The story behind BigBalo
This is neither the first nor the last story about a start-up launch. I don't expect it to change your life. However, for those who may enjoy our service in the future, I hope that our founding story would offer a peek into the kind of mark we aim to leave in the world.
BigBalo is a trusted community of shoppers who want to purchase items not available locally and travelers who can make money delivering these items.
Our vision: To become the ultimate travel experience sharing platform.
We believe that one can fully enjoy a travel experience, even without traveling, through seeing things, meeting people, and acquiring unique travel goods. These days, social media and platforms like Airbnb facilitate the “seeing” and “meeting” parts very well. And yet, we’ve all experienced a time when, in browsing Instagram, we wished we could taste that delicious croissant from Paris, or buy an awesome pair of elephant pants from Thailand.
Now, imagine a platform where you could “follow” your friends (and strangers) as they walk down a flea market in Seoul or browse the sales section at department stores in Milan. Then, make a request for them to bring you back a piece of that country whether that be a one of kind handbag or a package of exotic coffee.
We aren't just developing BigBalo to present a cheaper and faster international shopping and shipping alternative. We aim to empower the modern travelers whose valuable knowledge and experience is worth sharing and getting rewarded, while satisfying the shoppers whose needs are beyond local availability. Travel is more accessible than ever; and with 370 million millennial travelers* set to take flight in the next 5 years, the market is here.
Our team: a unique combination that underlines resilience and scrappiness.
You rarely find a mother-daughter team in business nowadays, especially in a tech start-up. However, I feel most fortunate to team up with my mother, who, in fact, has more than 30 years of experience running cross-border logistics businesses. In the 80s, as a Vietnamese expat living under Communist Bulgaria, she was among the most successful traders to import and resell western medicine and goods into Vietnam. She is the symbol of resilience, adaptation, and scrappiness when it comes to building businesses. Bringing her into the founding team as our Head of Operations not only signifies the trust bond among the founders, but also strengthens our modern technological foundation with solid operations experience.
As for me? I’m 25-years-old and in no way fit a “ typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur.” I'm most likely the type that investors would think are likely to fail: first-time entrepreneur, a business degree, a few years of experience crunching numbers at Goldman Sachs and running User Acquisition at tech companies. And yet, it's not my first time to stubbornly pursue a risky choice while being told I might not have what it takes. From growing up from a middle-class family in Vietnam, to being the first one in our family to graduate from college in the U.S and getting hired for high paid jobs in the Bay Area, I'm no stranger to navigating new lands and finding a way to succeed against the odds. And more importantly, I understand our users because I am one of them.
Our resourceful spirit is reflected most clearly through the way our engineers think outside the box to solve our platform’s problems while saving cost. They defy all the misconceptions about Vietnam's engineering workforce only evolving around low-cost, low-quality outsourcing work. They have worked around the clock to release our first version of the platform within four months of development, which is nothing short of phenomenal.
Final words: We did not found this business out of boredom or to seek financial rewards. We built BigBalo because we have been both frustrated cross-border shoppers and savvy travelers, and most of our friends and family (or even strangers that we talk to) really want something like this.
So we’re doing it! We’re working to form a community of international shoppers and couriers! Help us grow! Traveling somewhere? Let us help you make a little cash on the side! We’re open to your feedback and want your help!
*Source: U.S. Travel Association, World Tourism Organization, WYSE Travel Confederation 2015.