monk's hill ventures

My current role as Head of Talent at Monk’s Hill Ventures means further immersion in the increasingly vibrant local tech startup scene. If you want to understand the current Singapore tech landscape —including the stages and specific companies hiring and growing here— read on.

I have specialised in leadership and technical recruiting for VC-backed startups and founders (Uber, Houzz, Github, Instacart, Strava, Clever, Groupon, etc.) over the last ten years. Relocating from San Francisco to Singapore in 2019 meant researching and interviewing for jobs remotely, and landing at regional super-app Grab to step back into Southeast Asia.

I break down the main categories of tech companies into:

1) Early-stage startups

2) Homegrown Asian unicorns, and

3) Well-known tech brands beyond the FAANG group

The list is meant as a starting point, and by no means comprehensive or exhaustive. I will update it over time and hope it can serve as a useful guide to anyone interested in tech roles in the little red dot.

Also Read: impress.ai raises US$3M to make hiring less tiring for recruiters

Option 1: Early-stage startups

There are now an estimated 4,000 tech-enabled startups in Singapore alone (source: PwC), and an estimated 18,000 jobs created by them in 2019 (source: Worldbank). Over US$4 billion of funding flowed into Singapore startups in 2020 despite COVID-19 challenges — three times that of 2015.

This is the higher risk and (potentially) higher reward set of companies: Seed stage (ideation to first steps), Series A (clear business plan/minimum viable product built), or Series B+ (clear product-market fit, expansion mode).

This can be a tough segment to navigate as there is no single source of truth that centralises these job opportunities. So it does require more research and thought to figure out which ones to look at.

There are job boards on AngelList, Glints, and Tech in Asia and many lists on Google to get you started, highlighting interesting companies.

At Monk’s Hill Ventures, we have a centralised jobs board that allows you to easily search for open roles at our portfolio companies, spanning edutech/healthtech/fintech/logistics/AI — with many open to hiring remotely.

A few general tips:

  • What resonates with you: Research and narrow down the domains you are personally most interested in: what problems do you want to help solve? (fintech and logistics are currently the most active verticals) > overlay this with the stage of company > deep dive to identify 10–20 relevant companies and see which ones resonate. There are many useful reports out there on specific sectors, eg: Fintech News Singapore and Oliver Wyman on the Singapore Fintech landscape, Nic Milanovic’s fintech newsletter. (I’ll write a longer piece on the art of applying to startup jobs).
  • Follow the money: Look up the investors funding your target companies, reach out to the Talent folks at the relevant VC firms, and pitch them your skillset, as they know what their portfolio companies are looking for.
  • Network: Get out of your comfort zone to request intros and referrals to companies and individuals. Talking to people in the industries and companies that intrigue you is an excellent way to figure out what you really want. For introverts, a very effective way of networking and branding yourself is to put pen to paper and write some thought pieces you can share with the community.

If you’re also interested in learning more about the latest trends and data on compensation for early-stage tech startups, do take a look also at our latest tech talent report, The Southeast Asia Tech Talent Compensation Report.

Also Read: From our community: Hiring tips from Glints’ CTO, 4-day work week, the rise of slow fashion and more….

Home-grown unicorns (and unicorns-in-waiting)

Of the companies in Southeast Asia that have reached more than US$1 billion valuations, Monk’s Hill Ventures noted that four are currently Singapore-based and headquartered (Grab, Sea, Razer, Lazada).

According to a report by Temasek, Google and Bain, there are nearly 70 companies valued between US$100 million and US$1 billion in SEA. Many more will join their ranks in the coming years. The vast majority are still private, so plenty of upside in an exit event.

