Sea – previously Garena – was valued at US$3.75 billion back in April 2016, and it’s about to become even more valuable.
According to CNBC, the Singapore-based startup quietly filed for an IPO worth $1 billion with the US Securities & Exchange Commission. The listing is tentatively set for 2018, but no final decision have been made.
If it goes through, Sea would become the largest tech IPO ever to come from Southeast Asia.
“Being a public company is great for sustainability for technology businesses,” says Nick Nash, Group President of Sea.
“It gives us a sense of enduring permanence […] and it also gives us a brand as the first large tech company of SEA.”
Raising a listing also makes strategic sense as it would give them more capital, and make them a better company in the long run.
“But at the core of our strategy is our operation mission – connecting the dots here in Southeast Asia.”
A ‘Peranakan’ Model
Nash describes how they spent the last 6 years analysing China’s mega brands, all to build their own model but in a “hyperlocal context.”
It’s about having “high-resolution local knowledge”, he says, i.e. knowing which exact individual is adept at what. This is in contrast to “low-resolution local knowledge”, which simply addresses broad issues like the targeting different languages in a country.
“We think of ourselves as the Peranakan Tencent or Taobao,” Nash shares, referring to how Pernankan is a synthesis of the cultures of Southeast Asia and China.
And the effort and bricklaying paid off.
When they finally launched their fintech product 2 years ago, they grew 200% year-on-year. And their ‘Taobao’ of Southeast Asia – Shopee – rocketed from “0 to 800 million of gross merchandise value in under a year”.
“We’re just building on the railroad we have created.”
Not So Fun For Singapore
Before we start to celebrate, it should be noted that this IPO isn’t all that great news, namely for the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX).
As Asia becomes a hotbed, the SGX has been attempting to woo startups to list there, such as with the Israeli companies. As reported in TODAY, the SGX has been working to “develop a system for pairing start-ups with investors in a move to encourage such listings.”
The overall success rate however, still shows space for improvement.
In the past couple of years, Singapore has been bypassed, with homegrown influencer network Nuffnang choosing to list in Australia. Man U skipped Asia altogether for the US, despite Singapore having been shortlisted as an ideal IPO location.
CNBC also previously reported that Singapore was not ready for ‘radical’ IPOs like with Snap Inc.
As the competition heats up, one thing we can rely on is our sterling reputation and high regulation standards. These are important for those looking for “new business partners and going into new markets,” explains Mohamed Nasser Ismail, SGX’s head of capital market development.
But in order to become the first choice for IPO listing, we still have a long way to go.
Featured Image Credit: Glassdoor