Being born in Congo and growing up in 10 different countries
Witnessing genocide in Rwanda
How playing team sports can help one integrate into almost any geography
His most formative years were on Negros Island in the Philippines
Being fluent in Cebuano
Starting Mangtas in the middle of the pandemic
Making Mangtas an equal-opportunity platform and why this is important
The necessity of having reviews linked to specific project deliverables
Outsourcing via strategic partnerships for the long-term
Gathering data to help service providers and clients make better decisions
Shenzen’s population growth statistics
The league in which the New York Cosmos played
It’s a Universal Language
There Are Several Layers To This
A Lot of Projects Fail Because the Clients Are Not Ready
We Set Ourselves Up as an Ecosystem
We Love Nothing More Than Third-Party Integration
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Michael Waitze 0:02
Michael Waitze Media. Telling Asia’s Stories.
Michael Waitze 0:10
Okay, we are on. Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Wouter Delbaere…sure I didn’t get that right, a co-founder and CEO of Mangtas. If people could see you laughing at me, that would be awesome. Wouter, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s really great to have you here. How are you doing? By the way?
Wouter Delbaere 0:31
I’m doing very well. It was a very good attempt. And don’t worry, only people from either Belgium or the Netherlands get it right. And it’s actually really funny because I didn’t grow up in Belgium. And my parents gave me a very Belgian name, and they should have known because they were they never intended to stay in Belgium. So yeah, I didn’t make the same mistake with my daughter.
Michael Waitze 0:52
Yes, exactly. So when when my daughter was born, and her mother’s Japanese. We made this conscious decision before she was born. We just looked at each other and said, look, we can call her Michiko, but no one’s ever going to get that right. Only like 125 million people in the world are going to pronounce that name. Probably the other 7 billion just won’t get it. So we made up a name, we thought, Kyla, based on some kanji that we liked. And still people call her Kayla. I don’t understand there’s no ‘A’ before the why
Wouter Delbaere 1:22
That’s a beautiful name.
Michael Waitze 1:25
So we didn’t realize this. And we can get to this in a second. But it’s a very popular name in the Philippines apparently.
Wouter Delbaere 1:33
That’s what I that’s how I know the name. Yeah. And sometime in the Philippines. So we give my our daughter’s name. Naya Na, ya, right? For the same reason, right? We didn’t we want it to be international. We want it to be unique in a way, right? So everyone loves Naya, simple. So when she will ever go on a podcast one day, the interviewer will be okay.
Michael Waitze 1:58
Yeah, if you cannot get those two syllables, right, it’s on you.
Wouter Delbaere 2:01
Exactly. And it’s also spelled straightforward, right? So so one thing is my pronunciation, but then as the spelling Right, right. So now at least it’s simple.
Michael Waitze 2:09
So when if you didn’t live your whole life in Belgium, where did you live your life?
Wouter Delbaere 2:15
So I grew up. So I spent about entire lifetime in 10 different countries. Oh, wow. So basically, I was born in Congo. That’s where it all started. So my parents started to live in Congo. If you look at my past passport, I have a name, which is Naki, which means the first one, which is an African name. And so I have some heritage there. And I spent about a year there. So my parents would have known because when I was born, their naming the water, they were in trouble. I was in trouble in Egypt,
Michael Waitze 2:49
right? But what did your family do? Like? Why did you move around so much?
Wouter Delbaere 2:53
So So it’s basically the work of my father. So he’s an agricultural engineer, right now who worked for the World Food Program, the United Nations, and back then, but we’re always somewhere to cultural projects. So so after Congo, I spent some time in China as well. For two years I where I learned how to speak Chinese. Unfortunately, I forgot all of it. And I stayed in a city which is now quite popular. What is it? Guess? Which, which? It’s a city where COVID broke out?
Michael Waitze 3:28
Okay, Wuhan. I mean, that’s not hard to do. But it’s so funny, because I don’t know how old you are. But I’m guessing like around 35 or 36. And if you’d go back 30 something years ago to any of these cities in China, particularly the satellite cities, Shen San Wuhan, pseudo, like anything that’s not Beijing and Shanghai, they were tiny. Because this was before this massive migration. You tell me where I’m wrong here from the countryside into the cities happened. There’s some stat on Chen Zen that I forget. But it like went from 40,000 people to 40 million people in like, 15 years. We’re in a generation. I can’t remember the number but something like that. Yeah.
