LG scion named Honestbee's interim CEO as co-founder quits

Ex-CEO Joel Sng says grocery and delivery start-up needs a reset and to focus more on customers, partners

Chief executive and co-founder of Honestbee Joel Sng has resigned from the company, and Mr Brian Koo, whose family controls South Korea's tech giant LG, is its interim CEO and board chairman.

Mr Sng sent an e-mail announcing his resignation to employees yesterday, The Straits Times learnt.

He wrote that it was time for him to "make way for someone who can bring our company to the next level". He also named Mr Koo as Honestbee's interim CEO and board chairman.

Mr Sng said that the grocery and delivery start-up needs a reset and to place greater focus on its customers, partners and contractors.

"Throughout our journey, we have experimented, succeeding in many aspects of the business, while making mistakes along the way. Not all choices turned out as hoped, and for this, I take responsibility... I have taken this business as far as I possibly can," he said.

He added that Mr Koo was Honestbee's earliest supporter and a key investor, and that the latter was instrumental in defining the company's purpose and mission since its inception.

Mr Koo, a South Korean national, is a founding member of investment company Formation 8, which led Honestbee's $15 million Series A round in 2015, according to previous reports.

Mr Koo said in an e-mail to employees yesterday that he will be working with his executive team to conduct an in-depth review of the business. He also announced his new team: Mr Roger Koh as chief financial officer, Mr Victor Chow as chief operating officer, Mr Jonathan Low as chief technology officer and Mr Varian Lim as chief of staff. All are existing staff at Honestbee.

"I hope to align our organisational culture towards openness and transparency, as well as establish clear objectives and targets, in order to set the company up for success," he said.

A TechCrunch report on Wednesday said that Mr Sng had been fired. Citing "sources with knowledge of the matter", the report noted that Mr Sng had cleared his desk and vacated his office on Tuesday.

But Mr Sng dismissed the article, and said in an e-mail to employees on Wednesday night that he was not someone who would leave the company "rudderless", according to Vulcan Post yesterday.

"I am not an 'abandon ship' person," he reportedly wrote, adding that "investors and board (members) are absolutely aligned on that".

Mr Sng co-founded Honestbee with Mr Isaac Tay and Mr Jonathan Low in 2015. Mr Tay left last year, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The developments are the latest in the ongoing saga surrounding Honestbee. A company spokesman said earlier this week that Honestbee is suspending some of its operations in Asia and cutting its global headcount by 10 per cent as part of its ongoing strategic review.

The home-grown company will be stopping its services in Hong Kong and Indonesia and its food business in Thailand, and temporarily suspending its operations in Japan and the Philippines.

The review was necessary to help the company focus and align its regional business, he added.

Earlier media reports said Honestbee is running low on funds.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh of the National University of Singapore said that Mr Koo's first task is to come up with a viable business model for the company.

The takeover sends "a very clear signal that (Honestbee) is in dire straits", added Prof Loh, who is also the director of the Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations.