A wooden bowtie for wedding grooms. A skinny wallet to fit memories. A ceramic bowl fashioned to mirror the flow of cloth. These are the few homegrown projects Singaporean startup Haystakt proudly gather on their plate. If you have yet to hear about this Startup Arena team, Haystakt is an alternative marketplace where makers are able to commercialise their creative products at crowd-determined prices.
It follows a structure similar to Kickstarter, but the twist comes when the crowd is given the ability to determine the final price of a product. Simply put, if more people are interested in the product, the price keeps dropping. “The earlier you order, the more you save: For every 10 people who buy after you, you end up paying $xx less,” states the scale on their website. The reason for this is because the higher demand will help spread the overhead cost of the products and allow the makers more leeway, thus generating a domino reaction towards the prices. This regulates the quantity of products on the artist’s side and keeps the customers happy, making Haystakt’s job as a platform highly expandable to other genres of sales.
We had the opportunity to chat over coffee with local founder Joel Leong the weekend after Startup Asia Singapore 2014, and found out that the unique moniker was a direct reference to a small business’ journey towards success — almost like finding a needle in the haystack. The entire concept of Haystakt started back in 2012 as an intention to help their friends with their creative ventures, but slowly turned out to be a region hit. “We started out as an online marketplace as Singapore has a very small domestic market, but then we wanted to find the next move for us,” said Joel, “So we worked with the makers and found out that the problem was always the quantity and price; and that this problem was amplified because of Singapore’s “kiasu”, or price sensitive, nature. Crowd-pricing was a very nice marriage that solved both problems.”
With its launch barely a month ago, Haystakt has already seen five fully funded cases out of the initial nine. The five projects, which include the Skinny Wallet and Ceramic Bamboo Tea Cups, proved to be extremely successfully with the crowd. “I would say that it is our Unique Selling Point (USP), that we make successful projects extremely successful,” said Joel after a beat. Their currently working model is based on 70% social media referrals after a real case study where a friend could only get 50 orders after 20 days by himself, versus the platform bringing in another 50 orders the next three days. Shops listed on the website are curated for quality standards, and Joel would personally get involved with the makers to help out with their business models. Haystakt is completely free for both makers and buyers to register and use, with only a 5% commission collected from product sales.
The current team consists of Joel and his childhood friend Kelvin, who was involved in his own startup development previously. Jumping over from the property sector, the duo has big plans for Haystakt. The immediate group of makers are from Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, but Haystakt will be expanding to the Southeast Asia (SEA) region. Asia is still a place where retail follows a more traditional pace, as in allowing the invisible corporate giants to decide the final price, but crowd-pricing is here to disrupt the mindset and pass the baton over to the customers. “Haystakt provides more than creative commodities for sale; we are selling the stories behind the products. You are not buying a thing, but a journey,” said Joel.
Of course, being surrounded by homegrown pieces all day would no doubt lead Joel to think about his own creative journey. He shared that Haystakt would be interested in either publishing a journal on the makers of SEA, or his personal favourite, designing a flat pack doghouse for furry companionship on the go. We definitely will be keeping an eye out for it.
His final advice for his peers was simple: “I believe that working lazily works when you do what you love. There are so many ups and downs, but you just got to find out what you want and strive to get the best out of it.” Haystakt’s website is currently opened to the SEA region, so Cambodian makers who are interested, do check them out here! You can also watch their Startup Arena presence here: