DNA on BFM: Does owning technology matter?
By Karamjit Singh August 6, 2015
- Stark contrast between PropertyGuru and QEOS
- Startup with no patents raises 19x more VC funding
WHAT a stark contrast this week’s Tech Talk show on BFM Radio was for me. We started with a pre-recorded interview I did with Steve Melhuish, the cofounder and chief executive officer of PropertyGuru which raised US$129 million in early June.
Note that Melhuish is not a property ‘guru’ with deep domain knowledge before he embarked on his startup in 2009. And yet he has raised almost US$200 million for his venture – with US$47 million raised in mid-2012.
He owns no technology much less any patents, and is still learning about the property industry. For all we know, he may not be making a profit even. But then, since when did any self-respecting venture capitalist invest in an Internet company based on its profits?
Now compare his journey with Dr Gabriel Walter, who started a year earlier in 2008. Walter owns a PhD in electronics engineering and counts as his cofounder in Quantum Electro Opto Systems (QEOS), Prof Dr Nick Holonyak, one of the most illustrious scientists in the field of transistor research in the United States. The company has close to 100 patents.
QEOS has raised just over US$10 million in total, about 5% of what PropertyGuru has, and its high-tech story is not considered sexy.
But perhaps that is about to change now as it has acquired a majority stake in a traditional M&E (Mechanical & Electrical) company Mepcon Sdn Bhd, with the intention of injecting its deep technical expertise into the latter’s traditional assembly processes.
You are actually going to have to wait to read that article as I just got the green light to run the story that I actually wrote over a month ago, and need to update certain parts. But it is worth waiting for as you will find out how much Mepcon was paid for its 60% and what the valuation of QEOS is!
I also spoke about GrabTaxi chief technology officer Wei Zhu leaving after one year in the role, citing personal reasons. I only brought up the story because it was very well-read for such a straightforward piece, and I made the point to BFM presenter Fred Liu that the strong interest in anything to do with GrabTaxi shows how the startup has captured the interest of readers in South-East Asia.
With time running out, as usual, I managed to sneak in a recommended reading list. I encouraged readers to read the article about how the Singapore Government is spying on its citizens and, amazingly, about how its citizens have no rights to privacy under their Constitution. We managed to tie tiny Asean nation, Brunei, into this story too. Catch the podcast!