LOUNGING on colourful bean bags with a hot cup of coffee in their hands, about 30 people enjoyed a talk focusing on entrepreneurship and getting a taxi ride in Malaysia.
Known as ‘Coffee Spill’, the event was held at The Star Pitt St in George Town, Penang, on Friday.
Supported by The Star, Think City and Areca Books, the inaugural event featured Grab Taxi head of product Aaron Gill, a pioneer member of the popular MyTeksi app.
Wearing MyTeksi’s second year anniversary black T-shirt and jeans, Aaron shared the experiences from his previous start-up ventures and the challenges faced by MyTeksi.
“The idea for MyTeksi came when we saw how people were having problems getting reliable taxi drivers that charge reasonable fares.
“People were very emotional, with some saying that they felt cheated by drivers who don’t use meters.
“Seeing the response, we set out to create a product to solve the public transportation problem in Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia.
“Our core aim is also to help taxi drivers earn more money and ensure female passengers are safe,” he said.
Having a marketing strategy and knowing the consumers were vital to encourage product adoption, Aaron added.
“Start-ups need a different approach for innovators, visionaries, early adopters, late adopters and laggards.
“With MyTeksi, we marketed it first to the innovators, who are the geeks around us who gave feedback on the system.
“Next, we marketed it to visionaries, in our case the indie music scene. We provided a shuttle service from an LRT station to an indie music festival to promote the app.
“Once you reached your tipping point within a group, you need to change your marketing strategy,” he said.
Competition was not far behind when MyTeksi gained traction among consumers, which caused Aaron and his team to grit their teeth and go into survival mode.
“There was no competition in the beginning and we were comfortable with drivers walking in to sign up with us, having about 1,200 drivers at that time.
“When there was competition, we hired a team of 50 sales people and went down to the ground, to petrol stations, meeting drivers and signing them up on the spot.
“With that, we were signing up 1,000 drivers per month, thereby increasing our supply of drivers and market share.
“This would not have happened without competition,” he said, adding that the move ensured MyTeksi’s survival.
Aaron advised aspiring entrepreneurs to be find a very good idea, to be focused on it, to sell themselves a bit more and to have a start-up culture mindset.
Coffee Spill moderator Zye Ramli also posed various questions, inquiring about Aaron’s take on Uber and the start-up scene in Penang.
Speaking to The Star after the talk, Zye said Coffee Spill was a monthly coffee chat session aimed at bringing diverse personality to share their journey and knowledge with the public.
“Coffee Spill takes place every third Friday of the month from 7.30pm onwards. Those who attend can ask questions and gain valuable feedback.
“We want to deliver a platform for learning, sharing, networking on arts, corporate culture and entrepreneurship.
“It is very suitable for budding entrepreneurs, artists, corporate executives, freelancers and even non-government organisations,” she said.
Also present among the crowd were Areca Books co-founder Khoo Salma Nasution and George Town Festival director Joe Sidek.
Art teacher Lusy Decoursey, 32, from the United Kingdom found the talk interesting and beneficial.
“I find it very helpful when Aaron shared on thinking about numbers, measuring users and acquisition costs. It’s a new perspective for me.
“I would definitely continue to come for future Coffee Spill events.
“It is very helpful to those who want to network and learn about start-ups,” she said.
For details on ‘Coffee Spill’ and its future events, log on to its Facebook page at facebook.com/CoffeeSpillPenang.