Team building, as a result of company creation or expansion, will always be sprinkled with challenges, but throw in a pandemic during all of this and it could seem like an impossibility. At Rhino Ventures Asia, we feel like we might have earned some bragging rights though since we managed to build our core team throughout 2020 while simultaneously beginning developments on our first big venture: our soon-to-be-released pet health monitor, MyPetGo.
With our management HQ based in Singapore, we naturally considered keeping the whole team there. Made sense, considering it’s a knowledge-based economy with a great standard of living! But as such, it has been facing a talent crunch simply due to the limited resources. Talent across Singapore, particularly within the tech sector, has been pulled towards the regional and global expansion plans across various industries, as well as activities around Singapore’s demanding goals to transform into a Smart Nation. The pandemic played its part here too, resulting in a swathe of expat workers leaving the island as well.
It’s not all challenging though, Singapore offers some of the most generous and readily available grants to companies willing to base themselves there, and specifically to hire locally. Some programmes even promise to offset up to 50% of salary costs for employing locals; making it a very attractive option - should you be able to find candidates.
With the idea then to keep some of the team in Singapore, we began looking further afield for a destination to set up our core tech and design teams. It was clear quite quickly that Vietnam offered everything we were looking for, and Da Nang, with its burgeoning tech scene, would fit the bill. The talent pool is huge across the country, due to a variety of factors, from increased STEM education to economic mandates to turn the country into a technology hub.
As a country that handled the pandemic exceptionally well, and has resumed almost all business activities after barely going into a lockdown, we feel confident Vietnam is a perfect base for unhampered current and future team expansion.
For us, it was a priority to be able to offer our team members ample remuneration, and with salaries at approximately 40% lower than in regional powerhouses like India and China, we have been able to do that. Often within startup environments salaries can be contentious, but with funding coming from Singapore we have been able to use the higher than local market average aspect to attract talent.
More importantly, however, we want to make the company vision and working culture the biggest focus in our recruitment. Indeed, we can confirm that this was a big pull factor for our current team working on MyPetGo, as most of us are big animal lovers and are driven by our desire to improve pet welfare. Most of the team, as well as much of the tech sector workforce in Vietnam as a whole, is hired for project-based work from foreign companies outsourcing their tech teams. By being part of MyPetGo from its inception, we are providing them a unique opportunity to be part of long-term company vision and experience visible impact from their contributions.
During such a high-growth, bootstrapped phase of an early-stage startup, we feel it is important to instil all team members with a sense of ownership over their work. And what better way to truly feel like an owner, than by providing everyone with stock options. We merge this with an open culture to ensure voices are heard regardless of title, and provide real opportunities for career development. Unlike most organisations where progression takes place upwards within the role, we also offer horizontal development if members want to expand into other positions, or incorporate a broader outlook to their existing position.
As with any new organisation, we are still putting internal processes into place and improving our channels of communication. Even though we have our two main hubs; with management in Singapore and tech/design in Vietnam, we still have a handful of team members in Europe. Working over so many time zones initially posed some challenges, but now armed with the very best virtual collaborative and organisational tools, we all feel like this is the new normal. Though, it feels like an injustice to ignore how remarkable it is that we have such great synergy despite many of us having never physically met. Perhaps the secret really is simple: look for untapped talent pools, communicate your company vision, provide ownership opportunities and finally, reward generously both financially and developmentally.