We had an interesting chat with Ms. “Cynthia Siantar”, Co-Founder at the Singapore based start-up “CallLevels”
Below is the interview we conducted with her:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Call Levels Pte. Ltd. is a tech finance startup based in Singapore. We focus on building a mobile app, Call Levels, which is a simple market alert tool that allows users to track and set alerts for forex, commodities, stocks* and indices* of their choosing. It will also provide snapshots for quick market analysis based on the customized alerts tracked by users.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
It was founded in September 2014 and we have raised USD100K in seed funding from angel investors. Once the Android and new iOS version (with additional asset classes) are released in the next 2 – 3 weeks, we will prepare for a bigger launch in global key financial markets such as New York and London.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
Call Levels is created for the consumers and we want to make it so easy that non-finance people can also use it to monitor their assets (even if its just 1 stock or 1 commodity). Our focus is to growth our consumer user base as fast as possible, create a strong and sticky network of users and we will reveal our business model later.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
The co-founders, Daniel and Cynthia, were both ex-finance professionals who met through mutual friends when they were working in Hong Kong years ago. Daniel focuses on data / research (leveraging on his expertise on creating trading models in his previous role as a hedge fund portfolio manager) while Cynthia focuses on operations, marketing, PR and recruiting.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
It is the world’s simplest financial markets price alert tool, a number of our users are above the age of 50 and they love it as they find it so simple and intuitive and useful! Simplicity is very rare in the world of finance, but Call Levels nails it very well. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional investor or just a typical man on the street, if you are interested in finance (albeit just invested in 1 type of asset) you will be interested in reliable, real-time price alerts.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
Since its launch in Singapore in Nov 2014, we have been growing our downloads at a healthy rate of 16%. We have been featured 3 times in the local’s top newspaper, The Straits Times. All our press coverage can be located here: http://www.call-levels.com/press
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Other finance apps such as Bloomberg, Stock Tracker etc. Our competitive advantage is our simplicity and that’s the beauty of the app. At the very least, when users use our app, one question they will never ask is “where do I click?”
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Being based in Singapore, which is a small country with a mere 5 million population is a difficulty on its own as the scalability for such a market is limited. We are talking to US-based and UK-based partners and we hope to leverage on their contacts to introduce this app to interested parties in those countries.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Most people don’t understand finance and they get scared by the numbers / words they see on other financial portals or apps. A lot of people take what they see on the headlines at face value without cultivating the ability to analyse the information and make sense of it.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Globally, we have at least 328 million people owning at least 1 stock. However, the most downloaded finance app ever has only been downloaded a grand total of 18.6 million. Why is there such a disparity? That’s because complexity kills and simplicity is the way forward.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
After a Call Level is hit, user will want to find get all the information they need about the asset to determine whether its indeed a good time to buy / sell and this will be in the form of customised market snapshots. Finally, we will improve the social features of this app to enable interested parties to use Call Levels as a reliable portal to discuss investing ideas with peers. Best yet, when the price hits, everyone in the loop gets informed!
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
We realised that anyone interested in the markets (from professionals to the man on the street) all need the same thing – A reliable price alert tool. We felt that other finance apps are too difficult to use and hard to understand and these apps typically assume the user has some financial background with little or no emphasis on user experience. We wanted to create a simple app which buries technical complexity under an elegant and intuitive user interface.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Users who are active investors have been waiting for an app like this. Even though they have access to more sophisticated trading platforms, they will still use call levels as it literally takes 3 secs to create a call level. Users are waiting for more asset classes, particularly Oil and Equities.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
The ability to hire the right talents (particularly tech) to support our vision and to ensure that we are always ahead of other competitors through building our social feature and market snapshots.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
The moment the user sets a call level on the app, they don’t have to worry about it as Call Levels does the work of monitoring the markets for them and inform when the price is hit. In addition, Call Levels remind users on a weekly basis on their active call levels so that users can be more disciplined in checking their assets – you will be surprised how many people forget their own investments!
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Most of our users discover us through the newspaper articles that we have been featured in. Remaining users discover us through social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) or through friends’ referrals.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our current customers are people who trade forex and precious metals as they are the group which find immediate value in the app. As we expand the asset classes offering in the app, we will be able to expand our target customers to include equity investors, oil investors, generally retail investors. An interesting group that we appeal to are users above the age of 50. This is the group who is relatively new to smartphone and they need something easy to get started.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We see a surge of new customers whenever we get featured on relevant publication (i.e. finance / money section). New users try us out because our app is very useful and relevant to them, they need it and its free!
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
We receive very positive reviews about this app and generally users like it because it is useful, reliable and super easy! More than 70% of them are waiting for additional asset classes. More than 50% of them are happy to share about this app with their friends.
20. How are you going to scale?
All users start with a limited number of 3 call levels. If they want to create more, they have to share with their friends on social media. The more they share, the more call levels they get.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Additional asset classes, especially equities which will appeal to most retail investors. We will start with US equities followed by localisation into different markets such as Hong Kong, UK, Singapore etc.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Yes we are definitely going to internationalise this app and that’s why we chose to add globally traded assets (forex and precious metals) at the start. We also have plans to shift our operations to the US.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We believe that Call Levels can be the no.1 downloaded finance app in both iOS and Android. We plan to achieve this by the network effect which will encourage users to invite other users to use Call Levels together with them.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Yes, we are looking to hire tech talents: Ruby on Rails Expert, Front End Developer (iOS and Android) and Project Manager. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply by sending their CV to firstname.lastname@example.org
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Yes we are open to partnership opportunities particularly when we embark on the plan to localise Call Levels into different markets. We are also looking to raise more funds for global expansion. Potential partners / investors can contact us at email@example.com
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Focus on creating one thing really well and build new features from there. Learn to ignore background noises and always stay true to your path. What people do is more important than what they say.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I would like to thank the readers for taking the time to know more about Call Levels. Please check out www.call-levels.com for more information!