What is Soonicorn and how much does Malaysia have in 2021?


We all know that Malaysia has not had the best of luck when it comes to breeding or attracting unicorns compared to our other regional neighbors like Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Let’s remember our previous one article as for unicorns, monochromes are difficult to build in Malaysia for various reasons, such as our smaller population, lower standard of living compared to countries with unicorns and companies that lack the money to pay for top talent.

And if you remember from our previous article, we also touched on various other definitions relevant to unicorns such as ten-limbed animals (which is what Grab is), camels, and also fast-footed, which we will expand on today.

What is Soonicorn?

Soonicorns (derived from the phrase “soon unicorns”) are privately owned technology startups that have the potential to grow and join the unicorn club. To qualify for that title, a startup must primarily be funded by an angel investor or venture capitalist.

One more factor is the ability of these technology startups to scale exponentially. Their technology product should be able to achieve hyper-growth, a phase of rapid expansion when the startup grows to 20-40% CAGR, and double the company’s revenue every 3-4 years.

Dictionary of dictionaries: CAGR (compound annual growth rate) is the rate of return that would be required for an investment to grow from the opening to closing balance sheet. It is also the most accurate way to calculate and determine returns for anything that may rise or fall over time.


When it comes to determining the potential of these startups, it will be based on future industrial market forecasts and firm assessments, which will guide them to assess business.

It usually always exceeds the actual value of the startup. In some cases, larger companies will acquire these startups, leading to their valuation above their actual net worth. However, this is a favorable condition to help startups join the club earlier soon and get closer to the estimated assets of one billion US dollars.

Tracxn, which usually updates their annual Soonicorn Awards list, is selected based on market size, investor marquee investment, execution excellence and future growth prospects.

Dictionary of dictionaries: A marquee investor is an individual or corporate / institutional investor, known for investing in companies that later turn into success stories.

Jaideep Shirali, financial advisor

Before they are soon, these startups will first become minicorns, a term given to beginners at an early stage with an estimate of more than a million US dollars (4.1 million RM) and who tend to become unicorns.

Nature Spot Soonicorn in Malaysia

In 2020, local technology startups that have reached list soon were iflix, Carsome and Fave. Some of their big investors were Catcha Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and Sequoia Capital, respectively. iflix was later acquired written by Tencent and Fave acquired – Pine Labs.

At the time this list was created in March 2020, iflix was reportedly the most promising soon, as it announced $ 350 million in funding, followed by Carsome with $ 86 million and Fave with $ 32 million. There were over 2.7k technology startups and over 40 public ones.

In 2021, however, only Carsome and Fave remained in it club soon, and Boost joined these two market leaders. Carsome came in first this time with announced funding of $ 116 million, followed by Boost with $ 70 million and Fave with the same estimate. This time we have over 3.7k technology startups nationally with over 900 public ones, which is quite a big jump compared to the previous year according to Tracxn.

You may not be surprised to learn that most of these companies were also supposed to bear a fair number of losses, especially iflix which has had since 2018 net loss of 158.1 million US dollars (648.5 million RM), and they also borrowed.

In the same year, Carsome also recorded a net loss of RM 19.3 million on the background of RM 403.7 million in revenue, while Fave recorded net loss of nearly $ 10 million (RM41 million) at the end of their fiscal year in December 2019. Fave also remained in the red with $ 7.5 million in FY2019, compared to $ 7.45 million in FY2018, after nearly 5 years business.

Although it is unusual to see unicorns in debt or even unprofitable, soon the same things are not foreign to them.

Is it worth celebrating our growth of 3 Soonicorns?

To help you regionally measure our fast jump game, here is a list of how many of these 5 SEA countries had soon at dawn in 2020 (the full list of countries with teeth for 2021 has not yet been published):

Obviously we are not as competent as our 4 neighboring SEAs in local multi-acorn development. But it can be said that the good news is at least that we are in the club soon, which gives a glimmer of hope.

Since the horns will soon be supported by marquee investors, this list further proves that we are not yet at the level to attract so many of them to get to where Singapore is, which means funding is still one of the biggest barriers to joining a unicorn club for us.

More importantly, this also shows that the population may be an obstacle, but not a major blockade to our entry into the scene soon, as Singapore currently stands at 5.8 million, while Malaysiais at 32.7 million. Singapore may have a much smaller population, but its GDP per capita is high, which means a better standard of living for its inhabitants, and thus greater consumption power.

On the other hand, then why do countries with lower GDP per capita like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia still manage to develop unicorns and horns faster than us? In these cases, it can be reduced to population growth.

Thailand has a population of 69.9 million, Vietnam has 98 million, and Indonesia has 276 million, and although their consumer power may be lower, what they represent is a greater market opportunity. Startups there can constantly find new customers who will be satisfied as the population grows, which means less competition to existing customers for existing customers. Of course, this growth would be related to educating customers about any new products and services.

As mentioned in our previous article on unicorns, our government and its agencies are ambitious in their plans to breed or attract unicorns in Malaysia. But instead of aiming for the Moon, our identified scores should be given more support to maximize their potential in achieving unicorn status.

At the same time, our minicorns should not be left in the dust, and it would be encouraging to see a more detailed plan of what initiatives governments and their agencies can take to laser focus on the growth of our gyrohorns and minicorns.

Credit for featured images: Eric Cheng, co-founder and CEO of Carsome / Joel Neoh, founder and CEO of Fave / Mohd Khairil Abdullah, CEO of Boost

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