TheSmartLocal: Doing as the Locals Do (Part 1)
Every month, Singaporean travel and lifestyle portal TheSmartLocal receives over 500,000 unique visitors for trusted reviews by locals themselves. In Part 1 of our interview, founder Bryan Choo tells us how his start-up harnesses the power of online sharing communities to help one another make more informed decisions about their lives.
From a local perspective
As an avid traveller himself wanting to get the most out of his holiday experience, Bryan would always make it a point to do prior research on travel sites such as TripAdvisor. He discovered a lot of travel review content contributed by tourists and catered to them, but those that were tailored for locals were actually few and far between.
That was when he came up with the big idea to create a one-stop hyperlocal portal of things to do in and out of Singapore. Citing the example of where to find the best chilli crab in Singapore, he believes that locals would naturally be able to provide the most reliable opinions, having been residing in this country their whole lives. Eventually, such a product can be used by tourists who now seek the authentic local experience.
Rising to the occasion
Bryan’s educational background in IT and business development as well as practical experience in monetising an e-commerce gaming site gave him a well-rounded edge. His web development and SEO knowledge coupled with the minimal cost of an online business enabled him to get TheSmartLocal up and running all by himself. But being a one-man show also meant that it was physically taxing. For one thing, he has not been able to find a tech person to help lighten his load.
Being an entrepreneur meant that Bryan had to “wear many different hats”. It was challenging having to manage a team while juggling multiple roles such as editor and videographer. But he sees it as an opportunity for picking up and improving new skills, such as keeping team members productive and motivated.
On that, he believes in having an “entrepreneurial mindset” to create a positive work environment.
Remaining competitive through innovation
Bryan’s huge break came when he received funding from the government. He enthuses that such generous support not only recognised effort, it also boosted his confidence to open up a physical office and employ staff. Bryan believes that more awareness could be increased of such innovation grants which entrepreneurs should take advantage of to stay competitive globally.
He also understands that Canon is doing its part to support these entrepreneurs, by educating and assisting them in their application for the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme, through regular sessions with invited industry speakers.
Standing out from the crowd
TheSmartLocal’s main differentiator is that all its reviews are written by locals, from an “informed and accurate local perspective of a country” that ensures people truly benefit from quality information that was probably never before possible. Quality is taken seriously on TheSmartLocal. They have even put in place a stringent moderation policy to weed out fake reviews efficiently. Every single review is vetted before it goes live, on top of credibility indicators that assure readers of the integrity of the review.