Honestbee investor Brian Koo replaces Joel Sng as new CEO

Grocery and food delivery startup Honestbee has confirmed the departure of its co-founder and CEO Joel Sng. He will be replaced with Brian Koo with effect from May 2, 2019.

TechCrunch had on Wednesday reported that Sng was fired from the Singapore-based startup.

Honestbee’s interim CEO, Koo, is the general partner and founder of Formation 8, a Silicon Valley-based investment firm. He was also an early investor in the company. In an email seen by DEALSTREETASIA, Koo also apologised to the Honestbee team.

“Over the past year, our business has grown significantly, and operating and scaling across eight countries is not without its challenges. We acknowledge that the board could have provided the company more guidance and we apologise for not doing more.

“…All of you have given blood, tears and sweat to get us this far. These are the moments when we have to be strong. I want all of you to know that I am in this with you, fighting every day beside you. We might be judged by our mistakes, but we will be remembered by our success in the future,” he said.

Koo also announced several interim appointments to Honestbee’s executive team to support him:

  • Roger Koh as chief financial officer
  • Victor J Chow as chief operating officer
  • Jonathan Low as chief technology officer
  • Varian Lim as chief of staff

In a statement, Koo thanked Sng for his contribution to the company, adding that he will be working closely with the team to steer its Singapore and regional business forward.

“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.

Sng, meanwhile, also expressed support for Koo in the statement.

“Brian has been our earliest supporter and a 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,” said Sng.

Honestbee has been undergoing a major strategic review internally, forcing the company to pause operations in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines. Earlier this week, it also announced that the move entails laying off about 10 per cent of its global workforce.

The cash-strapped startup is reported to be near the end of its operational runway due to poor financial decisions and investments.

One former Honestbee executive told us that Honestbee had initially targeted to close a fresh round of funding in January from Japanese investors. The deal, however, failed to conclude because investors were not convinced by Honestbee’s growth prospects and financial decisions.

Last year, Honestbee reportedly raised $49 million from Yesco, a subsidiary of LS Group, one of South Korea’s chaebols. According to Crunchbase, the other investors on Honestbee’s cap table are mainly based outside the region, such as Pear Ventures, EVA Automation, Raven Ventures Australia, Steve Chen and Owen Van Natta.

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Honestbee suspends operations in select SEA markets, confirms 10% layoffs

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