Australian SaaS Startup for the moving and storage industries uses Singapore Landing Pad to take ASEAN by storm


Australian SaaS Startup for the moving and storage industries uses Singapore Landing Pad to take ASEAN by storm

Sometimes, a commercial innovation occurs by chance, which means the accidental innovator faces a big question straight away: could this really go global?

When Carlos Ferri arrived in Sydney from Brazil a decade ago, his first job was with a removals company. One of the first things he noticed was that storage and removals companies in Australia did not use software to manage day-to-day operations.

Two years later, Carlos did something about it. As a warehouse manager consultant for one of Australia’s biggest international relocations and storage companies, he started working on a software that would enable all stakeholders to have instant visibility on the status of their goods or property, whether in storage or in transit.

‘By 2015, this software focused on warehouse management was a great success and my new company held the IP,’ says Ferri, the founder of Sydney-based Zapala Go. ‘Then I thought: “Surely this software is a marketable product and I can take it even further than just a solution to manage warehouses”.

In March 2015, Ferri took the software to an incubator called BlueChilli, which turned the software into a complete cloud-based solution for moving and storage companies called Zapala Go.

‘The reception in Australia was terrific,’ says Ferri. ‘By mid-2018, we had sold Zapala Go into seven of the ten largest removals and storage companies in Australia.

‘Then we got a global break. In July 2018, Allied Pickfords asked us to roll out Zapala Go to their global operations. This was a big moment, because Allied Pickfords has operations in 70 countries. It was also a big challenge, because we didn’t.’

An Asia-first strategy

Ferri immediately sought advice from Austrade, who suggested that the Singapore Landing Pad might prove a helpful first step in creating a physical presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

‘The Landing Pads program would give my company the smoothest possible launch into Asia, because Singapore is a genuine regional hub, and that was a huge attraction,’ he says.

In addition, Ferri knew that Austrade’s Asia-Pacific network could help generate vital introductions to venture capitalists, customers and industry conferences. In September 2018, he set off for Singapore.

Taliessin Reaburn, Trade Commissioner, Austrade Singapore (left) with members of Zapala Go
Taliessin Reaburn, Trade Commissioner, Austrade Singapore (left) with members of Zapala Go

Practical, proactive and professional advice

The Singapore Landing Pad is based in a co-working space at Singapore’s central business district. The co-working space meant Ferri was surrounded by other startups. An Australian employee joined Ferri and simultaneously trained for the new role of Zapala Go Asia-Pacific Business Manager.

‘The Landing Pads mentor was Singaporean and absolutely superb,’ says Ferri. ‘She knew how to set up a business in Singapore; what risks to anticipate; and how to hire people. She knew everything that we needed to know and delivered all the value of a high-paid consultant.’

The briefing sessions arranged by Austrade included suggestions for how to approach venture capitalists and how to write proposals for commercial customers in Singapore.

‘During the three-month residency, we worked with the Landing Pads manager virtually every day,’ Ferri says. ‘She was amazing.’

Singapore: quick step into Asia

The Singapore Landing Pad proved the perfect route for Zapala Go’s planned rapid expansion into the Asia-Pacific region. According to Ferri, he learned most of what he needed to learn about the region from his new base in Singapore. This knowledge was due to the contacts he made in Singapore.

‘The Landing Pads manager in Singapore introduced me to Austrade trade commissioners in multiple countries, including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam,’ he says. ‘This made it far easier for me to start building my business in the region.

‘When I went looking for the biggest removals companies in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, the trade commissioners already knew who I was and their business-development teams were keen to help.’

Ferri’s time in Singapore was a commercial success. By the time he left Singapore, Zapala Go was on the verge of signing a second major contract. He attributes this in part to Austrade’s active support in Singapore.

High value for small businesses

Now the Landing Pads residency is over, Ferri identifies two principal benefits to small companies: the reduced risks of regional expansion; and time saved from instant access to local know-how.

‘Going to Singapore with Austrade proved a great first stop because it allowed us to test Zapala Go in the region,’ says Ferri. ‘We could make sure that expanding into Asia Pacific really was the right next step, before committing to rent and hiring staff.

‘For Zapala Go, the Singapore Landing Pad lowered the business risk of expanding into the Asia-Pacific region.’

The program also saved Zapala Go valuable time and money. With independent advice on multiple issues – including working visas and employment contracts – Zapala reduced the amount of management effort required to set up shop in his new Asia hub.

‘The advice we received on visa and employment issues saved me from having to learn how to set up a local business the hard way,’ he says. ‘That is real value-add and the saving was just incredible.’

Zapala Go is now permanently established at an office complex in Singapore and the company is powering ahead with its global strategy.

‘We are about to sign a series of huge contracts with a large overseas banking company,’ says Ferri. ‘In hindsight, the Singapore Landing Pad proved the perfect vehicle to grow our business into Asia.’