Cai Li: The Day We Stop Being Curious, Is The Day We Stop Growing


Cai Li, 31

Co-Founder, Airfrov

 Star Profile

  • Someone who believes that doing good is doing well for business
 Characteristics

  • Stubborn, rebellious, love to share
 Skills and Passion

  • Love to play, be it a game of soccer working as a team in building things
 Life Quote

  • The day we stop being curious, is the day we stop growing

Early Days

The turning point for Cai Li was his exchange program to Taiwan through AIESEC.

As Taiwan is a relatively big place (at least compared to Singapore). most of the students in universities would choose to stay together in hostel. Because of that, they work and play hard together, everyday. Staying with the Taiwanese for almost 4 months, Cai Li was also caught in the Taiwan Morakot typhoon and earthquake. Having experiencing the forces of nature, he realized that he cannot life for granted, and he needed to do something, something that resonates with his values.

Inspired by the passion and eco-friendly nature of Taiwanese, Cai Li thought to do something when he came back to Singapore. He started a small social enterprise to sell T-shirts made from recycling materials, with his JC classmate Robi. This was their first startup while still studying at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Journey to Entrepreneurship

The T-shirt business wasn’t sustainable as a full-time career, with a materials science engineering degree, upon graduation Cai Li decided to join a regional company related to it.

As the business development manager, Cai Li often had to fly overseas to neighboring countries like Indonesia or Malaysia for work. This is where his girlfriend will always be providing him a list of “must buy things from overseas’. That gave him an idea. How about building a marketplace matching Travellers to fulfill demand for overseas products?

Cai Li shared the idea again with Robi and both joined the same business competition Ideas Inc competition, it was a grueling 6 months program but they won the most innovative startup award. A few investors pledged to invest, however in the end they didn’t actually invest. At the moment, both of them have quit their full-time job, to focus on Airfrov.

Airfrov Is Taking Off

Not everything was bad, one of the judges offered Cai Li a co-working space in town. Cai Li and his co-founder continued pitching to more investors, in the process they were rejected quite a number of times but they continue to pitch or join other business competition, eventually one of the judges became the early investor.

With little resources, Robi was concentrating on building the platform, Cai Li had to hustle daily, such as posting daily on Hardwarezone or Facebook groups. Since the platform was not ready, he was connecting users who needed help, to buy things from overseas and matching them with travelers via an excel sheet.  It was a lot of effort, a slow and organic kind of growth but it was worth the effort, as every completed transaction further validate the idea and business model.

After 2.5 years since Airfrov started, Airfrov now has more than 2600 trips made by travelers on a monthly basis, and has an operational team in Indonesia. If you post up a request, you will receive an offer within minutes.

Takeaways

  • Every pitch and rejection is a learning opportunity, good investors will help to give direction and refine the pitch. Investors / advisors are very willing to share experience because they benefited from others previously.
  • 90% of the startups don’t last for more than 3 years. One main reason why startup fails is because there is no market for their product. Always find product-market fit first.
  • As we grow, responsibility grows too; early days were less stressful. With growing responsibility, so does the level of satisfaction as you can see the impact of the business on many others.
  • Managing a business is like managing a soccer club, you need to have the right players, and strategy to continuously win games, win fans and hence earn money. Even if you are a club with lesser resources, you can still win the championship if the team work together and smartly.
  • With the right People, you can have the right Product. Then you can make Profit.

 

  Company Profile

Airfrov

  • We aim to help you get the overseas products that you really want easily, through the help of travelers!

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