Photo: Tom Clayton
Instead of fighting for talent in Silicon Valley, one entrepreneur decided move to Singapore and set up his social network there.Bubble Motion is bringing social media to developing countries by allowing customers to send messages on their phones.
The messaging service called Bubbly is a voice version of Twitter. It has gotten good traction in developing countries by getting celebrities onboard — for instance, it already has Indian stars sending out voice messages out to their fans through the service.
Unlike Twitter, the voice messaging service has a built-in the revenue model. People pay to receive voice messages, so Bubble Motion collects 40 to 70 per cent of the revenue, depending on the country and the mobile operators collect the rest.
We caught up with CEO Tom Clayton recently, who explained more about why the company moved across the Pacific.
Business Insider: Why did you decide to move your company from the US to Singapore?
Tom Clayton: We had development split between the Valley and Singapore about 50 and 50. Moreover, we had all of our management in the Valley and everything else such as technical support, operations, marketing were based in Singapore.
This made it very difficult to manage a company of our size, which as 50 people at the time. All of the decisions were in one place and most of the doers were on the other side of the world. That’s not a great dynamic for an early stage startup culture, let alone the most efficient way to run an organisation this size.
BI: What changed?
TC: When the financial meltdown hit in 2008, we felt it made sense to consolidate everything to one location – both from an economical perspective as well as a culture and efficiency perspective. After carefully considering whether that meant moving everything to the Valley or Singapore, we decided to go with Singapore, as all of our users were in Asia and it was a much lower cost base.
Moreover, the Singapore government gave us a $1 million engineering subsidy grant as an incentive to choose Singapore.
This was the icing on the cake. We haven’t looked back since then.
BI: Why did you pick Singapore?
TC: Singapore is a great location. It is right in the middle of Asia and we can take day trips or red-eyes to all of our core markets.
And Singapore is literally right between India, Indonesia and China, which are three of the world’s largest mobile markets! We’re right in the thick of things. And with most Asian countries growing at break neck pace, this really is the place to be.
A lot of people might think talent is the issue, which would be true if one were only hiring in Singapore. Singapore is a small population, so it is inherently limited on who you can find here. However, the world is our recruiting ground – not Singapore.
With Singapore’s company-friendly immigration policy, phenomenally low taxes and great lifestyle, it is quite easy to attract top talent from all over the world. We now have employees from over 18 countries! We hire engineers from China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand – and even the Valley! Nearly all of our management team is from the Valley. Thus, we haven’t missed a beat when it comes to finding top notch talent. 2.
BI: What’s hiring in the valley like?
TC: Since we’re not currently in the thick of things there, I don’t have current first hand experience. However, I’ve heard from a lot of friends that its quite tough and very competitive right now.
Moreover, when I’m back every month, one can only notice the plethora of companies advertising their hiring needs and websites on the billboards up and down the 101. It feels a little like ’99-’00 all over again. We have hired a dozen or so folks from the Valley over the past year.
Getting them to move to Singapore hasn’t been an issue. We find them all through LinkedIn. Since we’re pretty upfront that the roles are based in Singapore, candidates know this and thus, it is somewhat self selecting on those that we interview. Typically, candidates are drawn to Asia because of the economic growth or a desire international experience. Then when they find out more about Singapore, our company and the culture, it is a no brainer for them to come out.
BI: What’s the future in the war for talent?
TC: Not sure. We have a great niche that we’re exploiting – being a Valley-minded startup up based out of Singapore.
We have traditional VC heavyweights like Sequoia Capital backing us, mixed with the largest venture capital investor and mobile company in Asia called SingTel. It’s a great mix. Moreover, we are run by a great team of seasoned Valley veterans – something that really attracts talent from all over Asia.
Everyone wants exposure to this kind of culture and management style, but not everyone can easily move to the Valley. Therefore, we’ve been pretty sheltered from the talent wars thus far and think we will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
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