HappyFresh closes in M’sia, its history of financing and expansion

Over the past seven years, HappyFresh grocery delivery service has had a tumultuous journey, which has come to an end in Malaysia.

Its rise and eventual fall have been recorded through numerous articles. But to save you the time to archive past company records, we’ve compiled a list of HappyFresh’s memorable chapters in Malaysia, organized in a linear narrative.

Birth of a company

HappyFresh was founded in October 2014, modeled on the Y Combinator alum Instacart, founded in California two years earlier.

The Indonesia-based company had seven co-founders, each a full-fledged tech-savvy player.

The original CEO, CTO and COO of HappyFresh / Image Credit: HappyFresh

CEO Markus Bihler had years of experience as a private equity investor and had been CEO of the European company Tirendo.

Benjamin Koellmann was the COO of the Lazada group before assuming the same title at HappyFresh.

CTO Fajar Budiprasetyo had a stint at Yahoo! and co-founded two other companies before HappyFresh.

Dr. Konstantin Lange served as CFO, with previous experience at The Boston Consulting Group and a PhD in finance.

Before becoming CCO of HappyFresh, Kai Kux was COO of iMoney Group. Founding investor and executive chairman Tim Marbach had invested in several other companies, while Stefan Jung of Monk’s Hill Venture stepped in as an advisor.

It officially begins

On March 10, 2015, HappyFresh made its official debut after about a month of being an invitation-only platform.

HappyFresh is reported to have “one million US dollar pre-round A loan” (seven-figure figure).

Although based in Indonesia, it appears the app actually launched its services first in Malaysia, according to an article by Tech in Asia.

Serie A round and regional expansion

In September 2015, HappyFresh raised $ 12 million in its Series A round. Led by Vertex Ventures and Sinar Mas Digital Ventures, it also saw the participation of Asia Venture Group, BEENEXT, Ardent Capital, 500 Startups (now 500 Global). and Cherry Ventures.

According to a press release, the on-demand grocery delivery app has successfully expanded to Thailand and Taiwan.

In March 2016 it also debuted in the Philippines.

Image credit: HappyFresh

Serie B and exit from the Philippines and Taiwan

While announcing its Series B funding round, HappyFresh simultaneously withdrew from Taiwan and the Philippines.

The amount raised for HappyFresh’s Series B was not disclosed, but its CEO had reported that the amount was higher than in the Series A round.

It was Monday (August 29, 2016) when he announced his departure from Taiwan and the Philippines to focus on Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

According to Techcrunch, this news reached a staff of nearly 1,000 employees on Friday three days earlier.

Image credit: HappyFresh

Difficult times and change of CEO

In January 2017, news came that HappyFresh’s CEO had changed. According to LinkedIn, however, the switch from Markus Bilher to Guillem Segarra took place in November 2016.

An article by Tech in Asia reported that “the years 2016 and 2017 were the most difficult for the company”. This period saw HappyFresh return “to the drawing board” to focus on unit economics, logistics and new business units.

According to the article, these measures have allowed HappyFresh to start seeing positive margins.

Rebirth with the C series

Perhaps thanks to the aforementioned changes, HappyFresh saw a breakthrough for the better in 2019, raising $ 20 million for its C Series.

The round was led by the Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund, with the participation of Line Ventures, Singha Ventures and also Grab Ventures (the investment arm of Grab).

Returning investors included Vertex Ventures, Sinar Mas Digital Ventures, 500 Startups, and BeeNext.

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Three power plants from left to right: Guillem Segarra, CEO of HappyFresh; Anthony Tan, CEO and co-founder of the group, Grab; Jerald Singh, Head of Product at Grab (and delivery partner and GrabFresh buyers) / Image credit: Grab

According to TechCrunch, the new funds would be used by HappyFresh to “double the technology,” which could increase personalization for customers and provide more efficient logistics.

Pandemic turnaround and upward growth

As we all know, 2020 was the year of the coronavirus, in which everyone was stuck in their own homes. It was a tough time, which saw “volatile traffic” on the HappyFresh platform, according to Tech in Asia.

“HappyFresh has seen 10x to 20x growth in the three countries it operates in as it sees a shift in customer behavior towards online groceries,” reads the Tech in Asia article from 2020 itself.

In those times of crisis, HappyFresh was a lifesaver for Malaysians, Thais and Indonesians.

Expansion to have their own supermarkets

Earlier this year, in July 2022, HappyFresh officially launched its line of cloud warehouses in Malaysia, called HappyFresh Supermarket.

In an interview with Vulcan Post, the company’s growth manager Johan Antlov shared that the move was for them to build their own paths and have end-to-end control over the entire HappyFresh experience.

Temporary suspension of operations

That experience ended on September 8, 2022. The HappyFresh app suddenly published a post saying that all stores on its platforms would be temporarily closed.

This came after a Bloomberg article that HappyFresh was going through some financial woes, reportedly after hiring turnaround firm Alvarez and Marsal to review its accounts.

According to the Bloomberg article, the Jakarta-based company had at least $ 97 million (around RM 437 million) in debt financing and some of the company’s senior executives would stop performing their day-to-day duties.

HappyFresh Malaysia’s automated response on Facebook at the time shared that the company was subduing organizational restrictions and strategies to ensure business continuity.

He also shared that HappyFresh’s commercial operations will be temporarily suspended until the company has reached a definitive and sustainable solution.

A short-lived return

On September 9, Vulcan Post learned that the app had quietly resumed its operations, at least for that day.

However, the only supplier open for deliveries was HappyFresh supermarket and even then not all warehouses were available.

The Vulcan Post team was able to order from Bangsar’s location. When asked, the HappyFresh pilot who arrived said he wasn’t sure if the service would continue the following week.

A financing win

Amidst the financial struggles and the board reshuffle, HappyFresh managed to get hidden funding from investors. Announced on September 21, this allowed the company to resume operations in Indonesia.

However, things were still uncertain for its operations in Thailand and Malaysia, with Bloomberg reporting the company was “considering options”.

Exit from Malaysia and Thailand

Eventually, HappyFresh officially announced its withdrawal from Malaysia and Thailand on September 22nd. This announcement came via the company’s social media accounts from the two regions.

“It is with a heavy heart that the delivery of this message will be our last delivery for you,” reads a Facebook post from HappyFresh Malaysia.

Image credit: HappyFresh

Thanking its customers for the past seven years, HappyFresh cited the current economic condition as the reason why it “had no choice but to go out of business, effective immediately”.

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HappyFresh’s official withdrawal from Malaysia could serve as a signal for decreased demand for food delivery services now that the country is in the endemic stage.

However, the Malaysians who have relied on HappyFresh have many other alternatives left over, some of which we have outlined in another article.

With all of HappyFresh’s original founders having long since moved on to other companies, it seems that its customers, at least in Malaysia and Thailand, should too.

  • Read other articles we wrote about HappyFresh here.