Making TheLorry.com: A year of growth and learning

It has been close to a year since I wrote Making TheLorry.com: A journey from idea validation to being VC-funded.

As 2016 comes to a close, this article will highlight our hits, misses and key learnings for upcoming entrepreneurs.

The Chilli’s Summit
chillis

Fresh from receiving our Series A funds (USD1.5 million), Chee and I had dinner at Chilli’s early January 2016 to discuss top-level strategy and our plans for the year.

Quite simply, the goal was to grow x% by December 2016 in terms of revenue, number of bookings and gross profit.

We also discussed division of labour – I was to handle our bread-and-butter B2C business while Chee took on the fast-growing B2B department.

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Making TheLorry.com — A journey from idea validation to being VC-funded

On 19th January 2016, we announced our USD1.5 million Series A funding round. This is what happened behind the scenes.


Scaling up

When I wrote this post about TheLorry’s story on idea validation on Nov 2014, we were still basically a two-man team (two-man and a half if you count a freelance developer). I was doing mostly customer service & operations work whereas my partner and co-founder Chee Hau was in charge of marketing & sales.

(Btw, if you were our customer and noticed a certain “Adam” replying – that was me. “Adam” was my customer service alter-ego.)

“Adam” in action — replying customers’ text messages at an event. Photo credit: Sam

As we started to get traction, we were convinced that our idea is sufficiently validated and it was time to put in more resource to take it to the next level.

Since tech is our core competency, we felt we should get a developer on board full-time. Freelance won’t work. Our credit cards were already maxed out so we needed to look for outside money in order to start hiring.

We began to actively meet potential early-stage investors to pitch our fledgling startup.

One of them that we pitched to was a KL-based angel investor. Meeting went well but I suppose we didn’t impress him enough.

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Starting a Startup: 3 Reasons Founders Get It Wrong

Ok, so you’re driving back home after a mamak session with your friends. As you’re about to turn into the Kota Damansara exit of NKVE you suddenly get a moment of epiphany — you have an idea for a really cool website that hasn’t been done before, one of a kind.

You speculate that this website will go really, really far. It will make you billions of dollars after you exit and get acquired by Google. You can imagine yourself swimming in a pool with your future wife Ayda Jebat full of RM50 notes already.

After telling few of your friends about it (and always by starting the conversation with — “Eh, this is a secret ah, don’t tell anybody. I don’t want people to know about this and copy.”) you find yourself a co-founder who believe in your vision.

The both of you then start building wireframes on how the website would look like. You identify your target market and have a marketing plan in place. Since you worked in a management consulting firm before, your business plan slides exceed 30 pages.

None of you can code, so you source for a developer to build the really cool website. After a few phone calls and emails you finally found a freelancer guy who you like and has a good portfolio of clients.

Since you don’t want the website to look incomplete and to have ALL the features you want, the quote for the website came up to RM100,000 (50% upfront) and 6 months of development time.

But you believe in the idea. You believe that it will be worth billions. So what’s RM100,000? You will be known as the guy who pumped only RM100,000 to build an empire worth billions.

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A Malaysian Startup Conversation

It’s lunch time and two coworkers (both running their own exciting startups), Chris and Rizal are trying to figure out where to eat (a common Malaysian problem).

The conversation went a little something like this:

Chris: Who’s gonna Kaodim lunch today?

Rizal: You hutang iMoney bro. Of course you gonna buy today.

Chris: WTF, where got? Why all of a sudden like MaGIC I owe you money?

Rizal: Please bro. How come you forget such things. Up to today, you owe me1337 Ringgit Plus man. Remember you used my credit card to buy AWS Credits.

Chris: Oh ya hor I totally forgot about that. Oklah today’s lunch on me. Can you Recomn a place to makan?

Rizal: Now Offpeak hours, should be no jam lah. Ara Damansara there can?

Chris: Cool, I got a Baucar for a restaurant there. Got good reviews on Hungry Go Where also.

A bus passes.

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Making TheLorry.com – How We Started

TheLorry.Com officially went live on the 7th of September 2014. Our internal customer validation target for this MVP was to achieve 10 paying customers within one month. We achieved 10 paying customers within 10 days.

The Beginning

It all started when I was tasked to create and head a new courier unit, focusing on international parcel logistics at my previous job. Over the course of few weeks doing research, I quickly learned that this market was intensely competitive and we were going against mammoths such as PosLaju, DHL and TNT.

I soon began to experiment with the lorry rental market — just to test what sort of response I’d get with a simple advertisement on majalah.com.

Advertisement posted on 12th March 2013. Btw, there’s no such thing as an 8-tonner. LOL.

From March 2013 when I posted the ad until January 2014 when I left this job, I received calls almost everyday enquiring about “lori sewa”. I did a few transactions just based on this ad and made some money brokering deals.

The courier unit failed (I wasn’t exposed to lean startup principles back then) but this whole experience made me realise that there was a sizeable market for lorry transportation.

I was on to something.

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