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RETAIL | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Founder of luxury trading platform The Fifth Collection to take part in SBR's Hottest Startups Panel Briefing 2018

Nejla Matam-Finn will talk about how startups can lure backers.

The timeless appeal of luxury goods has never been lost on Nejla Matam-Finn.

With a strong background on luxury brand history and merchandising owing to her university background, Nejla was able to land a coveted job in the sales and marketing team of luxury watch brand under the Richemont conglomerate which manages elite brands like Cartier, Panerai and Mont Blanc.

From there, she leveraged on her previous experience doing consultancy work across Asia to strengthen the branding presence of the firm and help catapult the brand into global recognition.

Banking on her formidable arsenal of experience in the luxury trading scene, Nejla launched The Fifth Collection with her husband in 2014 as a platform where collectors can buy and sell various items with the guarantee of authenticity.

Through a partnership with authentication solution provider Entrupy, The Fifth Collection has steadily become a leading luxury goods authentication technology platform as they are now able to take up to 260X magnified images of surface material, stitching and hardware of branded luxury items. This enables them to create a visual copy that can be compared with a proprietary database of microscopic images in an effort to surface which item is truly authentic and weed out the counterfeit.

In an exclusive interview with Singapore Business Review, Nejla talks about her corporate vision for The Fifth Collection and how startups can unlock capital to fuel their growth trajectories.

What are your key business philosophies?
Stay focused, be disciplined and systematic. Just as importantly, imbue the same values in your team and empower them. I am extremely proud that we built THE FIFTH COLLECTION (TFC) with a team of 12 today with nearly zero turnover and no problem hiring. Finally, never forget your customer - data is great, but at the end of the day your customer will dictate your success. In our case, the challenge is double as we have two sets of customers: the ones that sell with us and the ones that buy with us. At the end of the day we all sell trust, and trust is in people.

Tell us about how you started your startup and your significant milestones
It all started with a personal frustration and then escalated when I realised over a dinner conversation with friends that I was not the only one feeling that way. I wrote a business plan with the help of my co-founder and, as we say, the rest is history. We launched TFC in April 2014 in a serviced office, and by end mid 2015 we were moving to our own shophouse. In June 2016 we won the award for Best Digital Startup of the year by Buro 24/7.

In November of the same year we raised a seed round of $1.4 million, and then in early 2017 we announced that we partnered with Entrupy to develop what has become the world’s leading luxury goods authentication technology using very sophisticated A.I. To this day, we are the only one in Asia to offer our customers scientific authentication of their luxury goods purchases with complete guarantees. Because of our focus on authentication and our unique technology, the region’s collectors come to us for their most prized investments, just like they do with their trusted fine art dealer, with our record to date being $140,000 for a rare collector handbag. Last but not least, in 2018 SBR selected us as one of the 20 hottest startup of the year!

Can you give us a glimpse of what you will talk about at the 20 Hottest Startups Panel Briefing 2018?
Hard to say, it all depends on who else is on the panel and the natural focus of the panel discussion, but I think that one of the main issues with regards to fundraising is that VCs and PEs tend to focus on businesses depending on the trend of the moment (fintech, crypto etc). TFC has been up and running for 5 years now and we have seen our fair share of local investors. In the end, we raised mainly international money and not local. The problem is not there is no money in Singapore, the problem is that investors here tend to be all looking at the same direction at the same time, doing the same deals together and not open to venturing too far outside the trend.

Singapore Business Review’s 20 Hottest Startups of 2018 Panel Briefing will be held in Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on 29 August. To know more about the event, click here

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