With an eye on global prize, SG data intelligence firm Near inches closer to unicorn status

Near founder and CEO Anil Mathews

Fresh off the acquisition of US-based location data company UM, data intelligence startup Near is in talks to raise fresh capital to bankroll its global ambitions and propel it into the unicorn club.

The Singapore-headquartered software-as-a-service company is currently in talks with financial investors to raise over $100 million, founder and CEO Anil Mathews said.

Near has previously raised capital from investors including Greater Pacific Capital, Cisco Investments, Telstra Ventures, J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Sequoia Capital India. Mathews said he expects to finalise the latest funding round by the end of the second quarter this year.

Near processes location, enterprise and consumer data to provide actionable insights to clients such as News Corp, Mastercard and MetLife. It claims to collect data from over 1.6 billion monthly users across 44 countries.

Since its last $100 million fundraise in 2019 led by private equity firm Greater Pacific, Near has made two major acquisitions to transform itself from an Asia Pacific-focused business into a global one.

Last November, Near announced the acquisition of Teemo, a Paris-based location intelligence platform that allowed the firm to crack the Europe market and offer advanced data intelligence products, audience curation and data-driven marketing capabilities to its customers.

Earlier this week, Near announced the acquisition of California-based UM. Formerly known as UberMedia, UM provides mobile location data and intelligence. According to Mathews, the deal was a cash-and-stock transaction.

Recent filings with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) show that Near issued stock worth about $48 million to a UM entity called UM Legacy. Mathews declined to divulge the total transaction size of the deal.

Near, he said, had been on the hunt for a strong data science team in the US. After a one-and-a-half-year search, the company zeroed in on UM, whose clients include RAND Corporation, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Columbia University and Yale University.

“They were a pure SaaS company selling data, insights and analytics in a product form for use cases in city planning, research, tourism and so on. The team was also perfectly aligned with our DNA, which worked really well for us, so we decided to do it,” Mathews said.

Near continues to be on the prowl for mergers and acquisitions as well as investments. This time, the company is setting its sights on the Middle East and Southeast Asia, two under-represented markets in its portfolio. Some of the proceeds from its latest funding round could go towards closing one or two more deals this year, Mathews said.

As it moves closer to being valued at $1 billion by private investors, Near says there is time before it tests public markets.

“I’m not sure if we are fully ready to take that public journey yet. We would like to grow more and finally get there in the next 18 to 24 months. We’ve also been slightly sceptical about the current market, which appears to be turning into a bubble and may not last much longer,” said Mathews.

The SPAC fever seems to have eluded Mathews so far.

“I would prefer to be cautious and look at this longer term, which means we may pursue a traditional IPO when we are ready and have all the required checkboxes ticked,” Mathews said.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.