Sokho Trinh is co-founder of Deparz , which is a new online business focused on services for Expatriates and students, offering you a chance to get in touch with people in the country you are moving to, to help you with anything you may need. He shared valuable information gained from his real experience as an entrepreneur.
1. What is your background and career path or your interesting life story?
ST: I was born and raised in France. From Chinese parents who were born and raised in Cambodia, who managed to escape the Khmer Rouge during the Pol Pot Regime in the 70`s in Cambodia. I have lived and worked in 3 continents and I can speak 8 languages. I studied my MBA at IE Business School, and before that I studied an MA in International Trade, majored in Asian Business Engineering in France. Originally I studied languages at the prestigious Grande Ecole in Paris: Langues’O and at the University of Paris XII. I also studied a term at the MBA Luxury at the ESSEC Business School, in Paris.
2. Why did you move to London?
ST: I moved to London for both professional and personal reasons. London is a vibrant city. I try to absorb its energy and re-use it in my life. I have a group of close friends. I live with my partner and we both enjoy meeting with our dear ex fellows from IE Business School. Above all, London offers you this magical cultural scene, mingled with a cosmopolitan crowd. This is why I would describe London as cosmopolitan and not International. Finally, this is a stunning city which may feed your ambitions – Be it personal, cultural, entrepreneurial. You may experience the stunning global start up vibe, or climb the corporate ladders.
I don’t like this city, I am loving it!
3. How did you come up with the idea of helping people particularly who would move to London?
ST: My co-founder and I faced the terrible pain of having to look for a decent and value for money place when we moved to London. Rents are so expensive, flats are taken in no time, and honestly, while being abroad it is almost impossible to sign a flat unless you are in London in person!
4. What was the first step to make the idea happen?
ST: Because we started from the pain of finding a place to live in London, we wanted to understand how a solution could be articulated around killing this pain. We started with a full business plan which, I think was probably not necessary at the beginning of our start up journey. We should probably have tried to do a light version of the business plan, and we should have focused on quickly building our prototype website. I think that, if I was asked to do that again, I would probably have used a “lean” start up approach. This first steps took us many months.
5. What was the biggest difficulty in the beginning stage to monetize your business model?
ST: It was hard for us to find the right quantity of clients to be matched with the right quantity of assistants. I also think that trying to monetize the site without having a proper success stories to share with the users also was a barrier to monetization. Also, what will be extremely hard is to find the point of liquidity where transactions (people posting requests and assistants responding) are going to be self-feeding themselves in a sufficient quantity to cover all our costs and eventually generate benefits.
6. Why this business model is focusing on 3 things: accommodation, work, and language instead of focusing on one of those?
ST: We ran the site in beta as a test during 7 months. From the data we analysed “accommodation” represented 70% of the needs expressed by our users, 20% were related to job search, and 10% to a language related issue faced by both students and professionals expatriates who are not sponsored by their companies. Therefore we decided to focus on these 3 categories, to address the pains expressed by our users, offering them an “all-in-one” solution.
7. Whereas the internet allows people to connect each other and to reach a great amount of information instantly, it is hard to strengthen your presence on the Internet. What is your strategy in terms of getting people scattered around the Internet together in your service?
ST: We current follow a phased approach. Even though, Deparz.com aims at being internationalized, we need to first test our concept. This is why our phase 1 is a “Proof of Concept” where we only focus on helping the French and the Spanish to relocate and/or to properly settle down in London. Once the results will prove acceptable we will extend our solution towards others markets. We plan to resort to mostly online marketing to gain visibility with the clients (people who move abroad) and a mix of online and offline to communicate with the assistants. A business development team will help find the professional assistants.
8. What is your future vision regarding work and personal life?
ST: I am extremely conscious about the importance of work-life balance. It simply makes you enjoy the little “joys” of your life. I like to think that I am Passionate individual, with a capital “P”. I sing, I practice photography, and I used to act. I play badminton, and enjoy a good glass of wine with some nice Jazz music. One of my biggest passions is to travel. I visited over 50 countries. My motto in life is: “Live your life with Passion”