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Grab, Lazada, Sea: 14 tech giant alumni that have made a mark in S’pore’s startup world

lazada sea grab alumni startup founder singapore

A report released last October by consultancy Bain & Co and Grab’s Tech For Good Institute (TFGI) revealed that the alumni of Southeast Asia’s first generation tech platforms have gone on to create and lead over 1,000 startups in the region.

According to the report, these tech platforms have employed more than 120,000 employees — both past and present — since their inception.

These regional tech platforms include e-commerce players Lazada, Zalora, Tokopedia and Bukalapak; e-wallet operator Ovo, and diversified tech companies Sea, Grab and Gojek.

Out of these companies, Lazada outranked the rest with 480 alumni who are now founders or CEOs of startups, followed by Sea and Grab with 346 and 307 alumni respectively.

tech giant alumni startup founders sea
Based on LinkedIn scan of former employees of selected first-generation platforms in SEA / Source: Tech in Asia, LinkedIn

Following this interesting finding, we have went on to compile a list of second-generation startups in Singapore that are spawned by the alumni of these three leading tech giants:

1. Amrt Sagar, co-founder of Carzuno (formerly Grab)

carzuno founders Amrt Sagar and Andrew Chan
Amrt Sagar (left) and Andrew Chan (right), co-founders of Carzuno / Image Credit: Carzuno

Carzuno is a Singapore-based car subscription startup that was founded in May 2021 by Amrt Sagar, a former Uber and Grab executive; and Andrew Chan, who previously worked at ComfortDelGro.

Carzuno offers customers a full-time use of a car of their choice on a monthly subscription basis without buying or leasing. It aims to revolutionise auto ownership and claims to be Singapore’s first service for car subscriptions.

The founders understand that buying a car requires long-term commitment and large upfront expenses, so they hope to eliminate these woes with their startup.

Carzuno has a wide range of car models listed, including Japanese hatchbacks, German SUVs (sports utility vehicles), and Italian sports cars.

The monthly fee starts from S$1,350 and covers the car, insurance, servicing, taxes, and a 24-hour breakdown service. Customers can also change their cars at the end of their subscription period to suit their evolving needs.

According to the company, subscribers can opt for plans that range from one to 24 months and have their car delivered to their doorsteps in less than 24 hours after a three-minute signup process.

2. Andrea Baroncheli, co-founder and CEO of Aspire (formerly Lazada)

Andrea Baroncheli aspire
Andrea Baroncheli, co-founder and CEO of Aspire / Image Credit: Aspire

Singapore-based neobank Aspire aims to be an “end-to-end financial operating system” for Southeast Asian businesses.

As a former EVP and Chief Marketing Officer for Lazada, Andrea Baroncheli — who is now the co-founder and CEO of Aspire — believes that the problems small business owners were facing could be solved: providing business credit line without long waits, paperworks and hidden fees. 

Aspire was founded in 2018 to provide working capital loans for small to medium-sized businesses, but it has since adopted a multi-product strategy. Its portfolio of services now include bank accounts for cross-border businesses, corporate cards and automated invoice processing, all of which are connected to financial management software.

The company also operates an incorporation service for Singaporean companies called Aspire Kickstart.

To date, it has served over 10,000 businesses, including HipVan, Grain, Endowus, Y Combinator and Circles.Life.

In September last year, Aspire raised US$158 million in its Series B round to double down on its all-in-one finance OS for growing businesses in the region.

3. Gregory Van, co-founder and CEO of Endowus (formerly Grab)

Gregory Van and Samuel Rhee endowus
Gregory Van (left) and Samuel Rhee (right), co-founders of Endowus / Image Credit: Endowus

Gregory Van began his career in investment banking at UBS where he advised private equity and venture capital firms.

Keen to get some operating experience, he joined Grab where he led technology and payment partnerships, helping Grab unlock over 100 payment methods across the region when Grab was cash-only.

As the founding partner and CEO of Endowus, Greg is passionate about making investing accessible and convenient to everyone.

Headquartered in Singapore, Endowus is the first and only digital advisor for CPF, SRS, and cash savings.

The firm’s proprietary systems provide data-driven wealth advice in constructing personalised solutions, and its portfolios are built on access to institutional-quality financial products at the lowest cost possible.

Endowus is a fee-only independent advisor paid solely by its clients, allowing its advice to be unaffected by conflicts of interest. Licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singaopore (MAS), the firm also provides its end-to-end digital solution to individual and institutional investors.

