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This Startup Wants To Kill UBER

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The world of ride-sharing startups is ripe with investment failures, technical failures and even some outright fraud, but one thing is certain: Uber is still the king of them all, controlling a vast majority of the ride-sharing market out there, with 8 million users, hundreds of thousands of drivers and about a million rides each day.

Many other Uber “clones” or competitors popped up over the years, with virtually all of them offering the same service model, where drivers go through an application process to qualify, their vehicles are inspected, a background check is performed and eventually they are allowed to use a mobile app to get customers while paying 20-30% of the amount of fares back to the company.  Customers almost always pay via a credit card and depending on the market, time of day and other factors, Uber or the other ride-sharing companies keep a good percentage of the fare cost.

Many drivers absolutely hate this model, and here is why: it’s completely centralized.  Drivers and riders have no control on any of the ride sharing aspects of the transaction.  Uber decides what rider is paired up with a driver. Uber decides the payment method, the amount and the fees associated with it.  Worse, Uber will not even allow drivers to operate if they drive older vehicles or specific makes and models.

Cell 411 Inc., a small startup focused on user safety and emergency management wants to change this.  In the latest Version 5 of their platform and mobile app, they introduced a fully decentralized ride-sharing option.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that their ride-sharing model is the exact opposite of how Uber and Uber-like companies do things.  There are no background checks, no requirements to drive certain year car or model.  There are no fees, and no centralized controls on pricing and methods of payment.  Literally, the users are in full control of all aspects of ride sharing.

Users willing to offer rides using Cell 411 even have full control on the pricing formula.  Drivers can edit their own pickup cost, per-minute and per-mile costs before providing a final cost to riders, thus employing a bid-like system where drivers compete for rides from various users, giving users options and encouraging competition.

With about 64,000 world-wide users on their platform, Cell 411’s user base is tiny in comparison to Uber, but their revolutionary, one of a kind model can become a real threat to Uber’s dominance.  With no “how do I apply to drive for you” questions to be answered, drivers are flocking to Cell 411 trying to avoid losing 20-30% of their fares to a central authority.  Not only that, but drivers are able to accept any payment method they wish.  There are payment methods like Cash, Silver, Cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin), Credit Cards and even Bartering.  Yes, with this model you can literally offer someone a ride in exchange for a burger or a joint!

This fully decentralized ride sharing model has not been tested before because nobody else has tried it until now, but the company says that users from all over the world have reached out showing interest in participating and joining the platform.

Most users send us messages asking, ‘Where do I apply to drive with you’ showing that many people still have a hard time coping with the full freedom they have on our platform,” said Virgil Vaduva, founder of Cell 411.  “When the answer is ‘just install the app,’ it is really incredible to see how users respond when they realize that they have the freedom they don’t have with Uber,” said Vaduva.

To increase user safety and maintain accountability, the app verifies users’ mobile phone numbers via a simple process and employs a user-review process which encourages good quality service.  The app also allows users to build mutual-aid networks allowing users to use their network of friends and family members to respond in case of emergencies and if dangerous situations occur.

Drivers also have the option to purchase a hardware bluetooth panic button which will alert nearby drivers when dangerous situations occur.

Our users’ safety is obviously our top priority, but we also choose to treat all our users as responsible adults.  No, we will not give you a $500 sign-on bonus, we will not buy you car insurance, and we will not micro-manage your lives,” said Vaduva. “Many Uber drivers lose hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month to Uber.  Why not take a small portion of that money and purchase the insurance you wish?  Why not buy a panic button for $20 and alert your mutual-aid driver network if you get a flat tire or need help?  Everything we’ve done puts our users back in control; there is a reason Uber lost $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016…they are a mammoth, central authority and they do not understand that the market wants freedom, not control,” Vaduva said.

Whether or not this decentralized ride-sharing experiment will be a success is to be seen, but it appears that this model is the future of ride sharing; Uber may have to get creative in order to compete in the marketplace and survive in the long run.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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