Telecommunications giant Optus is ramping up its involvement in the start-up sector, alongside Singaporean parent SingTel, after acquiring Sydney-based food site Eatability for $6 million.
Launched in 2003 by husband and wife team Celeste and Hui Ong, who moved from Malaysia to Sydney, Eatability is now regarded as one of Australia’s leading restaurant review websites.
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The site contains more than 235,000 user-generated reviews on 37,000 restaurants nationwide.
Now Optus is acquiring Eatability for $6 million, with all 12 employees of the six-year-old site expected to stay on.
The move comes after Optus and Singaporean parent company SingTel launched a seed funding program, which will back up to eight Australian start-ups with up to $250,000 each.
The Optus Innov8 Seed Program will provide tech start-ups with cash, mentoring, networking and co-working spaces.
The scheme is geared to offering successful start-ups a pathway to the Asian market, via SingTel’s involvement.
This is also evident in the Eatability deal, which will see the entire team gain access to SingTel’s resources.
“We’re excited to be joining Optus and the SingTel Group, and to be given the opportunity to further grow Eatability with their support,” Hui Ong says.
Ong says Eatability is now “bigger than both of us” – referring to him and his wife – so the acquisition makes sense.
“As a small company, we were very limited in what we could do; Optus has a lot of marketing clout and a huge customer database,” he says.
Under the agreement, which is subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board, Eatability will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Optus.
The acquisition feeds into Optus’ strategy of providing more localised digital content and services for the Australia market.
It is also expected to provide a strong foundation for future transaction-based business and mobile services in the lifestyle category.
According to Austin Bryan, vice president of communities and ecosystems at Group Digital L!fe, which is a division of Optus, Eatability is regarded as a trusted website for restaurant reviews.
“Eatability [will become] a key Optus partner, providing content for our Optus Go Places mobile app,” Bryan said in a statement.
“We’re delighted to welcome Eatability into the Optus digital family and look forward to working with Celeste, Hui and the team to bring even greater functionality to Eatability users.”
Eatability isn’t the only start-up set to benefit from the technological prowess of SingTel, which has also acquired Singaporean food site HungryGoWhere.
“Our objective is to make it easy for users ‘on the go’ to discover what’s happening around them,” said Loo Cheng Chuan, head of Local L!fe at Group Digital L!fe.
“We will be taking this application to the next level by extending it to smartphones, making it personalised and contextually relevant, as well as introducing an element of magic and serendipity into the customer experience.”