Leadership change at embattled Singapore startup Honestbee

Habitat by Honestbee, the startup’s brick-and-mortar shop space. Honestbee has recently announced it would suspend its overseas operations and slash its headcount. — TODAY pic
Habitat by Honestbee, the startup’s brick-and-mortar shop space. Honestbee has recently announced it would suspend its overseas operations and slash its headcount. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, May 2 — Embattled homegrown start-up Honestbee has announced a change at the top with a member of the family in control of South Korean electronics giant LG taking the reins.

Joel Sng is stepping down as chief executive officer of the online food and grocery delivery company with immediate effect.

Brian Koo, chairman of the start-up’s board, is replacing Sng. He hails from the influential Koo family in South Korea, which controls the LG conglomerate.

The start-up, which recently announced it would suspend its overseas operations and slash its headcount, issued a media statement saying the change is “part of an ongoing strategic review of our business”.

“Brian will bring his passion for our mission to his new role. He will take the lead and work with the current team to ensure that Honestbee is in the best possible position to support the business in Singapore and other geographies going forward,” said the statement.

Sng said that Koo was Honestbee’s earliest supporter and key investor.

“He was also instrumental in helping us define Honestbee’s purpose and mission from day one. I am confident that he would be able to bring the company to the next level, supported by the newly-appointed executive team comprising key leaders of our organisation,” he added.

TODAY understands that the executive team is made up of Roger Koh as chief financial officer, Victor Chow as chief operating officer, Jonathan Low as chief technology officer and Varian Lim as chief of staff.

Koo also thanked Sng for taking the startup “from zero to one”.

“I will be working with the executive team to conduct an in-depth review of our business to focus and align our strategic interests across our various geographies and verticals, and take the opportunity to articulate a clear vision for the future of Honestbee,” he said.

Koo is a founding partner of venture capital firm Formation 8, which led a US$15 million (RM60 million) round of funding for the online grocery shop in 2015.

Besides Honestbee, Formation 8’s other portfolio companies include e-commerce website Wish and maker of virtual reality headsets Oculus.

Another portfolio firm is Yello Mobile — a mobile services startup and one of South Korea’s first unicorns — is reportedly on the verge of collapse. A “unicorn” is a start-up said to be worth US$1 billion or more.

On Tuesday, Honestbee announced that it was halting all or some of its operations in Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand.

Its services in Japan and the Philippines are also temporarily suspended.

It said 10 per cent of Honestbee’s global headcount would also be cut.

However, it stressed that its business in Singapore would not be affected. — TODAY

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