Vulcan Post: From Venture Capitalist to Successful Entrepreneur – How Aaron Tan Raised US$5.3M for Carro
Singaporean used car marketplace Carro has recently raised over US$ 5 million from a number of high-profile investors, including Venturra Capital – a venture firm backed by Lippo Group- as well as several Singaporean, Japanese, Chinese and Indonesian firms such as Alpha JWC Ventures, Singtel Innov8, Skystar Capital and Golden Gate Ventures, to name but a few. This was a truly remarkable achievement considering that Carro was only launched last year in November. The company’s CEO claimed to be very satisfied with his team’s technical capabilities, determination and ambition, which he sees as his greatest assets. According to Mr. Stefan Jung from Venturra Capital, his firm is happy to be supporting Carro as Aaron and his collaborators have managed to develop a platform that is better than any pre-existing marketplace and will certainly keep growing over the next few years.
Carro’s CEO Aaron Tan has recently revealed that the $US 5.3 million was raised from institutional funds from all over the region and that the company would soon bring the Carro marketplace to over 350 million consumers in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and, of course, Singapore. Tan reassured stakeholders that the company is fully committed to providing both buyers and sellers with a transparent and trustworthy platform.
Carro has also rolled out a number of innovative services, including Carro Workshop, a user-friendly mobile app that recommends car maintenance shops on the basis of their location, ratings, services as well as other criteria.
Carro was developed by five students who first met at Carnegie Mellon University; the idea emerged during a conversation surrounding the many challenges they faced while buying used cars both in Singapore and abroad. At that point, they realized that there was a gap in the automobile market that was only waiting to be filled. Knowing how difficult it can be to buy a good car from an honest seller, Aaron decided to come up with a service that would allow buyers to find quality used cars without having to deal with potential scammer. The company’s founders were certain that they could create a brand around being a transparent and trustworthy used car marketplace. After six months, they developed Carro (a combination of the words “car” and “hero”), a data-rich platform that targeted both car sellers and buyers.
By connecting buyers and sellers through a simple and user-friendly platform, the startup managed to cut out the middleman, thus saving both parties a significant amount of money and time.
The team knows that trust is a key element of Carro’s strategy, which is why the company inspects every single car and prepares a report which is then shared with buyers through the website and mobile app. All buyers have to do to find out more about a car is click on the listing and go through the large amount of information provided by Carro. The company even offers car transfer services and various financing options.
In an attempt to make the process of buying and selling cars as easy as possible, Carro has launched the following additional products:
- sg, a calculator that assists users in determining the fairest price for their vehicles by relying on machine learning algorithms and a large amount of additional data.
- Carro Accessories, a shop that sells unique car gadgets that are sourced all over the world by Carro’s partners.
Aaron Tan – the importance of acquiring transferable skills
Aaron Tan refers to himself as a “programmer by training and a venture capitalist by profession”. At the age of 13, Tan was already thinking of new ways to address the gaps in Yahoo! and AltaVista, which back then, were among the world’s most popular search engines. In order to provide Internet users with a better alternative to Yahoo!, Tan developed a pay-per-click search engine; he then started offering affordable hosting packages in an attempt to allow ordinary consumers to develop their own websites without having to spend a fortune. Tan is proud of his early endeavors, which he sees as a valuable source of knowledge and experience.
As former IT Youth of the Year, Tan has taken part in numerous national and international contests and was even offered a scholarship from IDA Singapore, thanks to which he managed to study computer science at a reputable university where he got the chance to meet his current collaborators. After completing his education, Tan joined Singtel Innov8, the greatest venture fund in the region, where he was given the opportunity to oversee the company’s investments in Southeastern Asia. Driven by his entrepreneurial spirit, he played a key role in starting the largest startup ecosystem in Singapore, Blk71, which he brought to the United States under the name of Block71. He then relocated to San Francisco to oversee the venture’s operations.
“Challenging but yet fulfilling”
Despite his excellent career prospects, Tan decided to follow his dream of starting his own business. After working at Innov8 for five years, he quit his full-time job in 2015 to srart Carro with a group of qualified and brave developers: Kelvin Chng (Data Science), Aditya Lesmana (Chief Technology Officer), and Lai Siu Chun (Product Development – Global Platforms). The idea of working towards a common goal and having to cooperate with others in order to solve big issues is what keeps Tan motivated and inspired. While working on such an innovative project has caused him to face numerous unexpected challenges, Tan is happy to be able to chart his own course and run a business that is both challenging and fulfilling at the same time.
This is not to say that the company did not encounter any bumps on its road to success.
Tan always stresses how difficult it is to hire for such an innovative company, as gaining access to young and experienced mechanisms can be extremely challenging. After all, having worked in IT for a long time, none of the team members knew any mechanics when Carro was first established. The company had to keep refining its model in order to be able to hire and retain talent.
A combination of determination, commitment and expertise in visualization, machine learning, data analytics and product management is what has enabled Carro to get to this point. As of today, Carro is one of Singapore’s largest online car dealerships, growing an average rate of 30% each month. On top of that, it is predicted that this year, the company will exceed S$100 million in run-rate gross merchandise value.
To Aspiring Entrepreneurs
As a born entrepreneur who loves startups, Tan believes that every aspiring entrepreneur should use their time to find an idea. Once they find a good enough idea, they should pursue it straight away without procrastinating. Entrepreneurs tend to use excuses like “I can’t find a technical co-founder” and “I don’t have any investors” to avoid taking action. According to Tan, the problem with these people is that they give up too easily. If you are stuck, that is because you are not challenging yourself. To those who are finding it difficult to start their own businesses, Tan has a few words of advice: push yourself “our of your comfort zone”.
Carro can be found on iOS, Android and online at http://carro.sg.