Walkabout Singapore: The Most Promising Tech Startups of the Recent Years
An ecosystem value of US$11 billion, a startup community of more than 2,000 tech startups, a leading place for top tech talent – this is a snapshot of the Singapore startup ecosystem which has gone from strength to strength over the years.
As a testament to the importance that Singapore places on startups, this year, the Startup SG branding was launched to deliver on a coherent brand identity and bring its support schemes under one umbrella.
With various factors to foster the startup scene such as the Singapore pro-startup environment, government support and funding, robust Intellectual Property protection, strong talent pool, and access to Southeast Asian markets, it is no surprise that startups have been able to grow and thrive.
Ahead of the upcoming Walkabout Singapore in September, an event where startups open their doors to the public, here is a look at the most promising tech startups in Singapore which have achieved dramatic results in various sectors.
Known for its e-commerce platform selling goods ranging from electronics, household goods to fashion and sports equipment, Lazada was established in 2012. That year, it started operations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. In 2014, it also launched Lazada Singapore. Lazada was started by Rocket Internet, a privately owned German e-commerce company. Since then, it has successfully garnered funding to the tune of US$647 million during various rounds with investors including JPMorgan Chase, Tesco and Temasek Holdings becoming one of the successful tech startups in Singapore.
Fast-forward to 2016, Alibaba – the Chinese e-commerce company owned by Jack Ma – bought a controlling stake, making Lazada majority-owned by the former. Today, Lazada’s online platform delivers a seamless shopping experience with various payment options, broad customer care and easy returns. It is now a platform with access to an estimated 560 million consumers across the six markets.
Helmed by CEO Maximilian Bittner, Lazada was reported to have made US$1.3 billion in annualized Gross Merchandise Value in 2015, making it the Southeast Asian region’s largest e-commerce player.
Established in 2009 by Forrest Li, Sea, which was originally called Garena, is well-known for its flagship product Garena+. It is an online platform, allowing like-minded individuals to come together to chat and play games with each other. A number of online games have been made available through Garena+. Following a re-branding, the company is now called “Sea” to better reflect their offerings. Currently, Sea operates three industry-leading platforms in the areas of digital entertainment, e-commerce and digital financial services. Its key markets are Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Sea has successfully secured funding from investors over the years. In 2016, Sea raised US$170 million at a valuation of US$3.75 billion. Investors, which saw Sea’s value, include Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad, GDP Venture which is led by Martin Hartono – the son of Indonesia’s richest man, JG Summit Holdings Inc which is founded Filipino billionaire John Gokongwei.
Started in 2014 by Lai Chiang Wen (who is also the CEO), Shaun Chong and Boxian Tan, Ninja Van is a last-mile logistics provider for e-commerce companies in Singapore. With operations in Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, Ninja Van delivers on its logistics offering through a combination of the company’s own fleet and third party fleet. It also works with brick-and-mortar companies to provide physical drop-off points.
Ninja Van made a name for itself through offering a next day door-to-door delivery for its client e-commerce firms. This was at a time where many e-commerce firms still relied on postal service for goods and products delivery. To-date, Ninja Van has received funding to the amount of S$45 million. This includes funds from B Capital Group, which is a venture capital firm of founding partner Eduardo Saverin.
Another example of a successful Singapore tech startup is Grab. It was founded back in 2012 by Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling, who both hold Masters of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.
A leading mobile technology company, Grab’s core product platforms include commuting solutions for drivers and passengers, and a mobile payment platform. The commuting solutions encompass GrabTaxi, GrabCar, GrabFamily, GrabHitch, GrabShare, GrabCoach and GrabShuttle. Today, Grab has operations in 65 cities across seven countries in Southeast Asia namely Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Today, Grab has over 50 million mobile downloads and has over 1.1 million drivers across its network. On a daily basis, Grab delivers up to 2.5 million rides.
As a testament to its business success, Grab has garnered funding from the likes of Vertex Venture Holdings – US$90 million or SoftBank Corp – US$250 million series D, which is the largest investment to a Southeast Asian internet company to-date. Last month, it was reported that Alibaba could work with SoftBank Corp to invest US$1.5 billion into Grab. More recently, it was announced that Grab obtained US$2 billion in funding from Didi Chuxing, China’s transport mobile app, and SoftBank Corp, making this the biggest fundraising in Southeast Asia.
Real Estate: PropertyGuru
Launched in 2007, PropertyGuru is synonymous to online property search. The online portal, which was founded by Steve Melhuish and Jani Rautiainen, has since then become the leading Southeast Asian real estate website by traffic, listings and revenues.
As a guide, as early as 2013, PropertyGuru had already garnered one billion page views per annum and one million mobile app downloads. One year later, in 2014, the online portal reached the one million mark in terms of property listings and had 30,000 paying agents. In terms of funding, in 2008, it raised S$2 million from angel investors. In 2015, it raised S$175 million from investors, making it the second largest amount raised by a tech company in Southeast Asia that year. Headed by CEO Hari Krishnan, PropertyGuru operates in the markets of Singapore, where the head office is based, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
These five success stories show how tech startups in Singapore can achieve dramatic results within a short timeframe due to the startup-friendly environment of the city-state.