Quek Siu Rui is the CEO and co-founder of Carousell, a virtual online marketplace that is recognised as the pioneer of mobile classifieds in Singapore. It is available both on Android and Apple. In 2018, Carousell was valued at a whopping $500 million. The idea for Carousell stemmed from Siu Rui’s frustration when he tried selling his old Macbook. Before the advent of his company, he had to go through traditional forums and classified ads which he found troublesome. He saw an opportunity for a streamline solution. Siu Rui’s idea coinciding with the rise of the smartphone trend would bring about one of the greatest Singaporean startup success stories.
Siu Rui graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Administration and Entrepreneurship as a Reserve Valedictorian. He excelled as a student, having been listed twice on the Dean’s List and received the NUS Global Merit Scholarship and the NUS Overseas College (Silicon Valley) Scholarship. He participated in the NUS Overseas College Program through which he spent a year at Stanford University. The university’s close proximity to Silicon Valley allowed him to work full-time as an intern for VSee, a tech start-up where he gained valuable first-hand experience of a culture that is always looking for new solutions to existing problems.
Carousell in its earliest form was “Snapsell”. Siu Rui, together with his friends Marcus Tan and Lucas Ngoo created a virtual flea market where users can easily buy and sell second-hand items. The three pitched the idea during Singapore Startup Weekend in March 2012. Siu Rui recalls how Snapsell nearly did not make the cut and it was only through other teams dropping out that they were able to make it to the final round of pitching. The team would spend 54-hours of difficult coding to eventually win the top prize at Startup Weekend. This gave them the breakthrough to have their own office space at Blk 71, a startup ecosystem. They also had a chance to pitch at Angel’s Gate where they could gather investors and funding.
In May 2012, Siu Rui dropped out of his honours year to work full-time on Carousell. Siu Rui remarked having to face his parents’ disappointment over his decision to drop out of his honours year while batting away fears of larger companies crushing their start-up. As of 2019, the Carousell CEO reportedly drives a second-hand car that he bought on Carousell.
Snapsell eventually morphed into Carousell which was launched on 13 August 2012. The first 18 months of Carousell was a difficult period for the founders as they worked without salaries and had to convince their parents for support. After this period, Carousell would experience very rapid growth. In 2014, the 26-year-old Siu Rui was offered US$100 million to sell Carousell but turned down the offer. It evidently paid off as the company today is worth around 5 times more than that. By 2016, Carousell had over 8 million items transacted on the platform, and users’ listings amounted to 26 million. Since 2015, Carousell has been hosting Carouselland, the largest indoor bazaar in Singapore. It features curated vendors that sell a wide variety of things including handcrafted goods, jewelry and many more.
One key factor in Carousell’s growth and expansion has been its business acquisitions. In 2016, Carousell acquired Caarly, 6 developers from Watch Over Me and Duriana. In line with Siu Rui’s vision in to cement their leadership in the classifieds sector in Southeast Asia in the next 2 to 3 years, Carousell acquired OLX Philippines in April 2019. As of 2019, Carousell operates within Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and the Philippines.
Siu Rui recognizes the importance of adapting to the constantly changing technological landscape. They adopt artificial intelligence—more specifically, AI-powered listings. In June 2018, Carousell launched Caroupay, a payment system that allows users to complete transactions without having to leave the app. Carousell also partners with leading financial institutions. With Carousell Pro, it has also provided a subscription-based service for property.
Siu Rui is a great example of how determination, passion and hard work can trump almost seemingly insurmountable challenges. Going from having to rely on his parents’ support for his startup to being the founder of one of the most popular apps in Southeast Asia, Siu Rui’s story is one of the shining beacons of the entrepreneurial world. His inspirations include Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, and he is certainly following in their footsteps.