Startup Conversations: Nimbus

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Finding an unmet customer need in an industry is the first key step to any new business. This is precisely how Daniel Thong, an Oxford tech entrepreneur, co-founded Nimbus, an office manager application, operated by purpose-driven employers to change the perception of blue-collared workers in Singapore

Daniel shared that the idea behind Nimbus came to him when he was working on another company which was developing a peer-to-peer app that connected freelance cleaners and blue-collar workers to households. It was through this experience that he was exposed to the cleaning industry, and where he came to learn that workers were poorly treated in this space. He explained, “In an industry such as ours, little training or technology is usually given to the people working in it because not many people believe investing in them.

Whilst working on this project, Daniel discovered that the gig economy model (a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements) and the unit economics for the B2C model was not viable- which eventually led to him leaving the company. Unintentionally killing two birds with one stone, his exposure to the gig economy led to another realization that offices actually preferred a single point of contact for all their cleaning and servicing needs. 

Adopting a different approach from other office management services in the market, Nimbus decided to place an emphasis on putting people before algorithms, particularly through the amalgamation of marketplace technologies with exceptional service. Daniel expressed that Nimbus’s core values stem from a strong sense of egalitarianism and merit instilled in him and his co-founders. They believe that all human beings bear a unique set of gifts and skills and that they should be treated with respect and dignity.

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At Nimbus, they believed in the importance of providing good tools, networks and, platforms for their people and their vendor partners, in order to deliver good customer service. Adopting a sustainable business model, Daniel shared that they do not believe in doing charity for the sole purpose of helping others, but rather, “the sustainable way to help people whilst also scaling goodness and impact is to help them deliver great service. This was then translated into the way we thought about our business model, client selection and employment model for our cleaning crew”.

Easier said than done, the creation of Nimbus did not come easy and it was challenging to build such a business model. Whilst the company has grown exponentially over the years, their success story was full of arduous experiences. Given his relative youth and inexperience as a young founder, Daniel shared that there were many times where he doubted himself and his lack of industry knowledge and experience to run his own facilities operations.

When we decided to build a first-of-its-kind software to run our distributed workforce and a platform for our customers to manage facilities services, there were times when I doubt if what we were building made sense; especially so when we have no similar business models to look towards.”. These concerns further escalated due to an initial lack of funding. “We bootstrapped the company at the start and given our relatively small capital, we couldn’t really draw a wage yet the business demands so much from us!”. 

It was to no surprise when Daniel revealed that many sacrifices were made during the early stages of Nimbus’s development. However, he felt that all their hard work was paid off when they received support and financing through AngelCentral’s syndication services. “This helped us to continue doing what we are doing and we were also able to use that capital to hire good people to help us scale our business growth”. Coupled with his passion and determination to solve a real problem, Nimbus grew almost 8 folds and began to reap 7 digits in annual revenue one year after receiving investment funding. This created a domino effect, allowing them to triple their cleaning crew headcount and build an office management platform for offices to procure over an extensive range of facilities-related services. Extending his gratitude, he stated, “It has been a real blessing to have received AngelCentral’s support and funding”. 

Nimbus had come a long way from their humble beginnings, from conducting all their initial cleaning services themselves, to becoming an office management service that relies on a large team of dedicated employees and smart technology to help managers better manage their workspace. And as 2020 marks the start of a new decade, Daniel urges future generations of aspiring startup founders to concentrates less on media attention, vanity metrics and, the itch to constantly seek the glamourous. Instead, one should focus on solving a real problem for their customers, build authentic relationships with them and lastly, stay hungry and humble.

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