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2 S'pore startups acquired by overseas firms

3ree and Gushcloud picked up by Chinese and South Korean companies respectively

CULTURAL FIT: The Gushcloud team with co-founders Vincent Ha (centre) and Althea Lim (extreme right). Korea's Yello Digital Marketing group has bought a majority stake in the firm for an eight-figure sum.


TWO homegrown startups - both in the business of advertising and marketing - have been snagged by a Chinese and a South Korean company in what appears to be the first acquisitions announced this year of Singapore startups.

The first is of integrated marketing agency 3ree (pronounced "three") by Always Marketing Services - a field and shopper marketing firm in China that is majority-owned by global marketing group J Walter Thompson - for an undisclosed sum.

Said Always founder and chairman Cai Hua: "I strongly believe that (the acquisition of) 3ree will be the turbo engine to speed up our Asia expansion plan."

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Founded in 2010 by Tan Li Li and Isabel Cheong, 3ree offers events management, digital marketing as well as design and creative services. Its clients in Asia have included Microsoft, Seagate and StarHub.

The second acquisition, of content and influencer marketing startup Gushcloud by South Korea's Yello Digital Marketing group (YDM), is for a majority stake in Gushcloud for an eight-figure sum, BT has learnt.

"We are truly excited to become part of the YDM group," Gushcloud co-founder and chief executive Vincent Ha gushed. "Their vision to build S-EA's No 1 digital media and marketing company is completely aligned with ours."

Following the deal, YDM will open a new South-east Asia headquarters in Singapore's Central Business District to host up to 200 employees, including some 40 from Gushcloud's local office.

Mr Ha, along with co-founder Althea Lim, will retain a minority stake in Gushcloud and take on strategic roles within YDM - in particular, spearheading its regional expansion plans for content and influencer marketing.

"Aside from strengthening YDM's suite of digital offerings, the acquisition is a great cultural fit in that both companies are led by entrepreneurs and run on youthful energy and passion," Mr Ha told BT.

The acquisition will also allow Gushcloud to leverage YDM's resources and networks, he added.

Gushcloud marks YDM's 17th acquisition since 2012 and its first in Singapore.

Said YDM's chief executive Lee Sang Seok: "Singapore is a strategic base because of its location, reputation as an established regional hub for businesses, and sophistication of its consumer markets. Through Gushcloud, we hope to tap the huge potential in content and data to meet our clients' needs in the dynamic digital world."

YDM, whose aim is to bag at least 20 marketing startups in the Asia-Pacific this year, is a subsidiary of Yello Mobile Group, which was founded in 2012 to bring together entrepreneurs in fast-growing companies in mobile commerce and digital marketing. Yello Mobile Group has since 2012 acquired more than 70 startups, 61 of which were snapped up in the last year.