Golden Gate Ventures forecasts a record number of exits in Southeast Asia

Despite the pandemic’s economic impact, Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem has proven to be very resilient. In fact, a new report from investment firm Golden Gate Ventures predicts a record number of exits will happen in the region over the next couple of years, thanks to factors like a maturing ecosystem, more secondary buyers and the emergence of SPACs.

The firm’s comprehensive “Southeast Asia Exit Landscape Report 2.0,” is a followup to a previous report published in 2019.

Here are some highlights from the latest report, along with additional insight from Golden Gate Ventures partner Michael Lints, its lead author. For both reports, Golden Gate Ventures partnered with business school INSEAD to survey general and limited partners in the region. It also draws on Golden Gate Ventures’ proprietary database, which dates back to 2012 and tracks information like the time between funding rounds and fundraising success rates, as well as public databases, reports and expert commentary from the New York Stock Exchange.

The overall exit landscape

Despite the pandemic’s economic impact, tech proved to be resilient globally (for example, there were a number of initial public offers in the United States at record prices). While Southeast Asia’s tech ecosystem is relatively younger, Lints told TechCrunch its resiliency was driven by companies founded years ago that suddenly saw an increase in demand for their services because of the pandemic.

“We’ve built infrastructure over the past eight to nine years, when it comes to e-commerce, logistics, some on the healthcare side as well, and when the pandemic happened, people were suddenly stuck at home,” Lints said. He added “If you look at the pickup for most of the e-commerce companies, they at least doubled their revenue. For last-mile logistics companies, they’ve increased their revenue. There was a lot of pickup on the digital healthcare side as well.”

While tech fared well compare to many other industries, one downside was that the COVID-19 pandemic caused overall global venture capital investment to decline. Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem was not immune, and had less exits, but it still did relatively well, with $8.2 billion invested in 2020, according to a report by Cento Ventures and Tech In Asia.

It’s important to note that more than half of that funding was raised in very large rounds by unicorns like Grab, Go-jek and Traveloka, but Cento Ventures found there was also an increase in investments between $50 million to $100 million for other startups. These are usually Series B and C rounds, which Golden Gate Ventures says creates a strong pipeline for potential exits over the next three to four years.

“If you go back even just two years, the amount of B rounds that are happening now, I’ve never seen that number before. It’s a definite increase,” said Lints.

Investments are also continuing to flow into Southeast Asia. According to the report, there was $6 billion of funding in just the first quarter of 2021 (based on data from DealStreet Asia, PWC and Genesis Ventures), making it the strongest start to a year in the region’s history.

This bodes well for the possibility of mergers and acquisitions in 2021. The report found that there were less exits in 2019 and 2020 than in 2018, but not just because of the pandemic—many startups wanted to remain venture-backed for longer. Golden Gate Ventures expects M&A activity will pick up again. In 2021, it forecasts acquisition deals worth more than $30 million, large mergers and an increase in SPACs.

What’s in the pipeline

Golden Gate Ventures predicts that a total of 468 startup exits will happen between 2020 and 2022, compared to the 412 forecast in the previous edition of its report. This is due to more late-stage private equity investors, including secondary buyers, SPACs and a welcoming public market.

Lints said secondary buyers will include a mix of family offices, conglomerates and venture funds that want a higher allocation in a company or to pre-empt a forthcoming round.

“What I think is interesting is some of the later-stage funds, so private equity funds, and not only ones that are in Southeast Asia, but even foreign ones, are now looking to get a position in companies that they assume will be able to raise a Series D or Series E over the next few years. That’s something I haven’t seen before, it’s relatively new in the market,” he added.

Golden Gate Ventures expects M&A activity to continue being the main way Southeast Asian startups exit, potentially accounting for up to 80% of deals, followed by secondary sales (15%) and IPOs (5%).

In fact, there was a record number of M&A deals in 2020, despite the pandemic. Golden Gate Ventures estimates that 45 deals happened, especially in e-commerce, fintech, media, adtech and social networking, as larger companies acquired startups to grow their tech stacks.

More companies going public will create a cascading effect through Southeast Asia’s ecosystem. The report forecasts that companies like Gojek and Trax, who have already made several high-profile acquisitions, will continue buying startups if they list publicly and have more liquidity.

