How Nasdaq-listed Ohmyhome sisters finally made their dad proud
Ohmyhome co-founders Race and Rhonda Wong tell the story of their upbringing in an entrepreneurial household.
SINGAPORE — When prop-tech company Ohmyhome debuted on the Nasdaq stock exchange in March 2023, there were naysayers who questioned the company's decision to press ahead with its Initial Public Offering (IPO) despite unfavourable market sentiments.
But co-founder and CEO Rhonda Wong was unfazed. In an interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore, Rhonda, who started the company with her sister Race, said that as a "small company with very huge ambitions", the goal was to secure funding to grow for the next three to five years.
"Listing on Nasdaq raises our visibility on a global stage and enhances our brand, which is in line with our vision of becoming a global company in the long run. It also generates more interest from potential partners and investors," Rhonda said in response to why the company decided to list on the tech-heavy Nasdaq rather than in Singapore.
Ohmyhome started as a free listing service for buyers and sellers with the idea of making transactions available to everyone, including those who couldn't afford to engage the services of real estate agents. Now, it is "one-stop shop property platform providing end-to-end services", including renovation and conveyancing.
The IPO was oversubscribed, and the sisters raised US$11.2 million (S$15 million) in funding. Its share price debuted at US$4 and is hovering at the US$14 mark at the time of writing.
While not yet out of the red, the company's annual revenue for 2022 grew 60.3 per cent from its 2021 figures to S$7,025,592. Ohmyhome, launched in 2016, has completed more than 13,100 property transactions as of December 2022.
Grew up with business
Before launching Ohmyhome, Race, 40, and Rhonda, 37, had successful careers in other domains – Race was a former singer and actress in Hong Kong while Rhonda was a derivatives trader that had worked in real estate.
The sisters were also savvy property investors, with Rhonda having invested in her first property at 22 years old by pooling money with her siblings. Together, Race and Rhonda founded boutique real estate consultancy Anthill Realtors in 2014. The firm managed properties for high net-worth clients, transacting across Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and the UK.
Their entrepreneurial know-how, however, can be traced back to their upbringing.
Born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore, Race, Rhonda and their eldest sister Rosanne grew up in an entrepreneurial household. During the siblings' formative years, their parents ran multiple enterprises together, from selling golf equipment to running a film shop in Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City. The Wong family moved houses frequently due to either needing money to fund a new business, being scammed by a business partner, or being hit by the Asian financial crisis in the late 90s.
"I've worked in my parents' businesses every weekend since I was eight. Rain or shine, we were always working because our family business was small. My parents couldn't hire extra workers just for weekends. So, while other kids were going to chalets, birthday parties and movies, we were always working. Christmas and countdowns were best times for business," said Rhonda.
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Working as sisters
As a result, the sisters developed a working relationship with each other early on in their lives, one that would help the pair in running Ohmyhome together.
"Growing up, Race and I shared the same work ethic. Like it or not, show up for work. Even if you're going to faint, you faint at work. And Race did faint at work," said Rhonda, recalling a moment from their younger days.
Wong added that "growing up in my kind of household", starting a business – and suffering setbacks – is "very normal". She recalled one incident when the family lost "everything" when their parents were "cheated" by a business partner and had to raise funds to buy back their business.
'Do something meaningful with your life'
Despite being financially successful prior to Ohmyhome, their father didn't seem proud of them.
Rhonda shared that when she was a trader, he asked her, "Rhonda, you had more opportunities in education and in life than Mum and Dad ever had, don't you want to do something more meaningful with your time?"
"It wasn't something that he was proud of. I would do a lot of charity work by giving away money that I made from trading. But my dad said to do something powerful and impactful," she said.
Then, the sisters became inspired to start Ohmyhome when they discovered that a long-time foreign employee was tricked into paying six months' worth of agent commission for his rented home when he first came to Singapore. This incident prompted the sisters, who were running Anthill Realtors at the time, to start thinking about a property service that was accessible to the masses and not just to the wealthy.
Making a real difference
"It was Race who came to me and said, 'I'm not very inspired to make another five million dollars for someone who is already very wealthy'. It doesn't make a big difference in their life," said Rhonda.
The sisters then spent a year developing a minimum viable product and "went out onto the streets to get people to use our app". Eventually, they decided to devote all their resources to building Ohmyhome, dropping everything else.
"Race, myself and our team had to go door to door and give out flyers, balloons and ice cream on the street to make a name for Ohmyhome... We also had our first child during the first 12 months of Ohmyhome, and it was both a blessing and a challenge at that time," said Rhonda.
"We had to invest heavily into technology like building the web and mobile platforms. Our initial success indicators were the number of genuine homeowners listings, downloads and successful transactions," she added. Within a year, the company became the number one do-it-yourself (DIY) property app for Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat transactions based on the size of its user base.
"When we started Ohmyhome, we had this vision to have a DIY portion and to keep it free. We understand that there are many people who cannot afford these [agent] services," said Rhonda, adding that Ohmyhome still does pro-bono cases.
The key lesson, Rhonda said, is to "work on something that you truly believe in, it must solve a real problem, and the solution must be welcomed".
When asked whether her father is finally proud of her sister and her, Rhonda shared that instead of giving lectures, her dad now worries about their health due to their busy schedules.
What hasn't changed though is his willingness to offer frank feedback on Ohmyhome.
"He will be very direct about what's good or not good enough, like if we're not fast enough or if another company gave better service," she said.
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