key to unicorn investing: report Working with top VC last week by Indian startup media platform YourStory

key to unicorn investing: report Working with top VC last week by Indian startup media platform YourStory

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  • By Jacquelyn Cheok @JacCheokBT


    FORGET unicorns; business-to-busi- ness (B2B) startups are where the in-

    vestment opportunity now lies, said Singapore-based venture capitalists in a panel discussion at YourStory

    Startup Dialogue, a startup event held last week by Indian startup media

    platform YourStory and local public relations firm Asia PR Werkz.

    Jason Edwards, partner at Qual-

    gro, a venture capital firm that targets B2B startups, said: “There is too much focus on unicorns. There are so many

    fantastic companies that don’t have that label.”

    Cindy Teoh-Cavefors, associate director for investments at Golden Equator Group, added that while the

    region boasts several unicorns – a “great” phenomenon as this “proves there could be light at the end of the

    tunnel for startups” – the startup eco- system is continually growing.

    “There are so many areas we can

    continue to develop. We don’t have to be so hung up on unicorns.”

    Both investors were speaking at the panel discussion “Lessons in ven- ture investing in Asia”. They were joined by two other venture capital- ists: Ambar Machfoedy, managing partner at Rekanext, a firm that in- vests in pre-Series A and early-stage startups in South-east Asia; and Foo Tiang Lim, a partner at seed-stage ven- ture firm SeedPlus.

    When asked to identify their fa- vourite unicorn in South-east Asia, Mr Machfoedy pointed to Grab, saying “it knows the different markets very well”. The Singapore-based ridehail- ing platform operates in eight coun- tries across the region, among them Vietnam and Indonesia.

    Qualgro’s Mr Edwards said he did not have a favourite but if he did, it “would be one that is profitable with favourable unit economics”.

    Mr Foo did not name a favourite but predicted that the region’s next unicorn would hail from Singapore and the insurtech (insurance techno- logy) sector.

    “The insurance industry is ripe for disruption. It is hugely slow and there is a lot of money there. There is also big potential in Indonesia, where people don’t even understand why they need to buy insurance, which represents an upside.”

    There are more opportunities to in- vest in B2B startups given that the B2C market has become “quite crowded”, said Mr Machfoedy. “You have small startups trying to make it in B2C, but you also have the big guys like Grab and Go-Jek, each one crowding out the small guys.”

    Even so, the mass B2C market presents business opportunities for B2B startups, he said. “When you try to tackle the B2C market, you need in- frastructure, such as cybersecurity or artificial intelligence to optimise your B2C operations. That’s where the B2B guys come in.”

    Mr Machfoedy noted that the path to profitability is clearer for B2B star- tups. But they are subject to lumpy sales and an inconsistent sales cycle, typically a result of their lack of busi-

    ness expertise to secure recurring deals, he said. “B2B entrepreneurs are usually tech people, so what venture capitalists can offer them is business experience and networks.”

    Ms Teoh-Cavefors said Golden Equator Group – a fund management firm that invests in tech, real estate and prime currency – has backed an equal number of B2B and B2C star- tups.

    In fact, most of the group’s portfo- lio companies have both B2B and B2C strategies, she said. They are either B2B2C businesses, or businesses with two separate revenue streams and price points, one catering to end-con- sumers and the other to enterprises.

    “It’s a realistic way to go about building a business. While the B2C front has a lower customer acquisi- tion hurdle and price point, it can be challenging when it comes to making a profit. This can be supplemented by going after B2B clients, which gener- ate larger contracts that can sustain your company and give it a little bit more runway.”

    By Vivien Shiao @VivienShiaoBT


    THE brand name is one of the key driv- ing factors of successful companies in Singapore, said Minister for Educa- tion Ong Ye Kung at the 17th annual Singapore Prestige Brand Awards (SPBA) held at the Ritz-Carlton on Thursday.

    “All of our successful companies have built good brand names, which are anchored on capabilities and what your products and services stand for,” he told the audience of over 500 business leaders.

    But behind the company brand, is also the Singapore brand, which has been built up over five decades, he ad- ded.

