Launching a Digital Development Startup in Singapore with Taisuke Yamamoto, Co-Founder of Geezerbuild

Taisuke, please introduce yourself…

My name is Taisuke Yamamoto; I’m Japanese but was born and raised in the UK, and have also lived in Hong Kong, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, and currently Singapore.

I’m an entrepreneur now, but my professional background is actually music & events. I have been running an independent record label for the past 5 years, and I also worked for a little less than a year in the T.V journalism industry, followed by working at a social media start-up in Singapore called Media Pop.

What’s the story behind creating Geezer Build?

Geezerbuild is a play on the words ‘Geezer’ the British-slang for bloke (our Co-founder is in the UK), and ‘Giza’, as in the pyramids.

When people talk about the pyramids, they always mention all sorts of mystery and conspiracy theories; but we felt that at the end of the day, it was built on hard, hard work.

So it’s the mentality to our digital products that we’re trying to create: they need to look great, create awe, but behind it all it’s just a lot of people working hard to build it brick by brick.

As your in the early stages of the company, what are you focusing on right now?

Our main focus right now is differentiating our-selves from the pack – let’s face it, there’s a new ‘tech’ company popping up every week. And they all do the same thing, so unless we do something different, we can’t grow in the long term.

So the main questions we ask are “What are we doing different?” “Do we have a service / product that really gives value to our customers?”

I think that even at the earliest stage of a company, the actions we take should align with our long-term goals, so we’re trying to stay on that path, rather than taking any/every work just to survive.

What challenges did you face when launching, and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge is prioritizing exactly which projects to spend most of our time on. Since we are a small team, each minute counts, and every task seems urgent and important. It ends up being an endless multi-tasking activity across projects and clients, which is no good.

The way we’ve overcome that at the moment is to get ourselves really really organized with online sites like Basecamp, Trello, Google Drive, Evernote etc, and build work processes that can be followed.

Also a lot of Skype calls to keep everybody on the same page has been important (half of our team is based in the UK). For team-building, the challenge was understanding which team member would be best suited for which tasks (at the start we were all wearing ALL hats, and doing everything pretty much).

When the company is small, it’s hard to just pass to someone else a task to that is the equivalent of a department at big companies (like: marketing & PR’) and let it go yourself.

But once we realized that each person has competencies at different work tasks, it built trust and also sped up our process.

Why Singapore?

Singapore is very tech-savy, so there isn’t much need to ‘teach’ clients about some of our services. Potential clients don’t ask ‘What is social media marketing?’ (In Japan I get this all the time btw).

It’s a great place for a tech start-up; people are multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and highly educated. I’ve seen co-working spaces springing up all over the place, which gives new entrepreneurs plenty of chances to get their business going.

There are great tax benefits also, and government grants (such as the PIC scheme) allow for SME’s to grow quickly. I’ve done business in Hong Kong and Japan, but in terms of doing business in English, Singapore is definitely the easiest place to adapt to, work in, and grow a company in.

If you’re new to Singapore, there isn’t really a culture shock or large learning curve here… you can just hit the pavement and get going. Another thing I’ve noticed in Singapore that is different to other regions is the amount of female entrepreneurs; compared to other Asian countries there seems to be more, and they’re all very entrepreneurial.

How do you see the startup and investment ecosystem developing in Singapore?

I bump into angel investors, seed funding companies, and VC’s looking to get into the start-up ALL the time – at bars, events, and cafes.

It’s really a vibrant place for the startup culture, and I think it has to do a lot with the support that the government is putting into funding SME’s. I know that in Japan there is a much lower chance of finding seed funding, and that’s one of the reasons that I prefer to set our base here.

On sites like TechInAsia there’s always news of Singapore start-ups getting millions in funding, and I know quite a few of these people myself. So it’s a good realization, that the money is definitely there if your idea and business is good enough.

Singapore as a whole views entrepreneurs as an important part of their economy, and I think that gives anyone trying to start a business here a lot of encouragement to give it a shot.

What advice can you share with entrepreneurs wanting to start or expand their business into Singapore?

I would definitely visit first, and talk to experienced entrepreneurs to get a realistic and clear view of your opportunity. Singapore is quite small, so knowing just a few of the right people can really help you avoid 9 out of the 10 mistakes you’re going to make; like office rental costs, legal requirements, etc.

It’s a competitive market; customers in all industries have so many alternatives to choose from, whether its cheaper clothes, better equipment, faster services… so make sure your business can really adapt and move quickly into the market.

I overheard for F&B (correct me if I’m wrong) that within a year something like 500 outlets opened, and 450 of them closed… or some kind of crazy number like that. So things move fast here, just like in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

What’s next for Geezer Build?

We are currently developing mobile apps for the Japanese market, and our next offering will be our ASO services (app store optimization) for mobile developers who’ve built their apps, but unsure of how to market them (its like SEO for the app store) which we feel is an exciting new environment.

We’re also looking to find more opportunities around South East Asia to expand our business.

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