We had the opportunity to sit down with the CEO/ Co-founder of QUIZZBIZZ and listen to his intriguing story about how Maik started his ED-tech startup.
Here are list of questions we asked him:
・Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company? How did you get started? (Background Information)
・What are some of the challenges that you faced when seeking seed round funding? How about after you got funding for the seed round?
・Why do Western investors not see Thailand as an invest opportunity? Why do they see it as a risk investing here?
・How did you prepare for the Seed Round (financial plan to present the investor)?
・Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs who will go through the seed phase?
Are you ready?
Let’s jump in…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company? How did you get started?
My name is Maik. I’m German and worked in the financial industry for more than 20 years. I was responsible for marketing and sales in a German-Chinese Insurance Joint Venture. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Chinese partner took over the majority of shares. So I had two options: one was to retire and get a little money and the other way is going back to my own country and work again. So I decided to retire, travelled around the world and to learn more about the things I am interested in. I enrolled in online program of Laureate and the University of Liverpool and graduated as MBA while I was travelling. I ended up in South-East Asia and decided to move to Thailand to study for PhD and to teach entrepreneurship, innovation and change and international business.
Sometimes my students come up with great ideas. In the case of QUIZZBIZZ it emerged from a student project two years ago. My students approached me with an idea of a mobile phone application combining trivia quizzes learning quizzes for general knowledge entertaining stuff with learning. We started to build an MVP for around three months. I went around and I found co-founders for the company and our co-founding team are all German friends of mine. The operational team mostly consist of international and Thai students – bright kids with passion, creativity and entrepreneurial mindset. We were working out of Bangkok University, but decided to move to Stamford International University because they actively support our start-up and aim to build an entrepreneurial community that bridge the gap between academia and business. We are glad for this opportunity. We bootstrapped for the first two years, for about $300,000 and we preparing for our seeding-round early next year.
What are some of the challenges that you faced when seeking seed round funding? How about after you got funding for the seed round?
It pretty much depends on the strategy of the investors. I have talked to a several western investors from Europe and USA. The large ones are investing in Asia but not keen investing currently in Thailand. Singapore and Hong Kong companies seems to be preferred because they have a more stable environment. Our company is registered in Hong Kong, which was easy in terms of set-up and administration but we are operating in Thailand where we got an approval from the Board of Investment (BOI). It seems that other countries in South-East Asia such as Vietnam or Malaysia are more interesting for investors and that Thailand is somewhat a question mark for them. It seems that their willingness to take a higher risk by investing in Thailand is not given.
Second, many of the investors are only interested in co-investments and so you need another investor to take the lead. Especially financial investors are not interested getting involved in daily operations, they just put in the money. They are fast in making investment decisions, but as a start-up looking for funding you need one reputable investor to take the lead. There is a very limited number of investors here; but some, for example Houston Technology Center (HTC) work together with universities (KMIT, Stamford International, Bangkok University, Sasin) and help entrepreneurs in the very early stage. There are also some active communities like for us at QUIZZBIZZ, Edtech Asia is a big help. They organize knowledge exchange and play an important role as catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Education sector in Asia and Thailand.
We hope that this community helps us to get in touch with investors who focus on our industry and are willing to take the risk to invest in Thailand – even if other markets in the region seem to be more attractive in the moment. Over all, finding “the right investor” to build a trustful and close relationship is a major challenge when you start your business.
Why do Western investors not see Thailand as an invest opportunity? Why do they see it as a risk investing here?
- What is the most innovative company in Thailand?
- Which brands are known outside of Thailand for foreigners?
- What is the biggest innovation that came from Thailand in the last 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
- Who drive innovation in Thailand?
- How many R&D (research & development) centers do we have in Bangkok?
- What percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) goes into innovation?
- How does Thailand rank in the world competitive index of innovation?
It’s good that we have co-working spaces, and that many local companies emphasize on innovation and entrepreneurship. Thailand has great opportunities and is one of the favorite places for digital nomads and people who would like to contribute actively to the innovation culture and bring new businesses and investment into Thailand. I am glad that I see positive developments and activities to encourage those people and to make more attractive for foreigners to build companies here in Thailand. The majority of Thai companies are SMEs (small to medium enterprises) but most of them are small, very small. They are pretty much consumer-oriented. I would say less than 5% are thinking of going abroad. Most of the brands are only recognized in Thailand. The medium size companies are often family businesses that dominate the sector for the last 20 or 50 years.
Innovation is often incremental, and new business models and entrepreneurs with outstanding ideas and the ability to execute them are quite rare. There is a large number of foreign talent who is willing and able to start business in Thailand and I see promising signs that policy makers and society realize these opportunities and invite more foreigners to contribute to innovation and entrepreneurial activities.
How did you prepare for the Seed Round (financial plan to present the investor)?
You have to be clear about your business plan or value proposition.
What makes you unique?
What do you do differently from the others?
What kind of benefits do your customers gain from the product you offer?
For investors, you have to describe the market size and be very clear on the opportunity. The opportunities mean fast growth or value. Investors today are not interested with you just having a sustainable cash flow. They want to see that your company is growing fast and is creating impact and value. Most VCs have a short investment horizon – a maximum of 3-5yrs. You have to ask for their expectations and their exit strategy. Besides of looking for “unicorns”, companies who outperform competitors and disrupt an industry, they generally expect profits – Venture Capitalists are not “social welfare clubs”. They are willing to invest $100,000+ but they want to get $500,000+ back after a while. As a startup, you need to sell your idea or opportunity. You have to ensure that you can catch that opportunity; you have to really target and clarify it.
You have to ensure that you can catch that opportunity
Open up your books and be prepared to support your assumptions or forecasts with data and evidence of any kind. Be transparent to your investors so they can follow the company’s perception. You also need to have a convincing pitch deck that will contain the market size, identify the problem, the solution, and the value you’re creating with your solution. Finally, you need to have a good team. What is a good team? This will depend on the investor’s mindset, your industry and your business.
Also Read: Seed Round Funding, Everything You Need to Know
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs who will go through the seed phase?
They should interact with other startup companies as much as possible and engage in communities and cooperate with universities and organizations. Find ways to get all the information they need to run their business. Accept failure, learn from mistakes, and learn fast.
How can people connect with you?
Linkedin: Malik Fuellmann
QuizzBizz Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube