We all know that Malaysia has not had the best luck when it comes to growing or attracting unicorns compared to our other regional neighbors like Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Summary of our previous one article to unicorns, unicorns are difficult to build in Malaysia for various reasons, such as our smaller population, a lower standard of living compared to countries with unicorns and companies that do not have the money to pay for the best talent.
And if you remember from our previous article, we’ve also addressed several other definitions relevant to unicorns like decacorns (which is what Grab is), camels, and also short horns, which is what we’ll delve deeper into today.
What is a Soonicorn?
Soonicorns (coined from the phrase “they will soon be unicorns”) are private tech companies that have the potential for growth and the chance to join the unicorn club. To qualify for this title, a startup must be funded primarily by an angel investor or venture capitalist.
Another factor is the ability of these technology startups to scale exponentially. Its technology product should be able to achieve hypergrowth, a phase of rapid expansion when a startup grows by 20-40% CAGR and doubles the company’s revenue every 3-4 years.
Dictionary time: The CAGR (compound annual growth rate) is the rate of return that would be required for an investment to grow from the initial balance to the final balance. It is also the most accurate way to calculate and determine the returns of anything that may increase or decrease over time.
When determining the potential of these startups, it will be based on future forecasts about the industry market and company valuations, which will guide them for a business valuation.
It usually always exceeds the real value of startups. In some cases, larger companies will acquire these startups, which will lead to them being valued above their real net worth. However, this is a favorable condition to help startups join the Soonicorn club sooner and approach a US $ 1 billion asset valuation.
Tracxn, which usually updates its annual publication Soonicorn Award list, selects shortcorns based on market size, canopy investor investment, excellence in execution, and future growth prospects.
Dictionary time: A canopy investor is an individual or corporate / institutional investor, known for investing in companies that become success stories later.
Before they become prominent, these startups will first become minicorns, which is a term given to early-stage startups with valuations in excess of $ 1 million ($ 4.1 million) and aspiring to become unicorns.
The Soonicorn landscape in Malaysia
In 2020, the local technology startups that came to the Soonicorn list they were iflix, Carsome and Fave. Some of its major investors were Catcha Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sequoia Capital respectively. iflix was later acquired of Tencent and Fave was acquired by Pine Labs.
At the time this list was created in March 2020, iflix was supposedly the most promising of the oricorn, as it had a reported funding of $ 350 million, followed by Carsome with $ 86 million and Fave with $ 32 million. There were more than 2.7 000 start-up technology companies and more than 40 public companies.
In 2021, however, only Carsome and Fave remained in the Soonicorn club, and Boost joined these 2 market leaders. Carsome topped the chart this time with revealed funding of US $ 116 million, followed by Boost with $ 70 million and Fave with the same valuation. This time, we have more than 3.7 k of technology companies nationwide with more than 900 public companies, a big leap over the previous year according to Tracxn.
You may not be surprised to learn that most of these companies have also suffered a lot of losses, especially iflix which from 2018 had net loss of US $ 158.1 million ($ 648.5 million) and also fell into debt.
In the same year, Carsome also recorded a net loss of RM 19.3 million for revenue of RM 403.7 million, while Fave recorded a net loss of nearly US $ 10 million ($ 41 million) at the end of the year in December 2019. Fave also remained in the black at US $ 7.5 million during fiscal 2019, compared to 7.45 million US dollars during the 2018 financial year, after almost 5 years of operations.
While it’s rare to see unicorns indebted or even unprofitable, the short ones aren’t alien to the same things.
Is it worth celebrating our growth of 3 Soonicorns?
To help you regionally evaluate our horn game, here is a list of the number of horns these 5 SEA countries had in 2020 (the full list of horned countries for 2021 is not yet available):
Obviously, we are not as competent as our other 4 SEA neighbors to develop local grade shorter ones. But it can be said that the good news is that at least we are in the Soonicorn club, which presents some hope.
Since the short cornisons are backed by canopy investors, this list further demonstrates that we are not yet at this level of attracting so many of them to get to where Singapore is, which means funding remains one of the biggest unicorn entrance barriers to the club. For us.
Most importantly, this also shows that the population can be an obstacle, but not a big blockade to enter the prince’s scene, as Singapore currently stands at 5.8 million while Malaysiais 32.7 million. Singapore may have a much smaller population, but its GDP per capita is high, which means a better standard of living for its people and therefore greater purchasing power.
On the other hand, why then do countries with lower per capita GDPs such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia still manage to develop unicorns and short horns at a faster rate than us? In these cases, it can be reduced to population growth.
Thailand has a population of 69.9 million, Vietnam has 98 million and Indonesia it has 276 million and, although its purchasing power may be lower, what they present is a greater market opportunity. Startups there can constantly find new customers to serve them as the population grows, which means less competition with existing businesses for existing customers. Of course, this growth would be tied to educating customers about any new product and service as well.
As mentioned in our previous piece on unicorns, our government and its agencies are ambitious in their plans to grow or attract unicorns to Malaysia. But rather than pointing to the Moon, more support should be given to our identified breicorns to maximize their potential to achieve unicorn status.
At the same time, our minicorns should not be left in the dust and it would be encouraging to see a more detailed plan on what initiatives the government and its agencies can take to maintain a laser focus on the growth of our short and minicorns. .
- You can read more unicorn-related pieces we’ve written here.