Circles.Life plans to hire tech talent with latest government-linked investment

Circles.Life plans to hire tech talent with latest government-linked investment

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3 -min read
Listen to this article

SINGAPORE-BASED telco startup Circles.Life, which will launch in its first overseas market this month, has nabbed more funding - this time from Singapore government investor EDBI.

EDBI, the investment arm of the Economic Development Board, was joined by Silicon Valley’s Founders Fund, which counts venture capitalist Peter Thiel among its partners.

Circles.Life will use the latest funds to hire more tech talent, the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) - which leases frequency from the recently privatised M1 - told the press on Thursday. It plans to have 165 engineers in Singapore by the end of 2019, up from some 110 now.

The latest cash grab comes after Circles.Life announced in February that it had closed a Series C round led by venture capital giant Sequoia India - reportedly to the tune of US$50 million.

The startup also said at the time that it would spend more than S$250 million in overseas expansion, with at least five markets earmarked for launch by end-2020. Circles.Life is slated to start with Taiwan in June, then Australia. Indonesia has also been floated as a possible market for entry.

EDBI chief executive Chu Swee Yeok said that her organisation “looks forward to supporting Circles.Life in its next phase of growth to be a regional champion, leveraging Singapore as their springboard”.

EDBI’s other information and communication technology portfolio companies in Asia include marketplace app Carousell, travel provider Klook and cashback platform ShopBack.

Both EDBI and Founders Fund units hold preference shares in Circles.Life, as do other institutional investors, according to corporate records.

Circles.Life has three classes of shares: treasury, preference and ordinary shares, which records show are owned by the company’s co-founders and other individual investors.

“We are very proud that both local and international bluechip investors, whose visions are very much aligned with Circles.Life’s, are supporting us on this mission,” Circles.Life co-founder Abhishek Gupta said in a statement.

The telco, which has been notoriously coy about its user numbers, said in mid-February that it had reached 5 per cent of the local post-paid mobile market - or about 270,000 customers, based on official telecom user statistics for end-January.

But Circles.Life is not the only MVNO that has been building up its war chest.

Fibre broadband operator MyRepublic, which later crossed into the mobile services space on mainboard-listed StarHub’s network, revealed in June 2018 that it had raised capital of US$150 million, on top of another S$70 million from financial services firm Makara Capital.

MyRepublic is gunning for an initial public offering in Hong Kong, although it has pushed back the timeline for its listing ambitions to as late as 2020.