Singapore is the gateway to Asia’s bustling technology and financial scene, and home to a diverse and ambitious entrepreneurial community.
Singapore is Asia. The island city-state that occupies a strategic point in the Straits between India and Hong Kong was founded as a colonial settlement by Stamford Raffles in 1819. Today, it is a fusion of the rich diversity of cultures from all across Asia.
It captures the essence of Asia in terms of trade and culture while at the same time standing as a bastion to the high-tech future. In many ways, it is the future.
Singapore is something of an economic miracle. After gaining independence from Malaysia in 1965, the city-state was divided and race riots ensued. However, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore decided to put differences aside, embrace tolerance and concentrate on growth. In a single generation, it jumped from a developing economy to a port of affluence.
A prime business destination, the Singapore economy is highly diversified but its biggest areas of growth are in finance, technology and telecoms.
It is the chosen home of Facebook co-founder and billionaire Eduardo Saverin, and it boasts an eclectic array of start-up hubs, accelerators, meet-ups and venture capitalists.
There are prominent investors in the Singapore start-up scene, including: 500 Startups, Sequoia Capital, Wavemaker Partners and Dymon Asia Ventures, to name a few.
Important communities include: the Tech in Asia Community, Singapore Start-Ups, the Singapore Start-Up Club, Product Hunt Singapore, Digital (Web) Analytics Wednesdays Singapore, Singapore Business Startups and Startup Grind Singapore.
And so, here are our bets on the start-ups from Singapore to watch in 2018.
With investors that include the aforementioned Saverin, 99.co is a start-up focused on the Singapore real-estate market, which is understood to be one of the top 10 real-estate markets in the world. The map-based search engine uses smart algorithms to connect house-hunters with the properties they want. Founded by serial entrepreneur Darius Cheung, 99.co recently raised $7.9m in a Series A round from investors including Saverin, Sequoia and 500 Startups.
Active.Ai is the creator of an enterprise AI platform for financial service providers that connects consumers with their banks via micro-conversations. Founded last year by Parikshit Paspulati, Ravi Shankar and Shankar Narayanan, Active.Ai has the ambition to become the AI SaaS platform of choice for financial services. In recent weeks, it raised $8.2m in a Series A round that included Vertex Ventures, Kalaari Capital, IDG Ventures India, Dream Incubator and CreditEase.
Straits Times Food Critic Wong Ah Yoke visited Bayswater Kitchen last week, and it looks like their catch of the… https://t.co/r6myATJuSS
— Chope Singapore (@ChopeSG) November 16, 2017
Launched in Singapore in 2011, Chope claims to be the most widely used restaurant-booking system in Asia. Diners can make reservations at nearly 2,000 restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Phuket, Jakarta and Bali. Founded by Arrif Ziaudeen, the company this year raised $13m in a round led by Square Peg Capital, C31 Ventures and Moelis Australia.
CoinPip enables businesses to pay remote workers using blockchain technology. Founded in 2014 by Anson Zeall, Alexander Angerer and Arseniy Kucherenko, CoinPip claims to complete interbank transactions within 48 hours at 70pc less cost. Early backers include 500 Startups.
— Datarama (@dataramatech) May 15, 2017
Devised to make compliance-driven due diligence more affordable, Datarama is a fintech platform for bankers and investors. It uses an interactive map to help compliance officers and financial crime investigators unearth vital information. Founded in 2015 by Raphael Bouzy, the platform mines data on more than 610,000 companies and 750,000 individuals, and has raised a seed round led by TC Capital.
— Greyloft (@gogreyloft) March 8, 2017
Focused on real estate in the digital era, Greyloft works with closely affiliated, licensed real-estate agents to fix what it believes is a broken real-estate model. Founded by ex-bankers Siddhesh Narayanan and Archit Agarwal, Greyloft last year raised $1.1m in seed funding in a round led by DSG Consumer Partners, Wavemaker, Cub Capital, Tigris Capital and JFDI.
An on-demand food delivery service, Honestbee collects groceries and ‘hawker food’, and delivers it within an hour via a mobile app. The service is oriented towards supporting local communities and giving employment to part-time shoppers, including stay-at-home parents, caregivers and students. Founded in 2014 by Isaac Tay, Joel Sng and Jonathan Low, Honestbee has raised $15m from investors that include Formation 8.
Mighty Bear Games
— Mighty Bear Games (@MightyBearGames) July 5, 2017
Founded after the closure of King.com’s Singapore office (formerly NonStop Games) when Activision bought King, Mighty Bear Games is focusing on the next generation of massively multiplayer online games and bringing desktop gaming to mobile. Created by the cream of gaming talent from King, Ubisoft, EA, LucasArts, Disney, Gameloft and Jagex, Mighty Bear Games earlier this year announced a pre-seed round of $775,000 from Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital fund.
Big-data start-up Nugit automates the gathering of marketing insights for some of the world’s biggest online players, including Facebook and Google. It cuts through all the noise to create ‘decision-ready’ reports. Founded by David Sanderson, Nugit last year raised $5.2m in funding from Sequoia Capital’s India Fund last year. Seed investors include 500 Startups and The Hub Singapore.
Present in 30 cities across south-east Asia and Australia, oBike is a dockless bicycle-sharing system. Founded last year by Edward Chen, oBike’s bicycles have built-in Bluetooth locks and can be left anywhere at the end of a journey. Grab, the main rival to Uber in Asia, was among the investors in a Series A investment in oBike in September, along with Grishin Robotics.
ShopBack is a cash-back-focused start-up that helps shoppers access curated deals and cash-back offers from partner merchants across six countries in south-east Asia. Conceived in 2014 by Bryan Chua, Henry Chan and Joel Leong, ShopBack recently raised $25m in a major round led by Japanese finance and credit card company Credit Saison.
— The Business Times (@BusinessTimes) November 22, 2017
Founded by financial industry veterans, Spark Systems is a fintech start-up that is building an FX trading platform for Asia. The company raised $5.2m last year in a round that included Vickers Venture Partners and Dymon Asia Ventures.
ViSenze is an AI-focused start-up that is using advanced visual search and image-recognition technology for use in e-commerce. It works with brands such as Myntra in India, Zalora in south-east Asia, Japan’s Rakuten and China’s Uniqlo to help shoppers add visual search and contextual advertising to their shopping experience. Founded by Oliver Tan, Chua Tat-Seng, Roger Yuen and Li Guangda, the company last year raised $10.5m in a Series B round led by Rakuten.
— Wavecell (@Wavecell) November 3, 2017
South-east Asia’s answer to Twilio and Nexmo, Wavecell is a major cloud communications platform provider. Its technology enables web developers to integrate SMS, voice, chat and video calling into applications. Founded by Olivier Gerhardt, it has more than 500 enterprise clients and last year raised $1.6m in a Series A round led by the Qualgro Asean Fund.
Zuzu Hospitality Solutions
Founded in 2016 by former executives from HomeAway and Expedia, Dan Lynn and Vikram Malhi, Zuzu provides revenue management and marketing services to small hotels while enabling them to preserve their own brands and distinct identity. This year, it raised seed funding of $2m led by Wavemaker with participation from Golden Gate Ventures, Alpha JWC and Convergence Ventures.
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