Posted on Monday, Jul 17th 2017
Singapore-based Garena became the most valuable Billion Dollar Unicorn from South East Asia riding on the popularity of its games. It has now expanded into e-wallets and e-commerce in the South East Asian region and has filed privately for an IPO after rebranding itself as Sea.
When Forrest Li heard Steve Job’s famous “Stay hungry, stay foolish” commencement speech at his girlfriend’s Stanford graduation in 2005, he was inspired and realized he wanted to do something different. While pursuing his MBA at Stanford, he was also influenced by the alumni network, visits to VC firms near campus, and big-company CEO speakers. Back in Singapore, and now married to his girlfriend, Li continued to build his network. He met several influential people including Skype co-founder Toivo Annus. He then set up his first enterprise backed by three members of his network.
His first venture GG Game was involved in developing single-player gaming products, instead of the high demand multi-player games. But the venture soon shut down as it could not withstand the financial meltdown. However, Li’s investors did not give up on him. With their backing, Li founded Garena Interactive in 2009.
In 2010, the company released Garena+, which was an online gaming and social platform focused on the Southeast Asian markets. The platform successfully integrated communications capabilities with digital content and offered impressive gaming and networking capabilities. Since 2009, Garena has launched over ten games on its platform including three of the most popular titles in Southeast Asia: League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, and FIFA Online 3.
In 2015, Garena expanded into the fast growing mobile payments segment with the release of AirPay. AirPay has been developed keeping in mind the emerging markets and allows users with no bank accounts and credit cards to set up pre-payment accounts that can be used to pay for not just online games but also for their telephone bills, utilities, and e-commerce transactions.
In 2016, Garena extended its reach to the e-commerce with the launch of its e-commerce app Shopee that leverages the popularity of social media to enable social commerce. It is already available in seven markets throughout Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
In May 2017, following a massive round of investment for its growth, Garena rebranded itself as Sea. Sea will be the new brand at the corporate branding level. The company will continue to use the name Garena for its online gaming business.
The company earns its revenues primarily through sales of virtual goods. Revenues have grown from $17 million in 2011, over $200 million in 2014 to $300 million in 2015. The company is expected to have turned profitable in the early years.
Sea is a venture funded company. It has raised $722 million so far from investors including Cathay Financial Holding, Farallon Capital Management, GDP Venture, General Atlantic, Government of Singapore, Hillhouse Capital Group, JG Summit Holdings, Keytone Ventures, Khazanah Nasional, Mistletoe, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, SeaTown International, Tencent Holdings, Toivo Annus, and Uni-President Enterprises Corporation. In 2014, the company was valued at $1 billion. Its latest funding round was held in May 2017 when it raised $550 million at an undisclosed valuation. An earlier funding round for $170 million in March 2016 valued it at $3.75 billion.
Following the funding in May 2017, Sea is reported to have filed privately with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is said to be considering a 2018 listing and is working with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley for the IPO. Under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue can file for an IPO with the SEC privately and work out the details outside the public eye.
More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns. The term Unicorn was coined in a TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures.
This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns
. How Marketo Is Faring In The Public Market . Workday's Ramp to Multi-Billion Valuation . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 1) . ServiceNow's Expanding Market Opportunity . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 2) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 3) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 4) . Tableau's Valuation Increases to $6 Billion . A Rare Media Venture Called Vice . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 5)More »» . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 6) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 7) . Will Box Implode Post IPO? . Net-a-Porter Cracks The Luxury Fashion Market . Outbrain Prepares for an IPO . Palantir's Skyrocketing Valuation May Be Justified . Online Education Player Lynda.com . Pluralsight's Impressive Rise . Snapchat Explores Revenue Generating Options . Analysts Project Revenue for Pinterest . The Market Awaits Etsy's IPO . Taboola's Content Marketing Growth . Egnyte Eyes IPO in 18 Months . Web 3.0 and E-Commerce Investment Thesis of 3 VCs . Cleversafe's Unique IP Strategy . Cloud Investment Thesis of 5 VCs . GoDaddy Shying Away from IPO, Yet Again . Can Square Sustain Its Valuation? . Zulily Tumbles . MuleSoft Will Be Joining Soon . Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later . ShopClues in India Shows Unicorn Characteristics . What Have You Learned? . ASOS Shines From London . Xiaomi Overtakes Samsung in China . eClinicalWorks Bootstraps With A Paycheck . Strategies From 5 Entrepreneurs . Lending Club Focuses on Growth Post IPO . Slack Speeds Its Way To The Mark . Eventbrite Shies Away from an IPO . Meituan Leads China's Group Buying Market . Gilt Groupe Delays IPO . Veeam Wants To Stay Private . Nextdoor's Valuation Skyrocketing With No Sign of Revenues . Stripe Exploring Tie-Ups for Growth . HubSpot Sustains Solid Growth Post IPO . Shazam Makes it to the Club . OnDeck Scoring in Small Businesses Instant Loans . Fat Startup Adaptive Insights Leading in Cloud CPM . Cloudera Leverages Open-Source Hadoop to Create a Multi-Billion Dollar Business . Evernote Cracks the Freemium Model . Rocket Fuel Crashes on Results . MongoDB Rises High on NoSQL Databases . Shopify Preparing for an IPO . JustFab Getting Ready for an IPO . Kabam to Stay Private? . Adyen Bootstraps to Multi-Billion Valuations . RetailMeNot Worries About Mobile Monetization . Elance-oDesk Taking on the Freelance World . Farfetch Connecting Designers with Consumers . The Impressive Story of Airpush . athenahealth Enters the EHR Market . Privalia Dominates the Latin America Markets . Niche E-Commerce Works for Fanatics . Powa Puts London on the Map . RealReal Shows How to Consign Luxury Products . Vancl On A Roller Coaster Ride . Didi Dache is China's Uber . Dafiti Leading E-Commerce in Latin America . ServiceNow Expands Addressable Market . Flipboard Focuses on Monetization . Hootsuite Eyes an IPO . GoodData Riding High on Big Data Analytics Market Growth . Cheetah Mobile Part Of Chinese Contingent . Hortonworks Needs To Deliver Results . Clarabridge Wins by Analyzing Customer Sentiment . Tableau Continues its Precise Execution . Will Cloudera Sustain $5 Billion Valuation Post IPO? . Freshdesk is a Prospect . InMobi Wants to IPO in India . Zendesk Targets the Live Chat Market . New Relic Getting Ready to Battle with Microsoft . Twilio is Revolutionizing Telecommunications . Funding Circle is UK's Latest Entry to the Club . Luxury Retailer Moda Operandi on the Club's Runway . Splunk is Now Targeting the SMB Segment . Capital-Efficient StartApp Is A Prospect . AppNexus In The IPO 2015 Pipeline . Druva Poised to Produce an Indian Unicorn . MapR Readies IPO . Lookout Getting Ready for an IPO . Anaplan Gets Ready to Enter the Club . Blue Apron Simplifies DIY Gourmet Cooking . GoFundMe Bootstraps till the Half-Way Point . Containers Gives Docker Entry into the Club . Can Kaltura Be A Public Unicorn? . The Ride-Sharing Industry Continues to Deliver Unjustifiable Valuations . MarkLogic Making Waves in Enterprise NoSQL . CloudFlare Offers Website Security over the Cloud . Mixpanel Provides Advanced Analytics for SMBs . Spotify Gearing up to Face Apple Music . Auction.com in Expansion Mode . Nutanix Gives VMWare Tough Competition . Houzz Bootstraps in a Niche Space to Join the Club . Rapid7 Delivers a Successful IPO . Coinbase Tries To Capitalize on BitCoins . Expect Acquisitions From ServiceNow . Zendesk and Freshdesk in Expansion Mode . Zulily Attempts to Make a Turnaround . Etsy Continues to Fumble . Lufax May be Risky, But Valuations Remain Lofty . Will IBM Acquire FireEye? . Mode Media Takes on Video Streaming . New Relic Moves Deeper into Enterprise . Delivery Hero Gets Multi-Billion Dollar Valuation for Food Delivery . Splunk Beefs Up Cyber Security . Garena Secures Singapore's Entry to the Club . Dianping is Thriving in China with its Local Reviews Business . Box Struggles in its Public Avatar . Coupang Raises the Banner for South Korea . InsideSales.com Bootstraps First, Raises Money Later . Pinterest Eyes E-Commerce . Klarna Takes the Risk out of E-Commerce . VNG Grows While Remaining Focused on Vietnam . Good, Bad and Ugly . Sprinklr Rolls up Social Media Management Software Before IPO . ContextLogic Marries Wish Lists to Vendors . Beepi Disintermediates Used Car Dealerships . Snapchat Experiments With Revenues . Tanium Simplifies Cyber Security . Avant is Revolutionizing Consumer Credit . Adyen is on a Roll . Apttus Ready for IPO . ZScaler Takes Security to the Cloud . Bullhorn is in the Making . Sogou a Unicorn, But Yet to Find its Mojo . Evernote Trying to Recover Lost Ground . Modernizing Medicine Is A Prospect . Instacart Looks Shaky . Mogujie's E-Commerce Pivot Pays Off . Zalando Takes the Lead in European Etail . BlaBlaCar Expands Internationally with Acquisitions . Square Files for IPO Below Last Round of Financing . Secretive Infinidat Makes its Way to the Club . FanDuel Creates a Billion Dollar Company out of Fantasy Sports . Kabbage Latest Unicorn in Slowing Online Lending Sector . Atlassian Now Prepping for a US Listing . Match.com Looking to Court the Stock Market Now . Ele.Me Shows Online-2-Offline Works . Alteryx is a Prospect . Machine Zone Translates Multi-Player Games to Multi-Billion Valuation . ZocDoc Should Be Able To Withstand Public Market Scrutiny . Thumbtack Joins the Ranks . Beibei the Baby of the Club . Online Lender SoFi Puts Off IPO Plans . Warby Parker Joins the Club . DraftKings Looks Worried as Fantasy Sports Come Under Scrutiny . Tujia Offers Vacation Rentals in China . Hortonworks Struggles to Stay in the Club . Atlassian, A Legitimate One, Delivers A Great IPO . Reconsider Your Aspirations . Will Docker Sustain? . Veeva Delivers Strong Fundamentals . OfferUp Still Needs to Figure out Revenue Model . Mozido Delivers Mobile Payment to Non-Banking Customers . SimpliVity a Prospect . WePiao Succeeds in Online Ticketing in China . Uptake Joins the Club . For Magic Leap, Unicorn Status No Longer Virtual . Udacity Leans on Industry Giants for Monetization . ForeScout Does Not Want To Go Public Yet . ShopClues Joins the Club . Age of Learning Monetizing in Educational Apps . Square Post Its IPO . Decolar is the Latin American Entry to the Club . Japan's Mercari Joins the Club . Yello Mobile Acquires its Way into the Club . TutorGroup Enters the Club . Souq.com the Middle East Entry to the Club . WeWork Riding the Sharing Economy Wave . Moderna Therapeutics A Promising, Unproven Bet . GitHub Faces Growing Pains . Africa Internet Group the First African Entry to the Club . Paytm Plans Rapid Expansion . Oscar Plans to Expand Its Network . Razer Leads the Gaming Accessory Market . GuaHao Targets China's Healthcare . AUTO1 Group Plans International Expansion . TransferWise Makes Money Transfer Simpler and Cheaper . Ping An Good Doctor Is Largest Chinese Healthcare Unicorn . MindMaze Channels Virtual Reality into Healing . Driverless Car Startup Zoox Joins The Club . Cylance Uses Machine Learning as Cyber Security Tool . SMS Assist Brings a Lackluster Industry to the Club . Unity Technologies a Strong VR Gaming Bet . Square Eyeing Large Sellers . Airbnb Continues to Soar . Xiaohongshu Leverages Social Commerce to Join the Club . iCarbonX Wants to Create a Digital You . Liepin, China's Homegrown Recruitment Platform . Hike is the Latest Entrant from India . Go-Jek Hails its Way into the Club . Quanergy Rides Into the Club . Aiwujiwu Rides High on Chinese Real Estate Sector . Zeta Interactive Counts on Inorganic Growth . Line Delivers a Successful IPO . Grab from Singapore is the Next Big One . Didi Chuxing Monopolizing Chinese Ride-Sharing Market? . Blippar Bets on Its Visual Browser . Two Years Post the IPO, Globant Continues to Soar . Nutanix Delivers a Strong Performance in the First Week of Listing . Coupa Has a Successful IPO . Online-to-Offline Focus Helps Huimin Enter the Club . Real Estate Platform Compass Joins the Club . LeSports Cashes in on Niche Video Streaming . Flipkart's Valuation Bodes Unsteady Future . Russian Avito Gearing up to go Public . Guazi Leading the Chinese Online Used Car Market . Slack Delays IPO to Next Year . Sprinklr Acquiring to take on Big Brands . Infor Accumulates ERP Providers to Build an Empire . Royole Corporation Flexes its Way into the Club . Rong360.com Joins the Club . Stripe’s Skyrocketing Valuation . Hulu Gears up to Stream Cable . Nutanix Delivers Upbeat Performance, Stock Still Down . Procore Joins the Club . JetSmarter Flies Into the Club . Opendoor Labs Opens the Door to the Club . Neo Technology Takes Databases to the Next Level . Kabam Struggles to Stay Alive . Careem is the Latest Middle East Unicorn . Huochebang is the Uber of Trucks in China . SimpliVity Exits in HPE's Arms . Kendra Scott Shows that Women CAN Build Unicorns . Zhihu Imitates Quora to Build a Valuation Without Revenue Company . Putting Flipkart's Struggles in Perspective . BlackLine Continues to Grow Post IPO . Global Switch Wants to be Leader in Data Centers . AppDynamics Sold Before IPO . MuleSoft Delivers Successful IPO . Alteryx has a Successful IPO . Airbnb is in no Rush to IPO . Actifio Focuses on Profitability, not IPO . In Uptake, Groupon Founder Shows He Has Learnt His Lesson . Will Cisco buy Nutanix? . Zoom Video Communications Enters the Club . C3 IoT Joins the Club . Robinhood Joins the Club . Veeva Systems Executes Systematically . Modernizing Medicine Crosses $100 Million Revenue Threshold . Stripe is in no Rush to List . Cloudera Fails to Keep the Market Happy . Stitch Fix Delivers a Surprisingly Fresh Take on Shopping for Fashion . Bill.com Has Scaled Quietly . Toutiao Snags a Big Round, But Growth and Revenues Remain Tricky . Taboola and Outbrain Exploring a Merger . Looker Counts on Big Data Analytics . Katerra Tackles the Construction Industry with Technology . Peloton Cycles Into the Club . Yello Mobile Delays IPO . Kuaishou to Focus on AI . Garena Files Privately in New Avatar . Clover Health Reaches Milestone Valuation . Careem Focused on MENA . DraftKings Faces Hurdles . Sales AI Startup Afiniti Considering IPO . Ticket Monster To Invest In Groceries