This pandemic-stricken year has been a tough year for most businesses. Many startups struggled to stay afloat, and have had to quickly pivot their business models to adapt to the changing demands and customer needs.
Despite this tumultuous time, many companies have actually remained resilient and continued to grow — raising significant funding, exploring new business opportunities, and aggressively expanding.
At the back of such strong growth in 2021, we expect these companies to continue to witness exponential growth in the next year ahead.
As such, here are 13 companies in Singapore that have risen above the pandemic, and are worth keeping an eye on in 2022:
Touted as the region’s first “decacorn“, Grab is more than just a ride-hailing company. It has went on to develop a suite of services for the region’s everyday needs, from food to grocery delivery, and even payments and financial services.
Grab recently made headlines for its S$54 billion (US$40 billion) initial public offering (IPO) via a SPAC merger, and it finally made its Nasdaq debut on December 2. Its valuation is the largest so far in the SPAC space, receiving about S$6 billion (US$4.5 billion) in cash proceeds.
Ahead of its US listing, Grab had announced strong financial results for the third quarter ended 30 September 2021.
Its Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) reached a new quarterly record of US$4 billion, up 32 per cent year-over-year (YoY) in spite of a challenging operating environment. Deliveries GMV also grew 63 per cent YoY.
Average spend per user on Grab’s platform grew 43 per cent YoY to hit a record high. Revenue was US$157 million, down nine per cent YoY, as a result of a decline in mobility due to the severe lockdowns in Vietnam.
Last year, the Grab-Singtel consortium was one of the winners of Singapore’s digital full-bank licence bid. As it gears up to operate a digital bank in 2022, it is already starting hiring rounds and looks to recruit around 200 new staff.
In July, the Grab-Singtel consortium also applied for a digital bank licence in Malaysia. Singtel made the announcement on the Singapore Exchange, adding that the application was made together with a consortium of other investors.
Covid-19 has put a standstill to the travel industry, which heavily impacted local fintech firm YouTrip, whose star product is its multi-currency mobile wallet, which is mainly used as a travel payment card.
Regardless, Caecilia Chu, founder and CEO of YouTrip, strongly believes that “now is not the time to be slowing down.” In fact, the company continually innovated to be an “even stronger player” once the travel market rebounds.
Pivoting away from travel, YouTrip focused its efforts into the e-commerce use case as overseas e-commerce transactions skyrocketed.
After all, YouTrip offers more than 150 currencies at no fees, and the “best exchange rates”. This gives YouTrip an edge at being the “cheapest way” to pay in foreign currencies.
Last month, YouTrip raised US$30 million funding in a Series A round, bringing its total funding to over US$60 million since its launch in 2016.
According to YouTrip, the new capital will supercharge the company’s technological capabilities to bolster its suite of payment products, in particular entering the adjacent B2B payments space, as well as accelerating its entrance
into the wider Southeast Asia.
As part of its entry into the B2B space, YouTrip will be launching a new corporate credit card called YouBiz. It offers higher spending limits while transacting at the best exchange rates in more than 150 currencies and credit terms offered to selected business account users.
The YouBiz corporate card has received more than 1,000 sign-ups to date. It will be rolled out in Singapore in the first quarter of 2022, with plans to bring it to five other Southeast Asia countries in the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, the company’s rewards platform, YouTrip Perks — which offers cashback and deals from top merchants such as Taobao, Amazon and Singapore Airlines — has recorded a 150 per cent increase in transactions since its launch in September.
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) firm Pace is now the fastest-growing multi-territory BNPL player from Singapore following its recently-closed Series A round, in which it raised US$40 million funding.
Pace took only a year to grow into a Pan-Asian BNPL provider and is on track to hit Gross Merchandise Value run rate of US$1 billion in 2022.
According to the company, the new funding will go towards expanding technology, operations, and business development. It aims to grow its user base by 25 times over the next 12 months.
“The region is expected to become the world’s fastest-growing BNPL market, and this funding supports Pace in achieving its mission of democratising financial services for all, by helping us pave our expansion into Japan, Korea and Taiwan,” said Turochas ‘T’ Fuad, founder and CEO of Pace.
