How to expand your startup to 9 Asian countries - the story of 2C2P founder Aung Kyaw Moe’s persistence
Aung Kyaw Moe is originally from Myanmar. He shifted to Thailand 15 years ago, and today calls Bangkok his home. At 26, Aung, a geek programmer, started his first venture. Today, his payments processing startup 2C2P (headquartered in Singapore) is present in 9 geographies in Asia and he has his big dreams that drive him ahead. Aung’s story is a lesson in persistence and self-confidence despite many odds.
Let us delve into this story.
2C2P was an accident
I am a trained computer programmer. I also have an MBA from Sasin Graduate School of Business from Thailand. I was programming for 10 years before I became a full time entrepreneur.
2C2P happened by accident. I did not start the company to do payment processing or secure payments. I started the company in 2003 to develop mobile games, and at that time the mobile game market was not there yet. So I had to find something else for survival of myself and my family. That is how I started 2C2P by developing a payments application. Luckily, I got a bank as a customer, and that led to a snowball effect for me. So here we are 6 years later!
People used to look at my CEO business card and laugh at me
When I started, I was only 26 years old. In Thailand, seniority is very important compared to the experience of a person, so if you are young then you are considered as immature and you cannot do things well. So at 26 my business card as a CEO was a joke. People used look at my business card and laugh.
I developed a thick skin during this period. I used to request prospects repeatedly and shamelessly to allow me to demonstrate my product to them at no charge. One of them allowed me to show them what we could do. And that is how it all began.
People came to our small office and walked out without interviewing
When I just started out nobody wanted to join us. I was with my best friend and both of us did all the work in the initial days, starting from coding to cleaning. Many people came to visit our small office and left before sitting for an interview. I then realized the importance of having a larger office, as soon as we got a few clients we shifted to a large space. Also in the initial days my managements skills were very bad, I worked really hard on my inter-personal skills to get better.
I took 300 meetings with investors to secure my first round of seed capital
It took me 2.5 years to secure our first seed investment. Getting the first investment was as hard as acquiring my first customer in Thailand when I started the company. But I always wanted to play a bigger game, so I moved to Singapore full-time for an year and started pitching to all the VCs. I also talked to investors from China, US and Japan during that time. 2009 was an extremely ambitious year for me. I meet 300 VCs in total to secure our first investment. I never thought of giving up even once
Today we are based in 9 countries. I keep travelling quite a bit to all these countries, though I live in Bangkok as my family is here. My company is now officially headquartered in Singapore with over 17 people working there, and we have a few major banking customers in that region. We have offices across Southeast Asia, starting from Manila to Myanmar (my home country).
Douglas Abrams of Expara IDM has invested in us along with the Singapore Government, we have received a few grants from them. We also have a few other institutional investors onboard. Our aim and vision is to become the largest payment processing company in Southeast Asia.
Secret to regional scale - local partners
The key success factor for expansion in Southeast Asia is local partners. Some companies are trying to expand to Southeast Asia without local partners, and in my mind that doesn’t work. I would say that local partners are very important for regional expansion. Local knowledge is very important in our region. Human touch and emotional communication is very important in our culture, so we need very close local partners to enable expansion.
Singapore Government has offices in every single country. They would reach out to their local embassy, and tell us who are the best potential partners to reach out to in each region. If we directly go and write a cold email to the local players, they might not talk to us, but with introductions from Singapore Government. things were easy for us. They really helped us by opening doors and the support from them has been really amazing
Secret to winning - Ignore Naysayers
Don’t look at people who say bad things about you, keep negativity as far away as you can. Do what is right for you and your company. Because people who have said bad things about you will say good things about you once they find out that you have done things successfully
Road ahead looks bright and sunny
We have 3 million USD so far in investment. We generated 1.3 million USD in revenue last year. This year we will do about 3.5 million USD, and we aim to generate 20-30 million USD by 2015. We are pretty confident about doing this.
YourStory salutes the spirit of entrepreneurship that Aung represents. These are the kind of stories that move us, and we look forward to bringing you more updates from Aung and his venture 2C2P.
More about Aung and his startup here http://www.2c2p.com