Wouter Delbaere 4:07
So So unfortunately, I don’t remember any of it. Right. So I see it from the founder videos and the images, right. But my parents went back and they were shocked. Right? They were shocked with how things have evolved in the last 20 years. It’s just crazy. Yeah, you’re right. And then I spend a year in Yemen, that in Belgium, and then we move to Rwanda, and that I remember very well. Do you remember? So I was about six I think yeah, five or six? And that’s where I did my grade one all the way till till grade four. I was there till till the genocide broke out. Oh, no. So we witnessed all of that. So I don’t know if you saw Hotel Rwanda, but that’s exactly that’s exactly how it was very, very good movie. And very realistic.
Michael Waitze 4:51
Were you scared when you were there?
Wouter Delbaere 4:53
Not until the genocide
Michael Waitze 4:55
that’s what I mean, obviously.
Wouter Delbaere 4:56
Yeah. So look, I think It was masked well enough by my parents to make sure that to give us enough security right? They didn’t want us to live in fear. But yeah, we heard the bombs go off and, and and when we had when it was time to go, because we didn’t live in Kigali, the capital, we lived in a nearby city called Roma, Ghana, which was an hour away. We had to be rescued. And then it got scary. Because, you know, there were like, people were panicking. We even got into an accident you could see burn down houses. And yeah, we we got out of there. Also was that was quite scary, for sure. And we had to rebuild our life, right. So so that was our life we we stayed in Rwanda for for four years. And then we had to go back to Belgium and reset, right based on the escape.
Michael Waitze 5:45
And it’s interesting. So when I was a kid, and I think you’re the first person that will really understand this, like, I moved around a lot in the switch schools a lot when I was a kid. And it was like this good and bad thing was a double edged sword, right. In some cases, it made me really adaptable. And in some cases, it made me feel like whatever it’s happening today is probably going to change tomorrow. So who really cares kind of thing, but you did it in different countries. And you did it in a place where, like, I never had bombs going off. Right? So if you were six years old, 10 years old. It’s just a fascinating way to grow up.
Wouter Delbaere 6:16
And to be honest, I had a fantastic childhood try. Not like I live in water or anything like that. It was just a very dark moment. Yeah, that that that we witnessed, right. And yeah, but But you’re right. And and in hindsight, the best thing that could have happened to me is all this moving around. But at the time itself, it’s the worst thing, right? You finally integrate you get you pick up the language you you and we always went local. Right? We will never went into international schools are interesting like that. And when I played football was always part of the football team. Finally, like a girl and you’re making progress, and boom, your dad says, next to the next country. It’s a hard one, but you get to the new country. And that takes a week or two and off you go. That’s your new home.
Michael Waitze 7:04
Did you feel so I played I played in America, we call it soccer. I’m presuming that’s what you’re talking about when you said handball Exactly. So I played football as well. And it was really one of the things where no matter which town we moved to. I was good. I knew I could do it well, and there was always this sense of like, well, here’s the new kid in class but once you put on those cleats, I put on the shorts and started running around and you know scoring goals people were like, Okay, you’re part of the team now like that. If you could only do that one thing it really helped me out I don’t know about you.
Wouter Delbaere 7:33
And what was your position? Miko? Striker for sure. Okay, so I played striker or offensive midfield?
Michael Waitze 7:40
Yeah, same here. So I played I played up in the front. But yeah, yeah.
Wouter Delbaere 7:43
So I like to wear the number 10. Because that was a thing to do. No, but you’re right. And and if you know how to play, it’s very easy. And I carry that over, beyond I mean, even when I started working, and then I went to places like Thailand or whatever, we’ll go to that in a sec. Even when it couldn’t speak the language. Immediately. There’s chemistry, you can just you know, make sign language, say a couple of things. And off you go, you, you, you integrate, you become part of a group. And I think it’s a it’s a very good way to to, to carry over to work as well.
Michael Waitze 8:17
Thank you, right? I mean, even a week ago, and I mean, I’m 56 now, right? But even a week ago, I was walking down Sonic kind of aside soy in Thailand, right? So I 67 And there were these two little kids maybe 10 or 11. kicking a football around. I don’t speak Thai well enough to even say just like kick it to me. But what I can do is face them like a defenseman. And with a smile, yeah, I’m not challenging them. I’m playing with them. And they love it and they pass it to each other. I steal the ball, I juggle the ball a little bit, I kick it back to them. And instantly like I’m safe and I’m their friend and I’m in now you don’t I mean,
Wouter Delbaere 8:55
it’s a universal language for sure. It cross across all cuts across all borders and cultures. And you know, it’s it’s Yeah, I was very happy like Belgium. While I didn’t really spend a lot of time in Belgium. The culture that I was brought up in is Belgium. Yeah. And and I’m very happy that that’s a sport I learned. So because you can pretty much play that anywhere, even in the US now.