Launched in 2021, Pace aims to create financial inclusion for consumers, allowing them to split their purchase bills into three equal interest-free payments over 60 days.
To date, Pace has more than 3,000 points of sale across the region. This is driven by Pace’s ability to increase overall sales by up to 25 per cent by leveraging local customer insights while driving repeat purchases from Pace’s fast-growing base of users.
With regards to future plans, the BNPL provider will continue to replicate a hyperlocal framework as it goes live in new countries.
4. TurtleTree Labs
Homegrown biotech startup TurtleTree Labs develops lab-grown human breast milk to meet the growing demand for breastfeeding alternatives.
Founded by Fengru Lin and Max Rye in 2019, it uses stem cell technology to recreate mammalian breast milk of any species.
In November, it raised US$30 million in the first tranche of its Series A round, making it one of the largest investment rounds to date in Asia’s cell-based food sector. Following this round of funding, TurtleTree has raised over US$40 million to date.
With this new injection of funds, they are looking to fuel its expansion plans, particularly in the United States.
Having launched its Sacramento R&D facility in September, TurtleTree will now use the funds to continue expanding its portfolio of sustainable, better-for-you food items.
It is currently developing its first consumer-ready products. It expects to launch its first products in the U.S. soon using its cell-based dairy ingredients, and fully commercialise its cultured milk within the next four to five years.
Additionally, funds will also be set aside for technology development and talent acquisition.
Moving forward, TurtleTree expects to carve out a significant share of the traditional dairy market and aims to be “one of the biggest players” in the sustainable food industry,
5. Love, Bonito
Local womenswear brand Love, Bonito has grown to be the largest direct-to-consumer womenswear brand in Southeast Asia.
It has since expanded into 10 key markets, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and the US.
In the first half of 2021, Love, Bonito saw a 62 per cent growth year-on-year despite the pandemic, and its international business has also seen strong growth — 50 per cent of its e-commerce revenue comes from overseas customers.
To date, it has also achieved overall growth of over 120 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in international markets, and overall growth of 208 per cent for its online sales.
Love, Bonito closed its Series C funding round in October, in which it raised a total of US$50 million. It will use these funds to bolster efforts in existing omnichannel markets and supercharge international expansion in markets that collectively are experiencing triple digits YoY growth.
“For our newer international markets, we’re really intending to accelerate our omnichannel expansion. In the next three to five years, we also intend to build local operations and talent. We’re in fact, already hiring right now,” said Dione Song, CEO of Love, Bonito.
The company is also exploring categories outside of fashion as part of its plan to create a “female ecosystem”. It is looking to venture into a content platform (LiBrary), as well as exploration into “new whitespace categories” (LaB) which will include physical, sexual and emotional wellness.
There is also “potential” for them to expand into a subscription programme to cater to the busy working woman and for those who appreciates convenience.
In addition, Love, Bonito is looking to looking to open a new outlet in the “east of Singapore” next year.
Homage was previously mentioned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the 2017 National Day Rally speech, where he lauded the homegrown eldertech startup’s use of IT to match a pool of caregivers with seniors who needed help.
In September, it raised US$30 million (S$40 million) funding in a series C round led by Sheares Healthcare Group, a wholly-owned healthcare enterprise of global investment firm Temasek.
According to the company, the oversubscribed round makes it one of the largest financing rounds raised by an on-demand care platform in Southeast Asia and the Oceania region.
The latest Series C round brings its total funding to over US$45 million (S$60 million), and will be used to further accelerate regional expansion and scale its platform.
Homage said that it experienced significant growth in 2021, with regional business (including Malaysia and Australia) growing more than 600 per cent year-over-year. The group also more than tripled its revenue in the past year.
Moving forward, it will continue to grow its presence and expand into more cities.
“Our mission is to make everyday care for older adults and the chronic-ill personalised, accessible as well as cost-effective. By combining high touch with high tech, we have been able to prove that we improve the lives, health and wellness outcomes of our care recipients and families at scale,” said Gillian Tee, founder and CEO of Homage.
