The story of Prelo is evidence that there will always be a second chance to succeed if you are willing to take a step back, learn from your mistakes, and start all over again.
The online marketplace for pre-loved goods started off as a different brand, named Kleora. But hasty and weak execution caused a lot of technical downsides to the platform. This problem was combined with an unsatisfactory curation process and Kleora began to see counterfeit products showing up on the platform.
“The pinnacle of this problem is when we received cease and desist email from L’Oreal, because there were several counterfeit L’Oreal product on our platform,” Prelo CEO and founder Fransiska Hadiwidjana recalled in an e-mail to e27.
Not wanting to let the failure get them down, Hadiwidjana and her team then conducted marketing research — which eventually led them to relaunch their platform with the new identity.
“It’s a common consensus that speed is a very important thing in startup. Through our experience with Kleora, we see that we shouldn’t be compromising quality over speed. We should have prepared better, launch with fewer but better feature, and conduct more research beforehand,” she shared her key learning.
This time, the Bandung-based startup decided to take the issue of counterfeited goods more seriously, especially since the Special 301 Report by the US Trade Representative Office revealed Indonesia as one of the top 11 countries in the world for violating intellectual property rights.
To fight counterfeiting, Prelo uses the help of its internal team and its proprietary algorithm to identify suspicious products by comparing descriptions with other similar products on public domains.
It also utilises gamification to encourage more active participation from users to help fight counterfeits.
Badges will be given to verified users who upload authentic branded products (“The Authentic Club” badge), users who regularly report suspicious products on the platform (“The Inspector”), the best performing seller of the month (“Top Seller”), and users who actively open the mobile app on daily basis (“(Super) Active User”).
Sellers can also exchange the badges to gain extra product exposure on the platform, and Prelo is looking to release more benefits for badge owners.
“We focus on providing the best experience for our user. We believe there is a need for a secure and good quality secondhand marketplace, which differentiate us with our competitor,” Hadiwidjana said.
The new identity and the new way of doing things seem to work for the company.
Since its launch in late 2015, it claimed to have facilitated more than US$1 million in transactions in the first year, with 200,000 products available and “tens of thousands” of active users on its platform.
Run by a team of 13, Prelo also raised an undisclosed seed funding from Rebright Partners in 2015.
Two years since the funding, the startup aims to focus on growth and monetisation.
From Silicon Valley to Bandung
Hadiwidjana is not a new face in the field of STEM.
She received a scholarship to attend the educational programme and business incubator Singularity University in the Silicon Valley. The entrepreneur also interned and worked part-time at tech giants such as Microsoft and Google Summer of Code, and even the Indonesian government’s now-defunct presidential task force on monitoring and control (UKP4).
She also has few biomedical patents under her name in the US, though she would not consider her foray into e-commerce as a pivot.
“I co-founded a biomedical startup before, but my main role is mostly on the software side. I believe there are different places for different innovations,” she said.
“More cross-sector technology startup like biomedical startup might be better developed under a more mature infrastructure environment, like in the US. Despite that, I believe Indonesia is still widely open for many kinds of innovations for a passionate entrepreneur to pursue,” she added.
She came back to Indonesia to fulfill an agreed working bond, which is where she discovered the potential of Indonesia’s e-commerce sector.
When asked to compare the difference between Indonesian tech scene and Silicon Valley, Hadiwidjana said that the startup ecosystem is more developed with greater respect for entrepreneurs.
“But this is normal, considering tech entrepreneurship boom in Indonesia is more than two decades late compared with Silicon Valley,” she added.
But Indonesia definitely has an advantage over Silicon Valley.
“Our main advantages would be their history, lesson learned, and best practice. We can see what works and what doesn’t,” Hadiwidjana closed.
Image Credit: Prelo