Series B and C deals

While there will be more exits, there are also more opportunities for companies to raise larger later-stage rounds to stay private, if they want to—a sign of Southeast Asia’s maturing ecosystem, said Lints.

As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, the number of pre-seed and seed deals fell. On the other hand, the report found that it became quicker for startups to raise Series B or C rounds, or less than 21 months on average.

“If you look at typical exits between 2015 to 2017, you could argue that some of those exits might have been too early because the company was still in a growth trajectory, but there was hardly any follow-on funding for them to expand to a new country, for instance, or build out a new product,” said Lints. “So their only revenue to raise money was to be acquired by a larger company so they could keep building the product.”

“I think now you’re able to raise that Series C round, which allows you to expand the company and stay private, as opposed to having to drive towards an exit,” he added. “I think that shows the maturity of the ecosystem now and, again, it’s a huge advantage because founders have these amazing things they want to build, and now actually have the capital to do so and to really try to compete, and that has definitely been a big change.”

Another good thing is that the increase in later-stage funding does not appear to be creating a pre-seed and seed funding gap. This is partly because early employees from mature companies that have raised massive rounds often branch out and become founders themselves. As they launch startups, they have the benefit of being familiar with how fundraising works and a network. For example, a significant number of alumni from Grab, Gojek and Lazada have gone on to found companies.

“They seem to be raising a lot faster, and I think the second thing that’s happening across the board is we’re seeing more scouts putting really early checks into companies,” said Lints. “My assumption is if you look at the Series A pipeline, which is still pretty long, that has to come from a large number of pre-seed and seed deals.”

Funds want to cash out

Another factor that may drive an increase in exits—especially M&A deals—are funds that have reached the point where they want to cash out. Golden Gate Ventures’ 2019 report forecast that the first batch of institutional venture funds launched in 2010 to 2012 will start reaching the end of their lifecycle in 2020. This means the general partners of these funds are exploring exit opportunities for their portfolios, leading to an increase in secondary and M&A deals.

This in turn will increase the number of secondary markets, which have typically been low in Southeast Asia. The original investors won’t necessarily push for portfolio companies to sell themselves, but instead look at secondary buyers who might be keen on mergers and M&A deals.

“The thing we’ve seen over the last 18 months is there’s been a larger pickup in the secondary markets, where later-stage investors, in some cases family-owned businesses or family offices, are looking to get access to deals that were started eight, nine or 10 years ago. You’ll see the cap tables of these companies change, and that does mean the founders will have different shareholders,” said Lints.

“These are typically for companies that are performing well, where you can foresee that they will be able to fundraise within the next 12 months. For the ones that are in a more difficult position, I think it’s going to be tricky,” he added. “When you have a portfolio of companies as a fund, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can sell all 20 of them, so I think for some founders, the impact will be that they will need to make a decision to continue the business and buy back the shares their investors are holding, or are they going to liquidate the business or look for a trade sale.”

SPAC opportunities

The biggest SPAC news in Southeast Asia was Grab’s announcement it will go public in the United States following a $40 billion SPAC deal. Lints expects more Southeast Asian companies to take the SPAC route when going public. Not only does the process give them more flexibility, but for startups that want to list in the U.S., working with a SPAC can help them.

“My guess is with New York allowing direct listings, I think more and more people will shy away from the traditional IPO route and look at what is the fastest and most flexible way to list on a stock exchange. For Southeast Asia, listing has never been easy, so I think SPACs will definitely open the floodgates,” said Lints.

Barriers not only include regulatory filings, pre-IPO roadshows and high costs, but also “concern whether the international retail investor or public markets actually understand these companies in Southeast Asia,” he added. “If you have a very strong sponsor team that is running the SPAC, they can be super helpful in positioning the company, doing the marketing and getting interest from the market as well.”

Both the Singapore Exchange and Indonesian Stock Exchange are preparing to allow SPACs in an effort to attract more tech listings.

Lints said this will allow companies to consider a dual listing in Southeast Asia and the U.S. for larger returns. “A dual listing would be an amazing option and I think through the avenue of SPACs, that makes a lot of sense.”

#asia, #exits, #fundings-exits, #golden-gate-ventures, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Automotive marketplace Carro hits unicorn status with $360M Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2

Carro, one of the largest automotive marketplaces in Southeast Asia, announced it has hit unicorn valuation after raising a $360 million Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Other participants include insurance giant MSIG and Indonesian-based funds like EV Growth, Provident Growth and Indies Capital. About 90% of vehicles sold through Carro are secondhand, and it offers services that cover the entire lifecycle of a car, from maintenance to when it is broken down and recycled for parts.

