WHO said university students don’t have time for anything but their studies? Yoanita Marselia finds out how Malaysians David Mah and Nigel Ang’s never say die attitude helped Bluesky become Australia’s number one shopping app.
While pursuing masters degrees at the University of Melbourne earlier this year, Malaysians David Mah and Nigel Ang launched Bluesky, a free shopping catalogue app for the iPad.
A month later, it had close to 25,000 downloads, becoming Australia’s number one shopping app.
Is a good idea enough to start a business?
But while David and Nigel are off to a running start with Bluesky, success hasn’t come overnight.
The pair first met at an electrical engineering class. They were a riot as they shared ideas with each other, one of which eventuated in the creation of Uni Square, an online and offline community of about 50,000 students.
A year later however, they realised they needed sustainable revenue to keep the business running.
The foundation in business is strong and sustainable revenue – and customers who are willing to pay you to do what you do, if not you can’t do it.
“The foundation in business is strong and sustainable revenue – and customers who are willing to pay you to do what you do, if not you can’t do it,” says David.
While they had many big ideas for their next project, they chose to focus on the ones that were important and achievable within a specific timeframe.
“You don’t try to build castles before you lay a foundation,” says Nigel.
As they knuckled down to do their ‘homework’, they discovered the potential of the mobile market and decided to capitalise on the opportunity to make a difference to the consumer’s shopping experience on the iPad.
“We thought, why don’t we bring together what retailers already have, which is beautiful catalogues, and put them onto one app?” says David.
While their friends were sceptical about the idea, the support they received from their families empowered them to pursue their goals wholeheartedly.
That meant every hour away from their studies was spent on BlueSky, which impacted their personal and social lives.
But their sacrifice was not for naught as they soon signed on their first paying customer.
While there’s still a long road ahead for Daniel and Nigel, the pair have their sights on making the Bluesky app available on other platforms, including Android devices. The first step towards that they say, is recruiting talent to help improve their product.
Is entrepreneurship for everyone?
From the failure of Uni Square to the fledgling Bluesky venture, David and Nigel are fully aware of the risks that come with venturing out on their own as entrepreneurs.
“It’s a bit scary because you don’t know what’s happening later this afternoon, tomorrow or next week,” says David.
As such, he wouldn’t recommend it to students unless they were passionate about what they were doing.
A lot of people think you come to entrepreneurship to make money, but if that was it then you would notice that you wouldn’t make money for awhile and you would lose motivation.
“A lot of people think you come to entrepreneurship to make money, but if that was it then you would notice that you wouldn’t make money for awhile and you would lose motivation,” he added.
For Nigel, being focused and realistic is important.
“Pragmatism is understanding how to combine, if you’re working in a two-sided market. Servicing everyone’s needs is important, and it’s no use focusing on one at the detriment of the other,” he says.
At times, doubts about his or her undertaking will overwhelm even the most confident entrepreneur. However, positive feedback from customers will almost always drive those doubts away.
“To get an email from a user saying ‘I love your app’, I think that made it all worthwhile because I guess the actual goal of creators is to see someone use the thing that they make,” says David.
For more information about David and Nigel’s work, visit the Bluesky website.