Recent months have been filled with rather gloomy news of disastrous performance of major Singaporean tech stocks like Sea or Grab, both of which lost around 75 per cent of their value in the last three to four months.
In fact, the latter’s post-IPO performance suggests that the company grabbed the last good opportunity to list before the markets tanked towards the end of the year.
It has to be said, though, that this isn’t entirely their fault — overall mood in the financial markets is rather grim, driven by high inflation that is prompting central banks around the world to tighten monetary supply, souring investors’ prospects.
Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine only added to uncertainty, which isn’t good news for stocks, particularly those coming from less well-known markets like Southeast Asia.
However, this does not necessarily mean that funding is drying up and that regional or local startups should worry too much, as exhibited by the latest Series B funding round secured by Multiplier, which has just secured a respectable US$60 million (S$80 million) at a valuation of US$400 million (S$540 million).
From zero to half a billion in 16 months
Multiplier is an HR platform with crypto ambitions. It is a Professional Employment Organization acting as Employer of Record (EOR) in over 150 countries, allowing its clients to hire remote workers all over the world, while complying with local tax and labour laws.
The company was founded in Singapore in November 2020 – a little over 16 months ago – and yet, it has already managed to rack up sizeable funding of over US$77 million from a dozen investors across India, USA and Singapore, among others.
The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly not hindered, but helped the founders — Sagar Khatri, Vamsi Krishna (both hailing from IIT in Bombay, with senior level corporate experience in Singapore) and Singaporean, LSE-educated, Amritpal Singh — given the explosive demand for remote workforce and the accelerated shift from traditional office work to work-from-home.
In the meantime, the team has also recruited Lazada’s Senior VP of Technology, Hiraash Thawfeek, in March of last year, before securing the seed US$4 million round from Sequoia Capital’s Surge fund supporting startups in India and Southeast Asia in July 2021.
But hiring and managing remote workforce (and the necessary bureaucracy and payments that go with it), in line with international laws, is not the only service bundle on offer.
Besides additional features, like offering employees stock options in the company, Multiplier is already working on adding cryptocurrencies to its payroll solution, to enable seamless cross-border payments to workers around the world using crypto instead of traditional fiat.
If employment is carried out digitally and the entire management process is digital as well, then the natural extension would be implementation of innovative digital payments to complement them all — though the exact details are not yet known.
Singapore’s startup funding is holding strong
You may be wondering if Multiplier is just an exception in an otherwise grim market, but it seems that pessimism hasn’t yet reached the startup scene.
As you can see, investment rebounded strongly after a somewhat dampened 2020 and while some of the quarterly figures in 2021 have been distorted by rather large equity funding rounds (such as Sea Ltd. or Grab’s IPO), there is still plenty of money flowing to private business.
In fact, out of over US$77 billion (S$104 billion) in funding recorded in Crunchbase, over US$45 billion (S$60 billion) went to companies founded in the past decade — from 2012 onwards, and most of it in the past two years.
Still, incomplete data for Q1 2022 (and two weeks before the end of the quarter) shows that US$3.2 billion (S$4.3 billion) has already been raised, with a median of US$4.5 million (S$6.1 million) per deal — the highest on record.
It seems then, that while stock markets depend on whims of millions of investors, thousands of analysts and large institutional players swayed by general market uncertainty and gaps in knowledge of specific companies, private VC funding is still very much active and seeks out opportunities, which can be found even during crisis times like the pandemic.
In fact, as Multiplier’s example shows, it’s a global crisis that often creates opportunities that might not have existed (or been as lucrative) otherwise.
Featured Image Credit: Multiplier