Founded in 2015, Carro started as an online marketplace for cars, before expanding into more verticals. Co-founder and chief executive officer Aaron Tan told TechCrunch that, roughly speaking, the company’s operations are divided into three sections: wholesale, retail and fintech. Its wholesale business works with car dealers who want to purchase inventory, while its retail side sells to consumers. Its fintech operation offers products for both, including B2C car loans, auto insurance and B2B working capital loans.

Carro’s last funding announcement was in August 2019, when it said it had extended its Series B to $90 million. The company’s latest funding will be used to fund acquisitions, expand its financial services portfolio and develop its AI capabilities, which Carro uses to showcase cars online, develop pricing models and determine how much to charge insurance policyholders.

It also plans to expand retail services in its main markets: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Carro currently employs about 1,000 people across the four countries and claims its revenue grew more than 2.5x during the financial year ending March 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped Carro’s business because people wanted their own vehicles to avoid public transportation and became more receptive to shopping for cars online. Those factors also helped competitors like OLX Autos and Carsome fare well during the pandemic.

The adoption of electric vehicles across Southeast Asia has resulted in a new tailwind for Carro, because people who buy an EV usually want to sell off their combustion engine vehicles. Carro is currently talking to some of the largest electric vehicle countries in the world that want to launch in Southeast Asia.

“For every car someone typically buys in Southeast Asia, there’s always a trade-in. Where do cars go, right? We are a marketplace, but on a very high level, what we’re doing is reusing and recycling. That’s a big part in the environmental sustainability of the business, and something that sets us apart of other players in the region,” Tan said.

Cars typically stay in Carro’s inventory for less than 60 days. Its platform uses computer vision and sound technology to replicate the experience of inspecting a vehicle in-person. When someone clicks on a Carro listing, an AI bot automatically engages with them, providing more details about the cost of the car and answering questions. They also see a 360-degree view of the vehicle, its interior and can virtually start the engine to see how it sounds. Listings also provide information about defects and inspection reports.

Since many customers still want to get an in-person look before finalizing a purchase, Carro recently launched a beta product called Showroom Anywhere. Currently available in Singapore, it allows people to unlock Carro cars parked throughout the city, using QR codes, so they can inspect it at any time of the day, without a salesperson around. The company plans to add test driving to Showroom Anywhere.

“As a tech company, our job is to make sure we automate everything we can,” said Tan. “That’s the goal of the company and you can only assume that our cost structure and our revenue structure will get better along the years. We expect greater margin improvement and a lot more in cost reduction.”

Pricing is fixed, so shoppers don’t have to engage in haggling. Carro determines prices by using machine-learning models that look at details about a vehicle, including its make, model and mileage, and data from Carro’s transactions as well as market information (for example, how much of a particular vehicle is currently available for sale). Carro’s prices are typically in the middle of the market’s range.

Cars come with a three or seven-day moneyback guarantee and 30-day warranty. Once a customer decides to buy a car, they can opt to apply for loans and insurance through Carro’s fintech platform. Tan said Carro’s loan book is about five years old, almost as old as the startup itself, and is currently about $200 million.

Carro’s insurance is priced based on the policyholders driving behavior as tracked by sensors placed in their cars. This allows Carro to build a profile of how someone drives and the likelihood that they have an accident or other incident. For example, someone will get better pricing if they typically stick to speed limits.

“It sounds a bit futuristic,” said Tan. “But it’s something that’s been done in the United States for many years, like GEICO and a whole bunch of other insurers,” including Root Insurance, which recently went public.

Tan said MSIG’s investment in Carro is a “statement that we are really trying to triple down in insurance, because an insurer has so much linkage with what we do. The reason that MSIG is a good partner is that, like ourselves, they believe a lot in data and the difference in what we call ‘new age’ insurance, or data-driven insurance.”

Carro is also expanding its after-sale services, including Carro Care, in all four of its markets. Its after-sale services reach to the very end of a vehicle’s lifecycle and its customers include workshops around the world. For example, if a Toyota Corolla breaks down in Singapore, but its engine is still usable, it might be extracted and shipped to a repair shop in Nairobi, and the rest of its parts recycled.

