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".
Someone please remind me what industry SPH operates in...?