Managing Asia

Managing Asia

Classifieds app Carousell exploring premium listings, services to bring in revenue

Has VC funding dried up in Asia?

Carousell, the addictive Singaporean classifieds app, is looking at new ways to monetize its platform, which should be good news for its dedicated users.

Carousell, which is similar to global sales platforms Craigslist and Gumtree, has not yet monetized its platform, but Quek Siu Rui, one of the app's three co-founders and its CEO, says that the company is looking at a number of ways to bring in cash from users in the future. Users can buy and sell goods through Carousell by adding and browsing listings on its mobile app, without paying any charge as, say, eBay requires.

While the start-up is currently a pre-revenue company, it is banking on Carousell's community-centric, online classified business model to unlock revenues in the future. Quek cites other technology companies, such as Napster, as examples of businesses that took up to four-and-a-half years before implementing revenue models.

Carousell founders Quek Siu Rui, Lucas Ngoo and Marcus Tan. The Singapore-based startup raised $35 million in Series B funding and plans to use the funds to expand into other markets.
Source: Carousell

Quek says, "From day one, we've always wanted to build an enduring company and to do that … you've got to make money and constantly make profit so that you can make even better products [and] serve more people."

Quek told CNBC's "Managing Asia" that while Carousell is likely to retain its existing mobile classifieds model, the start-up could introduce premium listings and services as money-makers. Rather than reinventing the classifieds business model, Quek says that Carousell will focus on adding value to the user experience of its platform.

That advertising dollars could contributing to revenues is also a possibility in the future.

The new areas the start-up is currently exploring include helping sellers sell more quickly and diversifying the category mix available in its marketplace. "Categories like cars and even properties have been developing," Quek says.

Screenshot of the Carousell app.

In the meantime, listings and user engagement continue to be winning metrics for the start-up. Carousell users spend an average of 17 minutes a day on its mobile app. "We [had] no idea what that meant until Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that Instagram users spent 17 minutes a day on the platform," Quek says, alluding to the fact that recording engagement equivalent to the popular image-posting site was a considerable achievement.

"We monitor Twitter … and our users sometimes will be saying 'I can't fall asleep, I can't stop scrolling (on Carousell),' so I think listings and engagement have been really promising," Quek says.

Despite a slowdown in venture capital funding globally, the start-up raised $35 million in a funding round in August, and Quek says he is positive on the local start-up scene in the bigger scheme of things.

"When we first started … the whole venture capital scene in Singapore was nascent, almost non-existent," Quek says."When we moved into Block 71, which is a block designated for start-ups [in Singapore], it was half empty … So from that perspective, we've actually seen immense growth in venture capital activity here."

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