MyRepublic: being small in size need not hinder overseas expansion

This article was first published on IE Singapore's website in June 2017. Head here for more stories from its #SgGoesGlobal series.

From day one, fibre broadband operator My Republic's vision was to be a disruptor in the world of internet service providers, traditionally an arena dominated by large, asset-heavy firms. Founded in 2011, the homegrown start-up is perhaps best known for launching the first one gigabit per second broadband plan at a mass-market price. They achieved this with a tiny team (numbering just 11 people when they first launched). "For a telecom operator, we were a very, very small and very niche," said Mr Greg Mittman, MyRepublic's CEO.

But compact and asset-light was exactly what the company was going for. By building a "lean and mean operator," MyRepublic's aim was to offer customers "way more for way less," said Mr Mittman.

It's a strategy that clicked. Today, MyRepublic has 50,000 subscribers in Singapore, and boasts the country's fastest game downloads.

But while "lean and mean" was the right approach to achieve the disruptive technology it was hoping for, the company's small size and lack of capital became an obstacle when it began planning to expand overseas. Singapore was a good testbed for their innovative approach, said Mr Mittman, but the start-up knew that they had to expand beyond Singapore's shores to really thrive.

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MyRepublic booth at Consumer Electronics Expo, Singapore. Photo courtesy of MyRepublic.

"I can't stress enough how daunting it is for a small company to even consider the prospect of going abroad," said Mr Mittman. "I think it's easier for big companies as they have a lot more capital, they have a lot more resources to throw around as part of their expansion. Our problem was really our size."

Fortunately, said Mr Mittman, the company soon found a helpful partner, one ready and willing to help propel their growth abroad: IE Singapore.

"About four years ago, we had a dream to move outside of Singapore, exporting what we were doing here to elsewhere in the region. But it was really just that — a dream. It was a blank sheet of paper," Mr Mittman recalled. "But when we first started talking to IE, they really got involved from the first step. They helped us from the very beginning, helping us to put in place the right corporate structure to move into these new markets."

This included, for instance, connecting the firm with tax advisors and lawyers to ensure compliance with new regulatory environments and to navigate laws pertaining to issues like intellectual property. IE also helped the company figure out how to best "localise" their platform, said Mr Mittman — an invaluable strategy to win in new markets.

Once on the ground, Mr Mittman said IE played an even more significant role in helping the company find their footing. For one, IE connected MyRepublic to local partners in IndonesiaAustralia and New Zealand. More generally, the agency helped the firm "connect the dots locally," Mr Mittman said.

"The help IE offered, it has no quantifiable value. When you are far away from home and you don't know anybody, it's kind of hard to get things done sometimes," he said. "You need to penetrate the local culture, social networks and commercial relationships;

IE also helped the company find talent, Mr Mittman added. "Sometimes when you go to other markets, it's not as easy to find the right people or people who will fit your culture as a company. IE helped us connect with pools of talent, helping us staff up faster and better."

Today, MyRepublic is in four countries, with plans for further expansion.

"I still remember the celebration we had when we had our first 1,000 customers in Singapore," said Mr Mittman. "It was a big deal and we thought it was the end of it. And today, we have well over 50,000 customers in Singapore and 135,000 customers across the region and we're growing very, very quickly."

This article was first published on IE Singapore's website in June 2017. Head here for more stories from its #SgGoesGlobal series.