The entrepreneur Samuel Chua takes the concept of “multitasking” to a whole new level.
The Singaporean co-founded Singapore's first happy hour app while holding a full-time job running another tech startup.
The new happy hour app called ULO is a booking platform that offers discounts of up to 70 percent on beauty and lifestyle services outside of rush hour.
The time-based discounts are a new variant of traditional promotions in deal apps such as Fave, Burpple and ShopBack.
Time to get your money's worth
At ULO you can reserve appointments immediately at specific time slots, which are greatly reduced.
To illustrate, a retailer at ULO can offer a 70 percent discount for a slot at 2 p.m. on a Monday.
You can then lower the discount rates by 10 percent every hour until a discount of 40 percent is achieved when booking at 5 p.m.
Photo credit: ULO
In-app, all discounts are direct discounts. This means there is no need to redeem any e-vouchers or request cashback.
The discounts listed in the app also apply to all shop services, unless otherwise stated.
To discover a service, you can browse retailers listed in seven different beauty and lifestyle categories.
ULO also lets you filter your searches by time and service, making it ideal for last minute bookings.
ULO: a virtual standee
Samuel first came up with the idea for ULO in 2018 when he wanted to get a haircut at his hairdresser.
He found that he was always asked to come in during regular business hours (between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.) as the shops did not take off while everyone was at work.
Retail stores are usually empty during off-peak hours. To boost business, Samuel's hairdresser had an employee in front of her shop who offered a 30 percent discount between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
"(But) it didn't make sense," says Samuel. "The store was on the second floor on a corner so the standee would miss the normal crowd as it would only be seen by people walking past your store."
Time-based services like barber shops had never solved this problem. Therefore, ULO was launched as a reaction to a “virtual stand” with a far greater range potential.
It is now dubbed Singapore's first "time-based management platform".
The project was piloted at the end of 2019 and has slowly built up a growing user base – over 1,800 bookings were made in the app.
Today there are over 2,100 active monthly users and 293 dealers on board.
You can't multitask without the right partner
In addition to developing ULO, Samuel wears several hats who run a tech startup, Coconut Lab, while he has a full-time job at a local coworking startup.
Samuel also recognizes his work for the trust he has in his right-wing man and co-founder Chuen Lum Loh (CL).
The two first met in 2015. At that time, Samuel was pursuing an eight-year career at JLL as a regional real estate consultant.
He hired CL to help them build a real estate website on a pet project and was impressed with his work.
"He's reliable, precise and able to translate business into technology very easily."
CL left, Samuel right / Photo credit: ULO
Unsatisfied with his corporate job, Samuel left his real estate career in 2017 to “try something new” and suggested that CL start a company.
"Young people don't waste time," explains Samuel. "We wanted to go, so let's just go."
The two founded Coconut Lab, an app and web development company, in 2018. The company serves customers in the Asia-Pacific region and employs a lean team of 15 people in Singapore and Indonesia.
The startup is responsible for ULO's internal app development, although both remain separate entities. Coconut Lab also developed SwapSwipe, another eco-friendly exchange platform.
In 2019, Samuel joined a local coworking startup in his corporate sales department to drive regional strategy and business development.
“I wanted to learn from the big boys,” he explains.
Despite the immense effort of playing three concerts at once, Samuel is remarkably relaxed about his performances.
"It's really just time management," he explains.
He also counted on his strong partnership with CL, whom he trusted to run Coconut Labs at the same time.
"We complement each other," he suspects.
Covid-19 impacted the app's growth, although it has since recovered.
ULO received over 3,000 average users monthly prior to Covid, which dropped to 500 at breaker level and rebounded to 2,000 to 2,500 users in the last month.
ULO 2.0 / Photo credit: ULO
According to Samuel, more and more stores have signed up for inclusion on the platform, adding that off-peak hours will always be a universal problem for retailers.
Despite the hurdles they face, ULO will be actively expanding.
If everything goes as planned, ULO will revamp its user experience and add fitness brands and activities to its dealer suite.
ULO 2.0 should be released in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Where others might resist his workload, Samuel lives the dream.
"I wanted to build something … (entrepreneurship and IT is) that I really enjoyed."
Selected image source: ULO