Darius Cheung (Singapore Entrepreneur)

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Darius Cheung
Darius Cheung.png
Born1981
EducationBachelor of Engineering (Electrical Engineering)
Alma materNational University of Singapore
Spouse(s)Roshni Mahtani

Darius Cheung (born 1981) is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 99.co, a property portal and home-searching website. A digital entrepreneur since the early 2000s, Darius Cheung was the founder of the mobile security startup, tenCube which was acquired by the American global security software company, McAfee in 2010.[1] He is also an angel investor, having provided backing capital for Southeast Asian startups such as the e-commerce platform, Carousell and the online furniture store, HipVan.[2][3]

Background[edit | edit source]

Darius Cheung pictured in 2017. Photo credit to Tech in Asia.

Darius Cheung is the founder of two successful start-ups; 99.co and tenCube. In July 2011, he was awarded the Singapore Youth Award for his early entrepreneurial work at tenCube.[4] The award is Singapore’s most prestigious youth accolade for individuals under 35 years old who have excelled in fields such as science, entrepreneurship or the arts. In March 2015, he was named 'Entrepreneur of the Year' at the IT Leader Awards; an event dedicated to recognising individuals who have influenced the info-communications and media landscape in Singapore.[5]

Early life & education[edit | edit source]

Darius Cheung was born in Hong Kong where he spent most of his childhood before relocating to Singapore to study.[6] He is an alumna of Hwa Chong Institution and Hwa Chong Junior College. He then studied electrical engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS) from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in 2004.[7]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Darius Cheung and his wife, Roshni Mahtani pictured with Teo Chee Hean. Photo from source.

Darius Cheung is married to a fellow digital entrepreneur, Roshni Mahtani who is the founder and CEO of the content and community platform, theAsianparent.[8][9] The couple has a daughter, Shan who was born in 2016.[10] Speaking to theAsianparent in a YouTube interview in 2018, Darius Cheung explained how he and Roshni decided on their daughter’s name:

“We came up with the first name before we even knew the gender. My wife is Indian and I’m Chinese and we wanted to find a name that could work for both races, or both languages, in Chinese and Hindi. Then we came down to “Shan”, which means kindness in Chinese and it also means pride in Hindi.”[11]

Early career[edit | edit source]

Before founding 99.co, Darius Cheung was one of the founders of tenCube where he took on the role of Chief Executive Officer. According to a report by the South China Morning Post, Darius Cheung and co-founders raised S$600,000 in capital to kickstart the company.[12]

Co-founder of tenCube (2005 - 2010)[edit | edit source]

In June 2005, Darius Cheung founded the mobile security startup, tenCube with fellow NUS alumni, Varun Chatterji and Rishi Israni.[13] One of the successful products that the trio launched was WaveSecure, a service that allowed mobile users to remotely lock a lost phone or wipe all mobile data, among other features. In February 2010, the Indian telecommunications company, One97 reportedly invested a million dollars in the product.[14] In August 2010, it was reported that tenCube had been acquired by the American global security software company, McAfee for more than US$10 million.[4][15]

Director of McAfee (2010 - 2012)[edit | edit source]

From 2010 to March 2012, Darius Cheung was the director of consumer mobile technology at McAfee.[7] He joined the company through its earlier acquisition of his startup, tenCube in August 2010.[6]

Co-founder of 99.co (2014 - current)[edit | edit source]

Eduardo Saverin and Darius Cheung pictured in 2016. Photo from source.

Darius Cheung co-founded 99.co in January 2014 as a website that allows people to list, buy and sell properties in Singapore.[16] 99.co also provides information such as land titles and transactions in the surrounding properties. Within its first three years, the company gathered financial support from the startup investment firms, Sequoia Capital and East Ventures as well as from the Facebook co-founder and entrepreneur, Eduardo Saverin.[17][18] Speaking about Darius Cheung at 99.co's second-anniversary celebrations in 2016, Eduardo Saverin said the following:

"He's evolved a business that is highly qualified and really has two very admirable traits in the startup world. First is relentless focus. You have so much resources, you have a grand vision, you need to focus. Second is ruthless execution."[19]

In January 2018, 99.co acquired UrbanIndo, reportedly Indonesia’s biggest property portals with over a million listings.[20][21]

Inclusivity campaign (2016)[edit | edit source]

While viewing properties with his wife Roshni in 2016, Darius Cheung stated that several property agents seemed eager to end the viewings quickly and even received a text from one of them stating:

“Sorry your wife is Indian, landlord (sic) won’t rent to you. Next time please indicate earlier, so we both don’t waste time.”[22]

Spurred by the discrimination he and his wife faced, Darius Cheung launched the 'Regardless of Race' campaign in July 2016; an initiative for property agents and homeowners to list their properties as being open to individuals of all ethnicities and nationalities on 99.co’s website. Darius’ campaign went viral, with major media publications such as The Independent Singapore, Goody Feed and CNBC covering his story.[23][24][25] Later that year, Darius Cheung and his team launched a 'Diversity Friendly' tag on the website that now welcomes renters or buyers regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation or physical ability.[26] Speaking about the initiative in 99.co's first press release, Darius Cheung said:

"This campaign demonstrates our principles as a company that celebrates diversity and equality as well as staying true to our promise to help property seekers find properties they love."[27]

Adapting to COVID-19 (2020)[edit | edit source]

In 2020, physical home viewings were prohibited due to the COVID-19 pandemic quarantines imposed in Singapore. To navigate this issue, Darius Cheung and his team allowed homeowners and property agents to upload video tours of their listings so that customers could still view prospective homes. In an interview with the media site, KrASIA, he said the following:

“We are working with a developer for an upcoming online expo where customers can engage in direct communications with consultants and get a good view of the properties through virtual tours and open houses... On average, customers will go to 20 home visits before deciding to buy a home. But as we improve virtual expos and tour experiences, we estimate this number will drop to three visits only, which is much more efficient for customers and real estate agents.”[28]

Public speaking[edit | edit source]

Over the years, Darius Cheung has been engaged by various organisers to speak about his experiences in digital entrepreneurship. The following is a non-exhaustive list of his event appearances.