“One thing I always ask in management meetings, is tell me where do cars go to die in Indonesia? Where do cars go to die in Thailand? There has to be a way, so if there is no way, we’re going to find a way,” said Tan.

In a statement, SoftBank Investment Advisers managing partner Greg Moon said, “Powered by AI, Carro’s technology platform provides consumers with full-stack services and transparency throughout the car ownership process. We are delighted to partner with Aaron and the Carro team to support their ambition to expand into new markets and use AI-powered technology to make the car buying process smarter, simpler and safer.”

#asia, #automative-marketplace, #car-marketplace, #carro, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #malaysia, #recent-funding, #singapore, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thailand, #used-cars

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Corporate services “super app” Osome lands $16M Series A

Osome, a startup that combines multiple corporate services for SMEs into one “super app,” has raised a $16 million Series A. The round included returning investors Target Global, AltaIR Capital and Phystech Ventures, and new backers S16VC and venture capitalist Peng T. Ong, who joined as an angel investor.

The Singapore-based startup’s last funding round was $3 million announced in November. Its Series A brings Osome’s total funding since it was founded in 2017 to $24.5 million. It now claims to be used by 6,000 companies in Singapore, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, giving it $9.5 million in annual recurring revenue and 100% year-over-year revenue growth.

Its Series A will be used on international expansion and product integrations. Osome, which employs a total of 200 people, has seen fast adoption by e-commerce companies in particular, and plans to launch more products and apps for the sector over the next 18 months.

Co-founder and chief executive officer Victor Lysenko told TechCrunch that the company started “looking at the e-commerce segment some time ago, but wanted to be confident that our product can handle the increased complexity and transaction volume of e-commerce businesses before launching marketing. The pandemic has caused the e-commerce industry to grow significantly faster and that was also a factor for us.”

He added that Osome will add integrations with multiple e-commerce platforms and administrative services, with the goal of cutting hours out of the time e-commerce company owners spend on accounting each week.

Osome’s flagship product is online accounting services for SMEs, connecting companies with chartered accountants. It also offers corporate secretary services, including business registration, compliance and taxation. The platform uses machine learning tech to automate many tasks—for example, it categorizes, tags and stores documents, creates management reports and tax returns and files paperwork on time.

Lysenko said entrepreneurs on average spend 68% of their time dealing with back-office tasks, instead of strategizing their company’s goals. Osome is meant to reduce the burden of administrative work on small businesses and demand for its services grew during the pandemic as companies moved more of their operations online.

Singapore makes it relatively easy to incorporate businesses online, so several other startups in the same space are based there. These include Sleek, Lanturn and BlueMeg, all focused on automating accounting and other time-consuming tasks for SMEs.

In a statement about the funding, S16VC co-founder Aleks Shamis said, “I’ve done business with small and medium e-commerce in 10 countries and see the same inefficiencies in manual accounting across all of them. It is a real problem that will definitely be solved, and Osome is technologically and traction-wise among the few companies in the world in getting there.”

 

#accounting, #asia, #corporate-services, #fundings-exits, #osome, #singapore, #smes, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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BukuWarung, a fintech for Indonesian MSMEs, scores $60M Series A led by Valar and Goodwater

BukuWarung, a fintech focused on Indonesia’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), announced today it has raised a $60 million Series A. The oversubscribed round was led by Valar Ventures, marking the firm’s first investment in Indonesia, and Goodwater Capital. The Jakarta-based startup claims this is the largest Series A round ever raised by a startup focused on services for MSMEs. BukuWarung did not disclose its valuation, but sources tell TechCrunch it is estimated to be between $225 million to $250 million.

Other participants included returning backers and angel investors like Aldi Haryopratomo, former chief executive officer of payment gateway GoPay, Klarna co-founder Victor Jacobsson and partners from SoftBank and Trihill Capital.

Founded in 2019, BukuWarung’s target market is the more than 60 million MSMEs in Indonesia, according to data from the Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs. These businesses contribute about 61% of the country’s gross domestic product and employ 97% of its workforce.

BukuWarung’s services, including digital payments, inventory management, bulk transactions and a Shopify-like e-commerce platform called Tokoko, are designed to digitize merchants that previously did most of their business offline (many of its clients started taking online orders during the COVID-19 pandemic). It is building what it describes as an “operating system” for MSMEs and currently claims more than 6.5 million registered merchant in 750 Indonesian cities, with most in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas. It says it has processed about $1.4 billion in annualized payments so far, and is on track to process over $10 billion in annualized payments by 2022.

