Start local and go regional. Dispensed by Nick Seguin, board member of Startup Weekend, Patai Padungtin, founder of Builk, and Moo Natavudh, founder of Ookbee, this piece of advice comes off as sound. However, there are so many questions just begging to be asked.
Questions like: “How long should you focus on the local market?”, “How do you deal with startup problems in Thailand?” and “How do you get local or alternative sources of funding?”
Founded in July 2010, Wongnai Media has grown itself to be quite the king of food review sites in Thailand with 200,000 members and 25 staffers. In May this year, they secured Series A funding from Recruit Strategic Partners (RSP) and are setting their sights on growing both the company and user community. Founder Yod Chinsupakul also seemed to be the best person to talk about staying local.
Yod said, “For 2013, we are still targeting Thailand. We went to Chiang Mai, we might go to cities in Thailand we have untapped markets.” He added that if or when they eventually enter the region, they might go by themselves, or collaborate with local partners.
The 3Cs: Competitors, challenges and could-have-beens
Wongnai might be one of the leading review sites for restaurants in Thailand with over 200,000 members, but that does not mean it can be complacent. Yod shared that the three main competitors it is looking at are: Eatguide.com, OpenRice.com and Zodio.
It might be basking in glory right now but it wasn’t always like that. In the early days, Wongnai struggled without cash and had to provide services to others without asking for much in return. They had issues with hiring even though they had just opened a new office in Chiang Mai recently. Having to learn most of everything on the job, there was a huge chance the site would have failed.
Of course, everything went better than expected. But if Yod was given a chance to do it all over again, what would he change? Clearly, he’s rather happy with the company’s direction. He shared, “Just minor campaigns and some people that we hired. These are relatively minor parts.”