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The Dot.Com Commando

Former commando Joel Leong co-founded the successful online enterprise ShopBack and fulfilled a long-held ambition to become a dot.com entrepreneur.

By Alywin Chew      7 September 2018

Tough Beginnings

Joel still recalls how tough the early days were. While he describes the project as having taken off “immensely well”, moving forward with a lean team meant that everyone had to manage multiple responsibilities. Joel, who had to double up as a customer service representative, often found himself replying customer queries until 5am. But the sacrifices have paid off – ShopBack’s growth since its inception has been phenomenal. In its first year, the start-up raised in excess of $500,000 in seed funding. Last November, the company concluded a funding round worth around $34 million. The cashback platform, which is available in seven countries, now has over six million monthly users and partnerships with over 1,500 merchants.

This year, the company even made its maiden acquisition, buying the business behind the personal finance app Seedly. The success of ShopBack has inevitably led Joel back to the setting that he once tried to avoid. Today, the e-commerce platform has a staff strength of more than 150 people, and as with any entity this size, protocols and systems need to be in place. He notes that he has had to learn how to step on the brakes and embrace the new dynamics. “Working with structure or within frameworks is not my strongest forte, but it’s essential in bigger companies. You cannot just chiong [charge] without a plan in mind when you’re operating in a bigger set-up!” he says.


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