for the next 18 months. What did we want to see in terms of the platform development phase? What was this based on?
When we boiled it down, we had 4 main goals that we wanted to achieve over the next 18 months:
- Customer tracking of all RFQ and RFQ status on the platform
- Integration of Feedback into the platform post customer interaction (i.e. Feedback after 1 week of RFQ sent, feedback after client delivery etc.)
- Supplier dashboard on micro store (information on top requested products, information on customer visits to micro stores etc.) – in-built into the supplier dashboard profile
- Public programme options for suppliers to list public programmes and secure seats directly from TalentStore.
The focus was on data and information so that in the long run we can really have a deeper understanding of the market and the opportunities that exist within it.
The last big milestone was to create a detailed project plan for the platform over the next 18 months. This was critical so that we could focus and narrow it down for the team to work on so that we transition into the mindset of any tech startup which is to develop new features and to ship. It also fits in to our model that we need to continue to evolve but within the constraints of what our customers really need.
This is what we have in mind over the next 18 months:
If you’re interested in the know-how around this, do check out the below resources which helped us really narrow down what we wanted to achieve:
- No code solutions: https://www.integrate.io/blog/what-is-no-code/
- A guide on no-code solution: https://kissflow.com/no-code/no-code-overview/
- Tech stacks for startups: https://www.dronahq.com/tech-stack-for-startups/
- How to develop scope of work: https://plan.io/blog/scope-of-work/
Conclusion of Part 2/3
This part of the program was informative but difficult as we had to review our initial ideas about TalentStore. Coupled with investor pitch outs every week, it was tough to get the feedback, but necessary. Working with the mentors on a 1-on-1 basis also gave us a lot more exposure to some real-world challenges and how we could potentially overcome them.
Definitely a tough cycle over the last 1 month or so but it gave us tons of value.
Next step: closing out the programme and graduation!
We will also be detailing some of our commitments to the platform post-graduation and we wanted to make that public as it holds us accountable to the results too. Stay tuned for Part 3!
Slides: If you’re interested to see the main slide deck we have for investors, check it out here: Slides View
One more last note: if you’re a Malaysian L&D provider or freelancer, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss about having you onboarded as a partner on TalentStore! Training success starts with access!