    “That is one reason why many for- eign firms value our market – not be- cause it is a huge market, but because if the product or service works in Singapore, it gives confidence to other markets around the world.”

    Homegrown brands that have helped lift the Singapore brand were honoured with awards at the event,

    jointly organised by the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME) and Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao.

    Among them was food and bever- age player Toast Box, which was named the Overall Winner of the SPBA for the Established Brands category.

    Another big winner was B9 Dental Centre, which won the Overall Winner title in the Promising Brands cat- egory, meant for businesses estab- lished in the last three to eight years. It was also inducted into the SPBA – Hall of Fame, which is reserved for outstanding local brands that have won over a period of time.

    The other two companies that bagged the main prizes include the Management Development Institute of Singapore, which was Overall Win- ner of the SPBA in the Heritage Brands category, and Novu which was Over- all Winner of SPBA among Regional Brands.

    Awards were also conferred on brands that picked up the most votes from the public in their respective cat- egories. The winners were Toast Box, Natureland, Chin Lee Restaurant and Avalon.

    Gardens by the Bay was honoured with a Special Merit award. Participa- tion in this award category is by invit-

    ation only and reserved for govern- ment agencies and not-for-profit or- ganisations.

    Kurt Wee, president of the ASME, said: “Branding is at the core of a busi- ness, as a strong brand allows busi- ness owners to build on trust that transcends geography and time.”

    Goh Sin Teck, editor of Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao, noted that branding can also help enter- prises expand abroad.

    “With many of these brands achiev- ing international acclaim, it is a testa- ment that local brands can also soar far and wide, beyond the shores of Singapore,” he added.

    By Mike Chua


    CONSUMERS in emerging countries

    are more receptive to innovation and

    disruption than those in developed

    countries – and yet, bigger marketing

    budgets are being thrown into media

    buys and product launches in de-

    veloped countries.

    This paradox, it would seem, cries

    The accent is on B2B (busi-

    ness-to-business) issues on Day 1 and

    on B2C (business-to-consumer) is-

    sues on Day 2.

    Besides Mr Kea, the other speakers include the dean of the S Rajaratnam

    School of International Studies

    Joseph Liow and the dean of the Lee

    Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Danny Quah.

    Lam Yi Young, deputy secretary at

    the Ministry of Trade and Industry,

    will share how the government is

    working with companies to trans- form them for the future; Nanyang

    Technological University professor

    Ng Yew Kwang will present the eco-

    nomic outlook for 2019. It is not all academic, though.

    Business practitioners will also

    speak. They include executive chair-

    man of YCH Robert Yap, chief execut- ive of Teck Sang Pte Ltd Andrew Seik,

    and co-founder of local clothing

    brand Love, Bonito, Rachel Lim.

    Having engaged in their trade and

    grown their market share in logistics, distribution of foodstuffs and retail

    fashion respectively, they will talk

    about how they will take their respect-

    ive companies through the volatile geoeconomics of the coming year.

    Jan Moller, chief executive of

    Global Blue Singapore, a leading com-

    pany in tax-free shopping, will be a member of a panel discussion on Day

    2. He will offer ideas – backed by data

    analytics – on how businesses can get

    a share of the tourist dollar and how

    to engage millennial consumers

    ❚ The event is supported by Canon

    and U SME, the enterprise arm of

    NTUC. To find out more or to register, log onto

    By Ng Ren Jye @NgRenJyeBT


    DHL Express announced on Thursday

    the appointment of Christopher Ong

    as managing director for DHL Express

    Singapore. He replaces Frank-Uwe

    Ungerer, who has held the role since

    Jan 1, 2016.

    Mr Ong, a Singaporean, will report

    to Ken Lee, CEO, DHL Express, Asia-Pa-

    cific, effective immediately.

    Prior to the appointment, Mr Ong

    was vice-president for business devel-

    opment at DHL Asia-Pacific from Octo-

    ber 2006 to September 2011. He was

    then country manager for Vietnam

    from October 2011 to January 2014.

    His last-held position was man-

    aging director for Malays