Making Banking Simpler, Faster, Smarter

A little less finance, a little more coffee please

12 Sep 2017
The Bean Shop by Cafebond.com. Photo: Cafebond.com

As Cafebond.com focuses on innovating and growing its business, DBS and Xero help the SME do so by taking away the tedium of accounting

Have you ever woken up and wished you could enjoy a perfectly roasted Colombian espresso? Or craved the taste of that smooth latte you had in Paris? Local start-up Cafebond.com wants to bring the taste of these coffees into your home, at a fraction of the cost of buying a cuppa from a barista.

Launched in June 2016, Cafebond.com is an eCommerce marketplace that offers freshly roasted ethically-sourced, specialty coffee beans from popular cafes and roasteries overseas. After customers make the purchase online, the coffee beans are roasted directly by Cafebond.com’s merchants, and delivered to the customer within a week.

Coffee culture is booming in Singapore, so keeping fresh and innovating is essential to staying competitive in this fast-growing market place. Co-founder Keyis Ng says the business, which currently offers coffee beans from cafes in Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, is set to offer beans from cafes in Taipei and Tokyo by the end of September.

To cater to different customer wants, Cafebond.com is also launching its own coffee subscription program, Cafebond Basic, “a no-frills freshly roasted coffee bean subscription programme at a super affordable price point”, says Ng.

One challenge, he says, is getting more Singaporeans to drink and appreciate specialty coffee, as well as buy coffee beans online.

“We are lucky to have a group of customers who became our ambassadors, introducing the great coffee on our platforms to their friends and family,” he says. “And because of these challenges it also helped us understand the market better so we can develop better services to serve different kinds of consumer segments.”

Watch Cafebond.com | Xero 02:10

Taking the plunge

The idea for Cafebond.com was birthed during a holiday to Melbourne that Ng and his longtime friend Eugene Chen took in 2015.

Prior to that, Ng had been managing his own marketing agency, working with exciting global accounts and firms like Lazada and Google. But there came a turning point. “I was sitting in a difficult meeting and thought – do I really want to be here in another 5, 10 – even 20 years?”

Ng ended up selling his portion of the business and took some time out.

“My longtime friend and now business partner Eugene found some cheap flights to Melbourne – and at the time I definitely needed a break,” says Ng. ‘I’ve always been a coffee lover, so Melbourne was an ideal escape!’

During their trip, the pair came up with the idea for Cafebond.com. “At this time the government was really hot on supporting start-ups and offering grants – we were also really lucky that leading local bank DBS was running an accelerator program for entrepreneurs,” says Ng.

Cafebond.com co-founders Keyis Ng (left) and Eugene Chan. Photo: Cafebond.com

The DBS HotSpot programme is a three-month incubator-style initiative which puts SGD 25,000 behind nine chosen start-ups and hosts workshops and education sessions. Though Ng and co-founder Eugene Chen didn’t make the cut for the programme the first time around, they nabbed a spot in 2016, proving perseverance and hard work pay off.

The value we got from the education and networking portion (of DBS HotSpot) was amazing – we got access to CEOs and industry leaders who gave advice, insight and encouragement that has really propelled our success.

— Keyis Ng, co-founder of Cafebond.com

In the team’s first year of operations, one of the highlights has been the opportunity to work with global coffee leaders, he says. This includes 2015 World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic, owner of Ona Coffee in Australia, and 2016 World Barista Champion Berg Wu, owner of Simple Kaffa in Taiwan. Both cafés’ coffee beans are retailing on Cafebond.com.

Grinding out their numbers

With the Cafebond.com coffee lineup updated every couple of weeks and the team managing 100 unique units of product at any one time, things can get hectic.

“Plus, we’re constantly juggling priorities from operating our logistics platform to building relationships with new suppliers,” Ng says.

Naturally, solutions to lessen their workload and improve productivity are more than welcomed. Enter the DBS-Xero partnership, with its newly launched API-driven bank feed integration.

This first-of-its-kind initiative allows small businesses to instantly connect their DBS business banking accounts to Xero, a leading global cloud accounting platform. In comparison, existing direct bank feed arrangements require SMEs to apply for the account integration via paper forms, and can take about 10 days to set up.

With this, SMEs’ transaction data can flow securely and automatically into the Xero platform each day. Business owners get a reliable, up-to-date view of their financial position, empowering them to make more informed decisions.

Watch Xero and DBS - Direct Bank Feeds in Singapore | Xero 00:30

For the Cafebond.com team, direct bank feeds with DBS means these coffee aficionados save on time and resource as they’ll no longer have to manually upload individual bank statements.

We’re so excited about the launch of bank feeds with DBS – no more mistakes and more time for coffee.

— Keyis Ng

“Xero takes so many time consuming, mundane tasks off my hands – our invoices chase themselves and with just a glance I know where everything’s at!”

“DBS gives us convenience and accessibility – we need a banking partner that will work with us as we grow in Singapore and internationally,” he adds.

Going global is definitely on the horizon, and Ng sees Xero and the integration with DBS as key to their success “because everything is in the cloud I can access it anywhere, anytime. I know I’ve been paid by wholesale customers in Singapore even while I’m in Taiwan planning our launch there”.

The team will launch their service by end December in Taiwan, with the support of Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology. Cafebond.com was selected and aided in setting up its office there, through the Taiwan Innovation &Technology Arena (TITAN) programme, a flagship platform which provides worldwide startups and innovators with a comprehensive resource pool for soft-landing in Taiwan.

Offering advice to other start-ups, Ng says,

Know your customers. Watch how they interact with your product – even the smallest changes should make you innovate and adapt. By constantly working to understand what your customer wants, you can constantly improve and stay relevant.

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