4. Phuminant Tantiprasongchai, co-founder of TiffinLabs (formerly Grab)

Phuminant Tantiprasongchai tiffinlabs
Phuminant Tantiprasongchai (Nant), co-founder of TiffinLabs / Image Credit: Nant’s LinkedIn

Digital restaurant group TiffinLabs was established in 2019 as an end-to-end food tech company built for food delivery.

It was co-founded by R. K. Kishin, Shaun Smithson, Sam Ahmed and Phuminant Tantiprasongchai (Nant) — all of whom left their leading positions in the hospitality, retail and F&B industries.

Billionaire Kishin is the founder and CEO of real estate company RB Capital, Shaun was the Head of Shared Kitchens APAC for foodpanda, Sam led marketing and e-commerce in Starbucks and Kraft, while Nant was the head of strategy for Grab Thailand.

Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, TiffinLabs doesn’t have a physical storefront. Instead, the brand manages a chain of virtual restaurants which exist as commercial kitchens.

By adopting under-utilised commercial kitchens instead of expensive brick-and-mortar stores, TiffinLabs adapts to consumer trends to produce authentic food at scale.

TiffinLabs decides the optimal brands, cuisines and menus for each target market by utilising data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and then partners with distributors to deliver food to consumers.

In a past interview conducted in August 2020, Nant told Vulcan Post that TiffinLabs has acquired access to 1,000 delivery-enabled kitchens across the US, Europe and Asia, with the aim of creating an international cloud kitchen network.

5. Paul Hadjy, co-founder and CEO of Horangi (formerly Grab)

paul hadjy horangi
Paul Hadjy, co-founder and CEO of Horangi / Image Credit: Horangi

Founded in 2016, Singapore-based Horangi was among 105 startups listed at the Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem @ Block71 (ICE71), an entrepreneurial hub that has sprung up to meet the region’s rising cybersecurity demand for cloud computing.

The firm was co-founded by ex-Palantir cybersecurity practitioners Paul Hadjy — who was also the former head of information security at Grab — and Lee Sult.

“The idea for Horangi came when I was transitioning from Palantir to Grab. At Grab, I was running the security and IT teams, and when looking for cloud security vendors, I had a hard time finding any based outside of the U.S. or Israel. Seeing that clear gap in Asia, we decided to start Horangi,” Paul told AsiaTechDaily.

Its services include penetration testing and virtual chief information security officers. Warden, its cloud security product, protects organisations using public cloud infrastructure from security threats and compliance violations.

It has served over 200 customers across the region, including major names such as Gojek, Ninja Van, ShopBack and PropertyGuru.

6. Luke Ong, founding team member of Una Brands (formerly Shopee)

luke ong una brands
Luke Ong, founding team member of Una Brands / Image Credit: Luke Ong’s LinkedIn

Founded in 2020, Una Brands is a Singapore-based e-commerce aggregator startup that essentially buys and builds brands.

According to the company’s website, it is co-founded by Kiren Tanna, Adrian Johnston, Kushal Patel, Tobias Heusch, and Srinivasan Shridaran, who have over 10 years of experience in e-commerce, M&A, operations and data analytics.

Luke Ong, who worked in Shopee’s special projects and category management team for cross-border e-commerce, is also a member of the founding team of Una Brands, according to his LinkedIn profile. Currently, he serves as the director of regional head of acquisitions at the company.

Una Brands uses technology to optimise and automate product placement and marketing across a range of distribution channels.

The company said that it will focus on acquiring companies with strong independent branding, and those that have annual revenue of between US$300,000 and US$20 million.

The company has already closed deals with several businesses in the region, the most recent of which is the acquisition of homegrown furniture brands ErgoTune and EverDesk+.

7. Ho Song Yan, co-founder of RushOwl (formerly Shopee)

rushowl ho song yan
Ho Song Yan, co-founder of RushOwl / Image Credit: RushOwl

A former senior data engineer at Shopee, Ho Song Yan now serves as the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of homegrown mobility tech startup RushOwl.

Founded in 2018, RushOwl offers on-demand and region-to-region routes to meet every passenger’s needs, and partners with fleet owners, smart cities and even governments globally to create digitised transportation infrastructures.

To date, it has since worked with established smart city stakeholders like JTC, HDT (subsidiary of electric bus maker BYD China) and SMRT to provide smart mobility solutions for passengers.

In end December last year, RushOwl secured a seed funding of S$650,000 in an oversubscribed round, by more than three times its intended raise amount.

