Excerpt: "We’re all familiar with the major social networks in the U.S. (FB, Twitter, etc.) as well as which ones are up and coming (Vine, Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp). But what are not talked about a lot, are the social networks out in Asia that are growing insanely fast — like WeChat, KakaoTalk, and LINE."
SGE reports that listed media firm Singapore Press Holdings, the parent company of Singapore's Straits Times, has bought sgCarMart, an internet portal for car buyers and sellers, for SGD 60 million (about USD 48 million).
This is very good news for the previous owners of the company. It also bodes well for the broader tech start-up ecosystem in Singapore and the rest of SE Asia, as it is easily one of the largest purchases of an Internet start-up here -- the largest probably remains the Deutsche Telekom-Propertyguru deal -- which should encourage other young and, er, less young entrepreneurs to strike out on their own. This was a true-blue, homegrown (non-transplanted), bootstrapped start-up. Kudos and more kudos.
Some other thoughts:
Will the sellers, the founders in particular, recycle their money back into tech start-ups, either as repeat entrepreneurs or as investors in other start-ups? I certainly hope so. We have real estate investors aplenty in this region, tenjyooberimuch. We don't need more. What we need more of is people like Paul Srivarokul.
Have they spread the wealth? With more than 60 employees at the time of the acquisition, it would be great if a few more potential entrepreneurs now have some unexpected spare cash to launch a brand new venture of their own. As much as I would like to see more start-ups in this region, I especially think it would be useful for start-ups to beget still more start-ups. There's nothing like having been there, done that, to be able to return there, do that again.
With acquisitions like this one, Singtel-Amobee and others now starting to happen, will Singapore's capital market investors start to gain an understanding of upstart technology companies? That M&A is starting to happen now is really good news but we also need to see young tech start-ups staying independent and going public, something that can only happen if brokerage houses and public markets investors are willing to take a look at some of these newcomers. I do know of some regional start-ups that may soon be ready for a look at the public markets -- but none of these appear to be considering listing here.
It's interesting to note that enabling online car sales was never a stated objective of the Singapore government, unlike other initiatives like creating biotech start-ups, spinning off and commercialising A-Star technologies, turning Singapore into this-or-that hub, and so on. sgCarMart did receive some small grants from two branches of the government but these can't be characterised as anything more than tangentially related to the government's broader goals for entrepreneurship in Singapore. Does that sound like a negative statement? Actually, it isn't. What I mean is something really quite positive and heartening -- the government doesn't need to pick winner and losers when it comes to start-up activity. A lot of this can and will happen organically. As long as we don't actively set out to impede enterprise formation.
Unfortunately, SGE reports that "SPH has, on behalf of Vincent, declined an interview request with SGE about the acquisition and the founding team’s future plans".
Paul Graham makes a great point about where to house your new start-up in this piece from 2010:
It's a smart move to put a startup in a place with restaurants and people walking around instead of in an office park, because then the people who work there want to stay there, instead of fleeing as soon as conventional working hours end. They go out for dinner together, talk about ideas, and then come back and implement them.
Doesn't that just make you go, "D'oh! Why didn't I think of that?"
Yes and no, I guess.
If you're an ad agency or other media type in Singapore, you already do this. The whole Club Street area, for instance, if full of agency types who don't go home after work. (Whether that is an unquestionably good thing is another question entirely.)
But if you're a tech start-up located at Science Park or Block 71 or a big JTC office park somewhere, hmm, I don't know.
This clearly also has implications for policy-makers.
"Should we spend money on a new technology park for entrepreneurs?"
"Should we promote small offices in existing commercial areas?"
"Do start-ups belong in universities or offices of their own?"
"How important is non-office support infrastructure (restaurants, parks, gyms...) compared to the offices themselves?"
"How much effort should we put into managing all this development? Should we leave it to develop organically?"
...and so on
This advice also depends on which country we're talking about.
In Singapore, it's certainly easier for colleagues to hang out after work at a nearby bar. In most Indian cities, going to after-work drinks itself feels like work.
There's also the small matter of cultural preferences. Whether people hang out with each other after work and where they do so depends not only on the availability of nearby restaurants or even commute times, but also on whether it's a cultural norm. The Japanese are well known to go drinking after work with co-workers even several times a week (hence, capsule hotels). In contrast, Indians, particularly ones with families, don't really have a big drinking culture but may visit colleagues at home or organise social gatherings with co-workers and their families outside the office.
Excerpt: "Before getting pregnant with her second child, Lu Qingmin went to the family-planning office to apply for a birth permit. Officials in her husband's Hunan village where she was living turned her down, but she had the baby anyway."
Interesting piece from my reading list. Not written by me.
It's midnight on a Saturday night at the Marina Bay Sands resort near the sparkling Singapore River, and all the boutiques are shut. But past a cosmetic-surgery clinic and a Ferrari accessories store close by, a large crowd is getting increasingly agitated.
I just saw a video demo of Krungsri aka Bank of Ayudhya's mobile banking app. It's the best mobile banking app I've ever seen by far. Not just about bank balances and branch locations like the typical banking app, but also transfers, shopping, stock brokerage services, rewards redemption, bill payments, reminders, social features, and so on and so forth. Some of this is even available to non-Krungsri customers. The only thing that detracts from their effort is that they only support smartphones (maybe only iPhones).
This may all sound obvious, possibly even a little "so what?" depending on how cynical you are -- but my experience with other mobile banking apps (if an app even exists for your bank) has been complete c**p, even in supposedly advanced Singapore. Other banks' apps I've seen may:
provide pretty basic bank balance type info
use the mobile phone purely as a channel for poorly thought through "promotions"
pretend that they're a fun social networking app that people will enjoy using, not realizing that consumers look to banks for functionality not fun
have such poor user flow that frustrated consumers uninstall them immediately
Both regional and global banks are guilty of the above.
Youtube should have a video of Krungsri's app that shows you what I found so admirable about it in comparison to the above all-too-common faults in other banks' approaches.
The presenter of the demo pointed out that their approach was to take a marketing approach from the beginning, rather than IT. The focus was on user experience, which doesn't mean pretty graphics but imagining what a customer, whether a young student, a high net worth individual or anyone else might need and delivering that simply. Technology considerations (and the inevitable arguments with the IT department) came later.
My common-sense copyright notice: All original content on this site is copyrighted by the site owner. If you would like to use this anywhere, please credit this site as Greek Complexity at http://www.murli.net/. Please seek permission to use any of this content for commercial purposes. If possible, please also drop me an email at "blogfeedback [at] murli [dot] net" letting me know where I have been quoted (or send me a TrackBack). Thank you.