Singapore tech firm making its mark in China, US

Moxian chief executive James Tan (fifth from left) in New York for the tech company's Nasdaq listing ceremony.
Moxian chief executive James Tan (fifth from left) in New York for the tech company's Nasdaq listing ceremony. PHOTO: MOXIAN

Singapore tech company Moxian is building a growing business in China with an online platform that helps connect bricks and mortar retailers with customers.

The firm's ambition also led it to an initial public offering on New York's Nasdaq last month, the first Singapore company to be listed on the tech-heavy board since Creative Technology's delisting in 2007.

Moxian runs an online marketplace where retailers can interact with existing customers and attract new ones through a location-based mobile phone application.

With its own chat tools, virtual currency, reward programmes and customer data analytics, Moxian wants to give retailers a social marketing edge to attract customers online despite the dominance of e-commerce.

"We went live early this year, and we have 8,000 merchant users," chief executive James Tan told The Straits Times.

"As we roll out our full launch, we are targeting 50,000 to 100,000 merchants plus two to three million consumers by the end of next year. In 2018, we should reach half a million merchants and 20 million consumers."

The initial months have shown very encouraging results, he added.

"A merchant is able to generate US$1,000 to US$2,000 (S$1,400 to S$2,800) of revenue for us, our expense was last reported to be around US$6 million, and our gross profit (margin) is at least 80 per cent.

"All this tells us we will turn profitable next year - one of the fastest Internet start-ups to break even," Mr Tan said.

Moxian serves merchants in Shenzhen and Beijing, with expansion to Shanghai and Guangzhou on the cards.

"The e-commerce business is killing physical retailers in China... but there are many things we still can't buy (online), particularly in services line... We're talking easily 20 million potential merchant clients... that's a very large market gap we're tapping."

Moxian was in the cloud service business before an acquisition and reorganisation led by Mr Tan turned it into an Internet company.

Mr Tan, 56, was the chief executive of Singapore Exchange-listed firms Vashion Group and Vantage Corporation, which was delisted in 2008. He was also a director at Pacific Internet, which was listed on Nasdaq until its delisting in 2007.

The seasoned entrepreneur returned to the New York exchange this year with Moxian's IPO, which raised about US$10 million.

The stock, which started trading on Nov 15, closed at US$2.86 last Friday.

Opting for Nasdaq over the Singapore Exchange and Hong Kong Stock Exchange was a very natural choice for the Shenzhen-based company, Mr Tan noted.

"If you're a tech company that aspires to be the next Facebook, then you want a market that can give you the exposure and valuation - that is what only the Nasdaq can offer.

"The SGX has issues attracting tech companies with real growth potential because, in my opinion, the regulatory regime still puts too much burden on a company, and that's very challenging for a tech firm that needs to move fast."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline Singapore tech firm making its mark in China, US. Subscribe