Concierge grocery delivery service honestbee lands US$15 million of funding in wake of Hong Kong launch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 October, 2015, 3:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 October, 2015, 4:30pm

A week after launching the first on-demand concierge grocery delivery service in Hong Kong, start-up honestbee has raised US$15 million in its first round of funding from veteran US investors in California’s Silicon Valley.

Co-founder and chief executive Joel Sng told the South China Morning Post that new financing for the company will help push forward its expansion into other cities in Asia, following its recent introduction in Hong Kong.

“The next city for us [to expand into] before the end of this year will be Taipei,” Sng said.

“We also plan to roll out our services throughout the major Southeast Asian cities by 2016.”

Headquartered in Singapore, honestbee opened for business in Hong Kong last Friday with a guarantee that its staff of concierge shoppers would select and deliver the highest-quality produce and groceries from its retail partners one hour after each order is placed.

Research firm Kantar Worldpanel has forecast that global fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) e-commerce will reach US$53 billion by next year, up from an estimated US$36 billion this year. Asia is expected to drive that growth in the coming years.

US technology investment company Formation 8, which also has offices in Shanghai and Singapore, led participants in honestbee’s first financing round.

“Formation 8 believes that the hyper-local on-demand market plays a significant role in the way commerce will evolve,” said Brian Koo, founder of the San Francisco-based investment firm. “Consumers now demand higher levels of access to convenience.”

READ MORE: No dopes: Hong Kong’s on-demand concierge start-up will organise just about anything

Koo said honestbee’s partner network and “strong focus on building a world-class technology company” have made it “well-positioned to quickly own this market.”

Other new investors included Steve Chen, an advisor at Google Ventures and a co-founder of YouTube; Pejman Mar Ventures, an early backer of online file-hosting service Dropbox; Gideon Yu, the former chief financial officer at Facebook and YouTube; and Owen Van Natta, a founding member of Amazon’s search company A9.com and a former chief operating officer at Facebook.

Isaac Tay, a co-founder of honestbee, said the company expected to learn from its new investors, who represent some of “the top minds who have built the most valuable technology companies in the world”.

In eight months of operation, honestbee has expanded its team to almost 100 people, and continues to grow its staff, according to the start-up. The firm initially launched its service in Singapore two months ago.

Sng said the service is initially available for online orders as preparations are underway to launch honestbee’s mobile app for iPhone and Android smartphone users.

In Hong Kong, honestbee currently covers the residential neighbourhoods in Central and Mid-Levels to maintain its commitment to quality and prompt service. The company plans to extend its service across Hong Kong as it adds more retail partners.

Its current partners in the city include Anything But Salads, Liquor & Liqueur, Gateway and Great Food Hall.

Orders on the honestbee online portal are initiated by entering a user’s address and other relevant details, and then choosing groceries online from its select retail partners and the one-hour delivery window to have the goods delivered.

Once the order is placed, an expert concierge shopper immediately starts picking out the customer’s selected items. If some products are unavailable, customers are able to choose similar replacement products when ordering. If necessary, the honestbee shopper can call the customer to ensure the user gets the right goods.

“Our trained concierge shoppers pick the freshest produce, vegetables, fruit, fish and meats,” Sng said.

He added that honestbee also aims to create job opportunities for individuals looking for more flexible working hours. These include people with unconventional schedules, like students or stay-at-home mothers.

“We want to create employment opportunities in the communities we serve, while also providing convenience to our customers,” Sng said.