Developer to acquisition: how a Trip101 co-founder in Singapore achieved it
By Kylee McIntyre14-May-2018Views 1797

trip101 founder

Venkatraman Dhamodaran, co-founder of Trip 101. Photo courtesy of Trip 101.

For Trip101 travel startup co-founder Venkatraman Dhamodaran, life as a developer in Singapore has been - well, a bit of a trip.

An engineer by trade, he arrived in Singapore from India 12 years ago to work for then-startup Affle (today, the company has hundreds of employees). A fateful meetup at Startup Weekend in 2011 sent him to full-time entrepreneurship the next year.

“When I first came here, at that time in 2006, the economy was not so much," he tells me. He recalls maybe one developer meetup event per month, as well as a handful of events. “But after 2010 [...] you would find a community for everything: Javascript, Ruby, Python, all the different communities," he adds. The communities were as social as they were professional - one would end up seeing the same people over and over again.

“After some time, it was more of meeting friends," he says.

A fateful meetup at Startup Weekend in 2011 sent him to full-time entrepreneurship the next year.

Venkatraman's developer journey in Singapore ended up taking him through the full range of entrepreneur activities: he networked, he started up, incubated his company at JFDI, and raised funding. Three years ago, the startup, Flocations, was acquired by Japanese company VRG, which owns sites including Travel.jp. As part of the deal, Venkatraman got to stay on as a co-founder of Trip101, the English travel content subsidiary of VRG that provides destination guides and accommodation reviews on both hotels and vacation rentals.

His eight-person team works out of an office around Clarke Quay in Singapore, with two additional developers in Nepal. Their work is a combination of managing content - sourced from a team of travel enthusiasts that they employ around the world - and developing the company's website. Trip101 has also launched Travel Influencers Asia, which works with travel influencers in promoting content for travel brands.

A Trip101 developer's journey

trip101 co-founder

Photo courtesy of Trip101.

These days, Venkatraman works more in a management role than a development role, but his background still has benefits. While the most difficult part of his job as a developer was endless updating to keep up with new technology, the hardest part of helping to run Trip101 is hiring the right people.

The benefit there is that, since he's worked the tech side of things before, he has first-hand experience with what it takes to work in a tech role at Trip 101.

The hardest part of helping to run Trip101 is hiring the right people.

“The technical background gives you the knowledge to see if [something] is possible or not," he says. He can more quickly help and explain problems to developers. He also feels more equipped to offer them solutions.

If you happen to be a developer who's looking to start up, Singapore can be a good option for you because it's not as hard to put the paperwork through, which is something that helped Venkatraman along on his founder journey. Meanwhile, events also introduced him to his future co-founders and friends on his startup journey.

How to take off

trip101 team

Trip101's team. Photo courtesy of Trip101.

For first-time developers in Singapore, finding a job can be challenging, even though Singapore, like much of the rest of the world, is suffering a talent shortage, a lack of skilled workers in tech fields. That's one of the reasons Trip101 - along with other companies in Singapore - hire some of their tech talent from abroad. But for developers who are looking to get involved in the community in Singapore, where do they start?

According to Venkatraman? A portfolio that shows work the engineer has done with open source technology.

“If [developers] can do any open source project, then it's easy to get a job because they can prove that skillset easily," he says. That applies for Singapore as well as other jobs outside developers' home nations, where they might not know the best network to tap. Combine that with going to a couple of tech meetups in the area you want to work, and you'll acclimate pretty quickly.

Also, tech events, Facebook groups, and developer events are popular hiring places for companies, so heading out can help hook you up with your next dream position. Hiring sites can also supplement your next career move.


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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
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