Mole started as a bootstrapped duo company.

This is the story of two "visionaries" who took a leap of faith into the toughest journey of bootstrapping their first tech startup without any investors' funding, but self-funded with their own savings.

Our Story: Software As A Service

april —july 2021

Part 1:
Failure to launch two ideas

melly ling and au soung rong, co-founders of Mole smart NFC digital card software

Our first product idea was a gender-neutral period-tracking app for people with uteruses, and those with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). We spent two months working together on research and development and made our business pitch deck.

In June 2021, we submitted our application to an international startup competition hoping that we would get accepted into their accelerator programme but we didn't get through.

We thought that if we just showed investors the idea's potential, they would be so blown away that they would want to fund us immediately.

However, this was not the case; we had to have a working prototype before they would even consider investing. The lesson here was to build a minimum viable product (MVP) with some user traction!

It was heartbreaking at first, but fortunately, we found new hope and inspiration in the stories of successful bootstrapping entrepreneurs like Jon Yong Fook of Banner Bear, Jen from Lunch Money and Chris Lu of CopyAI.

We too needed to build something that could be immediately commercialised, but our period app idea seemed more like goodwill than sustainable.

This eventually led us to our second startup idea: an e-learning platform for teachers and educators to deliver and manage their content online.

We felt this was the next best thing, as government school teachers and private educators were struggling to adapt to teaching online during the pandemic. We spent the next couple of months working on a platform for educators to host their teaching material, as well as conduct their lessons in one place.

Unfortunately, this didn't work out because schools reopened before we could test out our prototype.


aug — dec 2021

Part 2:
Lost but found,

Mole digital card software Soung Rong Melly Ling

Two failed ideas in, the unexpected happened in August 2021. Melly found herself retrenched from her job at a successful tech company. To make matters worse just two months later, she discovered her father had been diagnosed with cancer.

With no income and a sick parent, Melly decided to put job hunting aside to focus on spending time with her family and taking care of her father.

Soung on the other hand, was burnt out from managing his software agency business and was going through a tough time with his business partner. He soon decided to part ways with his partner, and take a break from his company.

During this period of uncertainty, we took some time off to recuperate on a short road trip to Malacca, and think about our next move. There was a lot of brainstorming but none of our ideas seemed worth pursuing. Great trip though!

🤔 Discovering the problem: Shortly after Melly returned home to her family duties, she took her father to his check-up at the hospital. While they were in the waiting room, Melly asked the doctor for his contact information, just in case she had any questions or concerns about her father's condition. Instead of giving her a business card, the doctor tore off a small piece of paper and wrote down his number by hand.

💡Solving the problem: Surprised by how backward this was, Melly told Soung about it and floated the idea of a digital business card—something simple to create and update, and easy to share. Soung was reluctant at first since page builders, profile builders, and website builders are all too common—but perhaps there was still an underserved niche.

And so it was with this figment of a market, that Melly and Soung teamed up again to build an app (web app this time), that would let anyone make digital business cards for free on their phone in seconds (or minutes if you’re a slow typer), without needing any software installed beforehand (besides your browser). Soung loves his disclaimers 🤷🏻.

jan — JUN 2022

Part 3:
Betting our savings to build Mole's MVP in 6 months

Mole digital card software Malaysia Soung Rong Melly Ling Co-founder

There are many schools of thought that advocate their own approach to a startup. Some will tell you to validate the idea before you even begin to work on a prototype, or that if you do choose to work on a prototype, it should be minimal enough to take a couple weeks before you test it in the field.

We did neither of those, and our MVP took 6 months. 🙈The thought at the time was that it’s a little hard to gauge if someone would use “a better mousetrap” if they can’t experience it. That and both Melly and Soung are sticklers for quality of work, so we had to eventually force ourselves to release what we felt was an unpolished (though many begged to differ) but usable product.

Melly even self-learned UI/UX design during this time, built her first ever website for Mole, and designed all of the branding including most of the Mole UI, which took a lot of work off Soung’s solo-dev shoulders.

We learned a lot about ourselves and as co-founders building that MVP. Working together under the pressure of time and dwindling savings was testing, but we made it out in one piece!

Not to forget Melly’s siblings who helped us get over the finish line with some marketing and customer onboarding resources 🙌. And, shoutout to Eduardo for making our super awesome customer testimonial video!

Our family and friends are truly a blessing — extremely grateful for their support especially in the most difficult shittiest time of our lives. Literally.

JULY 2022 — aug 2022

Part 4:
Launching beta and got our first paid customer!

Mole digital card software Malaysia Soung Rong Melly Ling Co-founder

It was finally time to see if all our hard work and sleepless nights over the past 6 months paid off! The baby of two helicopter parents was going out into the world. We started with a closed beta of some friends and some small business owners who very quickly hit some bugs and struggled to use our product in certain areas—the feedback was incredibly humbling, and invaluable.

As Soung went to work on improvements, Melly put on her marketing hat and started gathering interest for an open beta. It was encouraging to see we actually had interest internationally as well. Phew! This gave us an inkling that Mole was something that people needed, and we couldn’t wait to let them use it. We then decided to open our beta officially, in Malaysia to start.

A few days went by post-launch, as we eagerly awaited our first paying customer. Nothing. And then a week. Getting a little nervous here. Suddenly on the 12th day, we got a ding from Stripe. Our first customer! Much happy tears.

Our first paying customer was a financial consultant. He was first attracted to Mole because he was tired of having to carry and reprint a variety of business cards. With Mole, his digital business card could be updated at any time, so anyone he shared his digital card with would always have his latest information.

He also loved that Mole had a blog feature, which was very important for him. He would often share his financial tips with his clients to build rapport, and the Mole blog provided him with a platform to do it.

