Singaporean

From Rising Startups To Potential Unicorns: Here Are 10 S'pore Firms Worth Watching In 2021

Singapore is a prime business destination and many global companies — from America to China — have all flocked to our island nation to set up their businesses here.

However, this year has been a rather rocky one with economies heading south and businesses struggling to stay afloat.

Despite the pandemic, there are some companies in Singapore that have managed to overcome the odds and managed to raise funding, make acquisitions, and have seen significant growth.

Therefore, here are our bets on these 10 thriving companies in Singapore that are bound to make bigger waves in the year ahead:

1. Grab

grab founders
Image Credit: Nikkei Asian Review

Grab has become a household name in Singapore, and is no longer just a ride-hailing company. It has diversified its offerings to include food delivery and even financial services.

Most recently, it has introduced a micro-investment platform and a ‘pay later’ feature to enhance its suite of financial offerings.

In August, Grab raised US$200 million from South Korean private equity firm STIC Investments, bringing its total funding to over US$10 billion.

In terms of future investments, Alibaba is allegedly in talks to invest S$4.1 billion in Grab, and Singtel too may commit over S$600 million its digital bank venture.

Grab president Ming Maa recently announced that the company’s revenue has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. Moving forward, he said that the company will focus on expanding its financial services and merchants services business.

2. ShopBack

shopback joel leong
Image Credit: ShopBack

The cashback startup recently sold off its stake in financial platform Seedly to Hong Kong-based CompareAsiaGroup, though it did not disclose the selling price.

The sale comes two years after ShopBack acquired Seedly to venture into the personal finance space. Founded in 2016, Seedly claims to have over 1.1 million unique monthly visitors to its personal finance community platform.

Following the sale, ShopBack said that it will continue to run as an independently branded standalone platform and plans to collaborate with more business and build up more product features.

ShopBack has aggressively expanded to Korea and Vietnam this year despite the pandemic, and saw a significant surge in demand due to the e-commerce boom.

3. Carousell

carousell
Image Credit: Carousell

Carousell raised US$80 million from South Korean tech giant Naver in September, bringing its valuation to US$900 million.

Although it’s not yet profitable, it is fast rising to join the rankings of a unicorn company in Southeast Asia.

It saw more than a billion dollars worth of transactions on its platform between February and June, and plans to double down on its Services category in 2021. This includes home services like plumbing, house cleaning and maintaining air conditioners.

According to Carousell co-founder Quek Siu Rui, their goal is to get the company to profitability in the next three to four years and exit by 2024.

4. Ninja Van

ninja van founders
Image Credit: Ninja Van

Ninja Van raised US$279 million in April and its valuation currently stands at US$740 million.

The Singapore-based company has raised a total of US$400 million since it was launched in 2014.

The potential unicorn currently operates in six markets: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It works with e-commerce firms including Alibaba Group’s Lazada, Indonesia’s Tokopedia and Sea’s Shopee; and has clocked an increase of 2.5 times in parcel volume over the past few months following the surge in demand for e-commerce.

5. ONE Championship

one championship chatri sityodtong
Image Credit: Will Baxter via Financial Times

ONE Championship raised US$70 million in June and its valuation has already surpassed US$1 billion, coining it a unicorn company.

Today, it is Asia’s largest global sports media property with over 2.7 billion potential viewers across 130 countries.

Although the pandemic has halted their live stadium events, they are literally fighting back by moving their scheduled events to closed-door, audience-free setups instead.

To keep things going, the company has also shifted to creating content for its YouTube channel and Instagram account, and have hit “record highs in social media and digital viewership“.

They also have plans in the pipeline to film a new reality TV series called ‘The Apprentice’ with ONE Championship founder and CEO, Chatri Sityodtong, as the host. The winner will get a US$250,000 job at their Singapore headquarters.

6. Sunseap

sunseap
Image Credit: Asean Records Organization

Sunseap raised S$50 million funding in January and another S$100 million as part of its Series D funding the following month.

The homegrown solar energy provider has won many government tenders and is already powering Singapore’s Apple store.

It will also be supplying solar energy for Facebook’s operations in Singapore, including its first custom-built data centre in Asia.

Recently, Sunseap set up a new green mobility business arm, which aims to install 10,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging points in Singapore by 2030.

Judging by the government’s strong push for sustainable solutions and EV adoption, Sunseap is definitely on track to seeing a strong growth in the year ahead.

7. Shiok Meats

shiok meats
Image Credit: Shiok Meats

Shiok Meats, the world’s first cell-based crustacean meat company, raised US$3 million in June and another US$12.6 million in September.

Its latest round of funding will contribute towards building the first-of-its-kind commercial pilot plant in Singapore, from which it plans to launch its minced shrimp product in 2022.

This puts the startup on schedule to become the first company in the world to have a fully functioning commercial pilot plant for cell-based crustacean production. 

Singapore aims to produce almost a third of the food that it requires by 2030, which has led to a renewed interest in food technology startups such as Shiok Meats.

Moreover, with the increased demand in meat substitutes, Shiok Meats is bound to see a stronger traction in the near future.

8. StashAway

stashaway
Image Credit: StashAway

StashAway raised US$16 million in July, and assets under its management have grown more than 330 per cent in the last year.

Beyond being an investment management platform, StashAway has branched out into financial education with StashAway Academy.

The company plans to expand into a few other countries, though it did not reveal where it’s eyeing for now.

What’s clear however is that they have been seeing steady growth since more people are now thinking about their personal finances in view of the market volatility and the overall uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.

9. 99.co

99.co darius chan
Image Credit: High Net Worth

99 Group, which operates property portal 99.co, has recently acquired property platform and real estate data provider Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) for an undisclosed sum.

As part of the acquisition, 99 Group will acquire all the shares in SRX’s parent company Streetsine Singapore.

The move will bring SRX under the same umbrella as other Singapore property platforms 99.co and iproperty.com.sg.

According to 99 Group, this acquisition will create a widened pool of listings, information and data tools, enabling it to offer consumers and real estate professionals in Singapore better value and more competitive packages.

To support its growth, 99.co also recently announced that it is hiring 100 tech staff across its Singapore and Indonesia offices over the next year.

Moreover, the property resale market in Singapore is at an all-time high now, so it’s no surprise that property startups like 99.co is thriving during this period.

10. Hoolah

hoolah
Image Credit: Stuart Thornton via Medium

Founded in 2018, hoolah brought the instalment-based payment concept to Singapore to help online retailers solve the problem of abandoned shopping carts.

Their service also provides an alternative payment option, besides credit cards, for consumers to purchase big-ticket items as soon as they want.

It raised an eight-figure funding in March to fuel expansion, and has recently expanded into Malaysia.

It has almost 1,000 retail store partners and are cleverly tapping into a growing millennial demand in Asia to ‘buy now, pay later’.

Embrace The Waves

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the real drivers of our economy. Some have been able to ride the wave better than others; some are being driven to the brink of destruction, while others are adapting and flourishing.

Like many aspects of life, in the time of COVID-19, the pandemic also presents a business opportunity.

A key benefit of running a smaller enterprise is its agility and ability to quickly adapt. Amidst the chaos, some stealthy business owners are doing just that — adapting their strategies, their sales channels and their entire ethos to reevaluate, remodel and realign.

This remarkable ability to adapt and pivot has helped both leaders and their businesses evolve and thus survive.

Featured Image Credit: Grab, Carousell, ShopBack, Ninja Van, One Championship, Sunseap, Shiok Meats, StashAway, 99.co, Hoolah

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