Interview with Rent Tycoons

We spoke to Herry of Rent Tycoons after the Indonesia Startup Insights 2017 event and learnt more about the start-up and the business.

Rent Tycoons owner Herry with Jacqueline Low, COO Hawksford Asia

1. What is Rent Tycoons?

Rent Tycoons is an online peer-to-peer renting portal that allows businesses and individuals to rent items and services with each other. Through this online rental marketplace, Rent Tycoons aims to grow the practice of peer-to-peer renting in Singapore and build a community of individuals with the heart to adopt green practices as an integral part of their daily lives.

2. How did the business concept come about?

Rent Tycoons Pte Ltd (RT) was founded in 2011 but officially launched in Q1 2012. The notion came about when we often see our messy house/room and storage with things that we rarely use but we do not want to discard. Another consideration was the fact that majority of the apartments in Singapore are rather small and that there are not enough (storage) space to store our items. At the same time, most people in Singapore likes a good bargain and loves to shop. Without realising it, each household in Singapore will easily accumulate items that we seldom use and just simply store them for convenient purposes.

We saw this trend and behaviour as an opportunity, hence RT was established.

How do we do this?

RT unlocks the access to a huge pool of household items and services within your neighbourhood. Each individual who sign up on RT with their list of items will contribute to a list of under-utilised items which can be translated into rental income (for the individual). Others hesitate when purchasing items that they may only use for once or twice instead can rent it from others on RT.

How is the rental process like?

1. Visit and search for an item that you wish to rent.
2. Contact the owner if you have any questions (e.g. specifications, delivery options, availability, etc.).
3. Reserve through RentTycoons and complete the payment for a deposit as well as the rent amount.
4. Collect the item and pass the security code to the owner when you satisfy with the item.
5. Upon returning the item, your deposit will be returned.

The rental process is simplified and secured with a contract agreement. Payment is managed by RentTycoons to avoid any fraud cases. Anyone can be entrepreneur (or we like to call them "Rentepreneur”), help each other and encourage re-using items for a greener planet.

3. How is Rent Tycoons being funded at the moment and what type of investment are you looking at to progress?

At the beginning, we received the "YES! Start-ups Grant" by SPRING Singapore. The grant allowed us to test our business concept in the market by turning it into reality. In a way, the grant lowers our financial risks and motivates start-ups like us to kick start on working on the product, not just a business plan. From then on, it was all about endurance, perseverance and tenacity in putting all the efforts to keep the business afloat. Today, Rent Tycoons is self-funded, semi-auto-pilot income generator and pretty much a self-sustaining business, despite very little marketing efforts.  

We rely on word-of-mouth, social media and references from associations that we partner with, such as the Sharing Economy Association Singapore. We realised that growth is rather slow by putting in what we earn to marketing the platform. Hence, we are actively looking for funding from angel investors, mentors and technological partners. 

4. Our team size and plans for expansion

Currently I handle the whole business alone. From accounts, customer service, consolidating requests, delivery arrangement, payment collection, rental claims, troubleshooting issues, manning social media accounts, to some marketing in general. basically its end-to-end operations. It’s a 24/7 job and I will bring my bank OTP token everywhere I go (to manage accounts), even on holidays. Good customer experience is very important to me, we are a small business; but our service quality must be a world class. That’s how we survive until today and keep our customer and item product list growing.

For expansion, I am looking for human resources expansion on a daily basis. Finding a business partner is as difficult as finding a spouse. He or she or an organisation must share the same passion, value, mission and commitment as myself. Still, human capital is the most critical ingredient for a business to grow. Hopefully in the next coming months I will be able to find the right partner(s).

5. Why did you choose to start your business in Singapore?

Rent Tycoons is very ideal and suitable in a environment like Singapore where society is mature and conscious about preserving the environment. Space constraints, functional law enforcement and high internet penetration on mobile devices and computers also add to the benefits of setting up in Singapore.

6. Do you find that Singapore business environment is conducive for startups?

Singapore has a very good ecosystem for startup incubation:
- Regulation and policies are transparent, it is easy to set up a business and has a clean government. 
- Government provide grants to kick-start to turn your business plan into a reality.
- Data and statistics are available for you to do your own research.
- Affordable co-sharing space for startups.
- Many available mentors, angels investors, corporate services and other supporting variables at your disposal.
- "Startup and Entrepreneurship" modules are being offered in school.

7. What are your thoughts about such networking and pitching events?

Networking in general is a double-edge sword - it is an invaluable way to broaden your knowledge, learn from others’ success story, promoting our business, create a synergy with others and many more. At the same time, it potentially can be a time waster sucking up your energy/resources. I would prefer to attend an event where the objective is clear, with filtered participants and information on what the participants can expect from this event (value creation/knowledge/skill).

As for pitching events, I would prefer if the organiser were able to manage it more professionally - for example a beauty pageant - each candidate must be qualified on paper; pass the local audition/selection; then shortlist them again amongst all the participants. If the quality is not as per expectation, then create a bootcamp for them to improve. On the actual day, we will have a well-prepared contestant who will give their best to pitch. The audience will be able to learn and see the quality of pitching and participants also learn along the process, format and flow are standardised, the event will inspire and attract more startup and eventually all stakeholders are happy.

8. Was it your first time at this event?

It was my second time, I attended the last year event just as an audience. This year I attended as a participant to pitch, with the objective to promote my business, showcase Rent Tycoons to the public to get more traffic. Rent Tycoons was emerged as the winner in the end which was an absolutely good bonus for me.

9. What’s next for Rent Tycoons?

As for the future plan; we intent to go to licensing or white label to a larger corporation, partnering with consumer goods producers as test bed for their new product launching and once we established a stable market share in Singapore market; then we will replicate the model and go for overseas market. Lastly and most important is the expansion of human capital, we are hoping to tap on some brilliant minds and join force with us to share our vision and mission to the community at large. 

10. Have you visited our website and how you think the contents and resources are useful for startups?

Yes I have, It is very resourceful and compact, with a lot of content from technical information, statistics data, articles to macro economic data.

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