To date, the company has built a regional network of more than 6,000 fully screened, trained and curated care professionals, including certified and trained caregivers, licensed nurses, care navigators and board-certified therapists and physicians.
With its holistic care teams, Homage has also developed strong partnerships with both private and governmental hospitals as well as primary and community care providers to bridge the gap in the end-to-end care recipient journey, integrating across hospital health, community and home care as well as the payor ecosystem.
7. ION Mobility
Despite the challenging Covid-19 pandemic, ION Mobility has managed to complete two fundraising rounds, assemble a senior leadership team, and expand its operations to three countries.
Founded in 2019, the Singapore-based smart electric motorbike and energy storage solutions startup aims to bridge the gap for a viable electric mobility brand and solution for Southeast Asia.
Following its seed funding of US$6.8 million, it recently unveiled its very first electric motorbike. Called the ION Mobius, the electric vehicle (EV) was conceptualised, designed, and assembled in Singapore over the span of 18 months.
The electric motor scales up to a peak power of 12.5kW and maximum torque of 50Nm. It also has a top speed of up to 110km/h and accelerates from 0 to 50km/h in under four seconds.
The launch of ION Mobius is timely and significant, considering that Singapore is moving towards electrifying its vehicle population by 2040.
The company expects to start in-country assembly operations in the Greater Jakarta region by the first half of 2022, and the bike will only hit the roads of Indonesia next year.
Following Indonesia, the company has plans to expand across the region, particularly Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. As it ramps up its scale and operations to cater to growing demand, ION Mobility will expand its team.
ION Mobility currently has over 40 staff across Singapore, Indonesia and Shenzhen, with more than half forming its operations here.
In Singapore, ION Mobility will also be launching a “small-batch manufacturing line”, with plans to scale up to a monthly output of 500 electric motorbikes and battery packs.
Founded in 2016, Pickupp is redefining logistics with its customer-centric service and technology.
In the last 13 months, it has expanded rapidly while continuously diversifying its product portfolio and offerings across all industries and verticals.
Earlier this month, Pickupp raised another US$37 million funding in its Series B round. This third round of funding following its initial Series A round in November 2020 and Series A+ round in July 2021, which totalled to approximately US$20 million.
According to the startup, the funding will be used to deepen its presence in Asia and strengthen its regional logistics network infrastructure, so that it will be better positioned to propel continued growth in quick commerce and e-commerce.
Pickupp will set up 10 new satellite warehouses across heartland areas in Singapore by mid-2022.
The expansion of these service points — which provides pick up and drop services, micro-fulfilment and warehousing as well as cross-border services — is aligned with Pickupp’s goal of improving the efficiency of deliveries during peak traffic hours and decarbonising its operations by increasing its walker and rider delivery agent pool.
“Quick commerce is becoming more prevalent in Singapore, with more consumers venturing online to purchase groceries and daily necessities. This trend has increased the demand for flexible and faster deliveries, raising the bar for service standards in the last-mile delivery space,” said Lee Chee Meng, co-chief operating officer of Pickupp.
“Investments in our technology and the expansion of our satellite networks will remain a vital part of our operational strategy as we aim to provide our customers with the most reliable and efficient delivery services.”
To date, Pickupp has worked with 24,000 merchants, with more than 100,000 delivery agents onboard across Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The company has seen a user base growth of 94 per cent since 2021, driven by the growing demand of the digital economy.
Singapore-based career development and recruitment platform Glint had raised US$22.5 million in an oversubscribed series C round led by Tokyo-listed PERSOL Holdings.
According to the company, this marked the largest investment round into a career platform in the region to date.
It added that the new funding will be used to build more features and solutions on Glints’ Talent Ecosystem, and scale its product and engineering teams.
Glints’ Talent Ecosystem is the first-of-its-kind full-stack talent platform that supports professionals in their entire career discovery and development, combining community, skills education and job features.
For employers, Glints provides a tech-enabled recruitment solution called TalentHunt that is twice as efficient than traditional recruiters. Its clients today include Gojek, Tokopedia, FWD Insurance, Starbucks, and Mediacorp.
“With the pandemic accelerating the future of work and causing big changes in the labour market, our mission to empower the 120 million professionals in Southeast Asia is more important than ever,” said Oswald Yeo, co-founder and CEO of Glints.
“Existing solutions are transactional job portals and traditional recruiters only provide part of the solution. We are scaling Glints as a full-stack talent platform to support the professionals in Southeast Asia with their career discovery and development and to solve the regional talent crunch for employers.”
Despite Covid-19, Glints has seen resilient growth the past year with annual revenues more than doubling, continuing the trend of annual revenues growing at triple-digit percentages annually for the past three years.
The company also sees positive contribution margins across all business units, with Indonesia and Vietnam markets already profitable. Its other markets include Singapore and Taiwan.
With the rapid adoption of remote work, Glints has also seen a surge in demand for its cross-border talent solution called TalentHub, which doubled in business last year.
Last month, cashback firm ShopBack acquired buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform hoolah.
With this acquisition, ShopBack users can look forward to getting the best deals and rewards, as well as more flexible payment options on a single platform.
Additionally, merchant partners can soon access a large pool of high-intent shoppers, and achieve higher conversions and basket sizes.
This acquisition news comes following its earlier US$40 million funding from investors including Temasek, EDBI, East Ventures, Indies Capital and January Capital, bringing its total funding to US$145 million to date.
ShopBack said that it will use the investment to onboard new customers and merchants, as well as develop new products for e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores.
According to the company, it has 30 million users on its platform and has helped facilitate over US$7.3 billion in revenue for more than 5,000 merchant partners.
With a presence in seven countries, ShopBack has also shown a 150 per cent growth in revenue in 2020, compared to the previous year.
ShopBack co-founder and CEO, Henry Chan, also revealed in a 2020 interview that the firm had not ruled out the idea of an IPO in the near term, but said that it remains focused on creating value for users and merchants in this period.
To deal with the pandemic, ShopBack said that it has been extra-focused on optimising the business and rationalising its cost structure to operate more effectively with limited resources.
The goal is to keep expenses as low as possible without significantly slowing business growth, while also innovating on new features.
11. Ninja Van
In September, homegrown logistics tech company Ninja Van announced that it has successfully raised US$578 million (S$781.5 million) funding in a Series E round.
Existing investors in this round include Alibaba Group, GeoPost/DPDgroup, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group, Monk’s Hill Ventures, and Zamrud, an entity linked to a Southeast Asian sovereign wealth fund.
According to the company, the funds raised will be allocated towards infrastructure and technology systems that will support a sustainable long-term cost infrastructure, as well as the quality and consistency of Ninja Van’s operations.
Funds will also be invested in Ninja Van’s suite of micro-supply chain solutions to help Southeast Asian businesses optimise e-commerce opportunities.
Since its inception in 2014, Ninja Van has become a leading regional logistics player in Southeast Asia.
The company’s end-to-end logistics network spans Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, connecting over 1.8 million active shippers with close to 100 million recipients.
The company currently employs more than 61,000 staff and delivery personnel that support the delivery of around two million parcels a day throughout the region. This is twice the number of parcels recorded in May 2020, with one million daily shipment.
Ninja Van’s growth in revenue and orders has surged thanks to an e-commerce boom fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The seven-year-old startup is at an almost break-even rate and is targeting profitability in 2022. According to VentureCap data, it posted a US$84.1 million loss in 2019, on the back of US$149.3 million in revenue.
Earlier in July, co-founder and CEO Lai Chang Wen shared that Ninja Van might be exploring an initial public offering in the United States next year.
Sources close to the company claimed that Ninja Van had passed a US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) valuation — dubbing it a unicorn — following its US$279 million funding round last year.
12. Growthwell Foods
Founded in 1989, Growthwell Foods was first launched as a food solution company catering to the needs of vegetarian consumers, but has since become a manufacturer of plant-based alternatives for meat and seafood.
