Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Make the Pitch: Malaysia Most Wanted booted (ouch!)

Very recently, we decided it’s the right time to get some funding on a reality TV show (Malaysia’s version of Dragon’s Den). Why? I would like to test if the ideas of Malaysia Most Wanted would hold, and whether I can present a convincing case. Since I get a face-to-face time with some potential investors, I hope to get some valuable feedbacks. Hopefully we would get some exposure for our brand (and get more people to be aware of it, and use it), secure some funding to accelerate our growth, and perhaps get some help in the Sales & Marketing department. Our pitch focus on expanding MMW into Travel, and monetization of MMW Food.

The 1st round went quite smoothly, as one of the judges was quite impressed with our achievement in the Food & Restaurants segment, though there are concerns that we would not make enough money (our revenue is not very promising at the moment, as no one is responsible for sale). They get to thinker with our website on the iPhone and Blackberry (because the video won't play on MacBook), and trying to find their favorite local restaurants (luckily one of the judges’ favorite, Bawang Merah is in the list). So we are safe!

On Round 2, we face Round 1’s judges’ bosses (the CEOs). We need to submit a business proposal (which we are notified 1 day before, OMG!), and realize on the spot that we can’t do a PowerPoint presentation (the assumption is the judges already seen our previous slides and business proposal). Anyway, PowerPoint presentation on TV show looks boring, so we need the more dramatic verbal exchange.

I decided to keep my introduction short, since I assume they read the proposal and seen the previous PowerPoint. Perhaps it’s a bad move, as I could sense at least one the judges seem confused of what we are doing (perhaps she thought I am creating a blog and writing my own reviews based on my personal taste). For those who don’t understand MMW, it is a collaboration platform where users could submit recommendations, ratings, pictures and comments on their favorite restaurants. So it’s community driven, and the community decides and votes for the best.
The worst is yet to come, as I realize later in the show that the main VC (the guy with influence and experience) already has prejudice about the segment we are going into: it’s saturated with low profit margin. So Travel is too competitive, and there is no money to be made (or not enough money). On the global scope, we might have TripAdvisor as the leader (and other names don’t event popup in our mind). In Malaysia, we have static government endorsed travel websites like Tourism Malaysia and Virtual Malaysia, and Cuti-cuti focus on promoting travel packages rather than promoting places of interest. Do we have a really good (at least TripAdvisor-grade) travel website in Malaysia, where we can like really cool places like The Dusun or Sungai Klah Hotspring (and many more we are unaware of)? We don’t, and that’s why I wanted to build one. I guess my argument didn’t shake the “saturated” thought off the judges. Besides, company like KAYAK (USD 835 Million evaluation), TripAdvisors (USD 82 Million Revenue per Quarter) and even China's lvmama 驴妈妈 are closing multi-millions dollar round of funding. Do we want to wait for Foreign companies to dominate entire of Malaysia's websphere?

Actually I was pretty confident after the pitching (before the judges give me their piece of mind), but I was so wrong. First of all, one of the judges still think I write reviews (I hope the rest get the idea), and they still believed the market is saturated and we are not unique (even though we have proven to be the best in the Malaysia Food & Restaurant segment), and they don’t believe we have the capabilities to make Malaysia Travel another success. My heart just sank, WTF! Before we build MMW Food, perhaps no one would believe us. Now we have built MMW Food with reasonable success, and you don’t believe we can do it with MMW Travel. How many times do I have to prove myselves? The Venture Capitalists are not very adventurous, aren't they? I thought of putting in another final word, but I didn’t. I don’t want to beg you if you don’t believe in our idea and capability. I take it we are not on the same boat, and it would probably be hard for us to work together if we don't share the same belief and vision.

I think the judges don’t believe that number 1 Food & Restaurants guide in Malaysia is a valuable asset (or they don’t think I can monetize it, which might be true, since I am still “unproven”). Then again, I got reminded that Cradle have an “unofficial policy” not to invest in something “normal a.k.a saturated”, they prefer some really niche, unique or with buzz (MMW is definitely not their cup of tea, but sadly no other judges back us as well). Another thought is that the judges don’t use online websites to look for food and travel (they can’t relate well because they are not the target users); they get their recommendation from friends, and ask travel agency to arrange their travel.

Perhaps my presentations lacks emotions, all seems to focus on facts and figures (perhaps nervous and not straight to the point, and probably didn't clear the confusion as well). Clearly I fail to convey my ideas strongly, and fail to convince that we create cool and useful stuffs. The guy from PhotoKiddos was worried after his pitch because he got shot on this business plan, and I told him human are emotional beings, and the big cute smiling child photos on the stage might do some magic. And I was right, haha. Anyway, I like his photos and could be his potential customer (though not necessary means I would like to invest in his business).

What have I learned? This is tricky, as I seems pretty defensive and still believes strongly in my own ideas. The main reasons I do MMW Food and Travel is because there are no decent products out there that meet my needs, and my sole purpose is to create something useful and people would enjoy using it (and it helps them). Perhaps there are not much monetary values in it to make millions, but it should not be difficult to feed one mouth (or a few). You probably can doubt my capability to make money, but I am offended when you doubt my capability to build a successful web platform. Then again, it gave me more motivation to prove that I am right: I will develop the most useful travel website in Malaysia within 2 years. Hopefully I am not an arrogant and ignorant bastard, as I have no way of knowing (unless more people told me so). Anyway, this is probably my 3rd failed VC funding attempt in relation with Cradle, perhaps I am destined to walk the no funding required path. "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results." - Albert Einstens

MMW Food might not met 100% of my expectations yet; as there is a bunch for really cool features I would work on to make it more useful and cool. It would be cool to do use User & Content Profiling, to understand if the user prefers Western or Asian, Spicy or Mild, Halal or non-Halal, and match the relevant results with their preferences. As for the content, we like to know if the restaurant is romantic or child-friendly, good for supper or dinner, modern or classic, etc. At the same time, we would create community guides, where community expert recommends their favorite restaurants. If Jack prefer Western food particularly Italian, then those with the same taste as Jack would follow his guide (if the Jack’s guide have more followers, he might become a celebrity). We might have another person’s guide which focus on Indian and Spicy Food, etc. All sounds cool and fun to me, and I hope you will like it as well.

Lastly, I hope you would like what MalaysiaMostWanted is doing, and enjoy its services (we are hoping MMW could make our life slightly better, slightly easier). Do let us if you you like us (we could use some love), and give us feedbacks to help us improve.

PS: watch the show starting on NTV7 starting from 12 October 2011, and tell me how badly I did.


Anonymous said...

Just watched the show and I looked up on your website. Definitely their mistake not putting down money on your proposal.

Do you aiming for partnership/private investment? Your sites definitely have potential to expend much more compared to now...

Good luck!

d_luaz said...

We always look for ways to bring it to the next level, either through mentorship, expertise, contacts or funding.

Feel free to contact us: