Billion Dollar Unicorns: Garena Files Privately In New Avatar

Singapore-based Garena became the most valuable Billion Dollar Unicorn from South East Asia riding on the popularity of its games. It has now expanded into e-wallets and e-commerce in the South East Asian region and has filed privately for an IPO after rebranding itself as Sea.

Sea’s Journey

When Forrest Li heard Steve Job’s famous “Stay hungry, stay foolish” commencement speech at his girlfriend’s Stanford graduation in 2005, he was inspired and realized he wanted to do something different. While pursuing his MBA at Stanford, he was also influenced by the alumni network, visits to VC firms near campus, and big-company CEO speakers. Back in Singapore, and now married to his girlfriend, Li continued to build his network. He met several influential people including Skype co-founder Toivo Annus. He then set up his first enterprise backed by three members of his network.

His first venture GG Game was involved in developing single-player gaming products, instead of the high demand multi-player games. But the venture soon shut down as it could not withstand the financial meltdown. However, Li’s investors did not give up on him. With their backing, Li founded Garena Interactive in 2009.

In 2010, the company released Garena+, which was an online gaming and social platform focused on the Southeast Asian markets. The platform successfully integrated communications capabilities with digital content and offered impressive gaming and networking capabilities. Since 2009, Garena has launched over ten games on its platform including three of the most popular titles in Southeast Asia: League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, and FIFA Online 3.

In 2015, Garena expanded into the fast growing mobile payments segment with the release of AirPay. AirPay has been developed keeping in mind the emerging markets and allows users with no bank accounts and credit cards to set up pre-payment accounts that can be used to pay for not just online games but also for their telephone bills, utilities, and e-commerce transactions.

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Sramana Mitra is the founder of One Million by One Million (1M/1M), a global virtual incubator that aims to help one million entrepreneurs ...

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