Equipped with food technology, manufacturing and distribution capabilities in Asia, the group provides end-to-end plant-based food solutions directly to their valued partners and consumers globally.
Last month, it launched Singapore’s first fully automated large-scale production line for plant-based products.
The centre will have the ability to produce 4,000 metric tons of products in a single year, and is aligned with Singapore’s 30 by 30 vision by producing plant based products for the local market.
The centre will function as a pilot plant, making Singapore the launchpad for further expansion into other regions with dedicated production in the future.
The centre will produce a new plant-based range called HAPPIEE!, which includes ‘chicken nuggets, ‘chicken’ popcorn, as well as ‘chicken’ and ‘fish’ patties and sticks. They are planned to be made available in retail stores from the first quarter of 2022.
Besides the HAPPIEE! range, Growthwell is also poised to launch a new product, plant-based salmon flakes that is made from soy.
The launch of this new centre comes at the back of its US$22 million (S$29.6 million) funding in a Series A round led by Creadev, with participation of GGV Capital, Iris Fund and existing investors Temasek and DSG Consumer Partners.
According to the company, this seed funding is nearly three times the US$8 million raised in 2019.
It hopes that this new investment will fund Growthwell’s vision to become Asia’s leading plant nutrition food tech company and help reduce the world’s reliance on meat and seafood, as well as reduce the impact on the environment.
Like many other businesses that is dependent on the travel sector, travel and leisure booking platform Klook was badly impacted by the pandemic as it had to undergo
During the past year however, Klook has quickly reprioritised its core strategic strengths to tackle COVID-19’s impact on the business.
It focused on two main areas: digitising the experiences booking sectors, and launching new verticals such as staycations and car rental.
In September last year, Klook also inked a S$2 million partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to encourage locals to explore and experience a “different side of Singapore” as part of the SingapoRediscovers campaign.
Regionally, Klook has also established partnerships with other tourism boards such as the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Japan National Tourism Organization, Korea Tourism Organization, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand to help diversify offerings and to grow demand domestically.
In January this year, Klook also raised US$200 million additional funding for its Series E round.
The funding will be used to accelerate the development of SaaS solutions and digital transformation for its merchants. These tools will empower any merchant to build, manage, and scale their business with Klook.
Today, Klook’s merchant SaaS solutions power millions of bookings for more than 2,500 merchants worldwide.
Doubling down on its SaaS solutions will enable even more merchants who have had a challenging year to transform and accelerate their business by easily creating an online storefront powered by Klook. This is supported by a backend engine that manages ticketing, distribution, inventory management, marketing and more.
Klook said that it has seen merchants in such markets who are eager to digitise their business. At the height of the pandemic, it onboarded 150 per cent more activities compared to the same period in 2019.
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going
Despite a challenging 2021, these companies have shown their mettle, turning challenges into growth opportunities with agility and constant innovation.
Based on this list, it’s also clear to see that many hail from the food tech, logistics, e-commerce and fintech sectors.
Singapore is heavily investing to expand its food tech and agritech ecosystem in a bid to improve local food security, and the startups that are dabbling in areas like biotech, alternative proteins and vertical farming are bound to see strong growth.
Meanwhile, logistics and e-commerce go hand-in-hand. Covid-19 has definitely sparked an e-commerce boom, and with the surge in online orders, logistics also saw an uptick in demand.
Lastly, Singapore has a thriving and vibrant ecosystem, and the government is heavily supporting it to promote innovation within the sector.
According to data from the BCG FinTech Control Tower, funding for Singapore fintechs has grown by 2.5 times between 2020 and 2021. The most recent quarter, Q3 2021, has been the strongest yet, with about S$1.9 billion raised by local fintechs.
Financial services have made fintech a priority, technology companies have made it a target, and adjacent industries have begun to tap into the fintech space, and this momentum looks likely to remain strong.
Featured Image Credit: Love, Bonito / Reuters / Ninja Van / ION Mobility / Pickupp / Klook