Michael Waitze 9:21
And to be fair, where I grew up, there were pockets of soccer, Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut. Were really it was weird, right? Because most of the time the sports Grow, grow in America in a place where it’s warm all the time, right. You can do it all year round. In that part of the country to get cold in the fall in the winter got very cold, but for some reason it grew really strong there. And you you’re probably way too young to even know this, but they started this thing called the Major League Soccer. I can’t remember I can’t read what it was called. But the New York team, the cosmos actually signed a contract with Pele And I went and I saw play play in Yale Bowl one time. And it was one of the most exciting things in my whole life.
Wouter Delbaere 10:07
No way. Yes. I’ve been like an adult with kids.
Michael Waitze 10:11
Yeah, it was just so Oh, so I swear to God, I still remember this one thing he did not kidding. He, you know, someone passed him the ball, he trapped it. And then there were three guys around him. And he just deep them all and just like, went on his way and probably scored. I can’t remember what happened after that. But I just remember thinking, three guys, he was standing still. Anyway,
Wouter Delbaere 10:33
ya know that and at a point of time, they had to change the rules on tackling and all that because that’s the only way to keep him out of the game. Right? There was a whole World Cup where he had like the worst experience but yeah, anyway, so Well, then I went to to the Philippines. Right. So that was a next stop for me. That’s where I spent 10 years of my life got it. That’s I would call the most formative years of my life. I would I call Philippines. My home. We still have a home there. We were on an island. So we were not in. By the way if ever you go to the Philippines, Manila and Cebu are the main cities. Yep. But you wouldn’t call that really Philippines. Philippines. You don’t want if you want to have a Philippine experience, you have to go to a province or a separate islands. So I grew up on a separate island. Well, net girls, probably similar for you in Bangkok, right. I mean, the Bangkok experience versus, you know, an island or some outskirts. Right?
Michael Waitze 11:27
Yeah. I mean, it’s like New York is not really part of the United States, you got to go up to like, Vermont, to really figure it out.
Wouter Delbaere 11:33
Exactly. Exactly. And and so that’s where I grew up. So So joined a football team there studied all the way till till my university, oh, wow, bachelor’s in computer applications. So yeah, a bit of an island boy life. But but at the same time, also, you know, a good balance, I would say, like, very serious about soccer, or football was life for me, but couldn’t complain about about the fun I had. And, you know, the experience I had there, and I would say Philippines is a great place to become a positive person. It feels I know, we spoke about this separately, and it’s just people, a lot of people don’t have a lot, but they’re always happy. Right. And and there’s some places that you know, like, for instance, Belgium, where people have a lot, but are not always the happiest bunch. I would call Philippines my home. But obviously I speak the language to Cebu I know is from Microsoft, Intel. So speak the language. If you would close your eyes, you wouldn’t know that I was a foreigner. So it’s always funny that way, and I feel very local. I also speak Dutch or Flemish in Belgium. But you know, there look local, but I don’t feel too local.
Michael Waitze 12:46
So that was gonna be my next question. And I think we have this in common, which is surprising. I lived in Japan for 22 years, I don’t look Japanese at all. And yet when I land there now, I mean, obviously haven’t been there in two years because of the pandemic. But when I land there now I feel like I’m at home. And I feel super comfortable. And I find myself I don’t know if you do this at all, but I find myself sometimes during conversations having a second conversation in my head. In Japanese.
Wouter Delbaere 13:14
It’s it’s funny, it’s funny, like, like, there’s certain things sometimes I think, and it’s weird, because I would say when it comes to work and everything, English is probably my best language, because that’s what I learned. Yeah, but I learned that later in life, right? There’s certain things that I still do in Dutch for some reason, which is counting. And that’s probably when I was a kid, I was juggling the ball. And I was counting 112345 intuitively up and somehow that stuck. But there’s a lot of stuff that I do in Filipino and and for instance, my my siblings, who are as Belgian as me, when we have a conversation, it’s always in Filipino and so funny. It’s hilarious when people hear us doesn’t matter if they hear us in in Belgium or in the Philippines. It’s always fun.
Michael Waitze 14:01
It’s hilarious, actually. So I’d love to see you and your other Belgian siblings sitting in like somewhere in the countryside in the Philippines and just talking to each other. Instead one Oh, that would
Wouter Delbaere 14:12
be waiting for others to to back to back by right to say something about us and we make them speak English. And then all of a sudden we switch and then they Oh.
