It’s been 5-6 years after we last met at National University of Singapore, Darren and I just bumped into each other again at Innovfest 2017. After these many years Darren still maintains his very distinctive hairstyle, no wonder it’s so easy to spot him at a crowded expo haha! Graduated from the same degree (Computer Engineering), our career paths are so different though. While I was working in an investment bank, Darren ventured into startup scene and launched his own company Markedshot. What happened in the past few years for Darren?
Darren Chua, 28
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Darren was like any other Singaporeans – grew up in a family just like yours and mine, went National Service (NS) and pursued further studies at National University of Singapore (NUS). However, one read on the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” when he was 12 shaped his mind to be entrepreneur in future. There are 2 ways to generate passive cash flow (as mentioned in the book), be an investor or a big business owner. Darren doesn’t like to take chance on things (investment), hence the only other option is to run a business in future.
2012 summer was a turning point for Darren. He enrolled into NOC (NUS Overseas Colleges) program, started his 1-year internship with Curves in Shanghai, China. Darren had always wanted to go overseas and China to work, NOC internship was a great chance to put himself into a new environment to learn. Talk about being bold? At that point of time Darren didn’t even speak proper Mandarin!
Worked as a consultant at the largest chain of fitness for women in the world, Darren did a lot of things. Everything actually. T-shirts, wearable products, protein powder; Darren was involved in every part of the value chain – sourcing for suppliers, manufacturing, shipping etc. He helped the company with web design and media production (video-making and photography). He was also involved in analysis and reporting for KPIs (Key Performance Indicator), liaising with multiple stakeholders in the region. One of the largest work was to organize AGM (Annual General Meeting), which Darren had to host meetings for all franchises. A very productive year indeed!
How Darren Got The Idea of Markedshot
After internship for 1 year, Darren continued on part-time basis with Curves till he graduated from university. Upon graduation he joined an IT consulting firm, mainly worked on ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. At the same time, the interest to start his own business was brewing. He always loves photography, while he was working for Curves and did media production for them, he saw inefficiency in the photography field.
Companies always wanted to have their own photos (with their logos and people) for marketing, getting a proper photographer is expensive. Buying photos online is costly too – a photo with free commercial license can easily cost up to USD30. No wonder only big companies can afford for nice marketing materials! On the other hand, it is not easy for photographers to sell photos too. They have to setup proper portfolio gallery, and can only upload photos for selling on platforms like Getty Images after validation. The barrier to entry is quite high and definitely not for amateur photographers. With technology getting cheaper nowadays, most of us have a smart phone which can take high quality photos. Why not we have a platform for anyone to sell photos?
Journey to Entrepreneurship
Iman, Darren’s friend since university time, approached him with the idea of having a photo marketplace. Both of them agreed it was a general problem faced by many brands from their past experience in free lancing and consulting. They thought to have a photo marketplace for public, a platform for companies to buy their branded photos at cheaper rate, and for amateur photographers to sell. They did not want to rush to do a startup, instead Iman coded out an iOS app as MVP (Minimal Viable Product) of their idea to test the market. Markedshot was born! Within a month of launching, over 1000 active users were on-boarded, all by organic growth only without much marketing. This was fun and crazy!
Darren was literally running 3 jobs at a time – Curves, IT consultant for ERP, Markedshot. Markedshot grew very quickly, Darren couldn’t manage time anymore. He quit his full time consultant job, took a big pay cut and worked on Markedshot for full-time. Darren and Iman bootstrapped for a good 6 months (from Jan to June 2016), till they saw the chance of joining Mediacorp Mediapreneur Incubator Programme. They applied and they got in! It was a small funding, but definitely a milestone for them.
Markedshot Is Taking Off
Jan 2016 was a fast-moving year for Markedshot. It was refined to have better user interface and features for users; Darren and Iman made it really simply for users to sign up. They help photo owners to issue license, and conduct internal checks to ensure the photos are original. They also started to host photo challenges, which companies or individuals can use that as a channel to crowd source for marketing materials. Within a few months Markedshot started to gain more traction, was downloaded by over 10 thousands of users all over the world. At the point of writing there are ~100 thousands users globally, from US, UK to middle east and Asia.
As Markedshot gets bigger, Darren aims to help more local brands to improve exposure through Markedshot. Very soon sometime in future we would be able to use Markedshot to trade videos as well!
- Hiring the right fit is a big challenge, managing a small team of startup is very different from a team of 50-60 people in a big corporate
- Learn from people who have the experience. A few from Darren’s list: Gary Vaynerchuk (American serial entrepreneur), other startups such as Shopback (e-commerce startup) in Singapore
- Yes startup provides the flexibility of working hours, but you don’t get the flexibility before putting in the hard work
- Quoted from 500 startups: if your startup is only to help people get coffee or pizza faster, that is not serving a real need. But if you put coffee into people who didn’t drink that before, that is a real one!
- If we put in the hard work, we can be successful
- Markedshot is an on-demand, photo challenge platform and marketplace for brands and businesses to crowdsource photos and acquire user generated content directly from their fans and customers
- It harnesses the power of user-generated contents through our crowd-sourcing platform to display happy customer stories
Download Markedshot Now!
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