  • Grab: All over the news recently with its upcoming US$40 billion SPAC deal. The time I spent at Grab was great exposure to a wide range of leadership styles, products, and countries given its super-app reach. Still hiring, though not at the levels seen in 2018.
  • Sea: Currently the most valuable tech company in the region, a public company with a market valuation of US$130 billion, and lately the best performing stock in the world. The group has three core outfits: Video games (Garena), e-commerce (Shopee), and fintech (SeaMoney). Aggressively hiring.
  • Lazada: E-commerce platform acquired by Alibaba in 2016, and the company has since gone through a number of leadership changes and acquired a more Chinese character.
  • Razer: a public company with a significant market share of the global gaming business. Razer was founded way back in 1998 and now has dual HQs in Singapore and the US.
  • Trax: Founded and incorporated in Singapore, this retail analytics and execution company recently raised US$640 million in Series E funding, but most of its R&D is done out of Israel.
  • Patsnap: short for “patents in a snap”. A newly minted unicorn providing data and analytics on IP. Though founded in Singapore, their expansion is now focused entirely on China and the US, so remote work is the only option if you are in Singapore.
  • Ninja Van — leading logistics and courier service provider that’s been a beneficiary of the regional e-commerce boom. The company has raised US$400 million to date (full disclosure: the company I work at, Monk’s Hill Ventures, is an early investor in Ninjavan).
  • PropertyGuru: A leading property classified business in Southeast Asia that has raised US$740 million to date.
  • Carousell — a consumer marketplace for buying and selling secondhand goods. Raised US$263 million in total to date.
  • Biofourmis — Singapore-born AI-powered health analytics. Raised US$144 million to date.
  • Zilingo — more than just an online shopping site, it positions itself as an end-to-end cloud platform that connects everyone along the supply chain. Raised US$308 million to date.
  • Stashaway: Series C digital wealth manager that recently crossed having over US$1 billion in assets under management.
  • Indonesian unicorns: limited presence and open roles in Singapore for the likes of Gojek, Tokopedia (these two are now merged), Bukalapak, and Traveloka.

We at Monk’s Hill Ventures see that Chinese companies are in a league of their own, as they have been hiring aggressively in Singapore and often paying over the market in exchange for more intense work culture. These include Bytedance/Tik Tok, Tencent, and Alibaba.

Also Read: Eliminating hiring on gut feeling: How Pulsifi bridges data and hiring

Option 3: The international names

FAANG — The big five: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google

The tech behemoths continue to hire in sizeable numbers in Singapore. At the time of writing, open positions in Singapore at the top five performing American public tech companies were: Facebook (180 open roles), Amazon (348), Apple (150), Netflix (28), Google (192).

Great brand names though there are fewer senior leadership positions relative to headquarters, and more limited options for technical roles (engineering and product).

Netflix for example currently has 700 employees in Asia, representing 10 per cent of its global workforce, the majority of which is based in Los Gatos, US. It currently has no engineering or product teams in Singapore, apart from a few systems engineers.

Other global tech companies in Singapore

Microsoft: yes, it is a huge company. It also remains a major and innovative software player and has invested strategically in the likes of Grab and Bukalapak.

Stripe: Currently the most valuable private startup in the US. Stripe has steadily built out a presence in Singapore, with about 10 per cent of their global staff based in Asia— there are more technical opportunities here, as they do have an Asia head of engineering and sizeable tech team. Fourty-seven open roles as of press time. Big on remote work.

Shopify: Canadian-headquartered, Asia is a major area of growth for them, with an office in Singapore since 2018. They’ve announced plans to double their engineering team in 2021 by hiring 2,021 new roles, and they are fully remote. Started off as a platform for independent merchants to start and manage their online business, now expanding into financing as well.

TransferWise: Following its rebranding in March (formerly known as Wise), this UK-based cross-border payments network announced it will hire over 70 people in Singapore in 2021 for roles including expansion, engineering, product, and operations.

Coinbase: Took the public listing route in April, current market cap: US$58 billion. Coinbase is a major crypto player by providing an easy way to exchange Bitcoins and other digital currencies. Recently hiring for a country manager in Singapore to expand the team.

Twilio: San Francisco-based cloud communications platform is hiring for a number of technical (largely support and network engineers) and GTM roles in Singapore.

Zoom: Announced its intention to build an R&D centre in Singapore to hire hundreds of engineering staff, and double the capacity of its data centre (here since 2019). At the time of writing, 14 open roles in Singapore, mostly technical.

Twitter: Fifteen open roles in Singapore over different functions. It announced last year setting up an Asia-Pacific engineering centre in Singapore.

Spotify: Stockholm-based Spotify recently announced an expansion in international footprint across 85 new markets (though it is already present in most of the Southeast Asian countries).

Also Read: Monk’s Hill Ventures’s Peng T. Ong on how to get your startup ready for the new normal

A smattering of sales and marketing roles in Singapore for now — but they appear to be big proponents of remote work so it is worth checking out jobs in other locations.

We live in an increasingly borderless world, remote work is common now, and even small startups are hiring distributed teams. At Monk’s Hill Ventures, we believe that this trend will continue, so there’s no need to limit yourself to companies with an on-the-ground presence.

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