Aaron Tan is on the way.
As a co-founder of a newly crowned unicorn and one of the Asia-Pacific fastest growing startups, the Carro CEO is now on the way to being listed on the stock exchange.
And with investors like Softbank coming on board, he has no plans to slow down.
“The question is, now that we’re down to $ 1 billion, how do we get to $ 10 billion? How do we get to $ 100 billion?” Tan told CNBC Make It.
I wouldn’t say I got my co-founders to start the company together …
Co-Founder and CEO, Carro
automobile – a play on the words “Autoheld” – is a Southeast Asian online car marketplace that was developed to simplify auto business with artificial intelligence.
Founded in 2015 by Tan and his college friends Aditya Lesmana and Kelvin Chng, it achieved the coveted $ 1 billion unicorn status in June after securing $ 360 million in funding. The deal brings the total capital to over half a billion dollars and brings Carro alongside major competitors such as Carsome from Malaysia and Germany Carmudi, in an industry that is worth it $ 50 billion, and the number is rising.
But as Tan explained, it was a journey there.
The 36-year-old’s entrepreneurial story began at the age of 13. As a teenager growing up in Singapore, the geek made extra money building and selling websites.
Later, however, while working as a venture capitalist in the United States, he saw the opportunity to combine entrepreneurship with his true passion: trading automobiles.
Aaron Tan, Co-Founder and CEO of Southeast Asian auto marketplace Carro.
“When I was a VC in the USA for many years, I remember very well, I met all kinds of automotive companies – your Beepi, your Uber, your DriveShift. What that showed me was the dynamics in the room, ”said Tan.
While the auto resale market was thriving in the US, it was not in Southeast Asia. It was known to be opaque as multiple middlemen made it difficult for buyers and sellers to get the best deals.
What we saw was the changing behavior of car ownership.
Co-Founder and CEO, Carro
Tan wanted to change that. When he returned to Singapore in 2015, he teamed up with his classmates from the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science to come up with an algorithm that would do just that.
“I wouldn’t say I got my co-founders to jointly start the company, but I think I sold the opportunity that this could be a lot more interesting than anything they did,” Tan said.
The trio was on to something. In a region with a large and growing, digitally savvy middle class, price-conscious consumers are increasingly opting for used models.
“The growing middle class combined with low car ownership rates in Southeast Asia were really the main factors stimulating new car sales and this ultimately resulted in a buoyant used car market,” Justinas Liuima, senior research consultant at Euromonitor, told CNBC Do It.
Carro car marketplace launched Singapore’s first car subscription service in 2019.
Carro took advantage of this demand and in the following years launched its online offer for private individuals and wholesalers in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. In the meantime, end-to-end financial services like lending, insurance, and aftercare have been added.
By 2019, inspired by streaming giants Netflix and Spotify, the company launched Singapore’s first car subscription service that allows users to lease a vehicle for a monthly fee, including taxes, warranty and maintenance.
“What we saw was the changing behavior of car ownership. The niche really was to find people who want that flexibility. And more importantly, they actually want to try new cars,” Tan said.
Then, in 2020, the pandemic struck. But what was a big hurdle for many start-ups turned out to be an opportunity for Tan and his team.
Concerns about hygiene and personal safety led to a new demand for private transportation. And with closed borders and a global scarcity of microchips restricting auto production, used car sales soared.
Covid has definitely contributed to accelerating our entire digitization internally and externally.
Co-Founder and CEO, Carro
“Covid has definitely helped to accelerate all of our digitization internally and externally for the general public,” said Tan.
The company’s various initiatives included a contactless “Showroom Anywhere” concept that enabled prospective buyers to view and test cars without direct human interaction. Instead, they could access the vehicle in a public parking lot by entering a contactless QR code.
From March 2021, Carro had sales of $ 300 million – 2.5 times higher than last year. The six-year-old start-up says it is now profitable.
However, this growth comes against the backdrop of increasing scrutiny of the auto industry.
Transportation makes up almost a quarter (24%) of the global CO2 emissions, of which 75% make up road vehicles. And even if governments and automakers make plans to abandon traditional internal combustion engine cars with electric vehicles, many existing gas guzzlers are simple exported to developing markets.
For his part, Carro said it played an important role in the transition to more environmentally friendly modes of transport.
Carro says it is helping the transition to greener modes of transportation by allowing buyers to test new cars such as electric vehicles.
“Our job is to enable this recycling or reuse of the vehicles in the shortest possible time. And the second part of it is that [electric vehicles are] a strong tailwind for us, because that promotes change. For a platform like us, we strive whenever the market changes, “said Tan.
Sustainability will be one of the many things on Tan’s agenda as he sets out to get his company public within the next 18 to 24 months. With regional expansion, AI developments and acquisitions, one thing is certain – it will be an eventful trip.
“Between now and then [we need to] Prepare the company, controls must be in place, people must be in place, compliance must be in place, “said Tan months from now.”
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