Excerpt: "The news that more than 30crore (~USD 6Million) of credit card fraud is hitting Indian consumers with potentially more to come is most disturbing – not because of the scale of the fraud, but because of the trivial cost today of minimizing such fraud."
Excerpt: "There are frequent fliers, and then there are people like Steven Rothstein and Jacques Vroom. Both men bought tickets that gave them unlimited first-class travel for life on American Airlines. It was almost like owning a fleet of private jets."
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".
Excerpt: "Mike Merrill was thinking of pumping up his workout regimen with mixed-martial-arts classes and boxing lessons. The scheme would involve seven and a half hours a week at various gyms—a big commitment. So he put the matter before his 160 shareholders."
Notwithstanding my post the other day about a shortcoming of one specific government support scheme for tech entrepreneurs, Singapore continues to be seen by entrepreneurs as an attractive place to do business , and rightly so.
Taslima Khan quotes me and several others in Business Today, a fortnightly publication in India, about Indian entrepreneurs' Look East Policy, specifically focusing on Singapore as a destination for Indian entrepreneurs to move HQ to, raise money or otherwise expand.
Singapore's advantages over India? Briefly:
Ease of listing Singapore-domiciled companies on various stock exchanges. India-domiciled companies cannot be listed directly on a foreign stock exchange.
Singapore's small market, perhaps paradoxically, gives start-ups the cachet of being a regional or global company, as opposed to an Indian (Chinese/Malaysian/American/Indonesian/etc) company, which might be seen as focused purely on the domestic market
No capital controls
Comfort among customers and partners from around the world to work and sign contracts with Singapore-registered companies
Established brand in the business world
Being a regional centre for decison-making for some industries, such as advertising and financial services
Indian entrepreneurs feel culturally comfortable in Singapore
Having said that, only moving one's legal HQ to Singapore while maintaining substantially all operations within India may not achieve much, as I said in the Business Today piece.
There are of course disadvantages too, two of the most commonly cited in my experience being higher cost of operations and a much smaller base of potential employees to choose from.
Excerpt: "When SurveyMonkey LLC Chief Executive Dave Goldberg wanted to raise money for his Palo Alto, Calif., company, he didn't lean on the venture capitalists that scour Silicon Valley looking for the next Google Inc. or Facebook Inc. Instead, Mr."
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.
First of all, it's not an asset class, says Charlie O'Donnell. Gotta love this rant, dripping with unconcealed contempt and biting irony. Sample:
If you have money or connections to other people's money, you too can be a VC or superangel or whatever you want to call it. With such stringent restrictions and that high of a bar, is it any wonder that lots of ridiculous stuff got funded and isn't making it to the next level?
And when our best engineers and creative talents spend tons of venture capital money to analyze the complex web of social relationships, just to show them discount yoga deals, or use social location data to crowdsource the best artesianal brussel sprout pop up shop, isn't it more of a failure of the individuals behind these companies themselves than there is something inherently wrong with the "asset class" or that there's an industrywide lack of investor interest in VC.
I agree with a lot of what he says and a lot else isn't applicable to our part of the world (e.g., entrepreneurs who've "made it" here still love sinking their moolah into real estate rather than turn angel, unlike where he comes from).
I rant like this myself about some of these points and others that are more specific to my own day-to-day, but I mostly do it in person, rarely online. Too lazy, too busy, too procrastinaty, can't be arsed, take your pick.
In just the past 6 weeks or so, I've spoken to five different large corporations with newly launched corporate venture capital operations. Is this just a coincidence or a true trend? Seems like a trend though unscientific, of course.
Let's be clear: each of these has slightly different structures and need to satisfy fairly different goals, such as
As a path to future acquisitions
Understanding what new innovative technologies and companies are out there
Helping to seed a market for their own products
...and so on, with set-ups such as
Extensions of the existing M&A department
Wholly owned venturing arms funded with balance sheet money on an as-needed basis
Capital ring-fenced specifically for venturing and handed to a professional manager
R&D or strategic marketing personnel double-hatting as investment managers
Entrepreneurs who seek or are sought out by corporate venturing arms should understand the differences between each approach.
If a trend is truly taking hold, this would mark probably the first renewal of the corporate venturing scene since the dotcom bust. I worked on an academic research project just after the bust to investigate the motivations of corporate venture firms. At that time, corporations were just as caught up in the dotcom frenzy as VCs, entrepreneurs and the general public, but most of them shut down their venturing arms soon after. We'll have to see whether the current trend will prove to be more sustained. It's certainly a possibility, not least because capital markets are currently much more circumspect than they were a decade ago.
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