The FCCS Entrepreneurs Committee is the platform for entrepreneurs to meet and network. In order to share experiences and visions, the committee recently launched the ‘Entrepreneur Spotlight’: a series of interviews with successful French Entrepreneurs in Singapore.
Interview with David Chambat, Managing Director, Villa-Finder.com
A few words about your business
www.Villa-Finder.com is a Villa rental website whose goal is to facilitate the search for villas in Asia. We launched our first destination, Bali, available at www.villa-bali.com, 6 months ago… The site includes great features such as detailed maps, consumer reviews, large photos of the Villas – and most importantly a growing portfolio of more than 300 handpicked villas all around Bali. www.Villa-Phuket.com www.Samui-Villa.com and other Asian resort destinations will be live mid-2013.
What reasons brought you to set up your company?
Previously I was working for a large hotel website – and saw the niche market for villas in Asia flourishing – and at the same time I realized there were very few well organized websites for Villa Rental – unlike for hotels where dozens of websites co-exist – each with their strengths and specificities. Another reason was that, as a Villa consumer, I found the lack of availability information on Villa websites very frustrating – leading to endless emails and phone calls. That's why we have put so much emphasis on availability information on www.villa-bali.com.
What are the specificities of Villa-Finder.com?
To differentiate our website, we have worked hard on four topics; photography – we have wide, well organized and well selected pictures of all the villas on the site. Translation – the site has already been translated in 7 languages (French, German, Bahasa, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Chinese) and will be translated in 4 more languages before the end of the year. Availability information – we have developed an extranet for property owners to display availability instantly so that consumers can do more informed decisions. Lastly, we have managed to negotiate a Best Price Guarantee with all of our owners so that consumers are sure to pay the lowest price available through www.villa-bali.com.
How do you promote your offer?
We do mostly internet marketing. Google is our #1 channel of marketing. We also work a lot with social media networks, mostly Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Offline, we target Expats all around Asia, because Expats are keen to book their Villa in a place like Singapore versus direct in Bali or Thailand. Singapore has a great reputation in Asia – it is a synonym of safety and integrity – unlike Indonesia or Thailand where scams are common.
What are the most difficult challenges to overcome?
The #1 challenge is in the product. There are so many Villas in Asia, some great some not, some legal, some not, some expensive, some affordable… that the greatest challenge was and is still to carefully select all the Villas we have on the site. So far we have done a great job of selection but as we grow, and as time passes, we need to be even more selective! Villas change owners, need maintenance so we have to constantly look after our product.
Another challenge is in the growth management of the company. We are growing fast, faster than we thought; this means that we had very few processes in place and very few people on board. So we had to recruit people quickly (and that's not easy these days in Singapore!), put operation procedures in place, develop systems at a very rapid pace…
Tips for success for new entrepreneurs
It is all about execution! When you think of starting a business, it is very tempting to do business plans, try to raise money, research the market, find business partners, work on prototypes ad-vitam eternam… It is however much more relevant and insightful to launch a viable product, go to market, test it with real consumers. The amount of things you can learn from consumers when you are in real-life (as opposed to market research) is simply incredible. Not to mention that at the end of the day, the only ones that will validate your idea are the end-consumers!
Surround yourself with great people. Large companies can afford to have employees free-riding at work. Start-ups cannot. You need to find the best possible person for each and every job in your company.
And always keep an eye on the P&L, and most importantly the cash account. As in any business, but even more in a start-up, Cash is King.
What are www.Villa-Finder.com next steps?
New destinations! The more destinations we will have, the more relevant we will be to our consumers! Thailand and Sri Lanka are the next 2 steps – and even more destinations will come next year. Stay tuned at www.facebook.com/villabalicom
We are also building up a proprietary software for Villa Owners to manage their Villas online, not only on www.villa-bali.com but also on social media sites, peer-peer sites, etc.
Your motto in life
Live with no regret!
Your business motto
Stay Focused! There is nothing worst for a start-up (or for any company in general) to try to do too many things. Do one thing and do it well.
David CHAMBAT, Managing Director
The views and opinions expressed in these columns do not necessarily reflect those of the FCCS members and management.