Michael Waitze 14:22
I love it. I love it. I mean, look, this happens. This used to happen to me all the time when I was in Tokyo, right? I’d say something to a store owner and they’d just look at my Japanese friend and talk to them instead. Like I wasn’t even there. Anyway.
Wouter Delbaere 14:36
Yeah. No unexperienced experiences exact same things. Phil, I speak the local language and, and sometimes it’s not about how richer vocabulary is. It’s much about how how well can you articulate exactly because it’s very easy to catch somebody I learned later. I got lucky because I was young when I got there. Just 10 years there. So I really got intonations, right and once you do that, actually then then they say oh, wow, okay, this is different. makes a big difference. So I make it a point to integrate. And at the same for my daughter moving forward, we’ll make sure that that she does similarly, we will continue to travel for sure. Yeah. And we’ll make sure she integrates the same way.
Michael Waitze 15:14
So you haven’t mentioned anything about your work life. But you do keep mentioning work. And I do think there’s a metaphor for all the things that happened to you before you start working. Because I don’t think you can remove it from your work. What are you doing now?
Wouter Delbaere 15:27
Yeah, no, indeed. And And to add to that, I then moved to Belgium and did a master’s in it, to reconnect to roots. And that then really helped me form that kind of balance, I would say, to answer your question in a sec of, you know, the more I would say street smart way of operating in the Philippines versus the very theoretical, logical, structured way of thinking and operating in Belgium, with the sports and the team spirit that we got. All of that is a good way, a good foundation, I feel to start a career.
Michael Waitze 15:59
What is a master’s in it? Is this a? Is this a computer science degree?
Wouter Delbaere 16:03
Yeah. Okay, that that’s another way of putting it. So just technology. Yeah, it’s soft. Basically, in the in the field of software. I did several things had several roles. But today, I started my own company, which I started in the middle of the pandemic, and we can talk about that experience. But what basically, as you mentioned, I’m a co founder and CEO of a tech company. And what we do is we are a marketplace for business to business outsourcing.
Michael Waitze 16:34
What does what does that mean? Know what we do?
Wouter Delbaere 16:37
Yeah, so basically, if you’re familiar with Fiverr, or Upwork, we are basically Freelancer platforms are basically marketplaces where you can go and order services, right? So so we apply a very similar concept, but it’s very much focused on business to business, right. So our clients, our businesses, our suppliers, or vendors, our businesses, the type of services you would avail off are typically, for instance, software development, let’s say you want to build an app is a good example. Or you have an existing tech team. And you want to enrich enhance that team with additional resourcing or suppliers. You want to have your marketing, digital marketing, don’t forget, you won’t have your lead generation done for you all of this stuff. Having this done by a dedicated agencies that are specialized and is very cost effective, is what we’re all about. And these are very hard to find today, because you can’t really discover them unless you google them. And then you still have to be lucky. So we make that a reliable experience. We make a structured marketplace out of
Michael Waitze 17:43
that. So I like this, actually. And I’ll tell you why. It’s it’s not probably for the reason that people think I look at these big marketplaces, right in the E commerce space, let’s make an equivalency, like, even Amazon, which people consider sort of the gold standard. But if you look in this region, Lazada, shopee, whatever you have, right. The discovery for me is so hard, right? So if I type into the search engine, Elgato, green screen, it ignores what I say. It’s almost like it wasn’t really listening, maybe it heard green screen, maybe it heard screen, maybe it heard green, it doesn’t really matter, then it pops up a bunch of other things that they want to sell to me, but I don’t want to buy. And the big platforms do this in every space. So whether it’s Fiverr, or Upwork, I’ve had very little success there. But what I find is that a lot of things are used doing the same thing that used to happen in the offline world, where you had small shops, turn into department stores, and then come right back into small shops. Because I go to a department store, it’s noisy, it’s messy. Too many people in there, some of them aren’t shopping, some of them are just looking around. And that’s like fishing, right. But if you go into a boutique, you can just get you have six pairs of shoes you can look at you buy the ones you like, you can leave in an hour, it makes you happy. And I feel like this is necessary. And I talk about this a lot on my ecommerce undercover show. But I feel like that’s what you’re doing is you’re checking that thing away from these gigantic marketplaces where who knows what’s going on? And just going? No, no, come over here. You have seven choices. All of them are good. Which one do you want? Do I have that right?