RushOwl plans to use these funds to expand its ride-sharing product, RushTrail — which mainly sends passengers directly to their everyday locations — across Asia Pacific.

Over the years, the RushTrail app saw a 400 per cent growth in ridership as commuters seek for a direct transport alternative from home direct to work during the pandemic.

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Image Credit: Vulcan Post

8. Riche Lim, founder of ErudiFi (formerly Sea)

riche lim erudifi
Riche Lim, founder of ErudiFi / Image Credit: Medium

Singapore-based ErudiFi — a provider of financing solutions for education — was founded by Ketty Lie, Naga Tan, Riche Lim, and Susli Lie in 2018.

In particular, Riche has a broad set of experiences across operating and investing roles, focused primarily on EdTech and FinTech in Southeast Asia.

His background includes corporate finance, investment research, business strategy, and data analytics. He also served as a strategy analyst (public policy) for Sea, the parent company of Shopee.

Just last month, ErudiFi secured a US$15 million debt facility from Singapore-based fintech firm Helicap.

It aims to partner with universities and vocational schools to help underserved families find funding for higher education. It also operates education financing platforms Danacita and Bukas in Indonesia and the Philippines, respectively.

So far, ErudiFi has served more than 12,000 students and partnered with over 100 educational institutions in the two countries.

9. Junxian Lee, co-founder of Moovaz (formerly Garena)

moovaz
Junxian Lee, co-founder of Moovaz / Image Credit: Moovaz

Junxian Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Moovaz. After graduating from the NUS Business School, he started his career in the finance sector and subsequently pursued his studies in Harvard University and Fudan University.

He started developing a curiosity and passion for the tech and startup industry, so after completing his studies, he got the opportunity to join the ventures team in Garena.

During his time there, he helped to ideate and launch Shopee across the region, which gave him insight into operating and driving a high-growth technology business and team.

“Riding on the booming wave of e-commerce, I garnered my first experience of launching a tech project simultaneously across the region. The operational lessons I accumulated from this experience proved invaluable for my future endeavours,” shared Junxian in his company blog.

“With this, I went on to co-found three other companies  —  Fundnel, a digital private investment platform offering unlisted securities in growth and pre-IPO stage companies; CashShield, an online fraud risk management company in the cybersecurity space; and now, Moovaz, a one-stop online aggregator platform that fulfils all relocation needs, in an attempt to revolutionise the logistics industry. Amidst all these, I also have a strong passion for cooking and decided to start my very own café [called Reedz] at some point in time, which has since grown into a chain of restaurants today.”

10. Lincoln Lin, co-founder of Filmplace (formerly Garena)

lincoln lin filmplace
Lincoln Lin, co-founder of Filmplace / Image Credit: Lincoln Lin’s LinkedIn

Founded in 2019, Filmplace aims to give Airbnb spaces a new lease of life. It is the first marketplace platform that allows homeowners in Singapore to monetise their homes by renting it out as filming locations.

Co-founder Lincoln Lin has been in the film and media industry for about 10 years. One of his early stints was serving as the Broadcast and Shows Manager at Garena, the gaming subsidiary of Sea.

He is also an award-winning filmmaker who has won multiple awards in Mumbai International Film Festival 2014 and the Singapore World International Film Festival 2016 for his directing and cinematography.

Filmplace is his fifth startup that he started to solve a common pain point in the global media industry, which is to secure a filming locating at the lowest cost with minimal resources within the shortest timeframe.

With Filmplace, the creative industry can easily source for video or photo locations within minutes rather than spending days on it. At the same time, it helps owners of such venues monetise their existing space to brands and content creators for an additional source of passive income.

The startup is currently established in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and South Korea, with a supporting office in India.

11. Guillaume Castagne, co-founder of Vaniday and Cove (formerly Lazada)

Guillaume Castagne cove living
Guillaume Castagne, co-founder of Vaniday and Cove / Image Credit: CNBC

Before delving into the startup world, French national Guillaume Castagne served as the Vice President of Marketing at Lazada Thailand.

He co-founded beauty booking app Vaniday in October 2015, which suddenly closed in December 2019 and later relaunched in July 2020 under a new ownership.

Following Vaniday, he co-founded homegrown co-living platform Cove in 2018 through startup generator Antler. Its online listing platform and tenant apps aim to make it hassle-free for tenants to rent high-quality rooms at affordable pricing.

