Benny Liu, Founder & CEO of HKDecoman, tells us about the renovation market.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded HKDecoman.
Benny Liu: Friends and peers call me entrepreneur, advisor, leader, and even angel investor. I like to see myself as the Captain of my own tech startup, Decoman. To me, employees are partners, teammates, and members of a ship that sails us forward.
Right after I exited my first cofounded company in 2015, I came across the fragmented information in the renovation market when I was finding solutions for my home. After doing some research, I realized that this problem is universal later on. 80% of homeowners still have to rely on family or friends’ recommendations when choosing renovation companies and materials due to the lack of integrated solutions. On average, a person needs to spend 10 weeks choosing a vendor and managing the progress every time they go through a major renovation.
That got me thinking, what if we create a one-stop platform to handle all these steps? That’s how HKDECOMAN was born.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Benny Liu: I don’t snooze my alarm, as I hold myself accountable and don’t delay or procrastinate. I carefully assess, keep track and do ongoing reflection whenever I decide to minimize struggles later.
That said, standing out isn’t just about giving the best but also about being fast. I put “ASAP” into practice, and I expect the same from my workers. What is “possible”? I trust their ability to decide and deliver.
How does your company market its product/services online?
Benny Liu: A great portion of our businesses are organically generated through the high volume of day-to-day organic traffic, which is partially coming from our extensive media coverage & B2B partnerships. We are ahead of our competitors with 80% overall online traffic (the rest 20% divided among competitors), and such dominating traffic warrants most of our leads coming from organic sources, which protects us from the advertising war with the rest of the market during a market challenge like COVID, and increases our conversion effectiveness, and therefore our business efficiency & tenacity.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Benny Liu: Apart from dominating traffic, we also created an ecosystem that gives house owners’ a one-stop-shop experience. They get to gain the knowledge & service they need in one place, and companies enjoy all three business units’ service by partnering with us, leading to all-win. Having an ecosystem also means our traffic from each business unit generates more traffic. Every advertisement dollar of ours contributes to all three business units, making us more efficient and versatile than our competitors’ purely profit-driven agency model.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Benny Liu: We guard our culture with a stringent probation policy with around a 50% passing rate. Newcomers not only need to complete their assigned work duties, but they also need to know the company & make a positive impact on other colleagues. A voting system governs such a process by all management.
After passing probation, we keep reminding our staff of their career vision working here. For example, our in-house editor interviews every staff in turn and produce articles showcasing their characters & beliefs, and stick their portrait & mottos on our “feature wall” to remind each other of our goals and vision. This promotes our positive culture both internally and externally and enhances employee trust and satisfaction with the company.
How are you funding your growth?
Benny Liu: We obtained an HK$11m cash injection from pre-A series funding in 2018, of which HK$10m is unspent. Our liquidity ratio was at a healthy 2.53 level in 2020, and we can maintain positive operating cashflow during a fast-growing pace.
Our annual revenue grew from 1.2mil USD in 2018 to 4.5 mil. USD in 2021, with a 55% CAGR. The continuous rapid growth during the COVID challenge reflected our tenacity and swift response to market change.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Benny Liu: The synergy drawn from our ecosystem model & organic traction coming through our winning traffic has put us in the leading place. Although we see followers, the “inside” of the model is never copied. That includes how we hire, our company culture, our track record, and even our shareholding mix (75% of shares reside with the founding team). Compared with local competitors, I think we know where we are going, and we are the only renovation platform that invests technologically in scalability and has an overseas presence. (Our Taiwan branch just opened in Q1 2022, and everything is on track while others are greatly affected by the pandemic).
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Benny Liu: There’s a saying, “the wool comes from the sheep’s back,” but we proved it wrong. As a technology-driven platform, we don’t live by cutting the profit of service providers but by creating all-win. There’s an old client of ours who approached the same company we matched for him a few years ago for a totally different project and shared with us how different it was without our presence. This is an example we like to share with new staff that we are not here to sell contact information of good renovation companies to customers, but our system is making the companies, the relationship, and the projects better and more successful.
Our GMV has just exceeded 25.6 mils. USD in this year, while the average project size is around 30K USD. On average, HKDECOMAN helps each homeowner save up to 4-5 weeks and 4.5K USD, which means 15% of the cost of the renovation project.
Renovation companies are also able to reduce costs and enhance their reputation by doing what they are best at, creating an all-win situation.
Your final thoughts?
Benny Liu: HKDecoman is now a leader in Hong Kong’s online renovation services with market size of 1.8 bill. USD per year, but we will not stop here. We are targeting the APAC renovation market, which is estimated to reach 200 billion in the year 2022.
We plan to bring HKDECOMAN’s ecosystem to 5 SEA countries by 2022. We will first launch our service in Taiwan & Singapore in March and May this year, and we have already started testing content localization and actively working with local partners.
After we have a big enough presence in these markets, we will enter the mainland China market, expected to be late 2023, which will further land us to a 100X market size.
With the expansion plan, we target 5X our revenue to reach 25 mil USD in 2023.
We are currently looking for talents, investors, and ecosystem partners in Taiwan and Singapore to help us land the markets strongly.
To conclude, we are not chemists, but we mix renovation with technology, we are not magicians, but we turn flat into a home.