Today we have the huge privilege of interviewing Carousell!
Carousell is a simple and fun iPhone and Android app which empowers users to buy and sell lifestyle products, vintage goods and fashion items with one another. The founders started it to deal with the problem of having too much uncleared clutter and “hoarding” behaviour in houses. The Carousell team wanted to create a simple, intuitive and fuss-free way to declutter homes and lives and, in the process, make buying and selling from a mobile phone an irreplaceable part of everyday life.
Today, Carousell has a huge following and is extremely popular with Singaporeans! There exists a vibrant Carousell community–including a funny Carousell Tumblr page–and many young Singaporeans now do their shopping and selling regularly on Carousell. Having raised USD$6.8million thus far, the Carousell mission is to build the simplest e-commerce experience to inspire millions worldwide to start selling.
WW: Hey Carousell! Thank you for your time today!
Carousell: And thank you for taking time to chat with us!
WW: Can you tell us briefly how Carousell came about? Why “Carousell”?
Carousell: Our founders – Siu Rui, Marcus, and Lucas – spent a year in Silicon Valley, interning at tech companies and taking classes at Stanford. It was then that they fell in love with technology after witnessing just how powerful it can be, and realizing that technology had the potential to solve problems for people on a global scale.
The inspiration for Carousell came about when our founders wanted to sell their pre-loved items. The problem was that at that time, existing C2C marketplaces (forums etc.) were not that user-friendly, required a lot of steps to list items for sale, and were also not very inspiring to browse on. They realised that selling should be made a lot easier and more accessible for everyone.
With the rising popularity of smartphones, and as everyone started spending a lot of time on their smartphones, our founders set out on their mission to “make selling as easy as taking a photo”. In the words of our founders: “If you can take a photo and send a text message with your smartphone, you essentially know how to sell on Carousell.”
It’s an interesting story to how the name “Carousell” came about!!
The initial working name of the app was “Snapsell”, which was the very basis of what we’re all about. But our founders thought there had to be a better name that stood out a bit more and had more of a story and emotional appeal. At that time, they happened to be watching an episode of Mad Men, and it was one of the most defining moments in the series – when Don Draper presented the concept of the Carousel to the Kodak client.
“This is not a spaceship, it’s a time machine,” he says. “It goes backwards and forwards, and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”
“It’s not called ‘The Wheel’,” he continues. “It’s called ‘The Carousel’. It lets us travel around and around and back home again.”
That impactful scene resonated with our founders because one of the reasons for building Carousell was to give pre-loved and unused items a second chance, and the key medium of communication on Carousell were the photos. With that, it was decided that “Carousell” would be the app’s name, and since selling is a key function, an extra ‘L’ was added to Carousel to make the name our very own.
Plus, it’s fun like a merry-go-round!
WW: What are some of the fun things about working in a startup?
Carousell: We’re all pretty chilled out here, no strict dress codes… you can even come to work in your pyjamas if you wish to!
Everyone’s passionate about what Carousell does and everything we do is in line with our mission – To inspire the world to start selling. As a startup, we are forced to be relentlessly resourceful, so we often have to be creative and improvise with whatever we have to get as much as we can out of something. We all do whatever it takes to get a task done well, and everyone’s always helpful to one another, just to help make things slightly easier for a team mate.
Our office has been designed to feel like home, so we have a gaming console, a TV, and a nice big sofa to hang out at and for use as collaboration spaces. Our office is pet-friendly too! It’s been really fun having fur kids visiting and interacting with everyone!
But most importantly, it’s a family-like environment where the only thing that matters is that we’re all working towards a common mission.
WW: What are some of the challenges working in Carousell?
Carousell: We’re focused and committed to our mission to inspire the world to start selling, so we constantly challenge ourselves to keep improving the app to address valuable feedback that we get from our users.
Ensuring that we’re constantly engaging with our community and staying ahead of the the game are some of the challenges that we embrace, because without those challenges, Carousell will not grow and we will not get closers to achieving our vision of becoming the world’s eCommerce ecosystem.
WW: A couple of our good friends have shops on Carousell and they LOVE Carousell! They literally beam with excitement whenever they talk about Carousell, for instance, this lady, Yeow.
Yeow even gushed about a particular function on Carousell which auto-generated the following promotional poster for her Carousell shop! Do you have some memorable user feedback to share with us?
Carousell: We’ve actually had very inspiring stories from our community and we really like to share that with everyone!
Every 2-3 months, we have community meet-ups to ensure we continue engaging with our community and showing them our appreciation for their love and support. At these gatherings, we always ask how many people are first-time sellers, and at least half the attendees will raise their hands. This is very encouraging for us because it validates our mission and that’s how we know that Carousell has benefited people in one way or another.
We’ve also been able to help some members of the Carousell community launch their businesses, some of which have met with such amazing success that they’re able to quit school full-time to pursue their passion.
An example of one such seller is Grace, whose username is @GSEWS. She was in her second year at NUS, pursuing a degree in Architecture, when she started hand-making faux-leather pouches and tote bags. She posted a few of her creations on Carousell for sale, just for fun, only to receive more and more requests for her products. She personally shared with us that she enjoyed interacting directly with her customers and learning how to incorporate more features based on their requests, which has in turn helped to improve her skills.
After time passed, she realised that she truly loved and enjoyed working on her line of bags and pouches, and as it was bringing her consistent income every month, she decided to take a leap of faith and quit school to work on GSEWS full-time. To this day, she still enjoys what she’s doing and we’re very inspired by her story!
We were all thrilled for Grace and it spurs us on to do more for our community because we’re convinced that we can make a difference and change lives, just by staying true to our mission.
WW: What are some advice you would like to give to young Singaporeans who are considering working for a startup?
Carousell: It’s a good experience and you’ll get to work with peers who are passionate about the product and passionate about what they do for the company and for the community.
If you encounter problems and something doesn’t work, don’t give up and keep trying! Carousell wasn’t an overnight success!
WW: Any last words from our favorite shopping app, Carousell? 🙂
Carousell: We’re always working to improve Carousell, and as our founders like to say: We’re less than 1% done.