Wouter Delbaere 19:17
exactly spot on and and we look at it also as an equal opportunity platform. So you take it now from the shopper, right from the person that’s the person that’s purchasing the service. Right? And and indeed, like it today, you can go to Google and say, hey, I want to outsource and I specifically want somebody from Vietnam or relevance. And these are the characteristics I’m looking for. All you can do today is really Google. There’s no like a platform that vets these vendors and makes it an apples to apples comparison for you. Exactly the same way you would go for freelancers today, but it’s just very much much more focused on agencies and businesses, which is actually a completely different space. Also very Different types of projects, different size of projects much more strategic in terms of relationships. This also we also provide an opportunity here for the vendors to shine. Right? So if I’m in the remote corners of a country, say South and Philippines or somewhere north of Vietnam, if I want to be discovered today, I have to heavily heavily invest in reverse engineering go Google algorithms. Yeah, which they call SEO, right? Because if 80% of servers like this today are found via Google, right, I have to be found by Google. But that’s not a good use of that agencies time,
Michael Waitze 20:37
it’s a terrible use of your time and money as well. Exactly, oh,
Wouter Delbaere 20:41
it takes a lot of time for you to go up the rankings, right. So it’s much better for you to satisfy your clients build a reputation. And that way be discovered and and doesn’t matter who you are. And that’s what we’re really about right giving, creating this equal opportunity platform for vendors all over the world to, to get really good and to who are really good at their services, who are very cost effective, and now have a platform to be discovered. And, and not have to invest all this money into, you know, hassling people on LinkedIn, or, or, or, you know, SEO, which isn’t their, their, their forte anyway.
Michael Waitze 21:19
When I connect to somebody on LinkedIn, right, of course, I’m trying to create a networking opportunity for everybody. But the one thing I don’t ever do is ask somebody to pay me for something. This actually drives me crazy. This is like a personal thing for me. Like, if you reach out to me, I’m not saying you did this. But if you reach out to me on LinkedIn and say, Hey, Michael is great to connect. You may need my services. Like if you just start pitching me right away. I’m likely to unfollow you, or actually disconnect the connection. Does that make sense? Because you wouldn’t do that in real life. Like, you wouldn’t just walk up to me in a coffee shop and go, Hey, you gotta let you kind of latte just like I did. You know, I can build your website for you. Leave me alone.
Wouter Delbaere 22:00
I hate nothing more like like, I I hate charging people. You know, I want to build trust that, yeah, really want to do something useful. And if we both agree, something needs to be compensated for Fantastic, right. But I’d never think short term and I hate nothing more than people spamming me. But But here’s where it’s funny, Michael, all the people that spammy. Ultimately sign up to our platform. Because now it’s basically a great way they think people vendors think they’re selling to me. And then I say, Hang on, if you’re providing a quality service, there’s a better way for you, and then they sign up. And we provide them a platform, which is and then they’re all happy to do that instead.
Michael Waitze 22:47
What is this process? Like? Let’s say that I did spam you with something and I said, Hey, I’m the greatest SEO magician in the world and your company definitely needs my services, you would come back and say, well, actually, you should join Hmong toast because blah, blah, blah, and I’ll do it. But what’s the actual onboarding? Like? What’s the curation? Like? How do you know I’m not a scam? Do you don’t I mean, what do you do in that respect?
Wouter Delbaere 23:08
Yeah, so there are several layers to this. Right. So so the first step is, let’s make sure you’re willing to put some effort into this, first, let’s create some friction for you. And this is funny, right? Because a lot of people say reduce friction, reduce friction, because you know, you want to scale up, but we we kind of set the we said the opposite. Let’s find this balance of getting the maximum possible friction without losing a good customer, right? Because we want to like you say, curates, right. So we want to make sure that there’s enough appetite there and enough drive for them to even be be willing to be part of it. So what they do is they just create a profile, it starts with a personal profile, similar like you would create a LinkedIn profile where we just sanity check whether you are a real person, right, your email checks out, and you just create a profile like you would on LinkedIn. So that’s, that’s step one. Then there is the whole vendor profile process where you sign up. And while it may sound long, actually, if you’re, it shouldn’t take more than five to 10 minutes if you have all the information available. And then we go deeper, right? We go and check Are you a real business? Tell us more about it? What skills are you specialize, you even upload a slide deck for us to validate quite often will ask you now you will also ask people to create a little video so you can integrate that so then we can hear you speak and present yourself. And then finally there is like the final vetting process where a team comes in and and interviews you not that’s not only for us to kind of sanity check a couple of basic things and ask for references, clients and all that that you have. But also for us to understand exactly what these vendors do. Because sometimes, a vendor may be very good at creating their own profile. But we will then tag additional information and enrich that data set so as are more often sophisticated searches are triggered, we then start tagging that with additional information on these on these vendors. You know, that’s Now step three, then there’s obviously the peer review process. That’s so first of all internal vetting. But peer review is basically, I would say similar like earning, earning airline miles, you will earn miles when you deliver more successful projects and earn better views. So So that’s then an actual reputation you built on a trusted third party platform. And that does not exist today.
