23 Jan ParGolf Malaysia Golf Magazine Dec 2018 – Deemples Article
This post was written by Jonathan Ponniah, published first in the December 2018 edition of ParGolf Malaysia magazine.
There’s something really infectious about Deemples founder David Wong’s enthusiasm for golf. He’s absolutely head over heels in love with the game, a passion which drove him to create the app which in a nutshell, helps golfers find ‘kakis’ to play.
A few years ago, realising that many ‘homeless’ golfers like him had trouble rounding up enough mates to play – especially on weekends when many clubs require a minimum of three balls – Wong set his sights on finding a solution.
“I loved golfing but my friends could never golf as much or as frequently as I wanted to. I didn’t mind being paired up with other golfers but not many clubs marshals in Malaysian golf clubs help in placing single players with other flights” explained Wong.
“I thought that in this digital age someone would have built something that would’ve helped me find other available golfers. Sadly, nothing excited. So, I started drawing out what I thought a platform would look like if I had my way, and then asked friends if they could build something like that”, he added.
That was in 2015 when Wong was based in Shanghai, on the upswing in a digital marketing career. Remotely managing software developers in Malaysia, however proved too problematic – especially when juggling a full-time job – and it was strike one, but certainly not out.
“I hadn’t put much into it yet, so the option of quitting was still there. But I was adamant that this platform could solve my problem so I pushed on and fortunately a tech co-founder who shared my vision – and we went on to launch the first version of the app in October 2016. By then I had moved to Singapore, so we decided to make golf courses in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei available on the app” Wong recalled.
Then came the challenge of promoting the app on a shoestring. Starting off with a base of friends, Wong hung out at driving ranges and golf courses, talking to golfers and telling them about Deemples.
“Some of the golf club managers agreed with out direction and put up our banners, so that they could help their golfers find games anytime they were available to play” noted Wong, who soon quit his day job to focus on growing Deemples.
And grow it he did … today, just two years after its launch, Deemples has more than 13, 000 registered users with 3000-plus actively utilising the app to create and join games in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. Recognising the potential and appreciating its user-friendliness, golf clubs started using the platform to set up tournaments and collate entries, and soon even golf academies and equipment companies began creating events like clinics and demo days.
Wong noted that they were still just stracting the surface with an estimated golfing population of 700,000 in these five countries alone.
“2017 was about getting our feet wet, 2018 was testing in a few new markets, 2019 is when we’ll start embarking on larger marketing campaigns to reach out to even more golfers, helping them play more so the golf industry can grow again,” said Wong, adding that they will focus on growth in the five existing markets before looking at adding to country-count.
And Deemples is not just about creating and joining games and events. The app allows golfers to rate those they play with and even has a handicap calculator, introduced in August.
“If you do a quick check on statistics from any of the golf associations across Southeast Asia, you will probably find that less than 50% of the total golfer population of that country have handicaps,” Wong surmissed.
“A handicap is still very fundamental to golf even for social reasons, so that all golfers can compete on a level playing field. However, with lack of enforcement and education, the integrity of a golf handicap has been lost,” he added.
The Deemples handicap, Wong pointed out, furnishes an accurate indication of playing ability as it is based on scores keyed in by the golfer’s playing partners.
“With the technology and scale that we have now, we have created a handicap system where golfers score their playing partners after each game by inputting their adjusted gross score and the corresponding course and slope rating of the tees that they played off from,” he said.
The beauty of the Deemples system is that it requires at least two playing partners to submit exactly the same score for a golfer’s round before it counts. Once that’s done, the score is published and five similarly verified scores are needed for handicap calculation.
“The Deemples handicap by far the most trustworthy handicap index we know out there!” Wong enthused.
Unlike some other tech solutions, Deemples has an extremely lean set-up and only recently increased its headcount from three to five.
“Technology was supposed to help us scale easily: just like how Instagram had only six engineers from its 30 million users before it got acquired by Facebook. Deemples had only one engineer, a graphic designer and me and we recently made two more hires for a communications expert and engagement specialist,” Wong revealed.
It’s when you get him started on the state of the Malaysian golf industry that Wong’s fervour for the game really shows. He stresses that the country has no reason to be lagging behind our neighbours.
“For the amount of resources, talent and middle-class population here, we are far behind our neighbouring countries,” he emphasised. “Only 1% of the Malaysian population plays golf. With our resources, we are more than capable of increasing that 2% effectively doubling the golf population. This is not achieved by coming up with more equipment stores, more golf clubs, more academies – not when we cannot increase the demand for golf in the first place.”
Wong made an impassioned plea to leaders of the Malaysian golf to the leaders of the Malaysian golf industry to take a step back and “understand why golfers are not golfing, for the long-term benefit of the golf industry.”
“We have many ideas that we want to execute but can only do so with the help of the leaders of the industry … and we’d be happy to execute these together,” Wong said.
Meanwshile, Deemples rolls on in its efforts to grow the game and its user base. As for the revenue, Wong noted: “Currently Deemples doesn’t generate any revenue. We’re building strong fundamentals, solving problems that stop golfers from golfing more. We have a revenue model that we have in mind to start next year, but it is to be seen to be proven … don’t worry, it’ll still always be free for users to use the app!”
And not golf alone … ever.