Singapore-based payments startup YouTrip named 2022 an “eventful year” in a statement. As borders reopened and travels returned to our agenda, the company said that it saw a 10.5 times increase in overseas spending, as well as 10 times spike in user sign-ups year-on-year.
It has recently introduced new products such as YouBiz, which targets startups and SMEs in the region that are aiming to maintain and expand its global footprint through the payments platform.
Apart from launching travel insurance in-app to securing partnerships with Singapore Airlines, Singtel and Booking.com, YouTrip is entering its fourth year with a clear vision of what it would like to achieve.
“Our current priorities are introducing new features and enhancements for YouTrip and YouBiz, expanding our products into more markets in the region, and further strengthening our business through efficiency and cost optimisation so that YouTrip continues to be resilient and well-equipped for impending global macro headwinds,” writes Weijern Lim, CFO at YouTrip, in a written interview with e27.
As startups in Southeast Asia deal with the impact of back-to-back global crises, we aim to look to each other for advice and lessons on how to go through this. And YouTrip is open to sharing their experience. In this interview. Lim shares in detail the valuable lessons that the company has learned, the decisions that it has made along the way, and the kind of mindset that helps them to get to where they are today.
On financial discipline
Lim explains that since the beginning, YouTrup has believed in instilling a strong sense of financial discipline in the business, further strengthening efficiency and cost optimisation through the pandemic.
He lists down the steps that the company takes to keep operations lean and efficient:
1. Reviewing every cost item to identify areas of cost savings by either eliminating or reducing the costs
2. Renegotiating with major vendors to improve the commercial terms of engagement
3. Adopting flexible work arrangements that enabled employees to work freely and more efficiently
4. Building a robust finance team that looked for ways to automate processes to keep track of costs and deductions
In the matter of renegotiating contracts, Lim explains, “Do a thorough research of the industry pricing, including the vendors’ market position, competitor prices and their portfolio of past clients. Be aware of your working capital needs and negotiate on your payment periods accordingly.”
“Maintain flexibility in your contracts instead of committing to lengthy contracts or high minimums,” he stresses.
As the company behind YouBiz, a tool that helps startups and SMEs in their effort to maintain or expand a global footprint, YouTrip sees the value of having the right tools to help them operate more efficiently. It leverages tools such as Zoom for virtual meetings and messaging platform Slack for work communications, which has been most helpful and productive.
As opportunities to travel re-appears, YouTrip also sees the value in networking at offline events.
“Events are an effective way to interact with like-minded entrepreneurs and businesses in the industry, as well as engage with potential partners, investors and customers. These interactions help build a personal brand for the company, especially as businesses grow increasingly digital,” Lim says, highlighting the importance of researching the event audience and preparing conversation starters before going to an event.
Beyond VC funding
In expanding their business, raising VC funding has always been a popular option for many startups, to the point that it overshadowed the other existing alternatives such as government grants, venture debt, revenue-based financing, and crowdfunding. Meanwhile, these alternatives can help a company to extend their runways.
Lim explains to e27 his experience in applying for grants in the past.
“We have successfully applied for grants in the past, and the experience is generally very positive. Grant applications typically have very clear criteria that are listed out publicly for applicants to follow, so that businesses know what materials they need to prepare for submission,” he explains.
“After submission, there will typically be follow-ups with the respective agencies and institutions requiring certain elaboration or clarification of information.”
The CFO has the following tips for startups that are interested in applying for grants as an alternative to VC funding.
“It would help to do a thorough research of the grants available to your particular startup and industry, and speak to fellow entrepreneurs who have experience or successfully obtained these grants as they are able to highlight the items to lookout for – in particular proposal presentation, documenting key business information, etc – that will best represent the startup, its products and services, as well as the benefits these solutions confer users,” he elaborates.
“Agencies and institutions that offers grants will typically provide a channel (via email or hotlines) to discuss any application queries. If there is anything unclear, the startups should reach out to the agency or institution to enquire prior to submission of the application.”
And lastly, “Keep communications open with the agencies and institutions as support can come in multiple forms, i.e. not all support will come in the form of funding.”
Outside of funding, pivoting into a service-focused business is an option that companies often visit to extend their runway. Regarding this, Lim comments, “Focus on your customers and have them at the forefront of all innovation and product development. Our users’ and their payment needs have always been a priority for us at YouTrip, as we leverage new technologies, develop new capabilities and strengthen our business model.”
The silver lining
Lim ends the interview with a message on the most valuable lessons that the company learned during the crisis.
“Every challenge is an opportunity. There is a silver lining in every situation, and you will most certainly find new opportunity in every crisis. We’ve stuck by this mantra at YouTrip, staying agile in every circumstance, and thriving even in the midst of monumental changes and uncertainties,” he explains.
The lessons can be compiled into the following four points:
1. Focus on strengths and continue to build on them. “We stuck by our YouTrip mission in delivering the best and most seamless multi-currency cross-border payment experience for consumers and businesses.”
2. Be resourceful and opportunistic. “We encourage colleagues to find better and smarter ways to work, leveraging available resources and collaborating across teams for new opportunities that allow themselves and the business to thrive.”
3. Be financially disciplined as investors look for cost discipline and profitable growth among startups. “Sustainability is equally important to growth.”
4. Keep operations lean and efficient by closely managing various company costs.
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Image Credit: YouTrip
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