When Cheok Ming Jin, Chik Sheng Fei, and Lim Thol Yong launched their very first product under Charby Sdn Bhd (Charby) in December 2017, they had already dedicated themselves to creating problem-solving inventions.
Charby Sense, a smart cable that automatically cuts off charging once your device’s battery is full, was the first prototype they created. Safe to say, the RM100K they initially invested to develop it has been worth it.
Since then, the product has been shipped to over 82 countries, and CEO Ming Jin told Vulcan Post in a catch-up interview that until today, they still have it to thank for Charby’s subsequent growth.
Thanks to the traction it drew, the tech startup could continue creating newer products over the past 4 years. So, we caught up on the growth that Charby has experienced since.
Focusing on a niche for efficient reach
From a single charging cable, Charby now carries a line of MagSafe accessories, cables, chargers, and more.
But the industry for these accessories is constantly being innovated at a rapid pace, so how does the team keep up?
Ming Jin shared that they simply have to keep their ears to the ground on the latest technology and market trends.
Following tech communities, studying Kickstarter campaigns, reading Amazon product reviews, and of course, listening to their customers’ feedback are all par for the course in their line of work.
“We understood that, as a startup, we lack the advantage of large marketing capital to compete in this especially competitive space.”
“Therefore, we chose to focus on serving several needs or niches better than our competitors. These niches then became our mission: to make charging safe, speedy, and simple,” Ming Jin described.
He believes that Charby also stands out in the way it builds long-term relationships with customers.
Instead of imposing barriers to warranty claims like a shorter warranty registration window or making customers pay for international return shipping, Charby went the other way. It has a zero-registration window and covers customers’ return shipping fees when they make a claim.
Ming Jin shared that this effort to build customer confidence and trust has paid off, as Charby has received not just ample written appreciation, but also sees 17% of their customers making over 6 Charby purchases in their lifetime.
From local rejection to international reception
Looking back on Charby’s journey, who would’ve foreseen that this startup would take on the global market with just a smart charging cable, especially when their early pitches for investments were rejected twice?
Not one to wallow in self-pity for long, however, the Charby team took their first invention to Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding site.
There, the campaign took off in the US market and gained notable attention from media, influencers, and resellers. This allowed Charby to reach customers in other countries too.
The team then quickly established partnerships with local resellers and fulfilment companies in China and the US to cater to international demand.
Today, more than 60% of Charby’s revenue comes from developed countries like the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, France, and Japan, while the Malaysian market accounts for less than 18% of their sales.
Turning failures into lessons to share
Growing a tech startup (or any other startup, for that matter) is no doubt fraught with trial and error. Seeing Ming Jin and his team’s journey thus far, we had to know what advice he could give to other aspiring tech entrepreneurs.
1. Analyse your return on investment (ROI) and have mitigation plans before investing in any projects.
“We’ve spent many months building products that have never seen the light of day, including a wireless power bank with suction cups, a magnet-organised cable, and a battery-saving app,” Ming Jin shared.
“The main reason these projects failed is that we underestimated the complexity involved, rendering the newly adjusted cost unjustifiable.” In other cases, they underestimated the time required to create them, thus costing them their first-mover advantage.
As mentioned earlier, the industry grows at a rapid pace, and competitors with more funding and manpower will no doubt be faster at churning out similar products.
2. Make things simpler for customers.
“Back then, our design philosophy was to build products to be as powerful and functional as possible. We tried putting 13 features in one cable, and yet we have many customers who used it for 2 years not knowing some functions even existed.”
“Some increased product value comes with drawbacks that drive up the costs and the warranty rates. We should instead drop features that don’t add value to customers,” Ming Jin advised.
Being simpler also means using simpler marketing messages that are related to the end benefits. For example, with Charby’s Orbit series, they make it clear that the end goal is to help customers charge and mount their devices easily in 1 second.
Every other feature of the Orbit accessories simply contributes to this end goal. “By being simpler, customers understand your value proposition easier, have faster decision-making, and [it] might also mean lesser service time [for the company],” he shared.
3. Utilise the many crowdfunding platforms available.
Until today, Charby still leverages crowdfunding platforms when launching products with higher innovation value as they are more likely to get funded, the team learnt.
“We’ve seen campaigns that priced their product exceptionally high, have long delivery dates, or have a less attractive presentation and video, but they are still able to be successfully funded when the products are innovative,” Ming Jin noted.
Thus, he recommends any founders with innovative products to try launching them on crowdfunding platforms.
“Not only did the crowdfunding community help us meet the initial minimum order quantity, but they are also willing to spend time answering surveys and providing suggestions and feedback to campaigners, which is not something that’s easy to come by.”
Home is still where the heart is
In line with their mission of making charging safe, speedy, and simple, one of the products that the team is working on includes a palm-sized MagSafe power bank with a 5,000mAh capacity.
Users will be able to carry it around easily and snap it to a phone’s back, and it can charge a Qi-enabled smartphone and an Apple Watch simultaneously.
On the marketing front, Ming Jin said that Charby would like to shift its focus to be more local. This would help it become a trusted charging brand and a bigger player in the consumer electronics field in Malaysia.
We believe the consumer electronics charging industry is here to stay and even thrive for decades to come. With the surge of wearables, IOTs, drones, robots, and metaverse, it means more devices are going to be battery-powered. We just need to make sure we stay ahead of the curve and consistently improve our products and business to increase our market share.
Cheok Ming Jin, co-founder and CEO of Charby.
Of course, Charby will be expecting competition in the form of players who have achieved economies of scale. Instead of competing head-on, however, it will continue to cater to its market niche and the middle-market segment in Malaysia.
Once it has strengthened its foundations here, Ming Jin is confident that Charby will be able to take on Singapore and other ASEAN markets.
Featured Image Credit: Charby