App fab

App fab

A Singapore-made phone application is getting ready to take on big boys like Craigslist and eBay.

Just over a week ago, Carousell made headlines when it secured a cool million dollars in a seed funding round led by Rakuten - the world's third-largest ecommerce company.

"We are very encouraged. A year ago, we never thought something like this would happen," says Mr Quek Siu Rui, 25, one of the co-founders of Carousell.

The app is a mobile marketplace that lets users buy and sell items within Singapore. Users can post listings, upload photos, and follow their favourite sellers.

It all started, rather ironically, out of sheer frustration when Mr Quek tried to sell an old Apple laptop through a website.

"But it was tedious and troublesome to get it listed on the sites last year. The interfaces were very text-heavy, and uploading a photo took forever."

So the Singaporean, who holds a degree in business administration from the National University of Singapore (NUS), went on to develop his own prototype - one that was simple to use and visually appealing.

He worked with a friend, Mr Lucas Ngoo, 25, who has a degree in computer engineering, and they proposed the idea at a Startup Weekend competition organised by a group of students from the NUS Overseas Colleges Alumni last March. It beat 40 other ideas to take the top prize, winning them free office space for several months.

Convinced of the app's potential, Mr Quek turned down a job at a Silicon Valley company - where he had interned - to continue working on Carousell.

Initially, his parents were not supportive. At dinner one night, he told them that he wouldn't be able to contribute financially to the family for a few years.

"They were shocked," says the younger of two sons.

"I must have given them a heart attack. "But after I showed them our office, and explained the support we were getting from the university, my parents finally gave me their support."

To develop the idea into an app, Mr Quek roped in a third partner - Mr Marcus Tan, 30, an old friend from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Mr Tan, then a business development consultant, jumped at the opportunity.

He said: "The idea of using technology to solve problems is very appealing. I also wanted to be adventurous, and knew if I got too comfortable in my job, I would never leave it."

The trio started work immediately after Mr Quek's exams last April. They received grants of $7,000 from NUS Enterprise, and $50,000 from Spring's Action Community for Entrepreneurship.

The app was launched on Aug 13 last year and more than a million listings have been posted since. The company declined to reveal the actual number of users.

The founders say the funds raised will go towards hiring software engineers to improve the application, and marketers to grow its presence in the region.

Says Mr Tan: "We are in this for the long run. Hopefully, the day will come when we can take our app to the rest of the world.


Launched: Aug 2012

What it does: This mobile marketplace app lets you sell items just by snapping a photo of it. You can sell anything from books to furniture. Snap, put on a filter, describe it, and it's listed in mere seconds. You can also share the listing on Facebook or Twitter to reach a greater audience.

You can also follow your favourite sellers or share goods sold by others.

Created by: Entrepreneurs Marcus Tan, 30; Quek Siu Rui; and Lucas Ngoo, both 25.

How much: Free

Available on: iOS and Android Review: From make-up sponges (three for $1) to a Yamaha piano ($3,000), there doesn't seem to be anything I can't get here. The app is easy to navigate with lots of photos.

Right now, the buyer has to meet up with the seller to get the goods.

If only there was a way to actually get the items delivered without stepping out of the house...

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