In my previous article, I provided a guide on how to change your spare foreign currency into merchant credits in Changi Airport. In this article, I am providing some unknown insights into Travelersbox that I discovered from their media event on 23 February 2017. I searched the Internet briefly and I am quite sure that they are not available.
Top 3 Popular Merchants In Singapore – The Grab Surprise
Travelersbox has partnerships with 11 merchants in Singapore and they are looking to add more in the coming months. Given the proliferation of merchants, we are naturally curious which merchants are the most popular with travelers.
According to Travelersbox CEO, Tomer Zussman, the top 3 merchants are iTunes, Grab and Starbucks respectively. I had expected Skype or Facebook to be on the top 3. The fact that Grab is ranked second is surprising because Grab has a regional presence in ASEAN. Grab is not available in major markets such as China, Europe or the United States.
This shows that Grab is now an international transportation brand that is well-known with travelers. As a business, you should never underestimate the reach of the media and never neglect to have a proper branding and marketing strategy. This strong ranking shows that it wouldn’t be difficult for Grab to enter into other major markets.
The Bitcoin Link
We know that Travelersbox raised US$10 million in Series A funding in January 2016 which allowed it to expand internationally. It is less well known that Travelersbox has its roots as a bitcoin operator. Zussman ran a popular Bitcoin exchange machine in Turkey’s airport in 2014 where people would travel long distance and queue for 3 hours to get their hands on Bitcoin. Apparently, this fad was well covered in the Turkish media.
It was eventually closed down by the authorities who were skeptical about Bitcoin but Zussman had made a small fortune to boost Travelersbox operations. It turned out that Zussman was a skilled Bitcoin operator and made some money trading Bitcoins as well. Given the uncertainty that is surrounding Bitcoin, Zussman is now focusing on changing foreign currency for credits.
Once, there is more regulatory clarity, Travelersbox would allow travelers to change spare cash for Bitcoin. Zussman is such a fan of Bitcoin that he promised to make Bitcoin available on Travelersbox one day after the authorities approve Bitcoin. From a business point of view, the valuable lesson is the ability to pivot or change course quickly when circumstances call for it.
Tax Refund Blue is Travelersbox’s Strategic Colour
Travelersbox’s Singapore PR agency is Blue Totem and their key investor is Global Blue. Even their machine screen is blue in colour! Pun aside, on a more substantial note, Zussman had hinted that Travelersbox is coming up with more collaborative efforts with established tax refund agency, Global Blue this year. So we won’t be too surprised if travelers can get tax refund credits from Travelersbox in the near future!
In other words, Global Blue has became more than just an investor but a strategic partner for Travelersbox to increase its sales and value as well. Travelersbox provides a low cost and scalable way for tax refund like how foreign banks collaborate with the ATM5 network in Singapore. Did anyone smell the hint of an exit strategy from an acquisition angle? It might or might not happen but this is a good option for a multi-million exit for any tech founder.
Sell Your Vision To Get Talent
This would resonate with the start-up founders out there who is reading this. Dvorit Shahaf had a high flying career with PayPal for 6 years and was its product head for South East Asia in Singapore before she met Travelersbox CEO Tomer Zussman.
If you are high flying executive with PayPal, money is unlikely to be the factor that will interest you to switch jobs. Shahaf revealed that she was moved by Zussman’s vision for Travelersbox and its rapid expansion in Asia over the next 2 years. Convinced that she can play a bigger and key role in this corporate strategy, Shahaf left PayPal in June 2016 for Travelersbox as its Asia General Manager.
If you are in Singapore’s Changi Airport and you are wondering about the rates that Travelersbox is using, you can be assured that it is tightly controlled and monitored by Changi Airport. Changi Airport gets the city rate range that foreign exchange dealers are charging on a daily basis.
Foreign exchange dealers are then free to set their own rates within this tightly controlled band. Travelersbox makes its money by charging 7% off these exchange rates. For spare cash, this is likely to be the best rate that you can get as foreign exchange counters are not going to accept anything less than S$100 when you change.
2 Changi Airport executives were actually present to oversee this media event. No wonder Changi Airport get the Best Airport award regularly amid tough global competition!
I find the circumstances surrounding Travelersbox to be more interesting than the machine itself. While changing spare cash is a $30 billion market globally, it is not as interesting to the individual who is changing it. Even when you find out that you can change 5 cents for $2 worth of Grab credits.
The more interesting facts are found on the ground. Who knew that Grab is so popular with international travelers. I didn’t see the Bitcoin link until I met the Founder and CEO and the importance of strategic collaboration to expand your reach and usefulness. Then there is the real life example on how to attract talent from major technology company and how well Changi Airport is being ran.
It is the discovery of these interesting facts that motivated me to share them on this article. I hope that this is useful to your business as well. Share it with others who might need this article!