Entrepreneur

These 10 S'pore Startups Are On The Rise Despite COVID-19, According To LinkedIn

[Article has been updated on 23 September 2020, 5:57pm]

This year has been a rather rocky one with economies heading south and businesses, especially startups, struggling to stay afloat.

Startups found themselves having to pivot their business models quickly or become irrelevant.

LinkedIn has recently identified 10 startups that have remained resilient during this tumultuous time, as they continue to attract investment, employees and attention.

The list uses a combination of proprietary platform data and editorial expertise, and measures four core areas: employment growth, engagement, job interest and attraction of top talent, using platform data from January to July 2020.

Here’s a look at the 10 startups in Singapore that have risen above the pandemic:

GoBear

GoBear
Image Credit: GoBear

Founded in 2014, financial services and data platform GoBear managed to raise US$17 million (S$23 million) in May — in the middle of Covid-19 — from existing investors.

The funding brings GoBear’s total funding to US$97 million, and will be used to expand its consumer financial services platform in Southeast Asia.

They also brought on three new executives, including a new CFO.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and a declining interest in travel insurance, founder and CEO Adrian Chng said that they still saw growth in GoBear’s other insurance and loan products.

Furthermore, despite a 22-employee layoff this month, they expanded partnerships with companies such as Union BankMambu and CredoLab to focus on lending services in Asia.

ShopBack

ShopBack team singapore
ShopBack team / Image Credit: ShopBack

Founded in 2014, cashback rewards startup ShopBack has been seeing a boom, thanks to consumers sussing out cost savings more than ever due to Covid-19.

They saw a surge in demand for products in categories like fitness and electronics, both of which saw around a fourfold increase in orders comparing data from January to April year-on-year.

Orders in the internet services category — including top brands like NordVPN, Udemy and Symantec — increased by around 70 times during the same period.

ShopBack entered Korea in April this year, through the acquisition of Ebates Korea, the nation’s largest online cashback platform.

They even made their official debut in Vietnam last month, after seeing consistent month-on-month growth of over 150 per cent in sales and orders this year since its end-2019 beta launch.

Secretlab

A range of some Secretlab chairs
A range of some Secretlab chairs / Image Credit: Secretlab

Founded in 2015, gaming chair brand Secretlab saw demand for its chairs grow as people work from home. More people across the world have also turned to video games and e-sports while they are stuck at home.

They even hired 30 over more staff during the circuit breaker period from early April to June to cope with what it described as a “multifold” increase in global orders.

Despite the pandemic affecting its vendors and slowed down the overall pace of production, the increase in sales was enough to keep the business afloat.

Glints

Glints
Image Credit: Glints via Facebook

Founded in 2013, recruitment and career development platform Glints had raised US$6.8 million in a Series B funding round last year to expand to Vietnam and Hong Kong and to grow its product and engineering teams.

Besides matching candidates with jobs, Glints is now evolving into a skills and career development platform with online classes and career training, and off-shore talent outsourcing hubs.

In response to the pandemic, Glints launched a free outplacement initiative for companies which helped match impacted employees with new career opportunities. 

ADVANCE.AI

Advance.ai website
Image Credit: Advance.ai

Founded in 2016, big data and AI company ADVANCE.AI announced in March that it is expanding to India with offices in Bengaluru and Delhi.

The startup helps enterprises digitise and transform their businesses, with its consumer subsidiary Atome helping many retailers forced online during the pandemic.

Atome has seen rising demand from younger shoppers in taking up instalment plans for online retail spending.

Atome, launched a “buy now, pay later” solution, to support the recovery of Singapore’s retail sector during Covid-19.

In the first three months since its soft launch, Atome saw a 11 times growth in gross transaction volume. Millennials between the ages of 20 and 40 make up 70 per cent of their customers.

ADVANCE.AI is also part of a consortium applying for Singapore’s digital wholesale banking license.

Homage

Homage founders
(In the middle) Gillian Tee, CEO of Homage / Image Credit: Homage

Founded in 2016, Homage is a home health care service that matches seniors with about 2,000 professional caregivers and nurses for on-demand eldercare.

With more elderly people staying at home during the pandemic, demand for care-giving services rose.

In response to the pandemic, Homage launched a new service arm called Homage Health, which offers home medical services such as mobile medicine, telehealth consultation and medicine delivery.

The healthcare company saw a spike in enquiries on medical teleconsultations and home medical services as families increasingly look for options to minimise infection risk.

While Homage Health was already in the works before Covid-19, its launch was accelerated due to the increasing demand.

Zenyum

Zenyum Invisible Braces
Zenyum Invisible Braces / Image Credit: Zenyum

Founded in 2018, invisible braces startup Zenyum offers clear aligners 70 per cent cheaper than its counterparts on the market.

Their co-founder Julian Artopé estimated that they have expanded the Clear Aligner market by about 40 per cent of the total market size, thanks to their accessibility and affordability.

Their mix of teledentistry – or remote dental care – and orthodontist visits is especially important during Covid-19 where face-to-face consultations are reduced.

The company also raised US$13.6 million in a Series A funding round in 2019 to fuel its expansion to additional markets.

StashAway

StashAway Team
Image Credit: StashAway

Founded in 2016, wealth management and personal finance app, StashAway helps users invest money in stocks and bonds and it has had quite a year so far.

In July, it raised a US$16 million Series C fundraising round bringing their paid-up capital to S$50.7 million. 

The funds will help accelerate product development in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as support new market entry.

Furthermore, assets under StashAway’s management had more than quadrupled in the 12 months leading up to July.

Grain

Grain
Image Credit: Grain

Founded in 2013, food delivery startup Grain is a “full-stack” delivery platform, renting out cloud kitchens and offering a rotating menu of dishes with its own team of chefs and delivery fleet.

The company raised US$10 million in a 2019 seed round led by Thailand’s Singha Ventures and expanded into Thailand this year.

The proceeds will also ramp up growth in Singapore and build infrastructure to support revenue of US$100 million.

During the circuit breaker, standalone bubble tea shops were forced to close. Grain jumped onto the opportunity to partner with popular bubble tea chain Koi to sell food-and-drink combinations, and as a result, fans could still get their bubble tea fix.

Hmlet

Hmlet
Image Credit: Hmlet

Founded in 2016, Hmlet is the biggest co-living operator in Singapore with 1,000 homes, and another 1,000 in Hong Kong, Australia and Japan.

Amid its “asset-light” shift, it had laid off 10 per cent of its employees earlier this year to improve operational efficiency.

It has since hired and increased headcount for technology and new product offerings which includes a property listing and management platform for landlords.

It has continued to expand during the pandemic, adding properties in Tokyo and Singapore, and also launched a furniture subscription and online design service.

They Are Still Hiring

Despite seeing an unexpected turn of events during the pandemic, these startups have leveraged their online presence to meet increasing demand for online services, which saw a spike during the circuit breaker.

They have also pivoted their business models and/or search for new opportunities and revenue streams.

As their expand their business, some of the startups — such as ShopBack, Glints and Zenyum — continue to hire for roles ranging from software engineering to backend developing and performance marketing.

With the government’s continued support, and these startups’ constant adaptation to the current climate, it looks like they are determined to thrive, and grow in the era of Covid-19.

Featured Image Credit: ShopBack / Secretlab / Homage / Glints / GoBear

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