Exactly a month after Carousell announced its US$35 million Series B funding, the Singapore-based P2P marketplace revealed today that it has acquihired Watch Over Me’s engineering and product teams.
Based in Malaysia, Watch Over Me, which has now shut its doors, was a personal safety app that allowed people to pre-select contacts on their phone who could keep track of their journey.
The financial details of the deal remain undisclosed.
According to Carousell Co-founder and CEO Siu Rui Quek, because the acquihire required a relocation to Singapore, not everyone from Watch Over Me will be joining Carousell; but five of the nine people have joined. Furthermore, Watch Over Me Co-founder and CEO Xin-Ci Chin will be a part-time consultant for CRM infrastructure and processes.
Quek says he wants to double the tech team — which currently stands at 23 people — to around 50 by the end of the year.
“I think for us, the big focus here is to really double down on our product and engineering capabilities. And part of building a great product is having a world-class team. A super passionate and talented team is working on [the product],” said Quek.
A new Head of Product
On a similar note, the acquisition coincides with the appointment of Andrius Baranauskas as Director of Product. Baranauskas, who was formerly the Head of Product at Vinted, will take charge of overall strategy in his new role.
Branauskas, who helped lead the transition of Vinted (another P2P marketplace) from desktop to a mobile-first company, said the grand strategy is to figure out how to make the second-hand shopping experience better than first-hand.
“So you focus on the discovery side a lot. So there’s a lot of innovation about that,” he said.
e27 asked Baranauskas if, after the renewed focus on product development, long-time Carousell users might wake up one morning and say, “wow, the app is totally different”.
“I don’t think the app should be totally different but it should know more about you. Learn from usage and display content that is relevant. That is probably the biggest part of the buyer experience,” he said.
The final note Branauskas added was there are a huge number of people using the marketplace that do not sell items, and do not know how to get started. Getting more people to use Carousell as a selling platform will be a focus.
Is acquisition a new strategy for Carousell?
Quek said the acquihire was not part of active strategy towards acquisition and was de-coupled from the funding round announced earlier this month. He said — because Carousell is focussing energy on product — he would pester Khailee Ng from 500 Startups, one of the company’s investors, for leads to good developers.
Ng introduced Quek to the Watch Over Me team and it seems to have turned out to be a good fit.
“I guess the only big change after the funding round is now that we are really serious about making sure we build up this team, because ultimately it is the product that serves the community best and that’s the single most important thing we need to do – build better products,” Quek said.
Usually, news of acquisitions get discussed only in MBA-style black-and-white articles about the business maneuver, so it was nice to hear the perspective of Jinny Wong, a programmer who joined Carousell under the new title, Engineering Manager, Growth and Trust & Automation.
“I think the part that really interests me as an engineer is to see things that I build being used and actually changing people’s lives. I think as engineers, it is something that we all love. Because when people use things that we built, that’s where we get our pride from,” she said.
Open sourcing Watch Over Me
An interesting nugget from the acquisition was the choice by Watch Over Me, after the final decision to close the company had been made, to open source its technology.
Chin, who Co-founded the company in 2012 with Khoo Chen Shiang, says Watch Over Me had long-considered open sourcing parts of the service, and the acquisition provided an opportunity to open the gates.
Now, she believes, the product that the team had been working on for years will be given an extra life.
“As a coincidence, since we announced our plan to open source the technology on our website, I’ve gotten emails from non-profits and other organizations who are eager to maintain and build on our technology and have it continue to serve users for free worldwide,” she told e27.
As for Chin herself, while she is coming on board as a short-term consultant, it is clear she begining to think of her next step in life.
“I’m pretty excited about what’s coming next, and I don’t really know what yet. But I’m very passionate about the role of women in technology, especially in Southeast Asia, and how we can continue to foster more equality and diversity in the ecosystem,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Carousell.