Who is he: Toh Ting Feng
Role: CEO and Co-founder
It’s no secret that owning a car in Singapore is wildly expensive. To help Singaporeans get a town with a little more convenience, Toh Ting Feng started the car-sharing service GetGo with his friend Johnson Lim during the few weeks of Singapore’s circuit breaker. In the months since, they’ve racked up over 1 million bookings across their fleet of almost 1,800 vehicles from vans to sedans. Here’s a peek into Ting Feng’s life outside of GetGo and what’s next for the car-sharing service.
1. What are your hobbies?
I am very blissfully married to my wonderful wife and we have 3 kids, including a 3-month-old. So my hobbies these days centre around encouraging curiosity and being active with our kids.
Image credit: Toh Ting Feng
Some favourite activities of ours include waterplay, Lego building, visiting parks and museums, and spotting GetGo cars. Simpler activities include hanging out with some snacks on an overhead bridge near our home while watching buses – and GetGo cars – drive by.
2. What is your favourite movie or TV show, and why?
I really enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s films, because they are both intellectual and action-packed, and the cinematography and storytelling is rich and complex.
As for TV shows, I really enjoyed Drive to Survive recently, as it humanises F1 and also showcases a lot of the strategy and engineering involved behind the scenes, as compared to just watching loud cars zoom by in person.
3. Three words people would use to describe you:
Warm, curious, confident.
4. Three words you’d use to describe yourself:
Clear-minded, empathetic, practical.
5. Who are some industry peers who inspire you?
I’m very fortunate to be friends with a couple of great founders here. My inspirations are: Quek Siu Rui, co-founder and CEO of Carousell, for his dedication and commitment to the circular economy and making second-hand first-choice; Zachary Wang, co-founder and CEO of Neuron Mobility, for his resilience in building a global, sustainable micro-mobility winner out of Singapore with no operations here; James Chan, founder and CEO of Ion Mobility, for taking on hardcore design and engineering to build an electric motorbike manufacturer out of Singapore.
6. Tell us a fun fact about yourself that your colleagues might not know?
I spent 7 months training with United States Marine Corps officers at “The Basic School” in Quantico Virginia, their version of Officer Cadet School, and survived the negative 20-degree celsius winter.
Image credit: Toh Ting Feng
7. What inspired you to start GetGo?
My co-founder Johnson Lim and I were inspired to start GetGo during Singapore’s circuit breaker.
We saw an opportunity given the effects of Covid-19 on mobility, work, and digital acceleration. We noticed the desire for people to continue to have the freedom to move around but in greater comfort and privacy, despite the pandemic. In particular, we noticed existing carsharing demand pick-up, but we felt that we could solve the problem better and at a more meaningful scale. At the same time, we saw the problem of excess capacity and idle cars for fleet owners, which to us was an opportunity to help them generate revenues while scaling up our platform quickly.
After in-depth research into the existing market here and overseas, we were convinced that the desire for mobility is universal, but car ownership is inherently sub-optimal for drivers living in dense, high-cost cities. We felt that carsharing was a good solution, but perhaps pre-Covid the idea and technology was a bit early, which is why we decided to embark on providing the freedom to drive at scale by founding GetGo.
8. What were some challenges you faced during the early days of GetGo?
Car-sharing is not only a technology platform but a real-world business. To achieve our goal of enabling a simple, flexible, accessible carsharing service for our users, we not only needed to build a great front-end user experience, but we also needed both wheels on the road and boots on the ground, as well as an operational technology platform to facilitate the effective management and maintenance of our fleet.
Image credit: GetGo
So we had to rapidly build up a great team, put into place strong operational processes, and build both the front-end and back-end platforms at the same time. We were essentially fighting a multifront battle, and we were fortunate to have strong leaders in our team to help us do just that. We grew from around 10 people at launch to more than 130 today.
9. What is something that has surprised you about starting your own business?
One thing that surprised me was how big the gap was between what people needed and what they had access to. We are fulfilling a deep, existing yet unmet need for so many non-owner drivers. They craved the flexibility of driving without the burden of ownership, which had been left unmet in a significant way until our launch.
That is why we have managed to scale so rapidly and expanded the number of car-sharing users significantly in a short span of time.
10. What do you think sets GetGo apart from other car-sharing services in Singapore?
First, we have deep empathy with and dedication to serving our users. We designed our service to be simple, flexible, and accessible. At the same time, we strive to deliver a best-in-class fleet and customer experience and support.
We were the first to enable instant account approval by integrating with our government’s MyInfo service. Furthermore, we do not charge membership fees, collect deposits, nor require credit wallet top-ups to use our service. Our app journey was designed to be simple to get our users driving in as short as 3 minutes from download!
Image credit: GetGo
We also innovated our service experience, making it optional for our users to top-up petrol or charge our cars, unlike traditional car rental and car-sharing companies. This saves our users even more time when they use our service, while those who have a bit of time earn savings by helping us out.