BukuWarung’s new round brings its total funding to $80 million. The company says its growth in users and payment volumes has been capital efficient, and that more than 90% of its funds raised have not been spent. It plans to add more MSME-focused financial services, including lending, savings and insurance, to its platform.

BukuWarung’s new funding announcement comes four months after its previous one, and less than a month after competitor BukuKas disclosed it had raised a $50 million Series B. Both started out as digital bookkeeping apps for MSMEs before expanding into financial services and e-commerce tools.

When asked how BukuWarung plans to continue differentiating from BukuKas, co-founder and CEO Abhinay Peddisetty told TechCrunch, “We don’t see this space as a winner takes all, our focus is on building the best products for MSMEs as proven by our execution on our payments and accounting, shown by massive growth in payments TPV as we’re 10x bigger than the nearest player in this space.”

He added, “We have already run successful lending experiments with partners in fintech and banks and are on track to monetize our merchants backed by our deep payments, accounting and other data that we collect.”

BukuWarung’s new funding will be used to double its current workforce of 150, located in Indonesia, Singapore and India, to 300 and develop BukuWarung’s accounting, digital payments and commerce products, including a payments infrastructure that will include QR payments and other services.

#apps, #asia, #bukuwarung, #digital-bookkeeping, #e-commerce, #finance, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #msmes, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Wagely, an Indonesian earned wage access and financial services platform, raises $5.6M

A group photo of Wagely's founding team: Tobias Fischer, Sasanadi Ruka and Kevin Hausburg

Wagely founders (from l to r): Tobias Fischer, Sasanadi Ruka and Kevin Hausburg

Earned wage access (EWA) platforms that allow workers to withdraw their earnings on demand instead of waiting until payday are proliferating around the world. Today, Indonesian EWA startup wagely announced it has raised $5.6 million in strategic funding, led by Integra Partners (formerly known as Dymon Asia Ventures). Other investors included the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Ventures, PT Triputra Investindo Arya, Global Founders Capital, Trihill Capital, 1982 Ventures and Willy Swandi Dharma, former president director of insurance company PT Asuransi Adira Dinamika.

Founded in 2020 by alumni of two of Southeast Asia’s largest tech companies, wagely expects to reach more than 250,000 users this year. Chief executive officer Tobias Fischer was former regional lending program manager at Grab Financial Services Asia, while chief technology officer Sasanadi Rukua served as vice president of engineering at Tokopedia.

Fischer told TechCrunch that after working at financial services companies in Southeast Asia, he and Ruka saw that “managing cashflow is the most pressing everyday issue for lower- and middle-income Indonesians.”

While the pandemic exacerbated financial hardships, Fischer said more than 75% of Indonesians already struggled to cover unexpected expenses between paychecks. Many borrow from family or friends, but if that option is unavailable, they may turn to payday lenders who can charge more than 360% annualized percentage rates, or pay overdraft and late fees to their banks until their next paycheck.

“This is the start of a vicious and costly debt cycle that has a long-lasting negative impact on individual financial well-being, which in turn impacts businesses with higher turnover, lower productivity and more employee loans,” Fischer said.

On average, more than 50% of employees at wagely’s enterprise clients use it multiple times throughout the month to track their daily earnings and access their earned wages. The company’s ultimate goal is “to build a holistic financial wellness platform for lower- and middle-income workers” that includes other financial services, including savings, insurance and smart spending products, Fischer said.

More companies around the world are allowing workers to pick when they get paid. Some notable EWA platforms include Gusto’s Flexible Pay; DailyPay, which recently hit unicorn status; Wagestream; Minu and Even. In Indonesia, wagely’s competitors include GajiGesa and Gajiku.

Fischer said wagely “created the earned wage access category in Indonesia,” and is the market leader with more than 50 large companies, including state-owned enterprises and multi-national conglomerates. Its new funding will be used to increase wagely’s sales team in order to close more enterprise deals. Wagely’s current customers include PT Bentoel Internasional Investama Tbk (British American Tobacco); PT Supra Boga Lestari Tbk (Ranch Market); beauty and wellness company PT Mustika Ratu Tbk; and renewable energy group PT Kencana Energi Lestari Tbk.

