Cheryl Yeoh ORIE '06 M.Eng. '08 is making online deals more manageable
The following is excerpted from an article in Cornell Engineering Magazine and updated with a postscript.
Cheryl Yeoh is always on the lookout for a great deal.
At one point in 2010 she had signed up for eight different daily deal websites and purchased close to 40 vouchers, everything from restaurant deals to spa treatments. So many that this highly organized person started to lose track of them.
So she created a tab on her food blog where she could list her growing number of deals. Friends quickly noticed and touted the value of a place to organize and track daily deals.
“That made me think,” she recalls in a light-bulb moment, “‘Hey, there should be a product for this.”
So the hands-on, practical user emerged as visionary: CityPockets, a “digital wallet” and secondary marketplace for online deals and discounts, was born.
“I like to say that I created the product to solve my own problem and it happened to work for a lot of other people.”
Before launching CityPockets, Yeoh was a management consultant for KPMG and Opera Solutions—with a focus in strategy, marketing, and operations. It wasn’t what she thought it’d be, especially during the economic downturn. She wanted to make a real impact in the world and launching a tech company seemed like a good way to do that.
The research, design, and development of a prototype came next. She and CityPockets co-founder Jhony Fung ’05 CS, then a senior developer at IBM Technology, logged many hours investigating the idea and crafting a user-friendly interface. After two months, they launched the beta version. A couple hundred friends joined, and it took off.
CityPockets tracks a user’s daily deals, sending reminders to use them before they expire. It currently supports more than 40 deal sites, including Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, and restaurant.com.
Yeoh estimates 40 percent of CityPockets traffic comes from word of mouth. “That’s when you know you have a product that fills a need in the market,” she says.
In a logical extension of its service, CityPockets launched a secondary marketplace in April 2010 to help users sell vouchers they can no longer use. A quarter of users now profit from reselling vouchers, but at its core, CityPockets remains a digital wallet, according to Yeoh. “We’re the best organizer out there and that’s why people come to our site,” she said.
“People are putting money down for a daily deal—pre-paying for a service with an expiration date—and they need a helping hand to manage this new form of currency,” she said. “If you don’t use it in a given time you’re throwing your money away and nobody wants that.”
Yeoh has enjoyed watching her first Internet start-up take off. She continues to study the market as well as field user feedback. Heading into 2012, Yeoh estimated there were about 400 daily deal sites—with CityPockets established as the go-to organizer. The company has found plenty of investors who agree, raising $770,000 in seed funding.
In a way, Yeoh has returned to her business roots. She launched her first business when she was 8, manufacturing and selling a traditional game to school friends in her native Malaysia. She kept at it, even when she encountered obstacles from school administrators.
“The story there,” she said, “is to really put yourself out there, never give up, and don’t let anybody discourage you from realizing your passions.”
Yeoh says that in Spring 2012 “I decided to expand into the more established coupons space, and built Reclip.It as a pivot from the CityPockets daily deal model.” She then shut CityPockets to focus on Reclip.It, “a social catalog for people to share deals, coupons, and products on sale.”
The website enables users to follow friends, brands and blogs about deals and get notified whenever they “clip” a deal into a folder, “reclipping” those they like into their own folders. The idea is to help people who don’t have time to hunt for online deals. “Our vision is to create a social shopping experience, like an online version of discount department stores and retail outlets, where you discover specials and sales from other like-minded people,” according to Yeoh.
On top of the $750K Yeoh raised in 2011, ReClip.It received seed funding from 500Startups, which provides up to $250K in funding for early-stage companies. 500Startups has a 3-month accelerator program to help firms get going. Yeoh and her team moved to Mountain View, CA to participate in this summer’s accelerator program. Reclip.It is a member of the fourth batch of 500Startups companies.