As I mentioned earlier, we believe that carsharing is truly effective and efficient at scale, and this lends itself to great flexibility and accessibility for our users. We have more than 1,300 locations islandwide and close to 1,800 vehicles, giving our users the best coverage and availability, as well as a diversity of options. We allow for bookings for as short as an hour, and advance bookings of up to 30 days, 24/7 a day.
In short, we enable our users with the freedom to drive and to create memories for themselves and their loved ones, simply, flexibly, and in a very accessible manner.
11. How did you approach marketing for GetGo, and why did it work?
We are very fortunate to have a great co-founder and CMO, whom I personally feel is a creative genius at heart. Johnson led the naming and branding efforts for our platform from Day One and progressively built a mission-driven and aspirational brand.
From the GetGo, we decided to brand each one of our cars, despite some people thinking that it would be a negative, as we were proud of our service and we believe that our users would be happy to drive a GetGo around. This, plus the fact that our service is inherently social – very few people are GetGo-ing alone – has helped us to have a strong organic acquisition flywheel.
Johnson also took up the challenge of building a disciplined performance marketing team, with very targeted creatives and segmentation, which help to catalyse our growth further.
12. What are some misconceptions people have about car-sharing services?
Some people may think that car sharing is inconvenient, but we have solved that by building our network and scale to allow people to book as far as 30 days in advance. This allows us to make it not only convenient but also gives a high degree of availability and certainty of booking our vehicles.
Another feedback is that carsharing vehicles are not as clean. However, car-sharing vehicles are used at most by around 5 users or families a day, as compared to taxis which take up to 15-20 passengers, much less so compared to buses and trains.
In addition, we take a data and feedback-driven approach to ensure that we keep our cars clean while building up a strong sense of community spirit so that most of our users do that part, as with other shared modes of transport.
13. Could you share a bit about the company culture at GetGo?
The GetGo team.
Image credit: GetGo
We constantly strive to build a mission-driven and values-based culture. From the start, we identified a set of core GetGo values which we constantly use as a guide for recruitment, behaviours, and decision-making.
Our values include getting it going (having a bias for action), staying curious and humble, empathising deeply, and collaborating for success. Most importantly, our final core value is to enjoy the ride, which is having a sense of purpose, facilitating personal growth, and building a sense of belonging to the team.
14. What was the most memorable moment of your career?
I must say I have had many memorable moments across my 16 years, but a recent major milestone was GetGo enabling 1 million bookings within the short span of 18 months. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating (or booking) and this milestone showed that we were serving a real need decently well!
15. What do you think the future of Singapore’s roads looks like?
I think for Singapore to move towards a car-lite society, we need to enable a spectrum of mobility options to replace car ownership. This includes active mobility, public transport, ride-hailing, and of course, carsharing.
I believe that as carsharing scales to be a significant piece of our mobility ecosystem, then we can truly start to think about reducing car ownership, yet without creating more social inequality as non-car owners will still have simple and flexible access to cars in a much more financially sustainable manner.
One day, we also hope that micro-mobility options will make their way back in a sensible and orderly manner, further complementing the spectrum of options.
16. Do you think Singaporeans should own a car in this day and age?
Image credit: GetGo
I think for utility, Singaporeans should only own a car if they need to drive daily for close to 4 hours and 50 km. With ever-improving public transportation, we think that the need for daily driving is greatly reduced for most people for their work commutes. Public transport should cover 80% of one’s mobility needs, especially when travelling alone.
For the remaining 20%, both ride-hailing and carsharing can help to fulfil various use cases, depending on whether it is on-demand or planned, the number of passengers, the distance, the number of stops etc. If you are driving only 2 trips a week, carsharing with GetGo can save you up to 80% compared to owning a car!
17. What top three qualities do you look for when hiring? Any interview tips?
We hire for values, skills, and track record, with varying weights depending on the seniority of the role. For more junior roles, values count for almost everything, since skills can be trained and there’s not much track record to depend on. As for more senior roles, we really do need all 3 areas!
18. What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
First, find a meaningful problem that is large enough for your ambitions and purposeful enough for you to preserve through the challenges.
Second, it should be one which you are uniquely suited to solve, be it because of experience, skills, challenge, or simply the market you are in.
Last, don’t do it alone. Find a co-founder and a strong founding team.
20. Are there any upcoming developments you would like to draw our attention to?
We have some exciting partnership and brand campaigns coming up soon, as well as continued enhancements of our mobile experience. We will also be launching more vehicle categories to suit an expanding range of needs.
By the end of 2023, we hope to enable even more drivers in Singapore with the freedom to drive, and have electric vehicles form a much more significant proportion of our fleet.
We will also be bringing our home-grown brand to overseas markets, as we aim to serve even more users internationally.
Ting Feng’s LinkedIn
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Cover image credit: GetGo & Toh Ting Feng