Have you ever stayed abroad over an extended amount of time? What kind of apps did you have to use? Why isn’t there just one app that rules them all? We asked ourselves the same question. Except this time, you will get to witness an ambitious team actually do something about it.

Our end-goal is to build a one-stop platform for all expats all over the world. At the same time, we understand there are multiple steps and phases that must be accomplished before reaching our end-goal for this long-term project, considering all current resources available to us.

One of our major milestones for our end-goal will be to build a second-hand market for expats. Second-hand transactions can be difficult even for locals and natives, but it can be impossible for expats if there is a language barrier. Thing is, the time when foreigners really need to use such services when they first move over, is also the time when their language proficiency is at its lowest. So most end up having to purchase new products at full price sometimes paying overpriced goods due to an information gap. Imagine how much money and environmental waste we could save every year on a global scale if we could promote more second-hand usage? Imagine how much more useful that money could have gone towards supporting the local economy?

The foreigner/expat niche market provides interesting opportunities for those who have the insight and imagination to identify their pains.(Go grab a cup of coffee this week with a local expat and they’ll happily give you at least ten business ideas from all their complaints and discomforts living in your country.) 

The main issue would be that it would cost too much to build and maintain such robust platforms like a one-stop solution(think China’s “super apps” such as Alipay or Meituan) or even a secondhand app for that matter at the get-go. We don’t have the capital, nor would it make sense to heavily invest in something without prior experience or expertise. What if the world is not ready for such changes in consumer behavior? Some ideas never saw the light of day because they came too early for mass-adoption. Thus, we had to dig deeper into a smaller niche, taking an even smaller baby step: Expatise.

Expatise is a combination of the word expat and expertise. Through our search, we identified another opportunity: driver’s license preparation. We identified very few applications and websites active in this space, which, despite having limitations in design and functionality, represented a market opportunity we found quite compelling. With so few players in the market, we decided to capitalize this chance before others would eventually find out about this overlooked area.

Here are some basic figures of an example case for an application to help you understand the unique business opportunity more clearly:
Example application
– 20,000 downloads in the past 4 years(iOS & Android) 
– Full access: $11.99
– CLV: Roughly $10 → Gross revenue: $200,000
* Without the full access it is extremely difficult to fully prepare for the test, thus each download was considered a paid user. 
Yearly revenue: minimum $50,000(Gross Revenue / years)
In-app Purchases
– PDF book: $7.99
– Color book: $21.99

The yearly revenue estimation was solely based on their full access one time payment product. In fact, they have at least four other revenue streams(exam registration, document translation, PDF book, Color book) on their platform as well, which would bring the number much higher than the guesstimated $50,000 yearly revenue.

With our first step of our journey in the expat world, we wanted to be extra careful in spending the very least amount of resources to minimize risk and increase ROI. Our goal was to find a no-brainer business opportunity with good potential and make it as realistic as possible and engineer a 100% probability success case. 

We set prudent budgets for development to maximize return on investment while minimizing risks. We conducted a comprehensive assessment of the market size, setting realistic targets to set us up for success. We’ve reached out to local WeChat group owners, digital marketing agencies, as well as WeChat official account holders and influencers in the expat industry to navigate Expatise’s early promotion. The expat industry provides a unique challenge because there are no designated global platforms for them to migrate and interact. In almost all cases, expats end up assimilating with local market behavior and opt to use local apps for their main social interactions. It will be an interesting future task to optimize how to achieve best digital reach to this industry.

Expatise has a slightly updated design, with a slightly better layout, and slightly extra small features when compared to current existing platforms on the market. But besides the obvious slight modifications, there are 2 major things that we did differently. 

First, we included a survey section to enable us to gather feedback directly from our users. This will get us the closest to our users. Getting direct feedback will help us prevent building things that users don’t actually want. 

The other major change was implementing ads for freemium users. This would allow us to provide more free functions and features to our free users. The ad revenue could help offset some costs we would have to spend on our end for our free users, such as api calls, server costs, and data storage. 

One more major feature worth mentioning is the referral code. Unlike usual referrals, where both parties benefit, we made it a one-way street. Meaning, when you share your referral code (only shown to premium full access users) to your friend, you will help them get a significant discount, but the referrer gets nothing in return. We hope our users can also get that warm, fuzzy feeling of just helping out by passing along useful information. Sharing is caring. We have aptly called this ‘Pass the Torch’ function within our development team. Opting for word of mouth and optimizing referrals with a clear incentive will absolutely return the highest ROI.

Bootstrapping has allowed us to set the bar extremely low for success. Even using the most modest projections, we should be able to recoup and become profitable in one year’s time and definitely less than two. 

If our estimations are correct, 500 paid users would put us in the green. Not much would be earned from ad revenue, but it should help us keep the lights on.

The proceeds we will have gained will be spent on reinvesting into the app and continuously upgrading it. We will continue to increase prep material for various licenses, certificates, and exams. Once we have several exams set in place, we will expand to other countries to provide the same services using the same template. 

After which, we will build the next app that expats have been begging us to make. That should set us up with enough resources to build a used goods marketplace for expats all over the world. Then, having built up a number of followers and a variety of digital services, we can bring them all together under one logo, and not a flag. Wish us luck.

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