In a press statement, Wilson Maknawi, president director at PT Kencana Energi Lestari TBK, said, “wagely offers our employees financial stability in times of uncertainty. It is incredibly important and a crucial step for the long-term resilience of our business. With no changes to our payroll process, wagely’s solution has proven to increase our business savings and helped our employees to avoid predatory loans while providing savings and budget tools that increase their financial literacy.”

#asia, #earned-wage-access, #financial-inclusion, #financial-services, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #wagely

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Indonesian healthcare startup Prixa raises $3M led by MDI and TPTF

Indonesian healthcare startup Prixa has raised $3 million led by MDI Ventures and the Trans-Pacific Technology Fund (TPTF), with participation from returning investors including Siloam Hospitals Group.

This brings Prixa’s total raised to $4.5 million since it launched in 2019. Co-founder and chief executive officer James Roring M.D., told TechCrunch in an email that the new funding will enable Prixa to scale its platform and customer base. Prixa uses a B2B model, partnering with healthcare payers like insurance providers and corporations. Through its B2B customers, it currently serves about 10 million patients.

Prixa currently works with four major insurers and has six additional insurers in its short-term pipeline. It also works with Indonesia’s largest third-party administrators, Roring said, allowing it to reach more policyholders.

Prixa’s platform includes a digital health assistant to answer patients’ questions, telemedicine consultations, pharmacy deliveries and on-demand lab diagnostics. Usage increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as more patients sought online consultations for primary care.

Other telehealth startups in Indonesia include Halodoc and Alodokter (which is also backed by MDI). Both connect patients directly with healthcare and insurance providers. Roring said Prixa differentiates by focusing on greater cost control for healthcare payers and positioning itself as a digital primary care platform.

“By symptomatically managing patients outside of tertiary care facilities and caring for chronic non-communicable diseases online, Prixa is able to effectively reduce the amount of outpatient claims and downstream inpatient cost incurred by healthcare payers,” Roring said. “Additionally, the combination of a growing and robust medical database, as well as proven clinical guidelines, contribute to cost efficiency and service optimization through the standardization of treatment by our healthcare providers.”

In press statement about the funding, Aditia Henri Narendra, MDI Ventures’ general manager of legal and corporate communication, said, “MDI co-led this financing because Prixa has demonstrated its ability to support insurance companies and hospitals in making medical services more accessible and affordable through its AI telemedicine platform.”

#asia, #fundings-exits, #healthcare, #healthtech, #indonesia, #prixa, #prixa-ai, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #telemedicine

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Line launches digital banking platform in Indonesia

Line Corporation, best known for its messaging app, launched a digital banking platform in Indonesia today. This means Japan-based Line Corp. now offers banking services in three of its biggest overseas markets: Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan.

Line Corp.’s Indonesian banking platform is the result of a partnership the company struck in 2018 with PT Bank KEB Hana Indonesia, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Hana ZBank. Line Corp. agreed to acquire 20% of PT Bank KEB Hana Indonesia, making it the bank’s second-largest shareholder, and said it would work on online banking services, including deposit accounts, microcredit products, and remittance and payment services.

According to a report by Momentum Works, downloads of digital banking apps in Indonesia grew 7% in 2020, with apps from established banks like BTPN Jenius, OCBC Nyala and Permata leading. But Momentum Works also observed that “many Indonesian digital bank users tend to download multiple digital bank applications and explore around,” so a dominant player hasn’t emerged yet. Major tech companies like Sea Group, Grab and Gojek are also working on their own neobank services.

Line introduced banking services to its Thai users last October, as part of a joint venture with Kasikorn Vision Company, a subsidiary of Kasikorn Bank. In Taiwan, its subsidiary Line Bank Taiwan was granted a banking license earlier this year by the Financial Supervisory Commission.

#apps, #asia, #hana-bank, #indonesia, #line, #line-bank, #line-corp, #line-corporation, #southeast-asia, #tc

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Singapore-based D2C dental brand Zenyum raises $40M Series B from L Catterton, Sequoia India and other investors

Zenyum, a startup that wants to make cosmetic dentistry more affordable, announced today it has raised a $40 million Series B. This includes $25 million from L Catterton, a private equity firm focused on consumer brands. The round’s other participants were Sequoia Capital India (Zenyum is an alum of its Surge accelerator program), RTP Global, Partech, TNB Aura, Seeds Capital and FEBE Ventures. L Catteron Asia’s head of growth investments, Anjana Sasidharan, will join Zenyum’s board.

