Interview with Anthony Ng Monica (Swogo)
Swogo is a free online shopping recommendation service that helps you buy.
I interviewed Anthony Ng Monica, Swogo co-founder to find out more. This is the hundred and forty seventh in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Anthony!
Give us the elevator pitch for Swogo.
Swogo is a free online recommendation service, that helps anyone make purchase decisions for consumer electronics like an expert, on the web or on the go, in just 60 seconds.
More people are shopping online than ever, but choosing a product still isn’t easy. Search engines point users to information, not answers. Making the best purchase decision requires expert knowledge, a great deal of time, and up-to-date information on the market.
We found that 77% of consumers are overwhelmed by technical specifications. On average, it takes someone three weeks to buy a laptop.
Our vision is to bring this down to just 60 seconds. We ask users a short series of easy-to-understand questions about what they’re looking for. Our algorithm translates these answers into technical specifications and features, and is able to determine the best product for the user, alongside a tailored explanation as to why it suits their needs. What calculators do for maths, Swogo wants to do for purchases.
We’ve overcome many of the disadvantages that our competitors face, including inconsistent data. With missing and inconsistent information, a service can’t recommend the best product. We believe we’ve cracked it.
In its current form, Swogo recommends laptops in the UK. We plan to expand to the US in early 2013, and will soon branch into other consumer electronics, before later expanding into different product markets like electronic cigarettes or e cigarettes.
Tell us a bit about your background and what made you decide to start working on Swogo.
While studying, I was working part-time as an IT Support Analyst. I was consistently asked to help my colleagues choose the right laptop, camera, tablet, and other electronics and gadgets. Despite keeping up-to-date with the industry, I would have to research for hours across several sources to find the right product. I felt that there had to be an easier way.
Most consumers start their research using a search engine, but unfortunately, search engines tend to point consumers to information instead of answers. After conducting primary market research, the opportunity became apparent. We began to see the difficulties consumers face every day choosing the right product or service for them. I wanted to make it easier.
What appealed most about being your own boss?
I think it’s the thrill, the freedom, as well as the impact I feel I can create on the world. At Swogo, we work in a high-octane environment, we work hard and we have fun doing so. As we’re often working long hours, having the ability to hire based on the culture of the team really helps. Our roles are also flexible, which means each day is different. One day, I could be meeting up with investors, working on business development, or assisting with our marketing efforts. Lastly, I enjoy knowing that my work is changing the way consumers approach their purchases.
Who is the team behind Swogo and where are you based?
At the moment, our team consists of five founders and a small development team. We also contracted a designer, Danny Keane, whose work we were incredibly impressed with. Our team of five consists of Dimitar Kazakov, as CTO, Ivor Stankov, as CMO, Lucy Foster, as Head of Content and PR, Andre Rego, as Head of Business Development, and myself, as CEO.
We’re currently based in North London (Enfield), but are often popping central for meetings, so we end up seeing quite a bit of Old Street too.
How did you come up with the name?
Actually, it wasn’t originally intended for our company. About a year ago, I was investing in domain names and I came across Swogo.com posted on a Facebook Group. There were a number of reasons why it seemed the ideal fit for us. It was a short five letter .com domain, and the availability of .com domain names has greatly decreased. It also passed the radio test, it has an upbeat sound, and it’s highly brandable.
What technologies have you used to build Swogo?
We used Ruby on Rails, Backbone.js and CoffeeScript.
You successfully raised investment via FSA-regulated crowdfunding website Seedrs. Tell us about your experience of crowd-funding.
We needed to raise investment to expand our technical team and develop a marketable, minimum viable product.
A few years ago, I worked as an Intern at Seedrs. I believed in the team and I knew they would look after me. As a predominantly B2C startup looking to raise idea-stage capital, we thought it would be ideal to use a crowdfunding platform, as the problem we set out to solve is one that the general public regularly faces. Therefore, we wanted to see if our idea would be further validated by “the crowd” as opposed to an institution or a few angel investors.
Overall, the experience has been fantastic. It was simple to coordinate and keep track of, the team were helpful, and any questions we had were answered promptly. We were also able to secure many insightful, experienced investors and entrepreneurs – we couldn’t have asked for a better service.
I believe that many entrepreneurs make a couple of fundamental mistakes when raising money via crowdfunding. Often, entrepreneurs ask for too much money. We did so ourselves at first, but after reconsidering what we needed, we adjusted the investment accordingly. You should only ask for what you need, so that you can retain more equity, and ensure you’re careful with the investment given. Also, many entrepreneurs ignore traditional methods in order to meet investors, such as offline networking. Most experienced angel investors will still want to get to you know you and your team in person before placing any capital. Plus, it can help you get the initial push of investment, which will then make your investment seem more appealing to the crowd.
What is your business model? How do you plan to make money?
We currently use the affiliate business model. The retailer, i.e. Amazon, will pay us a commission for each product sold through us.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up?
Many entrepreneurs are too protective over their idea. Often, they believe that someone will steal their idea. Quite frankly, it’s highly unlikely. Even if they like your idea, it’s unlikely that they’ll execute on it, and even if they did, without your passion and the time you’ve already placed into the idea, it’s likely it wouldn’t be executed as well. So, be prepared to talk about your product or service. We’ve received some fantastic input from the general public, experienced entrepreneurs, and investors.
Apart from the Swogo launch, what are you most excited about at the moment?
Swogo has just been shortlisted for the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award for November 2012, which is really exciting. We’ll be pitching at the end of the month, so fingers crossed it all goes well. Just last month we also won the NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition 2012, and the validation of both these awards has been a really great boost to get just before launch.
Can you convince the reader to start using Swogo in under 50 words?
Making a decision takes too much time. You need expert knowledge, up-to-date information on the industry, and tireless research. Swogo offers the fastest, simplest, and most accurate way to find the best product for. We will save you time, at absolutely no cost, and you won’t regret your purchase. What is the e cigarette?
Finished reading? Check out Swogo!