What Is A Soonicorn And How Many Does Malaysia Have In 2021

We all know Malaysia hasn’t had the best chance of growing or attracting unicorns compared to our other regional neighbors like Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

To recap our previous article on unicorns, unicorns are difficult to build in Malaysia for a variety of reasons, such as our small population, lower standard of living than countries with unicorns, and businesses that lack the money to pay for them. best talent.

And if you remember our previous post, we also covered various other definitions relevant to unicorns like decacorns (which is what Grab is), camels and soon unicorns, which we will be developing more on today. ‘hui.

What is a Soonicorn?

Soonicorns (coined from the expression “soonicorns”) are private tech startups that have the potential for growth and the opportunity to join the unicorn club. To qualify for this title, a startup must be primarily funded by an angel investor or venture capitalist.

Another factor is the ability of these tech startups to scale exponentially. Their tech product should be able to achieve hyper-growth, a rapid expansion phase when a startup grows at a 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 its opening balance to its closing balance. It is also the most accurate way to calculate and determine the returns of anything that may increase or decrease in value over time.


When it comes to determining the potential of these startups, it will be based on future industry market forecasts and company valuations, which will guide them for a company valuation.

Usually, it always exceeds the actual value of startups. In some cases, large companies will acquire these startups, which will value them above their real net worth. However, this is a favorable condition to help startups join the Soonicorn club earlier and move closer to an asset valuation of US $ 1 billion.

Tracxn, which typically updates its annual Soonicorn Awards list, soon selects unicorns based on market size, investments from reputable investors, excellence in execution, and prospects for future growth.

Dictionary time: A reputable investor is either an individual or a corporate / institutional investor, well known for investing in businesses that turn into success stories at a later date.

Jaideep Shirali, financial consultant

Before soon becoming unicorns, these startups will first become mini-horns, a term given to start-ups with valuations above US $ 1 million (RM 4.1 million) and aspire to become unicorns.

The Soonicorn landscape in Malaysia

In 2020, the local tech startups that made the Soonicorn list were iflix, Carsome, and Fave. Some of their large investors were Catcha Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sequoia Capital respectively. iflix was then acquired by Tencent and Fave by Pine Labs.

At the time of this list’s creation in March 2020, iflix was said to be the most promising Soonicorn as it had disclosed funding of US $ 350 million, followed by Carsome with US $ 86 million and Fave with 32 million US dollars. There were over 2.7k tech startups and over 40 public ones.

In 2021 however, only Carsome and Fave remained in the Soonicorn club, and Boost joined these 2 market leaders. Carsome tops the table this time with disclosed funding of $ 116 million, followed by Boost with $ 70 million and Fave with the same valuation. This time around, we have over 3.7k tech startups nationwide with over 900 public companies, a huge jump from the previous year according to Tracxn.

You might not be surprised to learn that most of these companies also had to suffer quite a bit of losses, notably iflix which in 2018 recorded a net loss of US $ 158.1 million (648.5 million RM) and fell into debt too.

In the same year, Carsome also recorded a net loss of RM 19.3 million on turnover of RM 403.7 million, while Fave reported a net loss of almost $ 10 million (41 million of RM) at the end of its fiscal year in December 2019. Fave also remained in the red at $ 7.5 million in FY2019, up from $ 7.45 million in FY2018, after nearly 5 years of operation.

While it’s rare to see unicorns in debt or even unprofitable, soon unicorns are no strangers to the same things.

Is our growth of 3 Soonicorns worth celebrating?

To help you rate our Soonicorn game regionally, here is a list of how many Soonicorns these 5 SEA countries had in 2020 (the full list of countries with Soonicorns for 2021 is not yet available):

Obviously, we are not as good as our other 4 SEA neighbors at developing more beta unicorns locally. But you can say that the good news is that at least we are in the Soonicorn club, which presents a silver lining.

Because soon the unicorns are backed by reputable investors, this list further proves that we are still not at that level of attracting so many of them to get to where Singapore is, which means funding is still one of the biggest barriers to entry into the unicorn club. for us.

More importantly, it also shows that population can be a hindrance but not a huge blockade as we enter the next unicorn scene, given that Singapore’s is currently 5.8 million while Malaysia’s is. of 32.7 million. Singapore may have a much smaller population, but it has a high GDP per capita, which means a better standard of living for its people and therefore greater purchasing power.

On the other hand, why then, are countries with lower GDP per capita like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia still succeeding in developing unicorns and soon unicorns at a faster rate than us? In these cases, it can boil down to population growth.

Thailand has 69.9 million people, Vietnam 98 million, and Indonesia 276 million, and although their purchasing power may be lower, what they present is a greater market opportunity. The startups there are able to constantly find new clients to meet the growing population, which means less competition with incumbents for existing clients. Of course, this growth would also be linked to educating customers about new products and services.

As mentioned in our previous article on unicorns, our government and its agencies are ambitious in their plans to develop or attract unicorns to Malaysia. But rather than aiming for the moon, more support should be given to our soon-to-be identified in order to maximize their potential to achieve unicorn status.

At the same time, our mini-horns shouldn’t 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 keep a laser focus on the growth of our soon-to-be unicorns and mini horns.

  • You can read more unicorn related articles that we have written here.

Featured Image Credit: Eric Cheng, Co-Founder and CEO of Carsome / Joel Neoh, Founder and CEO of Fave / Mohd Khairil Abdullah, CEO of Boost

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Jothi Venkat

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