Excerpt: "Tony Hsieh built his online shoe retailer into an e-commerce powerhouse. But with credit tightening and investors eyeing the exits, Hsieh was forced to ask: Was selling Zappos really the only way to save it? The first time Amazon.com tried to buy Zappos, we said no without even thinking."
Excerpt: "Having been an investee for a sizable part of my work life and then on the other side as an incubator/janitor which operates as a bridge between the investors and an investee, I’ve had a sincere opportunity to step in the (equally smelly!) shoes of both parties."
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: "Menlo Park, Calif. BY all rights Stewart Alsop should have been a terrific venture capitalist. So why did Mr. Alsop, long considered a cyber-prophet among technology leaders, wash out in a profession in which he seemed predestined to succeed?"
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."
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