Matt Viner (Investment Manager at EME) with Loring Harkness (CEO of Mote Poh) showcasing the Mote Poh booklets
We’re excited to announce our lead investment in the seed round of Mote Poh, a Yangon-based employee-benefits-as-a-service startup for Myanmar companies, together with Nest Tech of Vietnam.
Founded in May 2018 by serial entrepreneur Loring Harkness, Mote Poh has grown quickly and now serves over 60 clients, including Yoma Strategic Holdings and MyJobs.com.mm. The company’s mission is to help companies ‘surprise and delight’ their employees through an exclusive rewards book that can stretch employees’ paychecks by hundreds of dollars a month.
As an investment firm, we’ve seen high employee churn rates across many industries in Myanmar, and it’s exciting to see Mote Poh tackling the problem head-on. We expect to help Mote Poh grow by consulting on technology and finance, as well as helping them partner with our mentors and companies in our network.
Currently based out of the Phandeeyar coworking space in downtown Yangon, Mote Poh is developing a mobile app, and expanding to other types of loyalty programs. It seeks to transform the HR industry by partnering with companies to recognise and reward employees.
EME's Q&A with Loring Harkness, CEO of Mote Poh
How did you come up with the idea for Mote Poh?
Mote Poh is a localised version of employee benefits programs that leading companies in Singapore, the United States and other countries have been using for decades.
Many companies in Myanmar provide employees with limited compensation packages: salary, personal income tax, social security contributions, and occasional ad hoc benefits like team dinners. At the same time, many companies have difficulty recruiting, recognising and rewarding, and retaining top talent.
I spoke to dozens of company owners, CEOs and HR Managers. I asked them why they didn't provide better benefits to their employees. Their answers were nearly all the same: they fear that implementing an employee benefits program will be time consuming and expensive - and that employees wouldn't appreciate it.
So I created Mote Poh - a small book full of 100% FREE items and exclusive discounts at favourite shops, restaurants and activities across Myanmar - to help companies surprise and delight their employees every month. Mote Poh makes employee benefits easy - just great benefits employees love, with no hassle and no big price tag.
What impact does Mote Poh create for companies and users?
Employees love Mote Poh because the benefits top up their salaries by MMK 50,000 - 100,000 (USD $30 - $60) every month and also help them to discover new events, shops, restaurants and experiences. Mote Poh has benefits for every taste and budget - there really is something for everyone. It’s so much fun to watch employees get their Mote Poh books, flip through all the free and deeply discounted items, and start exclaiming "Thwar meh!" ("Let's go there!”) or "Sar chin dae!" ("I want to eat it!").
Companies also love Mote Poh because it's an effective tool to surprise and delight employees - which makes it easier and cheaper to recruit, recognise and reward, and retain staff. Leading companies know that they need to offer employees a range of benefits to stay competitive and build the best teams. But they can't do it alone - they need partners like Mote Poh who can do the hard work of creating and servicing benefits.
Why did you select EME and Nest Tech as investors?
EME and Nest Tech aren't your typical "spray and pray" early stage investors. Both firms invest in just a few startups per year, and then leverage their experience, skills and connections to help startups like Mote Poh grow in the years ahead. EME will be providing us with mentoring in financial modelling and data analytics, as well as making some valuable introductions. Nest Tech is seconding us their tech lead to help us build our upcoming mobile app and create our digital strategy. These investors share our vision for exponential growth and offer support to help us reach it.
What is your vision for Mote Poh in the next 5 years? How will Mote Poh help change the HR landscape in Myanmar?
Mote Poh is currently helping companies surprise and delight their employees every month. In the years ahead, I see us partnering with leading employers to help them build truly inspiring places to work - which promote health, happiness and productivity - and then recognise and reward employees for great performance.
This is the first in a series of startup guides that EME will be publishing on key business skills for startups.
Marketing - the process of making the customer journey clear and accessible - is perhaps the most important challenge an early-stage company needs to solve. As legendary management theorist Peter Drucker said,
Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two— and only two— basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.
We have seen many startups focusing more on product than customers, and expecting the business to grow itself. While this might work in some close-knit or cutting-edge industries, most startups need to develop and master this skill if they want to scale. This is particularly true in Myanmar, where large parts of the population are coming online for the first time.
Successful marketing isn’t just about spending money to boost Facebook posts. It’s about defining and executing a comprehensive plan to engage customers across different platforms over time. The chart from Marketing MO below shows just how many business areas are related to marketing, from pricing strategy to design, social media, CRM systems and sales management.
Companies that execute a successful marketing strategy can become global stars, almost overnight. For example, ONE Championship, an Asian sports media company founded in 2011, has become one of the biggest destinations for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans worldwide. By combining savvy social media use with high-quality live events and exclusive relationships with local stars, ONE Championship has quickly built a loyal fan base and enduring reputation - read this Forbes article for more of their story.
While all this may seem like a lot to tackle, here are a few key steps to get started on your marketing journey:
We’ve also curated the following set of resources that the EME team has personally used to learn about marketing. As with anything worthwhile, some of these resources require significant time and energy. Also note that some of the content is not free, although we will provide access for EME’s portfolio companies. Books are available from the EME Library - please ask for more.
Introduction to Digital Marketing
Strategic Marketing for the SME
Digital Marketing for Dummies
Facebook Ads & Facebook Marketing MASTERY 2019