The idea to create an app that can help anyone sell their used goods in a simple way: Snap, list, sell was mooted during a stint at NUS Overseas College (NOC) in Silicon Valley.
NUS Business School graduate Quek Siu Rui, together with friends and fellow NOC mates Lucas Ngoo and Marcus Tan, decided to develop Carousell – a mobile-first C2C marketplace that is designed for smartphone users to buy and sell anything in a simpler way than on traditional channels such as forums, blogs and so on. It is easy to use – open the app, snap a photo and briefly describe the item.
Each of them had plenty of stuff like books, laptops, cameras and other impulse-buys that were lying around that they hadn’t got around to selling. The process of listing it on existing online marketplaces was just too tedious. Thus sparked the idea for Carousell.
Infected with the entrepreneur energy in Silicon Valley whilst studying in Stanford University and working at various Silicon Valley technology start-ups, as well as impressed with how people use technology to create an impact on millions of lives, the undergrads found the experience exhilarating and it marked a turning point for them to pursue their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs in earnest.
Upon return to Singapore, Siu Rui and his team members took part in Startup Weekend Singapore, a 54-hour hackathon that brought together teams to develop business ideas. Carousell emerged victorious, beating 40 other ideas at the event. For winning the event, they were given a free three-month tenancy at Plug-In @Blk 71, a startup co-working space managed by NUS Enterprise. Following the event, Carousell was also awarded a S$7,000 Venture Ideation Grant by NUS Enterprise to develop the idea further.
Siu Rui would later top his NUS Business Administration class by clinching two gold medals for academic excellence, and could have gone on to further his honours degree or taken up a job offer in Silicon Valley. He instead chose to form a start-up with his friends to develop an idea for a mobile-first marketplace. Their passion for creativity and innovation superseded all else—Marcus left his job at Oracle, and Lucas worked full-time on Carousell despite juggling schoolwork for his final semester.
Since Carousell’s inception the founders have developed the app further – combining the addictive social media experience with the convenience of mobile commerce. It’s an evolved hybrid that is very relevant and hip. It’s not just a marketplace, it’s a trend barometer and it’s filled with conversations.
The team’s vision is to make peer-to-peer buying and selling a lifestyle. “We want it to be natural for people to buy and sell pre-owned items because it makes economic sense and reduces waste,” said Siu Rui.
This idea has the potential to make a pot of gold but if it fails Siu Rui is undaunted as he was immersed in the risk-taking culture of Silicon Valley. “The NOC programme has helped to get over my barrier of fear of failure,” said Siu Rui
Fallen in love with technology for its potential to make impact at scale, the trio behind Carousell is supercharged by the opportunity to enable e-commerce for the next billion Internet users who are going to access the Internet for the first time through the smartphone - it’s a trend barometer and it’s filled with conversations, ebook, Twitter and Instagram. “We want to fill that need, and create the next eBay for the smartphone generation right here from Singapore.”