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Trust in online sellers is needed everywhere. To fill what it calls “the trust gap” for e-commerce companies in emerging markets, a Hong Kong-based startup called TrustedCompany has landed $1 million.
The company, which previously raised a seed round of $250,000, says it generates this trust through customer reviews and ratings. The new Series A funding — led by Tengelmann Ventures in Germany with investments from 500 Startups in the U.S. and Malaysia-based Asia Venture Group — will be used to back product innovation, boost marketing and sales in southeast Asia and India, and jumpstart expansion into Africa and Brazil.
“Reviews can only add value in the long run if they are collected on a trustworthy third-party platform,” managing director and co-founder Frederik Krass told VentureBeat. The company, which has most of its operations in Malaysia, cites industry research firm Nielsen as saying that “72 percent of consumers polled trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”
After an online purchase, customers can be email-invited by a participating company to post a review and rating. Companies can display the resulting appraisals on their sites, as well as on an SEO-optimized TrustCompany certificate page for that site. The platform, which was launched last November, also provides online mediation tools to resolve customer issues.
Monthly pricing plans are based on the number of review invitations sent out following a sale. To help ensure that reviews are genuine, TrustedCompany generates its own post-sale link for a review invitation, and it claims a company cannot cherry-pick the best reviews.
Some companies allow users to post reviews without an invitation, but the users have to create an account based on their Facebook login. TrustedCompany says it has developed an algorithm that can detect fake reviews, based on certain patterns.
Krass and co-founder Philip Knuth are German, while the third co-founder, Adam Leow Kah Thong, is Malaysian. The site was founded, they said, because of frustration about online shopping experiences in Malaysia.
“Back home in Europe,” Krass said, “we would simply only shop in online stores that we trust,” but it was unclear which stores could be trusted in Malaysia. Client companies currently include Lenskart in India, 8 Share and myiMart in Malaysia, and Pricearea in Indonesia.
He added that his 20-person startup does “not face any direct competition” in emerging markets like Malaysia, and that international companies offering reviews and ratings have a vulnerability because they do not localize their services. “Even though some similarities exist among these markets, they also differ from each other,” he told us.
Indirect competitors are forums for reviews, Krass said, like Mouthshut, Complaintboard, and specific Facebook groups. But, he noted, they are mostly for complaints and leave a distorted picture of a company’s trustworthiness, while TrustedCompany invites both satisfied and unsatisfied customers.
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