Honestbee, a Singapore-based online concierge that delivers things like groceries, food, flowers, and parcels to its customers, has its eyes fixed on regional markets.
The company was founded in 2015 by Joel Sng, Isaac Tay, and Jonathan Low. Honestbee resembles Silicon Valley unicorn Instacart. The company utilizes a gig economy model and works with freelancers who do the shopping.
In a 2016 interview with Forbes, Joel Sng said that Honestbee would be the biggest online-grocery shopping app in the next 18 months across Asia. “That’s on target, that’s on plan. And I am going to hit that,” he promised at that time.
Honestbee has since expanded from its headquarters in Singapore into the industrialized economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan; as well as the emerging middle-income economies of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Starting out with just fresh groceries, it has added a variety of services in different markets over the years, including a B2B logistics service called Goodship.
The startup aims to increase its footprint in densely populated Asian cities with middle-class time-starved consumers but faces stiff competition in a market that’s beginning to consolidate. Previously standalone online groceries apps have teamed up with larger platforms. There’s Singapore-based Redmart, which is now part of Alibaba’s Southeast Asian ecommerce app Lazada; HappyFresh, which works together with Grab, and last but not least Indonesia’s Go-Jek, which also offers food and concierge shopping services, among other things.
While Alibaba, Grab, and Go-Jek all have vast resources at their disposal, things appeared to be quiet in Honestebee’s fundraising department. But in a recent report, TechInAsia revealed that Honestbee has raised almost US$46 million since its Series A round of fundraising in 2015. The company hadn’t made any public announcements about this but is apparently backed by LS Group (a large South Korean family-owned conglomerate), whose scion is Brian Koo.
Brian Koo (also known as Bon Woong Koo) is the grandson of the founder of LG, another prominent chaebol, or conglomerate. Honestbee’s founder Joel Sng was once partner in Silicon Valley venture capital firm Formation 8 where Brian Koo was a founding member.
Honestbee’s biggest shareholders, in descending order, are: Yesco Co Ltd (a subsidiary of Brian Koo’s LS group, 41%), WWG Global Private Equity Investment (29%), Brian Koo (14%), Hwaseung Enterprise (7%), and Koo Enterprises (6%).
The app has been downloaded over one million times from the Google Play store, ranking among the top ten apps in the “Food and Drink” category in Singapore. Honestbee looks set to carve its slice out of the online food and groceries concierge market in the region, estimated to be worth billions of dollars.