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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Analysis on techinasia fundraising (updated Nov 2017)

TIA has announced another round of 6.6M usd led by korean hanwah investments. I covered their last round led by Softbank back in 2015 when it was announced and it is below. Some observations:

1) Strategically, i got it wrong last time that Tia intends to move into deep analytics. Instead they moved in jobs for startup community. Makes sense and from what i can see in 2016, the 2 year effort into jobs space has yielded some revenue. Not fantastic but a few hundred thousand is credible for a 2 year effort. They did go overseas as expected which perhaps explains rather large losses.

Also, latest comment from press release seems to indicate that analytics and intelligence is still on the cards. Tellingly, events is still by far their biggest component.

2) Performance has been strong since i covered below. I was spot on in terms of revenue in 2015 at S$2-3M. It was actually 2.86M. But i expected them to run a lean outfit and almost break even as media play cannot operate like a Grab or Garena and use massive revenue growth in lieu of losses. That i got wrong, they expanded a lot post SB round and made a widening loss of 2.5M in 2015.

For 2016, revenue grew nicely by 42% to about 4.07M sgd. Losses grew slower to 2.9M.  A good sign but they actually went down to 1.1M in cash end 2016. Hence the need to raise capital this year.

3) Valuations. Latest round values TIA at 24.5M usd. This year probably will be 5-5.5M sgd revenues, so that values them at 6.5-7 times this year revenue. Quite fair number for current climate.

Last round done in 2015 was at 14.2M usd post money. So the current 17.75M usd premoney is actually not a big upround. And i feel it is reflecting the expanding losses and 1.1M cash position of end 2016.

4) Sole founder owns 16.4% of company which i guess is still slightly incentivised though if i have to be blunt, media play, i forsee mgmt will be demanding higher salaries from board as the payout from salaries is now significant compared to stake.  And we can see it from numbers. In 2016, TIA paid CEO/Director fees almost double what was paid in 2014.

Overall comments.

42% growth rate is good but not great. Growth rate will continue to slow down if events is still the biggest piece. Events is not super scalable and niche events even more so. I would pay great attention to cost moving forward. Reason is that while the VC money looks like it is here to stay, as mgmt, i have a duty to make sure my company survives even without much more funding esp since growth rates are slowing down to normal speeds. Of course the 6.6M usd will last quite a good 2-3 years even with slightly expanded costs. So there is much time.

Board will need to figure out how to incentivise mgmt properly as mgmt shareholding is somewhat low.  This is a very real issue i have experienced first hand. Can kill companies if not well managed. Unfortunately, no easy solution, its usually more pay and more stock options for mgmt.

Intelligence and analytics are nice buzzterms but hard to monetize and costly at first. I feel moving deeper into tech jobs and running even more events while watching costs can probably payoff bigger over the short/medium term.

As usual, all this is just my own analysis and thinking. Overall, i think TIA has done a good job expanding in a niche space. Only thing that concerns me from company POV is the cost control and ability to seek good high margin revenues.

Below is the original article written back in 2015 June
Tia has announced a usd 4.6m round from investors lead by SoftBank on a premoney valuation of usd 9.56m. That's about 13m sgd premoney. Post money will be about 19.2m sgd. this is based on acra data submitted by company 22nd June 2015.

I first encountered Willis back in 2011 ish. Company was still called Penn Olsen. He was asking JobsCentral to sponsor something for their first event. I remember he was a driven , gusty founder. Somewhat green in his expectation of why clients would sponsor but clearly hungry. We did not sponsor as no clear value to us but he left with me a reader of the then blog. 

Over the years, I have seen Tia grow well and become far more professional and under jungle I attended one of their events. They are a great example of a niche media play with online and events revenue streams. In 2013 they did almost sgd1m in revenue, doubling from 2012. Losses were 180k. If we extrapolate that to 2015 and considering their many more events and execution, I would venture a guesstimate of 2-3m probably closer to 3m in 2015. So that mean a deal valuation of 4+ times sales. A fair deal definitely not overpriced. Of course if revenue in 2015 is lower, then the multiple will be higher but a range of 4-6 is probably correct.

To note: they raised $1.3m in 2014 and issued 14009 shares for it valuing the company at s$8+m. So it is a up round and existing vc like fenox continue to participate which is always good. 

Two things stand out to me. Why raise so much for a media company? 6m sgd is quite a fair bit of money. My guess at sgd 3m revenues they are near breakeven or slightly profitable already. So it must be to scale up core/geographically and execute the techlist side of the business which is a saas and analytics platform. 

Second thing that stands out, Willis is a single founder and used to pay himself just 30k in directors fees. He now owns 22.5% of the company post money. If this is true, he has been more than fair to shareholders and dedicated to building the business.

From a fellow entrepreneur perspective, I hope he has/will negotiate a much better package for himself and team in the years ahead as I believe a company which is profitable should be fully loaded with market rate costs and still be profitable. That is a sustainable business esp since the firm is now more owned by investors than management team.

Would be interesting in the years ahead to see how Tia executes esp on the saas/analytics side. It is actually quite hard to transit from a media company to saas (JC and cb are doing it still...) but that is another long topic. Feel free to comment or correct my data. 


  1. Replies
    1. Careerbuilder bought my company JobsCentral. Both companies are job boards which are making hr recruiting saas new core business.