Start Now Co-founders Ivan Chang (left) and Keith Tan (right)

Start Now Co-founders Ivan Chang (left) and Keith Tan (right)

Goodtizens Technology, a company devoted to eco-friendly travel, announced yesterday that it acquired the social enterprise tech company Start Now for S$530,000 (US$380,000).

Start Now develops software solutions to help non-profit and governmental organisations fulfill their social responsibility programmes, making Start Now Singapore’s first exit in the social entrepreneurship field.

Goodtizens is a spin-off business of The Goodwater Company, a local SME with a broad approach to helping private companies and NGOs step up their social responsibility.

Keith Tan, Co-founder of Start Now, told e27 the acquisition was valued at about 1.5 times the revenue of S$350,000 (a bit over US$250,000) and more than eight times the EBITDA of S$65,000 (US$47,000).

“We actually met [Goodtizens corporate owner JE Capital] at an investor pitching session trying to raise funds. So instead of raising funds from them, they said ‘why don’t you come and build this thing for one of our companies called GoodWater?’ So that is how we met and the whole relationship started,” Tan said.

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The original business idea was to build a platform to connect volunteers to potential opportunities. When the idea did not take off, Tan and Co-founder Ivan Chang pivoted and began to build software for clients.

Examples of software include volunteer and donor management services, community engagement platforms and eventually helping corporations with social benefit programmes.

Goodtizens wants to launch a network for social change — including a marketplace, an eco-travel platform and an NGO engagement platform.

“Start Now has been around for four years and has built an impressive suite of social technologies to great effect. Goodtizens will leverage these technologies to bring social actions at your fingertips to a global audience,” said Goodtizens CEO Darren Young in an official statement.

Singaporeans may recognise some events in which Start Now participated, including the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive, International Volunteer Day and SG Care and Share Day.

University beginnings

Tan and Chang started the company while the two were university students in Singapore. Tan attended the National University of Singapore while Chang went to Singapore Management University.

They won multiple awards, among them the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneur’s Programme and SPRING’s YES! Entreprenerus Startup Grant. In total, Start Now raised S$93,000 (US$67,000) from grants, angel investing and competition winnings.

“It was very hectic, so we didn’t have much time to think through the business model but we had to keep moving to build revenue and pay staff. When we had a moment after we just graduated, that is when we said ‘the business model is not going as well as it could’,” said Tan.

“So, then we decided it may not be the best path to continue [along] and we explored mergers with several other social enterprises in Singapore. Then, in June last year, we started to think about how to exit the space.”

So what is next?

The two Co-founders are spry 26-years-old and the team is going to stick together. Tan and Chang are going to be launching a new startup through NUS in the near future. This time, in a different industry.

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“Running a company is going to make it hard to just go and get a normal job somewhere. But starting [young] was really great because we managed to do it while we were in school and get quality experience. So, now we move on to more serious stuff, I suppose,” said Tan with a chuckle.