The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about major disruption in businesses worldwide. However, amidst the detrimental effects, some start-ups companies in Singapore are still showing promising growth. LinkedIn has unveiled a list of Top 10 start-ups in Singapore, that reflects companies that have remained resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have continued to attract investment, employees and attention.
According to LinkedIn, many of these startups are digitally-native businesses who have taken advantage of their online presence to meet growing consumer demand for online services, which saw a spike during Circuit Breaker in Singapore. In order to grow the business and search for new opportunities amid the pandemic, some startups continue to hire for roles such as software engineer, backend developer, and performance marketing manager.
The list is based on data from January to July 2020. LinkedIn measures startups based on four pillars: employment growth, engagement, job interest and attraction of top talent. Employment growth is measured as percentage headcount increase, which must be a minimum of 15%. Engagement looks at non-employee views and follows of the company’s LinkedIn page, as well as how many non-employees are viewing employees at that startup. Job interest counts rate at which people are viewing and applying to jobs at the company, including both paid and unpaid postings.
The top 10 companies are:
Founded in 2014, financial services and data platform GoBear raised US$17 million in May to expand consumer financial services in Asian markets. The company also brought on a new CFO and shored up other key leadership positions as it expands partnerships with companies such as Union Bank, Mambu and CredoLab to focus on lending services in Asia, leaving the company with a strong upside despite a recent round of layoffs. GoBear also partnered up with insurance provider Chubb to address the needs of telecommuting workers in Singapore with specialised insurance packages.
Holding the role of chief growth officer for GoBear is Nelson Allen, who was last helming the role of CMO since 2019. Allen also worked with firms such as Expedia, Microsoft and Samsung Electronics across his career.
Amidst the pandemic, cashback platform ShopBack is seeing record orders and transactions in countries like the Philippines as shopping habits change. ShopBack is also launching in Vietnam, with the CEO saying expansion is the key to emerging stronger from the coronavirus crisis. ShopBack quickly shifted to a virtual way of working because of COVID-19, which according to ShopBack’s chief of staff is a big part of what’s contributed to the startup’s continued success.
Recently ShopBack appointed Imran Mohamad as its new head of marketing. In his new role, Imran (pictured) is tasked to expand ShopBack’s user base in Singapore, and to drive more sales for merchants as well as cashback to users. Imran reports to Joel Leong, co-founder of ShopBack. Leong also oversees the Singapore market.
Co-founded by former professional gamers Alaric Choo and Ian Alexander Ang in 2015, gaming chair manufacturer Secretlab has been riding high between the games industry success, the rise of esports and the increased demand for home office products. This is especially so as the pandemic hit, and consumers across the world have turned to video games. Secretlab has also secured partnerships with gaming companies such as Riot Games and Invictus Gaming.
Marketing for the company is taken on by Ang himself.
Staffing service and recruitment platform Glints recently raised a US$6.8 million series B funding to expand into Vietnam and Hong Kong. Glints is also going beyond the recruitment platform model and focusing on education and upskilling programs such as online classes and career training, and off-shore talent outsourcing hubs. In response to the pandemic, Glints launched a free outplacement initiative for companies which helped match impacted employees with new career opportunities.
Marketing has reached out to Glints to find out who heads its marketing team.
Big data and AI company ADVANCE.AI has recently expanded into India with offices in Bengaluru and Delhi. The company, which aims to help solve digital transformation, fraud prevention and process automation for clients and consumer, is also riding a wave of young shoppers as a result of the pandemic as one of their services offered to retailers provides installment plans for online retail spending.
Marketing efforts are led by marketing director Long Long who recently joined the company after working with the likes of Microsoft, Nokia, HMD Global and FoxConn.
With a headcount of 50 staff, this app matches seniors with professional caregivers and nurses for on-demand eldercare, and operates in both Singapore and Malaysia. Demand rose for care-giving services due to the circuit breaker period with more elderly folk staying home and requiring assistance. In response, senior leaders of Homage pledged part of their monthly pay for six months as part of a SG$30,000 fundraising drive to show support and appreciation for their caregivers.
Homage’s marketing efforts are led by Xingyi Ho, who joined the company late last year. He also previously worked with Canva.
The youngest company in the list, two-year-old company Zenyum sells invisible braces by combining both telehealth as well as visits to its partner clinics and in-house orthodontists, and printing its aligners with 3D technology. Zenyum raised US$13.6 million in a funding in 2019 to fuel its expansion to additional markets in Southeast Asia. It is now present in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Zenyum recently picked former 72andSunny managing director Bassam Abdel Rahman as its senior vice-president of marketing. Rahman will be heading Zenyum’s international marketing and design teams to propel the business from a start-up to a recognised consumer brands.
StashAway, a wealth management and personal finance app, raised US$16 million in July in funds this year. It was also named by the World Economic Forum as a 2020 Technology Pioneer. Assets under its management more than quadrupled in the 12 months leading up to July. Outside of Singapore, it has offices in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and UAE.
Leading StashAway’s marketing activities is Filippo Stefanelli who has been with the company over 2 years. He was previously MD of NT Next in Italy.
Started by a group of friends, Grain bills itself as a “full-stack” online delivery platform, renting out cloud kitchens and whipping up a rotating menu of dishes with its own chefs and delivery team. It partnered with popular bubble tea chain Koi to sell food-and-drink combinations during the circuit breaker, and expanded into Thailand in May after it raised US$10 million last.
Grain's marketing efforts are handled by Shi Hui Ng who has been with the company for two and a half years and worked with the likes of SOI 55 Thai Tea & Coffee and MyWork global.
Hmlet is a co-living operator in Singapore with 1,000 homes, and another 1,000 in Hong Kong, Australia and Japan. Earlier this year, it laid off 10% of its employees to improve operational efficiency. It has since hired and increased headcount for technology and new product offerings as part of a shift to a more “asset light” business model, which includes a property listing and management platform for landlords. It has also continued to expand during the pandemic, adding properties in Tokyo and Singapore, and launching a furniture subscription and online design service.
Marketing communications for the company is handled by Amy Pak who handles content development, brand design, product marketing, PR, events and partnerships as well as overall brand creation, direction and evolution. She has been with the company over a year and also worked with the likes of Airbnb, Dentsu and Saatchi & Saatchi.
Tips for Singapore start-ups
“As the economic outlook continues to worsen across APAC, businesses are more mindful of how they are spending their marketing dollars and consumers are expected to continue tightening their spending. However, the recession in 2008 taught us that value becomes extra important to consumers when the economic outlook is grim," Joel Leong, co-founder, ShopBack, said.
Ian Ang, co-founder and CEO of Secretlab, added: “Taking risks by being innovative and constantly adapting is ironically the safest way to ensure survival.
Grow or we die.
Be brave and don't be afraid of change, it is the only constant. Those who embrace this fact are those who will come out on top in the long run."
Adding to the conversation, Adrian Chng, CEO of GoBear, shared some tips for startups companies in Singapore. “Startup founders should plan for the extremely challenging external environment by focusing on cash, unit economics, and having a sufficient runway. Proactively looking for new opportunities in the form of new partnerships or bespoke products better suited to the conditions of lockdown can also help soften the impact of the difficult external environment."
Chng also said that startup founders should be upfront with their people about the challenges the business is facing and the changes that are necessary. They should avoid sugar-coating the situation and instead, share their vision on how the company will do well in the future.
(Photo courtesy: 123RF)
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