This brings Zenyum’s total raised so far to $56 million, including a $13.6 million Series A announced in November 2019. In a press statement, Sasidharan said, “Zenyum’s differentiated business model gives it a strong competitive advantage, and we are excited to partner with the founder management team to help them realize their growth ambitions.” Other dental-related investments in L Catteron’s portfolio include Ideal Image, ClearChoice, dentalcorp, OdontoCompany, Espaçolaser and 98point6.

Founded in 2018, the company’s products now include ZenyumSonic electric toothbrushes; Zenyum Clear, or transparent 3D-printed aligners; and ZenyumClear Plus for more complex teeth realignment cases.

Founder and chief executive officer Julian Artopé told TechCrunch that ZenyumClear aligners can be up to 70% cheaper than other braces, including traditional metal braces, lingual braces and other clear aligners like Invisalign, depending on the condition of a patients’ teeth and what they want to achieve. Zenyum Clear costs $2,400 SGD (about $1,816 USD), while ZenyumClear Plus ranges from $3,300 to $3,900 SGD (about $2,497 to $2,951 USD).

The company is able to reduce the cost of its invisible braces by combining a network of dental partners with a technology stack that allows providers to monitor patients’ progress while reducing the number of clinic visits they need to make.

First, potential customers send a photo of their teeth to Zenyum to determine if ZenyumClear or ZenyumClear Plus will work for them. If so, they have an in-person consultation with a dentists, including an X-ray and 3D scan. This costs between $120 to $170 SGD, which is paid to the clinic. After their invisible braces are ready, the patient returns to the dentist for a fitting. Then dentists can monitor the progress of their patient’s teeth through Zenyum’s app, only asking them to make another in-person visit if necessary.

ZenyumClear is currently available in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan, with more markets planned.

Sequoia India principal Pieter Kemps told TechCrunch, “There are 300M customers in Zenyum’s core markets—Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan—who have increased disposable income for beauty. We believe spend on invisible braces will grow significantly from the current penetration, but what it requires is strong execution on a complex product to become the preferred choice for consumers. That is where Zenyum shines: excellent execution, leading to new products, best-in-class NPS, fast growth, and strong economics. This Series B is a testament to that, and of the belief in the large opportunity down the road.”

#asia, #dental-care, #fundings-exits, #health, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #zenyum

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By working with home entrepreneurs, Jakarta-based DishServe is creating an even more asset-light version of cloud kitchens

Cloud kitchens are already meant to reduce the burden of infrastructure on food and beverage brands by providing them with centralized facilities to prepare meals for delivery. This means the responsibility falls on cloud kitchen operators to make sure they have enough locations to meet demand from F&B clients, while ensuring fast deliveries to end customers.

Indonesian network DishServe has figured out a way to make running cloud kitchen networks even more asset-light. Launched by budget hotel startup RedDoorz’s former chief operating officer, DishServe partners with home kitchens instead of renting or buying its own facilities. It currently works with almost 100 home kitchens in Jakarta, and focuses on small- to medium-sized F&B brands, serving as their last-mile delivery network. Launched in fall 2020, DishServe has raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from Insignia Ventures Partners.

DishServe was founded in September 2020 by Rishabh Singhi. After leaving RedDoorz at the end of 2019, Singhi moved to New York, with plans to launch a new hospitality startup that could quickly convert any commercial space into members’ clubs like Soho House. The nascent company had already created sample pre-fabricated rooms and was about to start leasing property when the COVID-19 lockdown hit New York City in March 2020. Singhi said he went on a “soul searching spree” for a couple of months, deciding what to do and if he should return to Southeast Asia.

He realized that since many restaurants had to switch to online orders and delivery to survive the pandemic, this could potentially be an equalizer for small F&B brands that compete with larger players, like McDonald’s. But lockdowns meant that a lot of people had to pick from a limited range of restaurants close to where they lived. At the same time, Singhi saw that there were a lot of people who wanted to make more money, but couldn’t work outside of their homes, like stay-at-home moms.

