Most entrepreneurs agree that the best part about starting their own business is being able to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Anthony Chow, CEO and co-founder of igloocompany, reflects on his journey scaling igloocompany to over 100 countries and shares his advice for other tech startups who aspire to expand beyond Singapore’s borders.
8 Nov 2021 / By SGN
When I was little, my father would buy me Tamiya cars whenever he went on business trips to Japan. It gave me a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I finished assembling the cars and watched them race.
Since then, I grew to enjoy building things and solving problems. Entrepreneurship was a great avenue to hone my hobbies. My passion for it began in high school when my buddy and I started a cyber gaming and design club. We had funding from the school, and fostered an avenue for creative designers and gamers to meet and build games together.
I’d also started two ventures prior to igloocompany. Despite my best efforts, the ventures did not last for more than a year. The story changed when I became a host on Airbnb. My partners and I were big fans of the company, where we were both hosts and guests on the platform. However, holding full-time jobs and being a vacation rental host was not an easy task. We faced the frustrations of coordinating guests’ arrivals and physical key exchanges. We also realised that many property owners found the concept of granting access remotely to be very useful.
This sparked the idea of a smart Airbnb management system, and igloocompany was born.
Since launching our first product in 2016, we’ve rolled out to over 100 countries by handpicking each of our 130 distributors. At the end of 2019, we launched an enterprise-focused vertical, iglooworks, which focuses on access management for real estate and infrastructure industries. Today, igloocompany has deployed over 100,000 locks and the enterprise solutions are delivered across smart cities in Singapore, US, Europe, Australia and more.
Here are three lessons i have learnt in my journey so far:
1. Focus on solving one problem first.
In the beginning, the team worked on building smart home solutions. With just 10 people on board across 4 countries, things became inefficient and we were stretched, even before figuring out what the right product for the customers were.
Paul Graham, one of the earliest investors in Airbnb, famously said “Do things that don’t scale”. We thought of this as an important piece of advice and took it to heart.
Resources are always limited and it is important to focus. We started to scale down and re-focused to just solve access issues first. We spent time getting to know every one of our customers and aimed at getting the product right.
Making a hundred customers very happy was better than making a thousand of them somewhat happy. This guided everything we did to ensure the best product and service standards were being presented to the end customer. Because in the end, these customers will become advocates of your brand. That’s when we began to regain traction.
Founders tend to get impatient, and it is wise to rein that in. Realizing this was an ‘ah-ha’ moment in relation to business.
2. Opportunities lie within the most difficult of times, you just have to look for it.
Nobody saw the COVID-19 pandemic coming, and it is in these uncertain times that we find the best in people. Being resilient is of utmost importance, you need the tenacity to weather through tough situations.
As a company, we identified areas of growth and found success in the US, where sales grew 2.5X in 2020 as compared to 2019. The pandemic brought about golden opportunities for the company’s enterprise-focused access management solutions. Organizations were looking to accelerate digitalization and contactless access solutions became pertinent in a world of social distancing.
This bolstered the expansion to, and set up a permanent presence in Texas, US. We had to be decisive, nimble, and ready to pivot.
We also slowed down in sectors that stagnated due to the pandemic. This opened up resources for us to double down on R&D to create the best products to delight our customers.
3. Create a people-first culture
It was the ‘never give up’ attitude from the team that has gotten the company to where it is today. Safe to say, it is the employees that differentiates a good company from a great company.
The culture we’ve cultivated at igloocompany is one that champions open communication across offices. We ensure voices are heard through town hall meetings and casual chats. Showing appreciation through regular sincere interactions is key to building this people-first culture and builds empathy within the team. Such communication aligns the team to share the same vision and goals, and to give people a sense of ownership and pride in doing what they do.
Especially through this pandemic, I learnt that it is very important to be grateful. With everyone working remotely, it is important to recognize that my teammates have to deal with things that most probably are unaware of and that a small thank you sometimes goes a long way.
Taking inspiration from ex-Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, I aim to propel igloocompany into a global leader and household brand in smart access management. Just like Singapore which started out with limited resources and humble beginnings, igloocompany too, has to compete with the big boys to stay relevant to the world and its customers.
We are always on the lookout for passionate people to collaborate with or join the team. If you are interested to know more, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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About Anthony Chow
Anthony Chow is the CEO and co-founder of igloocompany, the market leading secure access management company for smart infrastructure and properties. The company designs keyless access solutions for smarter homes and smarter cities. Its products have received numerous awards and recognition from CNBC, Channel NewsAsia, The Wall Street Journal, and more. Anthony has also been featured on e27, Tech in Asia, The Straits Times and more.
Connect with him here.