Singapore-based technical support crowdsourcing startup Fynd has only been around for two months to the day, but that’s partly because the timing of its market entry couldn’t be better.
The Singapore government recently imposed restrictions on foreign labour laws leading to a blue-collar manpower crunch, the Fynd Co-founders explain. This has made it more difficult to get hold of technical support professionals on-demand and at affordable prices in the local market.
“Fynd is a platform for technical support that matches people with technical and IT skills with people and companies that need technical support,” Albert Tirtohadi, Co-founder, Fynd told e27.
The Fynd Co-founders came to the idea through their earlier point-of-sale startup that has been around for eight years and is implemented in 1,000 stores. They felt the crunch on the technical support side when their systems experienced problems and they had to send people to fix issues on-site at the client’s location. In many cases this would be restaurants that needed a very real-time response or else faced losing business.
“It was a big challenge. Even though we had a full-time dedicated staff to do technical support, they were always either not enough or at different times many of them were not free… [and] a lot of support was needed on the weekend and after office hours,” he said.
According to Fynd, it can address these problems by having a large number of dedicated freelancers on call at any time and across many locations in Singapore. These include savvy students or IT professionals who have been laid off by their companies — technical support teams are often the first to be let go during cuts.
Where’s the money?
Revenue is generated from the 10-20 per cent cut that Fynd takes per job. It expects to become profitable as the volume of ‘geeks’ — i.e. the technical support freelancers — on the platform grows. Currently it has 55 geeks, but wants to grow that to 1,000 within six to 12 months.
“As you know, it’s only been two months since we started the business. We do see great traction. Right now our key focus for the first six months is on creating volume… creating partnerships with IT service companies,” George Kuruvilla, Co-founder, Fynd told e27.
“Based on our projections, we do see profitability coming very soon. At the moment, our focus is not so much on the dollar value, but on creating volume so we can attract funding and double up our product,” he added.
At present, Fynd is self-funded on an initial investment from the Co-founders of S$50,000 (US$40,000), but it is looking at a S$500,000 seed round.
Finding said geek
Each geek is interviewed in person or via Skype to qualify his/her technical capabilities before being welcomed onto the platform as a freelancer. While geeks have to comply to the platform’s policies and undergo basic background checks, they are not bound to any stringent contracts as such.
“Albert himself is a hacker, he’s a programmer. He understands the technicalities that come with the geeks. We have a wide array of geeks ranging from networking, to data recovery, to servers, to storage and so on. The more geeks we have, the more breadth of services we can cover effectively. That’s why volume is key to the success of this model,” Kuruvilla said.
Prior to a crowdsourcing — or aggregator — platform for technical support freelancers in Singapore like Fynd, businesses and individuals had to turn to more traditional online and offline classified directories, or word-of-mouth recommendations. But the problem was that many were booked out for long periods of time due to high demand.
“When you engage Fynd, if one person is busy, there is always a big pool of other people available to take on the job,” Tirtohadi said. Customers can reach Fynd by phone, SMS, email, and even WhatsApp.
Subscriptions models are currently absent from the platform, but they may be introduced eventually. Something like an ‘all-you-can-eat’ technical support package could be hugely popular with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which the startup says is its primary client base. Residential clients, while important, account for a smaller percentage.
“There are huge [cost] differences. Most of the IT companies that service SMEs and businesses today are very rudimentary and old-fashioned in their approach. To just do a consultation alone they charge you hundreds of dollars without any fixes,” Kuruvilla said.
“Ours is pretty much based on the fixes that we offer. The moment we do the fixes, we get paid. We don’t have on-site travel elements [to costs] or anything like that. That’s the advantage we have on Fynd. Most of the geeks are located locally around the vicinity of your home or your business,” he added.
Looking to larger enterprise solutions going forward, Fynd sees potentials for its services in niche areas like data recovery. But the real point is that IT is a growing industry. Computers, tablets, smartphones, and IT systems are not going away any time soon. What that means is that whilst consumer technology is constantly getting easier to use and more powerful, there will always remain a need for technical support professionals for the foreseeable future.
“We need to bring innovation in the business model… to effectively crowdsource one major chunk of the IT industry that is technical support [so that we can] provide services of high quality, on-demand and in real-time,” Kuruvilla concluded.
Fynd seems intent in doing just that.