Year Event Organiser Refs.
2018 Innovfest Unbound NUS Enterprise, Unbound [29]
2017 [30]
2015 DBS Asian Insights DBS Bank [31]
2014 Startup Grind Singapore Startup Grind Singapore [32]
2013 Startup Asia Singapore Tech in Asia [33]

References/ Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Farhan Shah. "Lessons that have helped Darius Cheung grow 99.co to be one of the largest property portals in the region". The Peak Magazine. June 23, 2020. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  2. Lee, Sheryl. “Angel investor with an 'extreme' philosophy”. The Straits Times. March 13, 2016. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  3. Darius Cheung”. AngelList. n.d. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lee, Terence. “tenCube founder Darius Cheung wins Youth Award”. Tech in Asia. July 1, 2011. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  5. NUS trailblazers honoured at IT awards”. NUS News. March 19, 2015. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Eu, Geoffrey. "Darius Cheung". Business Times. October 29, 2016. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Darius Cheung. LinkedIn. n.d. Accessed on 4 November 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dariuscheung/
  8. Yap, Wy-lene. “The Different Types of Love: Darius Cheung & Roshni Mahtani”. High Net Worth. July 26, 2019. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  9. Roshni Mahtani Cheung. LinkedIn. n.d. Accessed on 4 November 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/in/roshnimahtani/
  10. Together On Top: Roshni Mahtani (theAsianParent.com) & Darius Cheung (99.co)”. The Busy Woman Project. June 18, 2017. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  11. theAsianparent. “Darius Cheung of 99.co Shares His Thoughts On Parenting”. YouTube. January 12, 2018. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  12. Zen Soo and Chua Kong Ho. "Creating an innovation culture - Singapore’s not-so-secret formula to becoming a regional tech hub". September 7, 2019. South China Morning Post. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  13. McAfee to acquire Singapore-based startup tenCube”. e27. July 30, 2010. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  14. Chanchani, Madhav. “One97 Invests $1M In Singpore’s tenCube”. VCCircle. February 3, 2010. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  15. Dewalt, David. "McAfee Completes Acquisition of tenCube (by Dave DeWalt)". McAfee. August 25, 2010. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  16. Darius Cheung”. Generation T. n.d. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  17. Darius Cheung”. General Assembly. n.d. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  18. Goh, Gabey. "99.co gets US$1.5mil, led by Eduardo Saverin, Sequoia Capital". Digital News Asia. January 30, 2015. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  19. "Facebook co-founder Saverin takes a shine to Singapore underdog". The Straits Times. June 6, 2016. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  20. Cheok, Jacquelyn. “Singapore startup 99.co buys Indonesia property portal UrbanIndo”. The Business Times. January 22, 2018. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  21. Mcspadden, Kevin. “99.co acquires UrbanIndo, an Indonesian property portal with 1.2M listings”. e27. January 22, 2018. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  22. Cheung, Darius. “Your wife is Indian, landlord won’t rent to you”. 99.co. July 2016. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  23. House-hunting in Singapore: ‘Sorry, your wife is Indian, the landlord won’t rent to you’”. The Independent Singapore News. August 31, 2016. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  24. Tee, Cheryl. “99.co Boss Couldn’t Rent Apartment Because “Wife is Indian”. Goody Feed. n.d. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  25. Nyshka, Chandran., Loh, Michelle. “Even in weak market, racial bias trumps profit for many Singapore landlords”. CNBC. March 3, 2017. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  26. Lam, Fiona. "99.co shows support for inclusivity with diversity-friendly tag for property listings". Business Times. September 20, 2019. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  27. Teh, Joe. "99.CO LAUNCHES REGARDLESS-OF-RACE CAMPAIGN". Techie Lobang. July 18, 2016. Accessed on 9 November 2020.
  28. Mulia, Khamila. “The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the real estate industry, 99.co’s CEO says”. KrASIA. August 12, 2020. Accessed 5 November 2020.
  29. Unbound. “innovfest unbound 2018 (Einstein): Building a Digital Economy”. YouTube. June 8, 2018. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  30. Unbound. “innovfest unbound 2017 [convergence]: Engaging Digital Natives”. YouTube. May 26, 2017. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  31. DBS. “Digital Disruption: Can Asia be the source of game changing innovation?”. YouTube. July 28, 2015. Accessed 5 November 2020.
  32. Startup Grind Local. “Darius Cheung (tenCube) at Startup Grind Singapore”. YouTube. June 27, 2014. Accessed on 5 November 2020.
  33. Tech in Asia. “Coffee Chat: Startup Opportunities in Southeast Asia [Interview with Darius Cheung, BillPin]”. YouTube. July 3, 2013. Accessed on 5 November 2020.