Shannon Kalayanamitr, Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, Nikki Assavathorn and Jonah Levey talk candidly about having their companies acquired
Before Shannon Kalayanamitr sold MOXY, a Thailand-based e-commerce startup she founded in 2013, she went to Singapore to speak to more than 50 venture capitalists. By the end, she received many investment offers but did not accept any of them.
In January 2015, MOXY was reported to have been sold to Ardent Capital-backed entity WhatsNew, which also operates in the e-commerce industry. The amount was not disclosed.
Today, she joined three other founders – Pawoot Pongvitayapanu of Rakuten-owned Tarad.com, Nikki Assavathorn of Lunch Actually-owned MeetNLunch, and Jonah Levey Co-founder of VietnamWorks.com – in a panel discussion moderated by Dirk Van Quaquebeke, Founder and Managing Partner, Alps Ventures. The session was held at e27‘s conference Echelon Thailand in Bangkok, the country’s capital.
“I got to focus on what I could do,” says Kalayanamitr, adding that being acquired by WhatsNew enabled MOXY to attract stronger hires. However, this does not come easy.
“In preparation for all that, you have to get your act together,” she notes. This ranged from preparing legal documents for WhatsNew’s due diligence process to checking out everything on the latter’s legal, operations and product-related contracts to make sure of its legitimacy.
Doing due diligence
But due diligence is necessary for every startup looking to be acquired, or every company aiming to acquire others.
“They talked [to] every [other] e-commerce [company] in Thailand,” says Pongvitayapanu, recounting how the Japanese parent company of Tarad.com went about ensuring that it was making the right choice.
“I remember when they came to my office. The CEO of Rakuten is really famous in Japan. [But] in Thailand, no one [knew] him,” he says of Hiroshi Mikitani, the head honcho of the e-commerce corporation. What’s worse? “It’s really hard to learn about Rakuten [back then because] everything was in Japanese.”
As for Assavathorn, the preparation for getting acquired was a huge headache, even though it was ultimately worth it. Firstly, the two companies had different definitions for revenue, especially when it came to ‘membership subscription fees’, and, secondly, a Singaporean company could not hold more than 49 per cent of shares in a Thai firm.
MeetNLunch had to become a company with ‘Board of Investment’ status (BOI), in order for Lunch Actually to be the majority shareowner. This proved difficult because MeetNLunch had been in the market for some time, and that made it harder for the company to receive BOI status, she added.
She also had to bring in an English teacher to help MeetNLunch employees, who could not speak the language, adapt to the new parent company.
“I spoke to Lunch Actually [staff to find out] what their culture is like,” she added, and implemented those changes accordingly, even before the company was officially acquired.
If their success doesn’t inspire you, then maybe you’re in the wrong business.
Disclaimer: MOXY is an Ardent Capital portfolio company.
Ardent Capital is an investor in Optimatic Pte Ltd, the parent company of e27.
Attend Echelon Thailand 2015, taking place on November 26 and 27, from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM with an exclusive after-party that runs till late. Tickets are available for purchase online, use promo code e27Subscriber to enjoy awesome savings.
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