Start Singapore: Financial research firm raises $6.4m to expand

Smartkarma was started in 2014 by Mr Kapoor and two partners.
Smartkarma was started in 2014 by Mr Kapoor and two partners.

Financial research firm raises $6.4m to expand

Singapore-based Smartkarma, a service that provides institutional investment research on demand, has raised US$4.7 million (S$6.4 million) to be used for overseas expansion.

The funds came from local venture capital firms Wavemaker Partners and Jungle Ventures. Other investors include a group led by Mr Koh Boon Hwee, the former chairman of Singtel.

Smartkarma's total financing to date is US$7.5 million, it said in a statement last week.

Founded in 2014 by Singapore-based financiers Raghav Kapoor, Jon Foster and Lee Mitchell, Smartkarma is part of a wave of start-ups targeting Asia's financial industry. It aims to improve the way institutional investors create, distribute and consume investment insights by allowing them to post their views on its platform and get paid.

It has taken about two years to develop its technology. Since a pilot service was launched in April, it has signed on 140 global professional institutions. Said Mr Kapoor in a statement: "We are thrilled to be driving industry change by providing a radically different approach for the creation and consumption of investment insight."

SportsHero app allows bets in virtual currency

Singapore start-up entrepreneur Dinesh Bhatia has raised US$2.4 million (S$3.2 million) for SportsHero, a new mobile app that lets sports fans make match predictions.

The funding was led by Australia-based resource company Nevada Iron via a reverse listing on the Australia Stock Exchange (ASX).

Funds will be used for global business expansion, especially in priority markets in Asia such as China, India, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

SportsHero is based on TradeHero, a service Mr Bhatia launched a few years ago that lets stock-watchers spend and earn virtual credits buying and selling stocks on exchanges around the world. Successful punters get on to a leaderboard and other users can pay US$2 a month to get their tips.

The revenue subscription is then split evenly between TradeHero and the punters.

SportsHero is based on the same model - fans can make predictions on games with virtual currency bets.

A patent has been granted in the United States for the paid broadcasts of users in a subscription-based information ecosystem like SportsHero, said Mr Bhatia.

Listings on the ASX by South-east Asian start-ups are becoming increasingly popular. Malaysia's Catcha Group has successfully floated three of its start-ups on the exchange, including iProperty and iCar Asia. Mobile social network from Singapore, MigMe, also listed on the ASX in 2014.

SportsHero said investors interested in acquiring a stake in the start-up can do so by investing in Nevada Iron. The current share price is one Australia cent. The SportsHero app is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Portal to budget hotel rooms in Indonesia

Singapore-based start-up Tinggal has opened a portal that highlights budget hotel rooms in Indonesia.

The service is aimed not only at the millions of tourists visiting the nation, but also domestic travellers.

Budget hotels offer some of their rooms to Tinggal to sell, which ensures that these rooms are clean, with working air-conditioning, hygienic bathrooms and free Wi-Fi.

Founder Arjun Chopra believes that domestic travel will expand rapidly in Indonesia due to the rapidly emerging middle class who wish to travel for leisure, and to the arrival of budget airlines.

Last year, there were nine million international visitors but 120 million domestic travellers in the country.

There were 740,600 domestic travellers in January this year alone, spending on average 700,000 to 800,000 rupiah (S$71-S$81) a visit - making budget rooms of between $15 and $30 a critical part of overall travel.

"A lot of businesses are opting for budget hotels while travelling for work and conferences. We offer quality accommodation that fits their budgets."

Tinggal began its service earlier this year and has corporate customers such as Citibank. It has more than 1,000 rooms in over 120 hotels in popular places such as Jakarta, Bali, Lombok, Surabaya, Bandung and Bogor.

Local beauty start-up buys competitor

Local beauty start-up Vanitee acquired its competitor, Mefitted, last month for a low to middle six-digit figure.

Both are online platforms that provide a directory service for beauty artists and salons.

A media release earlier this week said that Vanitee was attracted to Mefitted because it features beauty salons, unlike Vanitee, which has mainly freelance beauty artists.

The deal, thus, strengthens their businesses.

Vanitee, which is one year old, has 1,700 beauty artists on its website. Mefitted provides an interactive e-directory listing of more than 8,200 beauty salons by location and service type.

Grace Chng

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Start Singapore'. Subscribe