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Comparison platform banks on three T's to Get there

Get.com's founders say its winning formula lies in technology, transparency and teamwork

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Get.com, founded by Mr Pla and Ms Cheng, tasted success in the US with over 200,000 signed up for credit cards through its platform since 2011. Now the Singapore startup is homeward bound.

THE year is shaping up to be a homecoming of sorts for Singapore-based startup Get.com. A comparison platform for credit cards, home loans, insurance and even retail coupons, it found success in the US - its first market - with over 200,000 Americans having signed up for just credit cards through its platform since 2011. Now some four years later, Get.com is homeward bound. Since it opened an office and soft-launched here in February, the startup has seen double-digit monthly growth in card sign-ups.

"We want to be the No 1 brand in personal finance in Singapore - which has taken us a while to get to - and scale our brand in the US as the market there is huge," said co-founder Grace Cheng in an interview with BT.

The 34-year-old, together with husband Pedro Pla, 33, in 2006 founded the fintech startup as DailyMarkets.com, a blog on financial products. In 2011, the startup embarked on a shift in strategy - to become the comparison site it is today.

Get.com currently compares some 130 credit cards in Singapore, and over 600 in the US. What differentiates it from competitors (and there are at least three here), said the co-founders, are three T's: technology, transparency and teamwork.

The platform's proprietary technology - which Mr Pla built and is exploring patenting - is able to automatically trawl websites of financial institutions and extract details on financial products for comparison, removing the need for laborious data entry. Said Mr Pla: "While difficult to build, it's extremely scalable and can be used to compare a range of products."

In the spirit of transparency, and wanting to be a trusted source of personal finance information, Get.com does not sell advertisements and will compare offerings from as many financial institutions as possible, even those of non-partners, said Ms Cheng. This is unlike platforms that only play up products of their partners.

Ms Cheng added that unlike those platforms, specifics such as names of partners and criteria for comparison are always disclosed prominently on Get.com's site, and that the startup receives revenue only from successful sign-ups directed to partner sites through its platform.

The final T, teamwork, refers to Get.com's some 20 employees - known as go-getters - who are scattered across New York, Spain and Singapore, and dabble in technology, editorial, creative and digital marketing.

"Despite the geography, we make time for daily virtual meetings, which reflects our culture of flexibility and a mobile workspace, and that technology is always used - to its limits - to communicate and collaborate," said Mr Pla. Perhaps this is best exemplified by the couple's round-the-world trip in 2007, where they travelled non-stop to 14 countries while blogging and maintaining the site.

In the US, Get.com has partnered most of the major financial institutions, among them Bank of America and Chase. In Singapore, its partners are Citibank, American Express, ANZ and HSBC; talks with the three local banks are under way.

"It's an additional channel of marketing for the banks, at no cost. In the long term, banks also appreciate such platforms because through these, users learn and sign up for cards best suited to their lifestyles and interests, which keeps them on their cards longer," said Ms Cheng.

Notably, Get.com has not received any funding since its founding, and is not looking to raise money from investors any time, as it's been profitable from the start, said Mr Pla. This is not like many startups here and even in Silicon Valley where profits usually come much later and seeking venture capital is almost customary.

"Grace's background in forex trading has made us adopt a risk-reward approach and keep resources low early on. It also pays to differentiate from your competitors," said Mr Pla.

The Spaniard, who did not attend university and at 14 built a Web- based email system, said he always knew he wanted to start up. His wife initially aspired to be a marine biologist, but was inspired to be an entrepreneur after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.

The couple, who reside in Sentosa Cove with their two children and will regularly travel to Get.com's HarbourFront office for meetings with fellow go-getters, said diligence and having the flexibility to innovate will get entrepreneurs far.