Carsome vs Carro: Who wins Southeast Asia’s used car fight?

Carsome’s planned merger with iCarAsia makes it Malaysia’s first unicorn — just a month after its closest competitor, Singapore’s Carro passed the $1 billion mark.

Both used car innovators share many similarities — from the year they were founded (2015) to their geographic reach across Southeast Asia. But with Carsome now joining Carro in the unicorn stables, TechNode Global has put both startups head-to-head, based on several key metrics related to talent, funding, financial performance, network reach, marketing moves, and services provided.

People power

Great startups start with great ideas, and both unicorns are masterminded by founding teams and key personnel with a long list of qualifications and experience in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and corporate finance and management.

In the yellow corner, Carsome’s Eric Cheng and Teoh Jiun Ee have years of digital media and marketing experience. In the red corner, Aaron Tan brings his serial entrepreneurship and venture investing experience to Carro.

As both unicorns have grown through the years, often facing off in the same markets, Carro and Carsome have replenished and refreshed their top management teams. Both equally value diverse backgrounds but take different approaches in doing so.

Carsome hires top talent like Chief Operating Officer Benjamin Koellmann for their expertise in specific markets. In this case, Koellmann’s experience in setting up Happy Fresh and Lazada in Indonesia, speaks to Carsome’s focus on Indonesia after dominating its local Malaysian market.

Carro, meanwhile, has made two investments or acquisitions — in Malaysia and in Indonesia. The Singaporean unicorn gave Chief Marketing Officer Manisha Seewal an additional role as CEO, while opting to retain Fong Hon Sum as myTukar CEO post-acquisition (he is now Chairman).

Money talks

In the venture space, valuations make the headlines, and both Carro and Carsome claim to have passed the $1 billion mark. TechNode Global delved deeper, comparing both unicorns’ funding track records and the results of all those multi-million dollar funding sprees.

Both have drawn notable global and regional investors for multiple funding rounds, illustrating the strong investment story and growth potential of used car e-commerce marketplaces, which account for less than 3 percent of total used car transactions in Southeast Asia.

When it came to funding rounds, Carro and Carsome took different routes. Carsome’s nine rounds easily outpace Carro’s four, but Carro’s ticket sizes have grown exponentially with each round. Carro’s latest round in June came in at a whopping $360 million and accounted for almost 78 percent of total funding raised.

In comparison, Carsome’s $30 million round last December is 12 times smaller and more in line with its earlier round sizes. However, Carsome is reportedly in talks to raise over $200 million in a pre-IPO round.

But how has all that powder been spent? The story is flipped when it comes to operational figures: on an annualized basis, Carsome brings in almost triple what Carro does, while on an accounting basis the gap is narrower at 1.2 times.

Profitability is currently not the focus of both startups, and Carro was unable to share its latest EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) figures with TechNode Global. Carsome, however, shared that it saw a narrow loss of just $13.5 million for its unaudited financial year ended December 2020.

Network and ecosystem

With so much of Southeast Asia’s used car market share left to conquer, both Carsome and Carro have revved up their marketing strategies to build networks and reach throughout the four shared markets.

Carsome’s planned acquisition of iCarAsia heats up the geographic race considerably, putting it neck and neck with Carro in terms of dealer reach. However, on other metrics, post-merger Carsome will have almost double the listings and more than double cars sold yearly on Carro.

While Carro has declined to share its monthly visitor traffic, Carsome post-merger expects to see 10 million visitors to all its listing sites.

Marketing-wise, both startups have made headline moves such as a motorsports sponsorship for Carsome and livestream car selling for Carro. Both have leaned heavily on partnerships to expand the services they provide to their dealers, with Carsome placing additional emphasis on dealer financing and insurance.

Carro has rolled out contactless services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while Carsome is taking a whole-of-industry approach with its skills training and car maintenance tie-ups.

^Updated data provided by Carro.

* Updated data provided by Carsome.

**Provided by Carsome. Note that the metrics on dealers, monthly visitors, listings are assumed completion of Carsome’s acquisition of iCar Asia, which is subject to relevant regulatory approvals.

Disclaimer: In the process of telling the tale of this tape, TechNode Global first narrowed down a list of key data, including talent pools, investor heft, funding data, marketing campaigns, and last, but not least, sales and profitability figures.

We then scoured publicly available data sources, including venture capital and startup databases such as Crunchbase and VentureCap Insights, news reports and company press releases, as well as LinkedIn profile pages.

Keeping in mind that both Carro and Carsome are private companies and that publicly available data might not be recently updated, TechNode Global shared our data with both Carro and Carsome and where noted, have used their updated figures.