Earlier in March, I mentioned that an Asian version of StartupSchwag.com will surface by April this year. AsiaVentureSchwag.com has finally launched this month (four months later than expected), and co-founder Ng Cheng Wei unveils the e-commerce subscription service focusing on startup merchandise.
The concept is basically simple. Like StartupSchwag.com, visitors who subscribe to their service gets a schwag-bag monthly, each containing a random T-shirt with the logo of a startup emblazoned on it, as well as other schwag – promotional freebies such as stickers.
Cheng Wei says they will start to market their service from the middle of the month, mainly through Facebook and online media. They are finalizing subscriptions for Issue 1 in the beginning of September, so members who subscribe now can expect to get their schwag in the mail sometime in the middle of next month. The first T-shirt will feature CrunchPad, a mobile device developed by Singapore startup Fusion Garage and funded by TechCrunch‘s Michael Arrington himself.
“The subscription model allows us to keep a very low working capital in this business, regardless of volume,” Cheng Wei says of the self-funded startup’s revenue model. “We’re aiming to hit 500-600 subscribers by the end of the year so there’ll be some tremendous costs savings which will be passed on (subscribers) in the form of more and better schwag.” After the initial launch, they’ll looking at supporting the subscription service with an ala carte e-commerce shop, and organizing a pageant to “model” their products.
AsiaVentureSchwag.com has been mainly reaching Asian startups through personal contacts and by emailing them. “The good thing with startups is that they’re really friendly and personal, so nobody who has received an AsiaVentureSchwag.com greeting email in their mailbox has rejected us,” Cheng Wei sighs in relief. AsiaVentureSchwag.com has more than ten logos lined up currently, and are on a lookout for more.
Building a Community of Startups
Cheng Wei shares that he spent most of his life wanting to be a journalist, until fellow co-founder Jeffrey Paine – who initially came up with the idea for AsiaVentureSchwag.com – introduced him to the world of startups and entrepreneurship. (I’ve previously asked Jeffrey about how entrepreneurs can seek funding.)
“He’s my mentor and a venture capitalist. I’ve been learning about the startup industry under him,” says Cheng Wei, currently a freshman at Singapore Management University (SMU). “He’s currently based in Dubai, so he’s left most of AsiaVentureSchwag.com in my hands for the past months.”
In the long term, Cheng Wei says they intend to start other peripheral services and a community-based platform for Asian startups. “We really love startups! We have plans for a bigger community within Singapore and Asia – we’ve seen how vibrant the startup industry is in the States, and we’re out to bring this same vibrancy into our home ground. There’s really a dearth of this in our region, and we’re out to fix that problem.” (I can’t agree more, as I pointed out in a previous blog post.)
Cheng Wei points out that if people are willing to shift their focus from the online coverage that seems centered on the United States, to what’s happening in Asia, they will realize that there are startups waiting to be discovered here. “There’s much to be proud of,” he says. That’s where the schwag comes in – it helps to drive awareness of and publicity for new startups in this region.
Views on Entrepreneurship
Cheng Wei says working on AsiaVentureSchwag.com feels more like a hobby and less like a business. “It’s fun interacting with the founders and finding out more about their businesses.”
“Entrepreneurship elevates a career to being more than a job,” he says. “It’s hard to describe, but I think it’s only when you have a vested interest in a startup that you are able to find this spark in you that pulls you into the business.”
“I find that most startup founders say goodbye to monday blues, because they’re loving every minute of (their work).”