As a hobbyist, Shi Qing Poh saw a gap in the market and so used his previously acquired experiences to set up a business to fill that gap.
What’s your story?
My background is strategy consultant, product manager and data analytics in logistics, fintech and e-commerce spaces, both in startups (Lalamove, MoolahSense) and MNCs (EY, Konica Minolta, IBM). I studied and worked in US for 9 years before moving back to Singapore to be with my family and pursue my entrepreneurship ambitions within SEA.
I started Fishyhub because I discovered that many aquarium hobbyists suffer from various pitfalls when they start, maintain and grow their aquariums, resulting in more than 50% quitting the hobby due to these challenges. I saw a business opportunity to disrupt a traditional space.
What excites you most about your industry?
As an aquarist, a beautiful aquarium with exotic fishes excites me most. But by helping many people start their own aquariums successfully and watching them grow their hobby gives me a sense of accomplishment as I see myself helping more people get close to nature.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
As we are in an overlooked space where most industry players are lagging in terms of technology and customer experience, what drives me most is that every effort that I put into the business challenges the frontiers of this space. One example is when a customer exclaimed in surprise that she did not expect someone from Fishyhub to reach out to her so proactively after visiting our website. What we are doing in Fishyhub is unheard of in this industry.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
As a product manager, it is very useful to empathize with my users to prioritize and build features that make the right impact, especially within a shoestring budget. As such, we are able to roll out features in an agile framework, measure performance, and iterate to improve. This is very important for a startup to adapt quickly to consumer needs and prove product-market fit.
Another useful skill I have learned from my startup experiences is operations management. I am able to run a marketplace logistics efficiently with these skills.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have read many startup books including Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Made to Stick by Chip Heath, The Innovator’s Solution and Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen just to name a few. But the advice that made most impact on me was from one of my angel investors, who told me to pursue a “default win” solution. This approach meant a self-sustaining startup that requires no funding which is something that many startups are not able to achieve. Based on this advice, we have been exploring ways to become profitable and play the long game.
Who inspires you?
I used to have many role models but after stalking profiles and reading deeper into their experiences, I realized that most successes are achieved through sheer grit and most have sacrificed in order to get what they achieved. It makes sense they got what they deserved. Furthermore, what we read online and in books might not be truly reflective of the person they are and the values they represent. Instead of being inspired by one person, I learn from collective experiences of exceptional people that I read about – Justin Kan, Sam Bankman Fried, Elon Musk, Bill Gates.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
In the aquarium industry, customer engagement is seriously lacking. There is no loyalty to any single brand and customer lifetime value is severely limited. Industry players do not collect user data or proactively engage with customers. They believe that if the fishes are not well taken care of and died, customers will return to buy more. However, I have learned that more than 50% quit the hobby altogether and it is not good for business if hobbyists are dropping out.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would start out with a hybrid D2C model instead of a pure marketplace model because in a niche aquarium space, the market size in Singapore is quite limited and it might be harder to reach scalable levels required by a sustainable marketplace with low margins. It is also good to consider regionalization much earlier due to the small market.
Any startup is constantly exploring, experimenting and adapting to find product-market fit so any extra time given is more time to learn.
How do you unwind?
Currently I am still exploring new ways to unwind because my previous way of unwinding is to stare at my aquariums. However, at this point, when I look at my aquarium, I start to think about my business.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
One major mindset change is how I think about securing funding from investors and VCs. Getting funded is not all glamorous as portrayed by the media because there are high expectations to meet and pressures to overcome. It is more meaningful to spend time and effort on making the business profitable and sustainable within a tight budget. Also there is lower dilution and fewer stakeholders to manage.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I am currently reading and recommending this book call “The Product Book – How To Become A Great Product Manager” by Carlos Gonzalez and Josh Anon. While this book is focused on people who want to become product managers, I believe every business owner has to play a critical role in managing his or her own products. The book advises on how to understand different customer personas and their needs before developing a product that can serve this need. Many small and new businesses might find it useful to derive product-market fit.
Shameless plug for your business:
Fishyhub is the best place to discover and shop for the largest variety of fishes, plants and aquarium accessories sourced from 200+ farms, suppliers and merchants across SEA. We can help you build your dream aquarium based on your needs, whether it is for your kids, for home decor, stress relief, fengshui or an additional quiet companion.
How can people connect with you?
Social Media Links?
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.