Creating new firms and services easily and cheaply opens up the world
Lisa Enckell is a partner at Antler, an early-stage venture capital firm and startup generator.
In Asia, where I work as a partner at an early-stage VC, startups are regularly rolling out a minimum viable product (MVP) and then transacting on messaging apps.
Companies like shoe brand Portblue, AI e-commerce company Sorabel and Sama, an online recruitment platform for migrant workers, all started life using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers, onboard users and raise brand awareness.
For many years, WeChat has been the default app for daily life and business in China. It’s estimated that more than 30% of all internet traffic in China is through WeChat, and in 2017 they introduced “mini-programs,” where businesses could build apps inside WeChat. Now, you never have to download any apps or go to a browser to access millions of services and businesses in WeChat.
We now see a similar trend in Southeast Asia. Here, WhatsApp is the dominant social platform and, while it has not built the same infrastructure for building apps, startups have found a way around that and now run many services on top of WhatsApp, validating with customers fast and cheaply. These companies are not only mobile-first, but they are also WhatsApp-first.
Sampingan, an Antler portfolio company founded here in Singapore, provides an on-demand workforce to businesses in Indonesia. The first version of the product was on WhatsApp. The team sourced and managed more than 2,000 blue-collar workers in Indonesia who completed 25,000 jobs in the company’s first three months.