• Jodi Tan

Startup Visit - CARRO

Stay curious, stay hungry”, was the advice that Aaron Tan would have given to his 12-year-old self. Driven by hunger and the desire to win, Aaron embarked on his entrepreneurship journey when he was just 13 years old, a time when grades and CCAs were the top priorities of his peers.

Carro, a start-up founded by Aaron back in 2015, became a unicorn this year after a USD360 million funding. From a young age, Aaron has always been inquisitive: from building engines to servers, Carro’s CEO never allowed his motivations to diminish as he consistently pushed himself to stay ahead of the game.

At the start of December, the NES had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron where he shared key insights on entrepreneurship, business, and Carro’s story. Read on for some of our key takeaways!

On running Carro - Challenges and Hardships:

  • Carro in its early days

To start, Aaron believes in the well-known saying that “people are our greatest asset”, where talents are finite and conglomerates are always competing for them. It is more so for start-ups where founders can’t offer high salaries or equities in exchange for blood, sweat, and tears.

As such, onboarding talents who desired more than just big paychecks was one of Carro’s biggest challenges in its early days. It was certainly an uphill task to convince knowledgeable and talented individuals to take the risk of joining a start-up when there are better-paying jobs somewhere else.

  • How Carro dealt with Covid

In the April of 2020 not long after news of the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the leadership of Carro was well aware that unpredictable events like this were inevitable and decisively pivoted from previous plans.

The leaders of Carro responded by providing contactless services in one instance to reduce face-to-face transactions. By leveraging on the global shortage of new car supplies, the leaders of Carro envisioned the rise in demand for used cars, which indeed propelled their growth. In fact, the Financial Times named Carro as one of the fastest-growing companies in APAC during the pandemic.

To Aaron, Covid was a good tailwind: it helped to reimagine how people will look at the second-hand cars market and online platforms, turning challenges into opportunities for growth in the process.

Growth and Carro’s Future:

Undoubtedly, Aaron responded with ease that CARRO’s ultimate goal would be to get listed within the next 12 - 18 months. To prepare for the long journey ahead, CARRO is currently strategizing on ways to expand, improve customer experience and build trust with customers.

Aaron’s personal mantra is to go both deep and broad, venturing out of Singapore while offering more services in the process in the near future. Offering services has enabled CARRO to maintain its competitive edge. Other than selling cars, they extend customers’ life cycles by offering ancillary services as well.

Aaron’s take on entrepreneurship - hard and soft skills of an entrepreneur:

Emotional intelligence came up top for Aaron. In a position of leadership and management, Aaron believes that good leaders are coherent in leading their team through a storm. Good leaders are adept at speaking to investors and being able to fundraise.

“Good entrepreneurs are great storytellers,” he said. To tell a convincing story allows the entrepreneur to paint the companies’ vision and inspire others with that. A good leader must also lead by example and avoid blaming others when problems occur.

Aaron’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:

As someone who began pursuing his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur at a young age, it may come as an irony for him to advise fresh graduates to work in a corporate setting first after college. Aaron strongly believes that 2 - 3 years of corporate experience before starting a business allows time and room for greater growth.

He explained that back in the days when he was working as a venture capitalist, his job appointment gave him the opportunity to witness and learn from numerous founders who were pitching their start-up ideas. This in turn helped him tremendously during his own start-up journey when it was his turn to pitch Carro to a group of investors.

Regardless, if you’re still adamant about starting a company fresh off the boat, then Aaron suggests that the next best way is to co-found your company with someone who was more experienced within that industry, which hopefully mitigates your relative lack of experience and knowledge.

Alternatively, college graduates can augment their full-time job experience with internships before their entrepreneurship journey. This was with reference to Aaron’s good friend Jeffrey Tiong, the CEO of Patsnap, who got the idea for his company after an internship experience at the NUS Overseas College exchange program in the US.

NES is very grateful to Aaron for taking his time out of his busy schedule for this interview. We congratulate CARRO for achieving its status as a unicorn this year and wish Aaron and his team the very best for the future.

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