Business can be a dog-eat-dog world, but in the world of startups, collaboration can still prove to be better than outright competition. Take for instance the online classifieds or e-commerce space. In the Philippines, Sulit.com.ph is king, although there are other companies that are offering either generic or niche services that fulfill the needs of users.
One such company is Pinoy Auto Trader, which we featured here at e27 a few months back. Pinoy Auto Trader was part of the hack2Hatch competition, in which it received mentorship from Silicon Valley-based entrepreneurs along with a PhP100,000 (US$2,500) seed funding. But US$2,500 only goes so far, and after beta launch, the co-founders of Pinoy Auto Trader found themselves increasingly involved in the startup even as they also had other corporate work.
To further grow the business, therefore, the founders turned to partners — and to luck — and that was how they ended up being acquired by Sulit. Co-founder Chris Franks shared the acquisition story over at theBobbery, where he shared how running a startup can take a toll on one’s personal resources, especially if you’re running it as a side-business. “All of the effort we put in was between 5:30pm and the small hours of the morning, everyday with barely any exceptions,” he writes. “Our social lives hit rock bottom, our health wavered and our bank balances were sucked dry.”
One of the main highlights of Pinoy Auto Trader is its partnerships with auto dealerships, in which the startup offered a platform for auto dealers to showcase their vehicles with their very own virtual stores. Of course, this competed directly with Sulit Cars, which also offered a secondary market for cars, but mostly focused on direct sellers.
The co-founders sent an introduction to Sulit co-founder and Managing Director RJ David exploring the possibility of partnership or just even simple introductions. RJ replied, asking whether they needed an investment, and the rest is — so to speak — history. “If you’ve got an idea or you’ve got a product and you’re looking for help, sometimes it doesn’t just hurt to ask,” Chris writes.
The acquisition clearly benefits Pinoy Auto Trader users, as they can essentially manage both listings on the platform and on Sulit from one dashboard. Pinoy Auto Trader version 2.0 — also dubbed its “Aston” rendition internally — brings in cross-platform integration between Pinoy Auto Trader and Sulit Cars. “As a result, car sellers will be able to ‘Be in Two Places at Once’,” writes co-founder and CEO Daniel Scott in announcing the acquisition. “[T]heir cars will be advertised simultaneously on both Sulit.com.ph and Pinoy Auto Trader.”
On theBobbery, Chris says the reason for partnering — and eventually getting acquired — by Sulit is the resources. Startup events are “a great way to get recognized, to connect and to learn,” he writes. But some partners or investors offer better support and resources than others. “In comparison to other investments that have occurred locally, no-one other than Sulit offered us the resources that we felt were needed In order to significantly help progress Pinoy Auto Trader in the way we wanted,” he adds.
Time and again, we have featured success stories that centered on collaboration, as well as collaborative endeavors that seek to bring the best out of each participant. Sulit’s acquisition of Pinoy Auto Trader exemplifies this concept and is a clear example that sometimes it pays to reach out to a competitor (especially a bigger one) looking for ways to build partnerships and synergies.