Myanmar Startup Interview with Ezstay

Hello and welcome back to another unique and intersting interview here for myanmar-startups.com. This time with a cool new venture called Ezstay!

So here we go with our interview. Thank you so much for your time and I highly appreciate you doing it remotely and spending time reading through it. The first question is to introduce you a bit so could you let us know a little bit about you?

Hi, My name is Aung Phyo Lwin and I am from Myanmar. I grew up in a town called Pakokku in Upper Myanmar. I am CEO of Ezstay and Ezstay was founded by two co-founders (me and my partner, Lwin Htoo Ko, CTO of Ezstay.

After your short introduction. Let’s see where you’re coming from. What’s your professional background? (Studies? Work experience? )

I have graduated from Myanmar Maritime University specialized in Marine Engineering. Despite of choosing my professional career, I choose a startup life. I ran a startup travel agency for two years and a small garment and printing agency for one and a half years.

Have you always been in the start-up business? Why do you like it?

Yes, as I mentioned, I ran a startup for two years. I like startup life because it drives me to use my passion, ideas and dreams.

Before we start with your venture in detail one more question about the “why”. So many students are leaving Myanmar these days to pursue goals abroad. Why did you decide to open your business here?

As you know, people from other part of the world come here to invest in Myanmar. They see a huge opportunity of untouched market. The reasons why I decided to start my startup here are “The market has more potential compared with other regional countries. The rate of internet coverage is tremendously increasing. Within two years, 30 millions of Myanmar people (around 60% of the population) have smartphones in their hands. This is phenomenal. There was no such developing country on the world having growth that much in the history.” and “I want to be a part of my country reform process. As you know, Myanmar is still in the bottom line of development comparing with other ASEAN countries. We definitely need more smart people to lift our people up from poverty line. So I want to be a tiny pinion in the large machine of thriving our economy.”

Alright. Down to business. What exactly are you doing?

Ezstay is an online marketplace of short-term accommodation for local people encouraging community based tourism in Myanmar. Ezstay serves as a medium between host and guest to get better communication and better understanding. Host will get extra income by posting their rooms, apartments and houses to rent on Ezstay. Guest will get benefit of low price accommodations and will blend into local cultures and traditions that hotels can’t offer. Ezstay will start available in coming Taunggyi Festival. You will no longer need to worry to lodge when you travel.

Following up the previous question with the obvious one: What makes you unique / different compared to others in the area? And are you expecting more competition to happen in the future? (If others see your idea is working).

We only focus on local travellers and we know much about them. Actually there is no direct competitor in the market right now. People lodge in hotels or monasteries or relatives’ homes. So, it will be new to them. Hosts do not have experience in hosting for short-term accommodation. So, it is really challenging for us. However, we have nearly one year experience in property market. It quite helps us. We know local flavor and we have the heart to understand what local travellers need. That will make us unique in the market. Also, there will be new competitors entering this fledgling market when they find out our products and services are really useful and effective for local travellers. And there will be international companies like homestay.com and airbnb.com that will enter this local market as soon as the government opens to FDI. We believe that we will be right ahead of our competitors with our skills, empathy and intuition to develop local sense in travelling in Myanmar.

If you would have to name the one feature that makes you super mega awesome. What would it be?

It will be integrated local language system. It will help host and guest to connect each other effectively and efficiently. Later, we will provide auto translation system to encourage connection between host and guest of different languages origin.

Can you also give us a quick sneak peak into what’s in the making? What does the future hold for you? What are your plans?

Actually, we are starting right now. As I mentioned above, our first landing will be Taunggyi Festival, which is very famous for its hot air-balloon festival. After that, we will start covering other travel destinations. There will be a future that most of the travellers in Myanmar will rely on community based accommodation. There will become a community that is built on trust that is disappearing nowadays. We will be a part of that process in building a trust community in Myanmar. A better future, a better society.

How big is the your team now? Are you still looking for support?

There are currently two co-founders in our team. We are looking for senior android developer, UI/UX designer, customer service staff and content writer now. We are in the position of start recruiting.

ezstay_myanmar_startups_interview_-_google_docs

Now we know what’s on the horizon. Brief walk back: Was it easy to set up your business? Did you find investors / customers easily? I assume companies haven’t all been that keen on spending money for such a venture in a country that is still developing?

Of course. It was not easy at all. We had walked a rough road. We start dream of idea, build it, learn it and iterate it. So we pivoted many times. Until now, we are still struggling to acquire customers and partners. We were in three of accelerator programs and met with a lot of investors. But we failed. And then, we joined Phandeeyar accelerator program and we made it. It helps a lot to accelerate our startup.

What was the biggest hurdle to overcome when starting your venture?

It is to find partner that can dream with you along the journey. It will be difficult or sometime easy. No matter how it is like, the most important thing is to choose the right partner. Passion is the base root of startup. Without having same dream or passion to build something wonderful, you will not  be able to make startup succeed.

How does an “average” day look like for you right now?

(No sleep, lots of coffee and pizza? You know the stereotypes ;-))

Talking to prospective customers and partners. Learning from mentors and testing our MVP over and over again. It is not all about sleepless night or eating ramen everyday. It is about accepting rejections and challenges and developing yourself and your startup on these obstacles.

Are you actually doing hands on start-up stuff (or do you have help from incubators, consultants, etc?)? Or have you been? In a garage? Or did you work in a supermarket?  (The last stereotypical question. Sorry 🙂 )

We started our startup nowhere. That means we work at our home and we two meet each other on schedules. We took a consultation service from HumbleLab Partners. We didn’t work in a garage because our buildings are not like Silicon Valley type. Lol

What’s your impression on the start-up scene in Myanmar right now?

It is the most ever changing and developing time in Myanmar history. Young entrepreneurs believe in their dreams and they are trying hard to make their dreams come true. Comparing to other years, there becomes more and more incubators, accelerators and other entrepreneurship programs in Myanmar. After the late of political transition period, young people became realize that they could build their dreams to come true. We started dreaming of new technology, new community and new government and new startup stuff that people of Myanmar never dreamt of.

Do you work together with any other start-ups?

Last two years, I worked in a travel startup. It gave me a lot of startup experiences, team building, negotiating and dealing skill and other good stuff.

What kind of start-up venture are you missing in Myanmar at the moment?

It will be fintech, content building apps like ‘medium’, biotech and there are still many sectors we need to fill up to catch up with global trend.

A bit crystal balling: What’s the next big thing? In Myanmar as well as on a global scale?

In Myanmar, it will be microfinance because many people are still under poverty line. We need to pull them out first to thrive our economy. On a global scale, I am not very sure about that. May be VR, Machine Learning or some sort of new tech like Airpod. 😀

Famous last words 🙂

Believe in yourself. As long as you believe in yourself, no one can destroy your dreams.

That marks the end of our interview. Thank you very much for your time! If you want to follow Ezstay check them out on Facebook and their website!

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