CEO Interview : Misobase - Plug & Play flexible benefits for Singapore SMEs
New Success Stories
Please share with us briefly what you do.
I’m the founder of Misobase - a plug & play flexible benefits platform for SMEs in Singapore.
Misobase first launched as an experience gifting platform, which you can still see at Misobase.sg. Our flexible benefits platform brings all of these fun experiences together - plus additional health, wellness, fitness, and lifestyle benefits - and allows employers to create their own customised flexible benefits portal.
What were you doing before this?
I was the commercial manager for a digital consultancy across Singapore and Australia.
Describe your product. How does it work?
Misobase is a customisable, plug & play flexible benefits platform.
We list a range of benefits and experiences that an employer can pick and choose from to create their own personalised benefits portal for their staff.
- Fitness & Wellness: Bootcamps, gym memberships, yoga, pilates, massages, meditation, wearable fitness products, active hobbies such as rock climbing and scuba diving, app subscriptions…
- Fun & Fulfilling: Art courses, language courses, creative workshops such as leather-crafting and candle-making, acting classes, cooking classes, family photography, virtual reality, axe throwing...
- Health: Health screenings, lifestyle assessments, dental check-ups, eye screening, mental healthcare, physiotherapy…
After an employer hand-picks their selection of desired benefits, they allocate a spending limit for their employees - this could be a flat annual amount, a monthly amount, or even used as a way to issue spot rewards.
We then create a personalised benefits portal, including all of the employer’s selected benefits. Their employees are then given access to their portal and can spend their flexible benefits credit as they desire.
What are the key benefits?
Streamlining the management of your benefits. It eliminates the existing processes of approvals and expense claiming that come with managing your flexible benefits in-house. All of the benefits are hand-picked by you, we generate reports on how your team is using their benefits, and we also handle all payments.
Improving employee experience. Quite often flexible benefits programs are not well defined to employees, leaving them questioning what exactly their benefits can be used for. Employees also have to spend out of their own pocket, only being reimbursed after a month or two when expenses get paid. With Misobase Benefits, employees are clear on exactly what their benefits can be used for, and they don’t spend out of their own pocket.
Cost-effective for SMEs. SMEs often don’t have the resources to offer the complex benefits programs that larger employers do (think having a gym in the office, a chef cooking everyone lunch, sleeping pods, massages at work, etc). We offer SMEs the chance to have a great benefits program while keeping costs low.
Who are your closest competitors?
The most common solution among smaller employers is to manage their own flexible benefits program in-house, which can become time-consuming to manage as staff are left to seek approvals for expenditures, spend out of pocket, and claim expenses back from their employer.
Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?
The first client to come onto the benefits platform was Just After Midnight, an international 24/7 managed cloud & support provider for brands such as Fujitsu, Ford, Volvo, Dyson, and Heineken.
With offices across London, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, and Malta, Just After Midnight are a growing business with a need to attract & retain top technical talent.
I had been speaking with their team during the development of the platform, as they already had a flexible benefits scheme in place for their staff that was managed in-house. They offered an annual budget to be spent on staff’s personal hobbies & interests, with an additional monthly budget for health & fitness activities. On top of this, they would issue spot rewards throughout the year for staff birthdays, to reward staff for putting in extra hours, and other activities.
This scheme was popular with the staff but tough to manage for Just After Midnight. There was lots of back-and-forth on the questions, approvals, and expense claims that accompanied the program.
With the implementation of their Misobase Benefits Portal, Just After Midnight is able to offer the same scheme on autopilot. Their staff has an annual budget to spend on the activities of their choosing, plus the additional monthly allowance. Their portal contains mostly health, wellness, and fitness benefits, while they also use the fun experiences from Misobase.sg for their spot rewards.
What motivated you to start this business?
I believe everyone should be encouraged and enabled to take time for their own health & wellbeing, spend time on their favourite hobbies, and live an active, healthy, and fulfilling lifestyle.
Employers are in a position to facilitate this for their staff, and the flow-on effect for such a program offers huge advantages to your ability to attract top talent, your retention, and the productivity of your team.
For smaller employers, it can be a challenge to implement such a program. The purpose of Misobase Benefits is to offer a simple, turnkey solution that empowers smaller employers to offer their own holistic flexible benefits program.
What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?
I think the biggest step in starting a business is always leaving the safety and comfort of a stable job.
How did you get funded?
We bootstrapped through product development. When the timing was right we raised a small round from contacts that had expressed interest.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
At this stage, nothing beats developing relationships and building a network of people who are aware of what you do. I spend a lot of time at events and reaching out to people on LinkedIn.
Describe a typical workday
At this stage of the business, I’m still wondering what a typical day looks like!
As soon as I wake up I’ll brew some coffee (I’m a huge coffee drinker) while listening to a morning news podcast. I’ll then sit down with my coffee and journal to plan the key tasks and activities for the day.
Any given day will have a few scheduled meetings and calls with clients and new suppliers, and I’ll also get to a couple of events each week that I’ll need to plan around.
Outside of meetings and events, my time is then divided between product development - mostly our strategy for finding & recruiting new suppliers - as well as analysing our client pipeline and acting on new business opportunities.
My biggest hobby outside of work is Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve never been the type to exercise first thing in the morning, so I’ll make sure I train in the afternoon or evening where my schedule allows.
Who has been the greatest influence in your business and why?
I’m fortunate enough to have a very diverse group of friends who provide feedback and input on the business from many different viewpoints. The strongest influence on the ongoing development of the product are discussions with clients on their needs, wants, and pain points.
What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
Like most start-ups, Misobase went through many iterations before becoming its current version as a plug & play flexible benefits platform. My proudest moment so far has been reaching the point that started to resonate with our target audience. All of a sudden people easily understood the value proposition and the application of Misobase.
What is your favourite business failure (and what did you learn from it)?
When I was 20 I was lucky enough to work on a start-up with my cousin back in Australia - a platform for nearby dining deals. We raised money, hired a team, put in a huge amount of work, launched across 3 cities and had over 200 restaurants using the platform. Ultimately we failed, but it was a wild ride and it gave me countless invaluable lessons in business very early in my career.
If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him?
Don’t worry about having a defined path, just follow what you’re interested in and what you enjoy.
What’s one productivity hack you can’t live without?
Getting enough sleep.
More about Matt:
First job - An after-school job of packing and unpacking boxes for a printing company. I was 10 years old.
Someone you admire - My friends - I’m surrounded by bright & brilliant people.
Favorite book - Tough choice, but my favourite recent read has been ‘Trust Me I’m Lying’ by Ryan Holiday.
Favorite Film - The Fifth Element - I’m big on Sci-Fi films and it’s a classic.
Favorite Music - Hip Hop & Jazz.
Last holiday - I’ve spent a big part of the year in Bali - which has been great to put my head down and get the valuable product-building work done. My last real holiday was India for a friend’s wedding earlier in the year.
When you are not at work, where can we most likely find you? Training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It keeps me sane.
Where can people find out more about your product offerings and you online?
We’re currently in Singapore!
Find out more about Misobase Benefits here: https://corporate.misobase.sg
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mholyoake/
For flexible benefits email us at: email@example.com