Carousell is a Singaporean smartphone and web-based consumer to consumer and business to consumer marketplace for buying and selling new and secondhand goods. Headquartered in Singapore, it also operates in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Carousell is available on both iOS and Android devices.
Siu Rui Quek, Marcus Tan and Lucas Ngoo are the brains behind Carousell, a Singapore-headquartered online consumer-to-consumer marketplace which observers are calling one of Southeast Asia’s next $1 billion unicorns.
The three friends started the business in 2012, after being inspired during an internship in Silicon Valley. In just seven years, they’ve won the support of top investors and earned a valuation of $550 million.
“We got so inspired by heroes like Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, Drew Houston of Dropbox,” CEO Quek told CNBC Make It, referring to presentations they watched from the famous founders of Twitter and Facebook. “The one commonality all of them had was just this whole fascination for using technology to solve problems and make a big impact.”“We figured the best way (for us) to do that was to solve our own problem,” he continued. “We had all this stuff which was underutilized, unused, no easy way to sell them using the mobile phone, and we decided to build that app.”
Carousell was founded in Singapore by Quek Siu Rui, Lucas Ngoo, and Marcus Tan on 14 May 2012. The first item to be sold on Carousell was a Kindle e-reader from Amazon for S$75. On January 2, 2013, Carousell was subsequently registered as Carousell Pte. Ltd.
Quest Ventures made the first investment in Carousell. Rakuten, Golden Gate Ventures, 500 Global (previously 500 Startups), and a handful of other investors invested $1 million in Carousell in November 2013. Consequently, in November 2014, Carousell announced that Sequoia India had invested $6 million in the company. In August 2016, Carousell raised $35 million from Rakuten Ventures, Sequoia India, Golden Gate Ventures, and 500 Global as part of their Series B funding round. Caarly, a Singaporean mobile-first used car marketplace and dealership tool, was acquired by Carousell in October 2016. A consortium led by South Korean Internet giant Naver has signed a $80 million investment agreement with classifieds platform Carousell. Following the transaction, the Singapore-based startup will be valued at more than $900 million.
As of 2016, over 23 million items had been sold on Carousell, and over 57 million new and used items had been listed for sale. In addition to Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan, Carousell has expanded regionally to seven countries. However, Carousell's expansion into Taiwan will face stiff competition from established e-commerce market players such as Yahoo! and Ruten. Carousell acquired OLX Philippines in April 2019 after receiving an investment from Naspers.
In a Yahoo Tumblr page, images of users posting photos or screenshots of their bad experiences they encounter on Carousell relating to scams, fraud and harassment have circulated on social media platforms like Facebook and Tumblr.
Users of Carousell have also complained about cases of scams by fake sellers. The Singapore Police Force has reported that over 70% of e-commerce scams in 2018 took place on Carousell.
In October 2020, it was reported to the Health Sciences Authority that a long-banned weight-loss product was sold on Carousell and other e-commerce platforms.
Future of the C2C Market
Today, the app is live in seven countries — Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan — and has recorded 250 million listings and 71 million sales. Its latest deal with global online marketplace OLX Group, worth $56 million, took the company’s valuation to $550 million.
Analysts say that could put Carousell on course to become a $1 billion unicorn start-up — adding to the 11 to be born out of Southeast Asia so far.
However, Quek insisted the founders are not chasing such titles. Instead, they’re concentrating on monetizing the business by growing online ads, premium user packages and subscription services, with a focus on their Singapore and Hong Kong markets. Last year, Carousell boosted revenues fourfold and cut losses.