"Today, GoBear has more than 100,000 daily visitors and has become Asia's leading personal finance supermarket."
Mark van der Ploeg, CPO
A short time to market through knowledge and scalability
Greenfield development in practice
GoBear's development process: from greenfield to Asia's leading personal finance supermarket
GoBear, a joint venture between Aegon and Walvis participations, entered the Southeast Asian personal finance market five years ago. An accessible, friendly "bear" would help consumers to compare and choose financial products, such as insurances and loans. Today, the platform has more than 100,000 visitors a day and has become Asia's leading personal finance supermarket.
From idea to elaboration
The idea for GoBear came from André Hesselink, former CEO. He wanted to make searching and comparing banking and insurance products easier. Hesselink had connections with BCD Holding, whose investment division Walvis Participaties spoke to Aegon about the concept. After a feasibility study, it was determined that Asia was a suitable market due to the fast-growing internet penetration and middle class. Aegon and Walvis then established a joint venture and in August 2014, GoBear started developing a meta-search engine for car and travel insurance.
A short time-to-market due to knowledge and scalability
The technical development of the platform and the interfaces is done by rb2. According to Ivonne Bojoh, CTO and co-founder at GoBear, the short time-to-market was the main reason for outsourcing this. “We started in August 2014 and went live in December that year with a soft launch in Singapore. Our first two products were travel and car insurances and everyone worked very dedicated to meet this tight deadline. We would never have been able to go live so quickly if we first had to put together a large team of developers.”
Since rb2 has developed the GoBear platform from phase zero in the development process, it is an example of greenfield software development. This refers to the development of a system for a completely new environment and requires development from a clean slate, without old code. You start a development process of a platform without limitations that have been imposed from previous work. It is the opposite of brownfield software development, where you do have to deal with old code. According to Ivonne, greenfield software development is something every starter wants. "You are not dealing with outdated systems, applications or processes to take into account. As a startup, we naturally had this choice. We could start all over again and build our system based on the product and business strategy that we had in 2014."
“If you have the choice, choose greenfield.”
It is the job of the technical partner to provide the idea with sufficient technical foundation. "rb2 was involved in the feasibility study and then built the proof-of-concept. Since then, rb2 has been the leading partner for the further development and maintenance of the GoBear platform." From Travix, rb2 had the experience and knowledge of meta searching for travel. "rb2 could easily apply this knowledge and experience to insurance products. It was easy for them to understand our business model and idea and we started building the backend before we had a frontend. Even before we had a company name and thought about how we would approach the market.”
Richard Birksteiner, CTO and co-founder at rb2, was involved in the development process of GoBear since day one. According to him, several factors made the realization of the GoBear platform technically complex. "There were various challenges for us. Like how do you ensure that consumers can compare hundreds of financial products and insurances easily, quickly and reliably? Where the platform must make complex calculations and the data is 100% accurate. And how do you ensure that these enormous amounts of data are displayed quickly and smoothly?” Richard explains.
Ivonne emphasizes the importance of finding the right technical partner when you build greenfield projects. “We don't know what we don't know. So if someone really asks you the right questions, you start thinking about the details of the customer journey, the business model and the product. All the details, all the bits and pieces.” According to Ivonne, greenfield is always preferred. “If you have the choice, choose greenfield. If you don't, try to opt for a loose coupling approach to connect components. That way you are flexible and ready to build on top of that.” Loose coupling is an approach for connecting components in a platform in a way that those components are as interdependent as possible. These components are less restricted to the same platform, the same language or the same operating system and it reduces the risk that a change in one component causes unexpected changes in other components.
Extremely scalable due to offshore development
rb2 has several offices throughout the Netherlands and Asia, including a large development center in Xiamen, China. According to Ivonne, these offshore teams are very valuable, especially with a startup. “As an growing company, having an offshore team means 100% flexibility. I can call today and ask for, for example, three other short-term frontend developers and that is possible. That is the flexible layer of resourcing that an offshore partner offers.”
A prize-winning platform full of ambitions
When GoBear started, metasearch was a completely new concept in Southeast Asia. The platform has now been rolled out in seven countries, has more than 100,000 users per day and has compared more than 2,700 prices and products. The successful meta-search engine has received several prizes; including the prestigious "Best Startup Award" from NTCC for GoBear Thailand.
“Technology is the heart of our company. Having a partner like rb2 is essential for us." says Ivonne. As GoBear's technical partner, rb2 provides full development and technical support at every stage of the development process. "Our mission has changed from just helping our users compare insurance policies to helping them get the product. Initially, we approached rb2 for the technical realization of a metasearch engine, but over the last five years we have worked together to further develop our platform so that we can also help people in actually obtaining financial products.”