Philip is Co-founder and Managing Director at TrustedCompany.com where his primary roles include Strategy, Product Management, and Finance. Prior to founding TrustedCompany.com, Philip worked in start-up & consulting environments at Russia’s No.1 online shopping club KupiVIP.ru, German management consultancy Simon, Kucher & Partners, and German mobile start-up Mobile Event Guide. Philip is a graduate of WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany and Korea University in Seoul, Korea.
What exactly is TrustedCompany.com?
TrustedCompany.com is an open and independent review platform for online companies in emerging e-commerce markets. We see ourselves as a group of trust ambassadors with the goal of bringing the power of word-of-mouth to the online world by enabling consumers to share their experience with one another.
Bottom line: We educate consumers in emerging e-commerce markets on how to navigate online through reviews – ultimately empowering them to make smarter buying decisions. Simultaneously, we educate and enable online businesses to get closer to their customers and to leverage on the power of online word-of-mouth.
How did you come up with the idea of TrustedCompany.com?
The initial story behind TrustedCompany.com is quite an amusing one: When my co- founder Frederik and I arrived in June 2013 in Malaysia, we went online looking for an ice cream maker so we could make some refreshing treats. We found one online and – being used to high service standards of e-commerce – bought it without thinking about the shop’s reputation. It never arrived.
Soon we discovered that this was no exception and after digging into numbers we realised that only in Malaysia, online consumers lose around RM 300,000 per day due to cyber crime and online shopping fraud!
We decided to take part in solving this problem and founded TrustedCompany.com.
Could you walk us through the process of starting up TrustedCompany.com?
After some initial market research we soon decided to get our hands dirty – this included countless nights of wireframing, looking for great people to join our team, as well as handling Malaysian bureaucracy.
Could you walk us through the process of developing TrustedCompany.com?
The first step of this process was the most important one: Getting together a team of people who shared our vision, that had a just-do-it attitude and were top notch at their job. Once we had our core team together, we immediately started developing the platform with its most basic features. After three months of development we launched TrustedCompany.com in November 2013.
Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup?
One of the major challenges was finding good and qualified people and getting them on board as soon as possible. We target various countries within the region, which is why we needed team members being able to speak various local languages, who were willing to re- locate and join our team in Kuala Lumpur. The key to this challenge was to get candidates hyped on the offer to be part of a fun and exciting workplace, be up for major responsibilities, while having the opportunity to work with other great, smart people in a fast-paced environment.
What was the initial response you received from the market?
Before launching TrustedCompany.com we presented the concept to people from different parts of the region – often we were confronted with the same objection: “But in this country it won’t work like that! People won’t be willing to share their experiences online!” We proved the naysayers wrong!
So far, we have not experienced a single market in which the search volume for reviews is not growing. More and more consumers are actively searching for reviews because they want to make the best decision when shopping online and, in turn, are willing to have consumers share their experience with the community.
What is your strategy against your competition?
Currently, we are the only player in emerging e-commerce markets ranging from SEA to India and Brazil.
What can you tell us about the industry?
The two most important insights we made in the markets we operate in are the following: People do not fully trust online businesses and good online businesses do not exploit their full potential– because people do not trust them. It’s a no-win situation.
And although e-commerce volume in SEA, India, and Brazil is growing, we realized that e- commerce could grow even faster via the propagation of consumer word-of-mouth on our platform.
What is the future of the industry in your opinion?
As the e-commerce markets in SEA are further emerging, online reviews will become essential for finding trustworthy and reliable online businesses. Security, trust and transparency will be, as they already are, crucial for making purchasing decisions. Face-to- face business interactions can be enhanced via online engagement and social recommendations, utilizing social channels and platforms.
E-commerce players in SEA will need to focus more on engagement to retain their customers as otherwise the loyalty erodes fast when the online shopper is confronted with promotions or deals. Higher retention and loyalty can be reached by sharing references from satisfied customers and actively engaging with them by asking for feedback on their own online shopping experience. Reviews are the key to strategic advantage for providing transparency and increasing engagement with new and existing users.
Were there anything that disappointed you initially?
Until now customers didn’t have a trustworthy source to find out which online businesses to trust. TrustedCompany.com is the only source where users can find authentic information about online businesses shared by like-minded online shoppers. This model already works perfectly in Europe where people don’t finalize a purchase without having read reviews.
No. Of course we face challenges every day, but once we start talking about disappointments we’re definitely in the wrong place.
What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?
As a first-time founder I do not know much about starting up in Europe or the US but I strongly believe that SEA is very entrepreneur friendly – and according to The World Bank, Malaysia ranks No.6 in the Ease of Doing Business index.
On top of that, Malaysia and especially Kuala Lumpur are perfectly located. As an English- speaking country with none or little time difference to most of our core markets, Malaysia makes it easy to reach out to online businesses and consumers. And in case you need to do a face-to-face meeting, hopping on a plane within the region is easy and cheap as well.
Finally, people’s mentality in the whole region is more relationship-driven when it comes to doing business and buying than in Europe or the US. This is a good precondition for TrustedCompany.com as social recommendation platform.
What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?
Trying to think in all decisions as your future self vs. your current self – and letting your future self make decisions in the end.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Quoting the German poet Goethe: Erfolg hat drei Buchstaben: T U N.
(a free translation to English would be: Success has five letters: D O I N G)
To me, being a co-founder of a great company and working together with an A-Team is an ultimate satisfaction that I wouldn’t give up for any other career choice.
What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
Remembering your dreams every morning when you wake up.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
Coming back to the earlier quote of the definition of success, I found starting every day as a new day and not messing up today with yesterday to be an important key to being productive and in the end: successful.
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?
Ending this interview with another great quote from Goethe:
Der Worte sind genug gewechselt // Lasst mich auch endlich Taten sehn!
Enough words have been exchanged // now at last let me see some deeds!