Michael Waitze 25:33
And you do also vet the, the reviews, do you know what I mean? Because like, I can go on to travel loco, or any of these big things, and you know, I can have 15 different IDs, I can actually review myself and just say, you know, Michael’s the greatest whatever in the whole world, and I can have all my friends do it. But because you’re it sounds to me, like your whole thing is like this highly curated platform, but that’s not possible. So in a way, it does feel like validated third party data. No,
Wouter Delbaere 26:01
it is because every single review is is linked to a specific delivery, right? It’s not just a random person, and the only one that can review is your client. And by the way, vice versa, the vendors will also review the client goes both ways, which is equally important. It’s really, yeah, because vendors have the absolute right to not want to work with a specific line. Yeah, so and that’s the way it is. So it’s really based on a project by project complete track record, we can then match the actual experience with the actual with the delivery that was done at this stage, because we’re a very early stage startup, we still we know when something doesn’t go well and goes well. And we’ll get we’ll make sure I will continue to make sure that this cannot be hacked. Right. The last thing we want is that, that the clients, the vendor, start begging for reviews and all that filter, that’s very, very important to us, right? That that everything remains absolutely genuine, because that is what what we ultimately want to achieve is we want to make outsourcing a very accessible but also reliable experience for everyone. Because it’s
Michael Waitze 27:09
the future of work to us a really hackneyed term like that’s the way work is going to happen from now on. Right? People aren’t going to say like, where do you work? They’re just gonna say, what do you do? 100% I that’s what I think,
Wouter Delbaere 27:20
especially with the pandemic, right now that people, businesses are open to remote work, right? So basically, they allow their employees employees to work remotely. If you don’t do that anymore, you will lose your top employees for sure. Absolutely. Two of my siblings quit their jobs because of that, and they found new jobs that supported it. But what companies also start to discover is that actually, why do I need to hire environment Singaporean or US based company? Why do I need to hire locally, when there are specialized service providers that can help me out? And I’m not I’m not saying never hire locally? Absolutely not. You still need to do what you do best, right and hire the right talent for that. But for all the stuff that’s not your core business, you should outsource and via strategic partnerships, and that’s what we’re here for.
Michael Waitze 28:14
Yeah. I mean, no way I like to make these equivalencies to dating into marriage, right, because it’s something that everybody understands. But I think people do understand that. You know, you date somebody for because of their proximity. You know what I mean? Like you don’t drive all the way if you live in Massachusetts, Robert, date somebody in Massachusetts, right? marry somebody, Massachusetts, in the old days. If you lived in Sharon, Massachusetts, you’re probably married somebody from Sharon, because that’s where you hung out all the time. It wasn’t it like the people in Sharon were better. You just didn’t get down to Nantasket often enough to marry that person. And it’s the same thing for business. Proximity used to matter. But now it doesn’t. Right, I can hire a girl in the in, excuse me, in Vietnam to program for me. Because it doesn’t matter if she’s in the same town or even in the same country. Yeah.
Wouter Delbaere 29:03
And I think marriage is a very good analogy. Because it takes time. Yeah, for you to find a good partner agreed. And it takes time for you to develop a working relationship and trusts and, and a flow and a communication. And that’s where we feel that there’s a gap in the markets because when you go to Freelancer platforms, yes, you work with individuals, but they usually work with many different clients, you still work with individuals, this is about businesses that want to build strategic relationships long term with other businesses. That’s really what we’re about. Right and and we facilitate that process. We not only we don’t only give you the short list of partners that you can, quote, unquote, marry, but we help you Yeah, we’re also there to guide you throughout that marriage. And and make sure that all the transactions that occur are done the right way. Right and And we create a discipline out of it structure a best practices. We learn a lot by doing this. And both parties are protected that way. I actually I agree. I’ve never thought of it and articulated it that way. But I feel marriage is a very good thing. So analogy.
Michael Waitze 30:15
Do you also get the profiles of your clients. And I want to be clear about this. I’m not suggesting at all that you then do some kind of AI or machine learning matching, because frankly, I think it’s way overhyped for that. But if you can get the profile of your clients and vet them as well, then as humans inside of Mantis, you can make this decision. Oh, you don’t want Michael would be a really good match as a service provider for this person, because I think they would get along. But also, this person should never work with those teams, even though that’s good service. But they’re probably not going to like each other kind of thing. You know what I mean?
