THOMAS BEATTIE OVERCOMING THE NIGHTMARE TO LIVE THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE
“I don’t like to use this term,” says Thomas Beattie co-founder and CEO of Ovvy, “but it was a beautiful nightmare. Now I can say that, but of course I didn’t always feel that way.” The nightmare part is easy to understand, the beautiful part takes a little longer to comprehend.
Tom, who is from England and now a resident of Singapore, suffered a life threatening head injury that ended what had been a successful 10-year football career. The nightmare that ensued was months of reconstructive surgery. “They were picking bone out from behind my eyeball.” His head and face had to be remade. “My skull was broken.”
Not only was the physical toll heavy, but the injury derailed Tom’s life plans as well. Having played football in Europe and North America Tom had come to Singapore on a programme that would have qualified him to have Singapore citizenship and play for Singapore’s National Football Team. To do so he had to play football in Singapore for five years. The injury happened in his fourth year and so he failed to meet the requirements.
When football was no longer part of his life it wasn’t a difficult choice for Thomas to move into his present career of being a serial entrepreneur. Thomas is now the co-founder of ten companies throughout Asia and a Real Estate company in England.
It was when the young footballer moved to Asia that it began to occur to him that there was more to life than sports. Thomas grew up in a small town in East Yorkshire, England. From an early age professional sports, health and fitness were his ticket out of that restrictive environment. Thomas earned a scholarship to study in the United States, where he pursued degrees in Biology and Physical Education. After graduation he played professional football in Canada, Norway, Australia, Scotland, Albania, and Singapore.
“When I played football in India and Myanmar, and saw the conditions that people live in, it began to make me more aware and concerned for these people. This came from the values of my parents, my family and friends when I was growing up.”
His time at university nurtured an interest in entrepreneurship, so with his growing social awareness and his innate desire to solve problems in everyday life Thomas made an almost effortless transition from professional sports to the world of business. “When I knew my football career was over, I knew what I was going to do. There was no time of soul searching looking for my passion.”
Thomas’s entrepreneurial interests led to early specialisation in the emerging field of mobile technology, app platforms, product development, and early stage angel investment. Together with Singaporean entrepreneur Mia Gigandet, (pictured with Thomas) Thomas founded Ovvy, a secure and trusted online marketplace where people can search, compare, and purchase a wide range of household and other local services.
Ovvy is not a new idea and there is competition in this space. Why has Ovvy been successful where others have not been? “The companies that have come into this market,” Thomas explains, “were not from Singapore. They may have been successful in other countries, but they didn’t know Singapore. For example, in Indonesia these apps are used for more task oriented jobs – I need someone to pick up a sink for me. In Singapore it is more service oriented. They want a job done so they need a skilled person who can do more than a simple task. Pricing is very different between Singapore and most cities in the region and they didn’t understand that.
The site is intuitive and easy to use. If you are looking for a job to be done – plumping, cleaning, aircon and others – there will be little problem finding what you want. For service providers and merchants when someone does post a job it is a matter of responding if you can do the job in the required time and your bid to do the work.
Ovvy is free to download and use, with users and service providers being charged a small transaction fee for each service they commission through the app. Chief Operating Officer Mia Gigandet says users actually claw back these fees by being allowed to compare obscure but equally skilled service providers. “If you Google you are not accessing people who could perhaps do your job for less, or who are just as qualified but who lack the marketing skills to find you,” she said. With Ovvy you tap into a base of qualified in their field and who will make a good offer to get a job.
Other factors that make the site successful is that the money is payed into an escrow PayPal account that is only released when the job is completed, and the client is happy. If a dispute should arise all the text messages between client and provider are available to help resolve the issue. “It’s much safer for everybody because we hold the funds,” Ms Gigandet said. “If anything goes wrong, we have a record of every single thing that’s happened – every single conversation, every photo that’s sent. In the case of a dispute, Ovvy will step in to adjudicate the disagreement.”
Ovvy makes finding service providers easier by allowing users to post detailed job requests together with an asking price that merchants then bid for. Users can scroll individual profiles, browse service ratings, and peruse user reviews. Some are word-of-mouth reviews from users’ social media friends as Ovvy is fully integrated with Facebook. Reviews posted by friends or family members appear by default at the top of the list. This enables users to snag the best possible deal and effortlessly spot good recommendations by trusted peers.
Ovvy plans to expand its category of B2C services to such areas as pest control, pet sitting and others, but the big move is into B2B services. Having created such a strong platform Ovvy attracted S$600,000 in seed funding from angel investor Rapzo Capital.
When this announcement was made on May 15, 2019, Stuart McLelland, Managing Partner at Rapzo Capital stated: “Through our initial investment in Ovvy we saw an opportunity to bring focus and clarity to the online services space. We believe Ovvy has its finger firmly on the pulse of local service practices and user concerns and is best positioned to succeed in a challenging space where others have faltered.”
Since launching in June 2018, Ovvy has secured 30,000 downloads, of which some 20,000 are active users of the app (including service providers). This first round of seed funding will be invested in extending Ovvy’s existing B2C solutions into the B2B sphere, extending services beyond the household sphere and into other everyday services that businesses use.
“One reason that the investors were attracted to us is because the system works. In B2C people are concerned about price. In B2B it is not about the cost, it is about reliability. A company wants to be able to provide consistent service to their clients. We have built a platform that works. It is solid.”
The 10 businesses that Thomas is part of are as diverse as two restaurants in the CBD to Tech Ventures Chow and Roque Press – and Ovvy of course. Thomas has surrounded himself with friends, both new and long time, who are his partners in his ventures and share his values and approach to life. “We value teamwork, dedication, and sacrifice. Some of the people I knew from my athletic life. We work together and we socialize together.”
Tom admits: “I don’t have any particular skills myself, so I find people when a project needs a particular skill. I bring in people who are smarter than me to do a particular job. My role is to make it all happen. I am a people person. I love bringing people together, I love solving problems. I take care of the high-level details.”
A keen philanthropist Thomas donates his time at Habitat for Humanity and builds charitable partnerships alongside his various successful business ventures. “I feel that my life is much richer now as an entrepreneur than it would’ve been had I continued in sports. Now that I am successful in business, I have the opportunity to help causes that are meaningful to me.
Social enterprise has become very important to me and my friends. We all know how essential water is. There are many poor villages in Asia that don’t have access to clean water so we have set up an enterprise to drill wells. We are probably going to start in Cambodia and partner with the Tabatha Foundation that is already working in this area.”
Thomas still frequently guests on sports television networks and radio in Asia. He models and fulfils ambassadorial roles for various fashion brands. He remains active in the fitness industry, having trained professional football players such as Nicolás Vélez and Sutanto Tan.
Now, having settled permanently in Singapore, he says his ultimate goal is, “to be the best version of myself I can be.” Getting to that point is not a direct road. In life, unexpected twists happen, how you deal with them will determine success or failure. Understanding that a nightmare can be beautiful helps to overcome the worst and focus on the best.
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