It’s 2022 and things are looking rosier than a few months ago. Economies are reopening and travel is back in the picture.
Last year, many Singapore startups clinched the highly coveted “unicorn” ranking. The startups include Carousell, PatSnap, Ninja Van, and Carro.
Factors that drove the high valuations were due to robust funding from private equity markets in the Southeast Asia region over the past few years, supported by a rising middle class and an increase in smartphone and data usage.
The pandemic also boosted tech-related sectors due to an increase in tech and digital adoption.
With the pandemic abating, it seems companies are still not slowing down on digitisation, having realised the importance of that when some were caught unprepared by the impact of Covid-19. It’s likely that more Singapore startups will continue to reach the billion-dollar valuation status in the near term, as the country’s startup ecosystem matures.
So how many Singapore startups will likely hit “unicorn” status this year?
ShopBack, an online shopping rewards app backed by Temasek Holdings Pte, is said to be in talks with potential investors to raise US$150 million to help finance its expansion, according to a Bloomberg report.
The funding round is expected to value the company at about US$1 billion. The Singapore startup offers cashback and other rewards for users. It has expanded to 10 markets including Australia, Taiwan, and South Korea.
In 2020, it raised US$75 million in a funding round that included investors Temasek and Rakuten. In 2021, it raised US$40 million in an investment round participated by Temasek, EDBI, East Ventures, Indies Capital, and January Capital.
Not long after, it bought buy now, pay later (BNPL) startup Hoolah to accelerate BNPL offerings to merchants and shoppers.
The startup showed a 150 per cent growth in revenue in 2020, compared to a year ago. It is said to have 30 million users on its platform and has helped facilitate over US$7.3 billion in revenue for more than 5,000 merchant partners.
In an interview with Yahoo in 2020, the firm had not ruled out the idea of an IPO in the near term, but CEO Henry had said that it remains focused on creating value for users and merchants in this period.
To deal with the pandemic, ShopBack has been extra-focused on optimising the business and rationalising its cost structure to operate more effectively with limited resources.
This Fintech claims it is the region’s largest SME digital financing platform. It uses alternative forms of credit scoring and has disbursed more than US$2 billion in financing to businesses since it launched in 2015.
In Feb this year, it announced it raised US$144 million in an oversubscribed Series C+ funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. New investors like VNG Corporation, Rapyd Ventures, EDBI, Indies Capital, K3 Ventures, and Ascend Vietnam participated in the round.
Institutional investors also provided US$150 million in debt lines. This adds up to a total funding of US$294 million (S$395.58 million) which the company will tap on to further its expansion plans in Southeast Asia.
The previous funding round was a US$45 million Series C raised between 2020 and 2021.
The startup’s clients range from neighbourhood stores and e-commerce vendors to medium-sized companies who seek alternative forms of financing than bank loans.
The business provides revenue-based financing and is said to be quicker to disburse than bank loans. Although the products’ interest rates are generally higher than banks but they are lower or equal to credit cards.
Based on data from VentureCap Insights, its last valuation prior to the latest fundraise was at US$326.4 million as of 2021. The startup is likely to now have a valuation that’s more than US$500 million.
Startup data insights portal Crunchbase notes Funding Societies’ total funding amount raised to be at US$400.50 million.
The Singapore based digital telco has been boosting its Singapore headcount since October.
It had close to 250 people and wanted to increase more staff – by 25 to 35 per cent – in 12 months (from October last year) to scale up its Circles X software offering. Circles X operates on a software-as-a-service revenue model.
In December last year, Circles.Life offered to buy back US$5 million in employee stock options ahead of a planned initial public offering. The company said that employee stocks awarded in the early days of the business have grown over 13-fold in value.
The startup raised US$48.9 million in Series C funding in 2019, which valued the company at US$544 million, VentureCap Insights data showed.
In Feb 2020, the firm announced an undisclosed funding round from Warburg Pincus to further fund growth and for expansion in new markets. The startup did not divulge the investment sum, but data from Crunchbase show that growth investor Warburg Pincus tends to inject a few hundred million dollars when investing.
The startup’s earlier investors include Sequoia Capital India, Singapore’s Economic Development Board investment arm EDBI, and Silicon Valley’s Founders Fund.
Circles.Life had said it would spend more than US$250 million to move into at least five markets by end-2020.
Founded in 2013, this Singapore based startup is a next-generation broadband satellite operator that aims to provide fast high-quality broadband access at affordable prices to Asia Pacific.
It raised a total of US$307.30 million in funding over three rounds. The latest funding of US$160 million was in Dec 2019 from a debt financing round led by Asian Development Bank and GuarantCo.
This year, it said it has collaborated with ICT provider and network operator HGC Global Communications to boost critical connectivity across emerging markets in the Philippines. The providers offer infrastructure that will benefit the government and businesses in the country.
Kacific’s geostationary Ka-band satellite, Kacific1, was launched in Dec 2019 to provide connectivity to the underserved.
As the satellites are rolling out, the startup may have plans to raise more funds for expansion purposes.
If the satellites take off, the company may see a repricing of its valuation real soon, although it is likely to not disclose that piece of information even if it hits unicorn status for commercially competitive reasons.
The B2B retail platform co-founded by CEO Ankiti Bose and CTO Dhrub Kapoor in 2015 is reportedly raising US$150 million to US$200 million, in a report in February.
The deal could help it become the next unicorn with a valuation of over US$1 billion. In 2019, Zilingo had raised US$226 million in a fund raise led by Sequoia Capital, Temasek, and Burdal Principal Investments, giving it a US$970 million valuation.
The startup is just shy of US$30 million to hit that unicorn status. But that achievement might not be celebrated with Co-Founder and CEO Ankiti who has been suspended from her post.
The suspension is tied to Zilingo’s fund raising efforts. The process to raise funds meant that there would be a due diligence process required to check the company’s account books. This process turned into a probe into financial irregularities that involved Ankiti.
Ankiti was then suspended and the company’s various board of directors, which includes names like Shailendra Singh, the Managing Director of Sequoia India, quit.
This news came after the departures of Temasek Holdings’ Xu Wei Yang and Burda Principal Investments’ Albert Shyy.
Unless the funding round was scrapped after this high profile scandal, there might be a chance for Zilingo to make a comeback if it manages to resolve its management and board issues. But it will first have to do lots of fire fighting and get back the trust from investors and clients.
Deals continue to be active
Singapore continues to be a leader in funding and deals activity in Southeast Asia, thanks to the presence of high growth companies that has been years in the making.
Research from Google, Temasek, and Bain and Co show the region’s internet economy to double to US$363 billion by 2025. International investors are also hungry for ‘growth at scale’ investment opportunities, and Asia Pacific, especially Singapore, is an obvious market.
Observers are expecting more unicorns to emerge, following the momentum from last year. Time to catch a unicorn?
Featured Image Credit: ShopBack, Circles.Life, Kacific, Zilingo, Funding Societies