Wouter Delbaere 30:51
100%. And, and I look, I hate it when people say the word AI, or or crypto out of context, or methanol out of context. Yeah. Because Because I understand this. And I know what it takes. Having said that, while we’re we are starting to apply some AI ish stuff to this real machine learning type requires much bigger data sets. And that’s for the future. But that’s actually where we want to get to your rights. What’s more important to us now is gathering all the data points, right? Yeah. And that includes the clients, for sure. We definitely talk to our clients. We don’t want to expose random clients to random vendors at all, we we not only asked, you know, industries they’re in as a good example. That’s a very, very simple, simple check, right countries during the budgets they have those three things allow you to slice and dice your information ready. And we have 5060 I think by tomorrow 70 data points on vendors, and that will only grow over time. Right. And and we do this matching, not only now, I mean, of course, we have some algorithm searches that we do. But then there’s also the brief, right? It’s not just a client, I mean, the couple of things to say about the brief, right? And brief by brief, I mean, the requirements, a lot of projects fail, because the clients are not ready. Because they don’t know what they want. And they don’t know how to articulate. Right, right. They don’t know, I mean, I want to build an app. Okay. Great. So to one person 100,000 people, doesn’t mean mobile ready is a desktop, you know, all these kind of questions if you’re not ready, and quite often the vendor gets blamed. And sometimes that’s correct. But very, very often also the client not knowing how to specify requirements, and not knowing how to structure the projects, creating also imbalance in terms of power dynamics, payments, and all that. So there are a lot of things where we help out. But the point I was trying to make is from the brief, we can actually extract a lot of information as well. Right, structured, but also unstructured, and based on that start matching. So yeah, that’s definitely what we have, and what we’re what we’re improving.
Michael Waitze 33:08
Are you also creating communications tools, communication tools, inside of your own platform, so that the, the back and forth the banter between the client and the vendor happens on site. So that then maybe you can garner some data from that as well. But even just give them a place that’s quiet, where they can discuss this, if they can’t meet in person. Does that make sense?
Wouter Delbaere 33:34
100%? And the answer is yes and no. So yes, we want to create that single point where you can run your entire outsourcing into it, yes. But we don’t create what already exists. I mean, today, it’s so easy to integrate with third parties via API’s, right? Where we don’t build communication tools that have that went through a decade of r&d, when they charge us, you know, $1 per usage, and a very easy way that that feeds back. And we set ourselves up as an ecosystem. And we love nothing more than third party integration. And that’s those are things that were very hard to do two decades ago. So we have a couple of unfair advantages, timing wise, and one of the things is the affordability and the easiness, of integrating with third parties, right? And it’s always gonna, it’s always a buy versus build decision at the end of the day. And very, very often, if we build it ourselves, I asked a lot of questions like why we usually spend a couple of days researching things like even search algorithms, right? I mean, there’s so many tools out there that provide very sophisticated searches, you can just switch on. So the answer question communication, e signatures, you know, setting up meetings, sharing videos, all that stuff. We’re not going to build that but we’re going to consolidate all of that into a nice End to End flow. And we look at ourselves as an ecosystem.
Michael Waitze 35:04
So if I’m a vendor on montas, right? Like, where does the money come from? How do you get paid? Are you part of the transaction? The reason why is you have all these, like real estate sites out there that are just lead gen, they get paid for leads. But the transaction happens, basically off piece, they’re off site. So they don’t even know where the market is where the prices for these things that are trading, right? Because I can offer my condo for a million bucks, you may pay me 650. I don’t know that if I’m just doing lead gen. But if I have the data of where every transaction takes place, I can get much more involved in the market and marketing of these things, if I know where prices are,
Wouter Delbaere 35:44
to answer your question. So we charge a commission on transactions. So that’s completely transparent. And we charge the clients. So this is a controversial view. And we made that so fundamental to our way of operating. And we said we will never ever charge the vendors, unless we do something very specific for them, which is not which is out of the box or whatever, right. But our core philosophy has always been we want the vendors, too want to be there. We want the vendors to want to transact there, we want the vendors to stay there. Because ultimately, our vendors are our product. Yes, we have a technology, we have a platform that enables all of this. But the clients don’t come to us for our technology, they come to us for the quality services that they can rely on. And when I look at some of these other platforms, where they get it wrong, is they charge the vendor, the suppliers an arm and a leg to the point where these guys from you know, and quite often these are these are developing countries, right? So these are the people that actually need to get pay. Right, right. And they don’t actually try to take the transaction offline, because then then they don’t have to pay that 15 20% transaction fee, whatever it is, right? Right. Right. So we made it a point to never ever charge them. And we charge a 10% to the client. And we give so much value to the client beyond the vetting, and the global payments and and the structured and, and even an insurance plan if something goes wrong, and all that right, stat 10% that we currently charge for cell service transaction is fair, it’s never even been questioned. To answer your question, our business model will evolve, right? So what I say today, sure, if somebody listens to this recording in two years, as you know, you know, we’re not if it’s not different, that’s a problem. Exactly. That means we stay true to a dream rather than reality. Exactly. But the core philosophy remains, the vendors are what we’re here for fundamentally, and their product.
