For startups that are hoping to build products for everybody, here’s a case study that proves the power of focusing on niche, under-served markets. In Ho Chi Minh city, there are only about 10,000 Japanese expats living here full-time. Across the country, there’s probably no more than 20,000. For the past two years, the Japanese population has seen a spike with Japanese offshoring companies, factories, and tourists taking a bigger interest in Vietnam. Out of this influx, has come PosteVn, a Craigslist-esque site for Japanese expats living and coming to Vietnam. The site went online in Vietnam in February 2012, and was immediately profitable via its online ads. Taka, the founder and CEO of PosteVn, told me the story:
I used to work in the biggest Japanese magazine in Los Angeles, so when I moved to Vietnam, I knew that there was this real need for Japanese people living abroad. But the market here is saturated with paper magazines. That’s difficult for advertisers who want to do advertising and also paper is one-way interactions. For people living here, they want two-way, they want to communicate.That’s exactly why PosteVN could experience immediate success in Vietnam. An under-served Japanese community needed to connect. For example, many Japanese businessmen only come to live in Vietnam for three years at a time and they have to get rid of their furniture and they don’t know who to sell or give it to, PosteVN addresses unique problems like these.
Before we even had a website, I just had a small PowerPoint and an idea in my head, and I came to the CEO of Japan Airlines in Vietnam, and I pitched PosteVN. He immediately understood and saw the potential, and gave me two tickets to fly to Japan for our raffle.PosteVN is a lesson in identifying a problem and solving it. Today, PosteVN has 9,000 users and 50,000 pageviews per month. And it focuses on three main things for the Japanese community: a directory of stores and restaurants, original articles from the PosteVN team like interviews and Japanese recipes made with local ingredients, and a Craigslist clone whose most used features include, motorbikes, furniture, jobs, and community. In July this year, PosteVN is expanding into Malaysia, and also opening up a new e-commerce website where Vietnamese and Japanese customers can buy exclusive luxury Japanese products. So we’re going to see yet another interesting e-commerce player here in Vietnam’s market from Japan. Taka says that for Vietnam it’s just the right time:
Starting something like PosteVN in Japan is difficult because of cost, and starting it in countries like Thailand is difficult because of incumbent companies already in this space. Engineers are also cheap and good here. So Vietnam is really ripe.With Taka’s recent success, he’s able to leverage his success and spin off into other tech prospects. The success of PosteVN is a lesson in identifying very specific problems and solving them. And consequently, making money.
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