The startup invests in smart home technology, and uses an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to match flatmates based on their living habits, values and interests.

All of Cove’s properties come fully furnished with super-fast WiFi. An all-inclusive monthly rent includes the WiFi charges, a weekly cleaning service, and all taxes and utilities.

There are no agent fees payable. Contract terms are flexible with a three-month minimum stay, and tenants can transfer between Cove properties or leave with 30 days’ notice. Cove members also get access to regular social and networking events with other flatmates.

12. Mohandass Kalaichelvan, co-founder of Spenmo (formerly Grab)

Mohandass Kalaichelvan spenmo
Mohandass Kalaichelvan, co-founder of Spenmo / Image Credit: Spenmo

Mohandass Kalaichelvan was hit with the idea for Spenmo as a corporate strategy executive at Grab, where he began to learn of problems merchants face in financial accounting and applying for loans.

“I wanted to make an impact, and sometimes it can be hard to make an impact in a really large organisation,” said Mohandass, who was part of a regional team at Grab that oversaw its strategy spanning transport, payments, food and financial services.

He was also worried that if he stayed longer at Grab, someone else would start a company with the same business idea he had.

Founded in 2019, Spenmo is a unified spend payments platform that aims to capture the small and midsize business (SMBs) market through B2B payment automation and management. 

It helps companies have control and visibility over their expenditure, and offers clients corporate card offerings, automated local and overseas invoice payments, and accounting automation. 

To date, Spenmo has raised over US$36 million in venture capital with support from top-tier investors such as Y Combinator, Insight Partners, Addition, Salesforce, Global Founders’ Capital and Alpha JWC.

13. Gaurav Bubna, Ajay Bulusu and Shaolin Zheng, co-founders of NextBillion.ai (formerly Grab)

Gaurav Bubna, Ajay Bulusu and Shaolin Zheng nextbillion.ai
Image Credit: Nextbillion.ai

Three ex-Grabbers – Gaurav Bubna, Ajay Bulusu, and Shaolin Zheng – co-founded AI mapping startup NextBillion.ai in early 2020.

The startup, which has teams in Beijing, Singapore, and India, wants to create mapping solutions for enterprises and organisations of all sizes. It’s particularly keen on solving challenges in emerging markets, where geospatial knowledge tends to be limited and inaccurate.

Ajay was previously part of Grab’s Geo team, which helps to optimise the tech giant’s in-app maps and location services.

While at Grab, he realised that accurate maps were difficult to come by in emerging markets such as Indonesia or India, and most businesses didn’t have the expertise and resources to customise them for their specific use cases.

NextBillion’s service is called NextbillionMaps, which manages and tracks large-scale geospatial data for its clients, then helps them use the information effectively.

The startup also develops and provides access to application programming interfaces (APIs) such as geocoding, navigation, reverse geocoding, ETA routing, and more. These APIs enable orders to be delivered on time, help riders and couriers locate customers more easily, and intelligently assign the closest drivers to the right tasks.

14. Sai Alluri and Andrew Liu, co-founders of Momos (formerly Grab)

sai Alluri and Andrew Liu, co-founders of Momos
Andrew Liu (left) and Sai Alluri (right), co-founders of Momos / Image Credit: Momos

Homegrown SaaS platform Momos was launched in 2020 by Sai Alluri and Andrew Liu, who were former executives at Grab, Uber, Microsoft, and Intuit.

While leading GrabKitchen during the pandemic, Sai noticed how Covid-19 had massively disrupted the way of operations in F&B businesses, as they grappled with an overwhelming surge in orders and interactions with customers online.

Together with Andrew, who is the co-founder of GrabWheels, the duo identified and assessed pain points for F&B businesses.

In tandem with the exponential growth of online restaurant aggregation and food delivery spaces, Sai and Andrew knew they had to pioneer something new and unprecedented to help restaurants needing more digital tools to keep pace and maximise their online channels. 

Better described as the ‘Shopify for Restaurants’, Momos is a growth platform for F&B businesses that offers marketing, customer service, and analytics tools leveraging real-time data insights to help restaurants streamline and simplify their management processes across all online operations.  

With notable brands such as The Lo & Behold Group, Flash Coffee, Guzman y Gomez, and Wolf Burgers under their belt, Momos has ambitions of building a global company from Singapore by partnering with small and big F&B businesses in the region to optimise their online operations.

Featured Image Credit: Endowus / Spenmo / Lincoln Lee’s LinkedIn / Aspire / Momos / Moovaz

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