Sep 2022 — MAR 2023

Part 5:
Building in public and validating our product on TikTok

After landing our first paid Mole subscriber and seeing initial Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) enter our pipeline, we were inspired to kickstart sales of our platform. However, we pondered the most efficient method to verify if our solution truly addressed the needs of business professionals. TikTok emerged as an ideal platform, partly because Melly finds creating TikTok videos therapeutic for stress relief.

We started sharing our journey and the development process of Mole on TikTok. To our surprise, we attracted a following comprising our target audience—business professionals, small business owners, and salespeople in need of an affordable, easy-to-use mobile website builder, unlike the costly options like WordPress.

We consistently posted about our features, rolled them out, and engaged with our followers for feedback and to gauge interest in trying our product. Gradually, we began seeing sign-ups for Mole and purchases of the NFC card. This strategy enabled us to validate our product and establish market fit in Malaysia.

Within just five months, we organically grew our user base to roughly 350 and launched 7 key features, including:

1. Social media link management system
2. Blogging feature with SEO capabilities
3. Adding multiple companies on the digital card
4. An event landing page builder
5. A product catalog builder
6. Embedding contents through Facebook and Twitter
7. Integrations with Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console.

APR 2023 - AUG 2023

Part 6:
Joining Antler and bag our first VC pre-seed funding

Inspired by the growth of our users, we set our sights on taking Mole beyond Malaysia's borders. However, our resources were dwindling, and despite decent sales, it wasn't enough to support our international ambitions. In pursuit of our dream, we sought investment and applied to several global accelerator programs.

Being accepted into Antler was a monumental moment for us. It was a recognition of our endeavour to enhance the networking experience, a validation that meant the world, even before any financial backing.

So we took a leap of faith stepping into the unknown and made our way to Vietnam for the program. It presented the sternest challenge we'd ever faced. As newcomers to the accelerator experience, we were thrust into a rigorous, 10-week test of resilience.

Living modestly and staying concentrated, we endeavoured to outshine 80 other top-tier entrepreneurs. Doubt crept in as we saw the caliber of our competition; it seemed impossible to keep pace. Yet, through tears and determination, we refined Mole, ceaselessly improving and pitching our solution to the pains of networking.

Reaching the finals felt surreal.

Standing before the SEA Antler investment committee, we poured our hearts into our pitch. When they chose to invest in Mole, it was more than a business triumph; it was the culmination of our belief, hard work, and the countless emotional stakes we had invested.

This journey, fraught with challenges and bathed in perseverance, underscored the power of unwavering commitment to a dream.

SEP 2023 — DEC 2023

Part 7:
500 business professionals participated in our 'I HATE NETWORKING' event, proving to be the ideal test group for our introvert-centric product

Our journey with Mole took a thrilling turn when we landed our first funding from Antler. We poured six tireless months into developing our MVP, targeting corporate adoption—a market where we were still virtually unknown.

As introverted founders, we understood the dread of networking events, so we decided to test Mole's potential with an event cheekily called "I Hate Networking."

Initial ticket sales were less than 10, and we nearly cancelled the event due to the poor response.

But just three weeks out, empathy came knocking—corporate companies reached out, resonating with our mission. Partnerships formed, multiplying our reach.

A viral TikTok post later (GOD IS GOOD! AMEN!), and our event's registration exploded. The final week saw 300 signups; even more, 200 attendees appeared out of thin air, forcing us to shift to a larger venue to host the eager crowd.

At the event, early-bird attendees were given Mole cards as a tangible taste into experiencing our Mole software. The feedback was generous and valuable, filling us with the confidence to scale our product for SMEs.

This impromptu success wasn't just about numbers; it was personal. Each attendee, each piece of feedback, reinforced our mission.

It was a community validation that heralded a new chapter for Mole—turning our vision into a collective reality.

Jan 2024 - NOW

Part 8:
Soung departs from Mole 😢, Melly continues the journey with a superstar team

Navigating the highs and lows of a startup journey is an emotional rollercoaster, and our story at Mole has been no exception.

We faced one of our most critical moments.

My co-founder, Soung, made the difficult decision to leave Mole at the end of February 2024 due to personal reasons. It was a crossroads moment for both of us—heart-wrenching and filled with reflective gratitude for the path we had tread together.

This post is a heartfelt thanks 🫶 and a token of appreciation for my co-founder Soung, without whom Mole's story would have been remarkably different.

From the sleepless nights to the joy of every small win, Soung has been an irreplaceable part of this dream. The sacrifices were many, but alongside them, the rewards were deeply fulfilling.

We've not just built a product; we've nurtured a community—a feat that seemed daunting yet became possible with Soung's unwavering support and innovative spirit.

The journey, however, continues. Although Soung's departure marks the end of an era, it also heralds a new chapter for Mole.

With a passionate team of five, we're more committed than ever to enrich our networking platform. Our goal remains steadfast: to alleviate networking challenges and empower business professionals and entrepreneurs.

We aim to transform networking into a fulfilling, safe, and effective process for building meaningful relationships. To our followers, customers, and supporters who have stood by us throughout this journey, your trust in us has been the cornerstone of our growth.

Mole wouldn't be where it is today without you. Your support fuels our commitment to make networking better, one relationship at a time.So, as we forge ahead, let's continue to grow and thrive together. Your belief in our mission propels us forward.

Here's to building stronger connections and a brighter future for all professionals. Together, we are stronger. Thank you for being part of our story and let's continue to grow together in this mission.

With Love 💛,
Melly Ling
Co-Founder & CEO of Mole

Join us on our mission to create a better networking experience and become your best proffesional-self, both online and in person.