Michael Waitze 37:45
So you said something really early in this conversation in passing, and I wrote it down because I wanted to ask you about it. You said you want to create equal opportunity for people and you want to give them a place where they can shine. What does that mean? Equal Opportunity?
Wouter Delbaere 38:00
Exactly back to the point where if we are here for the vendors, right? If I go to Google today and search, okay, I want back to example, SEO gurus out of a specific country, right, or software development specific technology, you’re going to find the people that have the best marketing budgets, because they will have up their rankings, right, we want to give everyone a chance to prove themselves and build a reputation based on actual success on the platform based on customer satisfaction. And we want our vendors to focus on that. We want their entire investment to go into delivering better services and preparing for the next generation of services that need to be delivered. Right? That’s where it should be. And and we want the people that are good at this and do this cost effectively to shine, shine. And those are not to have to work to make sure they catch up, right? We don’t want people to make it right now it’s a bit of a smoke and mirrors game. And we want to address that and make that transparent, but give everyone opportunity in the process.
Michael Waitze 39:12
So you talked before also about building a platform. And whenever I hear the word platform, I get excited, because these are the kinds of businesses that I like the best. You’re not a product. Right? And in a way, you’re more than a business. This is what a platform is. And if you are a platform, let’s again make a comparison to a Shopify shop those business models different than yours, obviously, right? They take a different type of fee and stuff like that doesn’t really matter, but they’re they sell themselves as a platform. And what that means and you’ve mentioned API’s earlier, that you can connect to to use to kind of give services that you don’t want to build yourself because why would you recreate like a chatbot? It doesn’t make any sense. Yeah. There are 1000s of them out there. Just integrate the best one and make it look like it’s yours, but Would you open your platform to encourage third party developers to build things for you like Shopify does. And I like to use this company Shogun as an example, who built a page built builder for Shopify, and then just recently raised money at like a $650 million valuation, I think Shopify actually invested in them as well, because they can’t build everything themselves. Do you see doing that, too?
Wouter Delbaere 40:26
So before I answer that question, and it’s I love where you’re going with this. Why do you love platform so much, Michael, I’m intrigued.
Michael Waitze 40:36
Because anybody can build a product. Right. And it’s the platform where the stickiness occurs. And you said to me five minutes ago, or maybe three minutes ago, the business is going to evolve. And the services and products that we offer today may not be the same as the services and products we offer in five years or three years. But if you build a robust platform that can have other things plugged into it, well, then people are still going to keep coming to it. And you may unplug some things and re plug things into that platform. And if you build that, that’s the most sustainable business. That’s why I like it. But if all you do is build like one product that’s really good, like you just make brownies. When brownies go out of favor, which they do, well, then you don’t have a business anymore. Because you’re the brownie guy.
Wouter Delbaere 41:23
Fantastic. And exactly. So we’re just over half a year old. And we have evolved our services so many times already. It’s shocking, but but fun at the same and shorten eye opening experience. But But to answer your question, of course, I’d love to be there. But I think we would have to be in a very different position for people to be interested to invest in building third party apps that run on us. Right. But I mean, once we get to that level, I mean, we made it for sure. If we are already a marketplace for third party apps, where people see the value and the return on investment, more importantly, to actually build stuff to run on our platform, that means we have made that means we have enough scale and enough transaction volume for other third parties to actually make investments which are very expensive to build apps to then deploy them on us. So I would love to get to that level. But we’ve got some fundamentals to address as a step as step two or three.
Michael Waitze 42:27
Okay, well, I think that’s a great way to end I’ve learned a ton today. Hopefully you’ve had as much fun as I have. Wouter Delbaere…I’m trying so hard, co founder and CEO of Mangtas, thank you so much for your time today.
Wouter Delbaere 42:40
Michael I really enjoyed this. We should do this again at some point. Awesome…
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