Homegrown start-ups bought for big bucks by foreign firms

Mikhail Choo, a graduate of start-up accelerator Founder Institute Singapore, sold his tech firm Gridblaze, which he set up in 2011, to a US company in February 2013 for a seven-figure sum. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Mikhail Choo, a graduate of start-up accelerator Founder Institute Singapore, sold his tech firm Gridblaze, which he set up in 2011, to a US company in February 2013 for a seven-figure sum. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
American TV network Scripps Networks Interactive acquired Singapore-based Asian Food Channel in 2013 for US$60 million. The two co-founders of Asian Food Channel are former investment banker Hian Goh (above) and ex-BBS journalist Maria Brown. -- BT P
American TV network Scripps Networks Interactive acquired Singapore-based Asian Food Channel in 2013 for US$60 million. The two co-founders of Asian Food Channel are former investment banker Hian Goh (above) and ex-BBS journalist Maria Brown. -- BT PHOTO: ARTHUR LEE CH

News broke last Thursday that local live chat start-up Zopim had been sold for US$29.8 million to United States-based Zendesk, which provides online customer support. It is the latest in a string of Singapore start-ups that have recently been acquired by foreign companies.Some of the other notable deals include:

1. 2014: Web in Travel (WIT), a 10-year-old startup, was acquired this year by US-based Northstar Travel Media. WIT is a media platform founded by Singapore-based Yeoh Siew Hoon that specialises in events aimed at online travel industry. The deal size was not disclosed.

2. 2013: Online video streaming website Viki was acquired by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for US$200 million in September 2013, in one of the biggest recent deals on the local start-up scene. Singapore-based Viki was founded in 2007 by a husband-and-wife Korean couple Changseong Ho and Jiwon Moon, and Egyptian-American Razmig Hovaghimian. 3. 2013: Gridblaze, a year-old startup offering cloud-based storage services for developers and companies, was acquired by a Silicon Valley-based company in 2013 for a seven-figure sum. The identity of the acquiror was not disclosed. This was probably what is known as an acqui-hire: the acquisition of a company for its talent. All of Gridblaze’s employees were transferred to its new owner and its own service was closed down.

4. 2013: Catcha Digital Asia, a four-year-old online advertising network, was bought by Japanese e-marketing company Opt Inc for an undisclosed sum.The start-up was a subsidiary of the Catcha Group.

5. 2013: Singapore tech security start-up DS3 was acquired by digital security firm Gemalto for an undisclosed sum. Gemalto is headquartered in the Netherlands.Started in 1998, DS3’s main product is an “authentication server” that offers internet banking security.

6. 2013: Travelmob, a Singapore-based social networking website that offers short-term vacation rentals, was acquired by US Nasdaq-listed firm Homeaway. The price was undisclosed but the start-up grapevine said it was sold for US$12.5 million. It was a partial sale as the co-founders still retain about 37 per cent of the company.

7. 2013: Homegrown social network firm Techsailor was acquired by To The New, a digital services network from India. The sum was undisclosed.

8. 2013: Social media analytics start-up ThoughtBuzz, also based in Singapore, was similarly acquired by To The New last year. Its price was also undisclosed.

9. 2013: YFind Technologies, an indoor positioning start-up, was sold to advanced wireless computing company Ruckus Wireless for an undisclosed sum. The local start-up was three years old at the time.

10. 2013: One of the biggest deals in 2013 was the acquisition of Singapore-based Asian Food Channel by American TV network Scripps Networks Interactive for US$60 million. The two co-founders of Asian Food Channel are former investment banker Hian Goh and ex-BBS journalist Maria Brown.chngkeg@sph.com.sg