Singapore-based media company GRVTY Media announced today (July 29) that Towerhill — the investment vehicle of Kiat Lim, who is the son of billionaire Peter Lim — has acquired a majority stake of the company for an undisclosed amount.
Part of the deal is a cash injection, which will be used to fuel the company’s growth.
Founded in April 2017, GRVTY Media is a creative agency and digital media group that houses Vulcan Post, VP Label, Millennials of Singapore, and The Daily Ketchup. GRVTY Media also has a regional office at Malaysia which houses Vulcan Post Malaysia and Discover KL.
It was last valued at S$3.6 million in July 2017 — just three months after its inception — in which it raised S$1 million from Spout Entertainment Group (its shares were later transferred to REAPRA).
What led to the acquisition?
Jacky Yap, co-founder of GRVTY Media, told Vulcan Post that through one of his many projects, Kiat got acquainted with the company and had a chance to better understand its media and agency capabilities.
This opened the door to many other “synergistic” business opportunities. Particularly, Kiat sought GRVTY’s support in the various businesses he is involved in, including Thomson Medical Group, NFT community ARC, and digital football platform zujuGP.
As business relations and billings grew, Kiat initiated the conversation on a possible acquisition.
“Our initial reaction was, ‘let’s just see where this goes’. We have received a number of other acquisition offers, but this one feels more genuine because of our existing relationship and friendship. The whole thing wrapped up really quickly – within two weeks, they confirmed their broad decision to acquire and then we started working through the numbers,” shared Johnathan Chua, co-founder of GRVTY.
When asked why past acquisition offers didn’t go through, he cited two key reasons: there were no strategic benefits for GRVTY, and they had received “lowball” offers.
For this particular acquisition deal, the founders made it very clear that the reason they accepted the offer is because they can see that it will help them “take better care” of their employees, which includes better salaries, and bringing in more senior hires who can contribute their wealth of experience.
We see a lot of strategic value in the acquisition for various reasons. Kiat is clearly well-connected, allowing us access to new business opportunities. With the additional funding, it allows us to scale faster despite a possible looming recession. I personally look up to Kiat and he believes in our business. Even before the acquisition, we’ve had many conversations at length as to how Jacky and I can further grow GRVTY Media, and now, I’m glad we’re going to grow it together.– Johnathan Chua, co-founder of GRVTY Media
Separately, Kiat told Vulcan Post that he has witnessed GRVTY’s consistent and high calibre of work quality and competence throughout their working relationship.
“Having worked with John, Jacky, Sarah and the team over the course of the past year, their work ethics strongly resonated with me. I am proud to have them, the talents they have nurtured, and the brands they’ve built to be a part of our ecosystem and I look forward to taking the GRVTY brand to the next level,” expressed Kiat.
It’s time to get “aggressive” with their expansion plans
According to the founders, GRVTY Media enjoyed a strong start — it was profitable from the first month, and they achieved close to S$2 million in revenue in their first year as partners back in 2017.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Jacky shared that GRVTY’s growth slowed down as companies tightened their marketing budgets. Regardless, they counted themselves lucky to survive this challenging period unscathed.
Although clients did scale back on spending, they did not lose any major accounts.
“We did not lose money and more importantly, we did not lose anyone due to budget cuts. We even squeezed out a small bonus for our colleagues during the pandemic,” said Johnathan.
In fact, GRVTY has bounced back stronger than ever this year, as clients return with bigger budgets.
“This year is also important for us as we were awarded tenders for both Whole of Government (WOG) creative services and media buying. It’s a huge milestone, and we aim to scale our team accordingly to better service our clients,” said Jacky.
He added that while they have the ability to acquire and ramp up revenue, it is the payment cycle that’s holding them back.
Due to the nature of the agency business, when we close a deal, we work on the campaign for three to twelve months, and then we have to wait another three to six months for the payment to come in. While the company is financially healthy and profitable, we have high receivables so cashflow was an issue.
Now that we have this latest injection of funds, we are more confident to scale the company — to hire more, and do more. We took this investment so we can have room to breathe and be slightly more aggressive [with our expansion plans].– Jacky Yap, co-founder of GRVTY Media.
For the Malaysia office which is helmed by Sarah Enxhi and her team, the company has also been profitable and have been receiving strong support from brands and advertisers.
Throughout the two years of movement control orders, GRVTY Media Malaysia has been able to increase our revenue, retain our talents, give out bonuses and increments. This is thanks to our Vulcan Post team here in Malaysia who’s put in the work together to help GRVTY thrive, and many supportive clients. I’m looking forward to more more growth and more ideas come to life with Jacky, John and Kiat.– Sarah Enxhi, co-founder of GRVTY Media Malaysia.
What’s next for GRVTY?
Although Kiat owns the majority stake in the company, all founders are still very much in control of the company and everything will remain the same operationally.
The only mandate is that we grow the company and it has to be profitable, but that’s a goal we already share. … It’s very important for us to be a sustainable company so we don’t have to keep on raising funds; that’s just stressful. [This acquisition] is definitely not an endgame for us, hence why all founders are staying on.
We just want to grow as much as possible — we want to increase our revenue, keep our employees happy, retain key talents, and attract more top talents.– Jacky Yap, co-founder of GRVTY Media
Moving forward, the company is looking to scale its teams and capabilities in its three business divisions: media, agency, and growth hacking.
“With the funding, we also aim to double our current headcount of 36 by next year,” said Johnathan, adding that he personally views GRVTY to be at ‘Phase 3’ of its growth stage.
“We are still a very young company, and we still have a lot to learn and a lot of room to grow. As the company matures, a bulk of the fund will be channeled into talent acquisition. We’re looking to hire people we (the founders) and the rest of our team can learn from,” he summed up.
Featured Image Credit: GRVTY Media