More Asean start-ups became unicorns thanks to robust funding, rising middle class: Report

The Straits Times

More start-ups in South-east Asia have attained unicorn status – valuations of US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion) or more – in the past couple of years, driven by factors such as robust funding from the private equity markets and rising middle class.

In 2021 alone, 19 start-ups in the region saw an increase in valuation to above US$1 billion, according to a report on Asean start-ups by Credit Suisse earlier this month.

Fifteen start-ups in Singapore and 11 in Indonesia account for the lion’s share of the region’s 35 unicorns.

Among recent additions to the Republic’s list of unicorns are used car marketplace Carro and logistics firm Ninja Van.

Credit Suisse’s list excludes start-ups that are in the process of public listing, such as super app Grab, which is headquartered in Singapore.

Singapore is generally viewed as a favourable place for raising capital, due to reasons such as its high levels of corporate governance.

Quest Ventures partner Jeffrey Seah told The Straits Times that a start-up’s valuation is derived from factors such as its capabilities and accessibility of its products.

He noted instances when start-ups have raised funds at a lower valuation compared with a previous funding round.

This was seen for some firms last year, when their sales projections did not materialise or when expansion did not go as planned.

“The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated this occurrence across the South-east Asia markets,” Mr Seah added.


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