DishServe was created to connect all three sides: F&B brands that want to expand without spending a lot of money, home entrepreneurs and diners hungry for more food options. Its other founders include Stefanie Irma, an early RedDoorz employee who served as its country head for the Philippines; serial entrepreneur Vinav Bhanawat; and Fathhi Mohamed, who also co-founded Sri Lankan on-demand taxi service PickMe.

The company works with F&B brands that typically have between just one to 15 retail locations, and want to increase their deliveries without opening new outlets. DishServe’s clients also include cloud kitchen companies who use its home kitchen network for last-mile distribution to expand their delivery coverage and catering services.

“The brands don’t to have to incur any upfront costs, and it’s a cheaper way to distribute as well because they don’t have to pay for electricity, plumbing and other things like that,” said Singhi. “And for agents, it gives them a chance to earn money from their homes.”

How it works

Before adding a home kitchen to its network, DishServe screens applicants by asking them to send in a series of photos, then doing an in-person check. If a kitchen is accepted, DishServe upgrades it so it has the same equipment and functionality as the other home kitchens in its network. The company covers the cost of the conversion process, which usually takes about three hours and costs $500 USD, and maintains ownership of the equipment, taking it back if a kitchen decided to stop working with DishServe. Singhi said DishServe is usually able to recover the cost of a conversion four months after a kitchen begins operating.

Home kitchens start out by serving DishServe’s own white-label brand as a trial run before it opens to other brands. Each can serve up to three additional brands at a time.

One important thing to note is that DishServe’s home kitchens, which are usually run by one person, don’t actually cook any food. Ingredients are provided by F&B brands, and home kitchen operators follow a standard set of procedures to heat, assemble and package meals for pick-up and delivery.

Screenshots of DishServe's apps for home kitchen operators and customers

Screenshots of DishServe’s apps for home kitchen operators and customers

DishServe makes sure standard operating procedures and hygiene standards are being maintained through frequent online audits. Agents, or kitchen operators, regularly submit photos and videos of kitchens based on a checklist (i.e. food preparation area, floors, walls, hand-washing area and the inside of their freezers). Singhi said about 90% of its agents are women between the ages of 30 to 55, with an average household income of $1,000. By working with DishServe, they typically make an additional $600 a month once their kitchen is operating at full capacity with four brands. DishServe monetizes through a revenue-sharing model, charging F&B brands and splitting that with its agents.

After joining DishServe, F&B brands pick what home kitchens they want to work with, and then distribute ingredients to kitchens, using DishServe’s real-time dashboard to monitor stock. Some ingredients have a shelf life of up to six months, while perishables, like produce, dairy and eggs, are delivered daily. DishServe’s “starter pack” for onboarding new brands lets them pick pick five kitchens, but Singhi said most brands usually begin with between 10 to 20 kitchens so they can deliver to more spots in Jakarta and save money by preparing meals in bulk.

DishServe plans to focus on growing its network in Jakarta until at least the end of this year, before expanding into other cities. “One thing we are trying to change about the F&B industry is that instead of highly-concentrated, centralized food business, like what exists today, we are decentralizing it by enabling micro-entrepreneurs to act as a distribution network,” Singhi said.

#cloud-kitchen, #dishserve, #fb, #food, #indonesia, #jakarta, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Indonesian crypto exchange Pintu gets $6M Series A led by Pantera, Intudo and Coinbase Ventures

Along with the stock market, cryptocurrency is also seeing an uptick among retail investors in Indonesia. Pintu, a platform focused on first-time cryptocurrency buyers, announced today it has raised a $6 million Series A, led by Pantera Capital, Intudo Ventures and Coinbase Ventures.

Other participants in the round included Blockchain.com Ventures, Castle Island Ventures and Alameda Ventures.

The Indonesian Commodity Futures Trading Regulatory Agency (also known as Bappepti) began regulating Bitcoin and other cryptoassets as commodities two years ago, paving the way for licensed brokers like Pintu. Founded last year by Jeth Soetoyo to make it easier for first-time investors to purchase Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies, Pintu is registered under Bappebti and the Ministry of Communication and Informatics as a licensed cryptoassets broker.

A wave of interest in capital investing during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among millennials who want alternatives to keeping their money in low-yield savings accounts, spurred interest in investment apps like Ajaib, Bibit and Pluang, which have all recently raised funding.

Many first-time investors are also looking at cryptocurrencies. According to Pintu’s internal estimates, last year Indonesia processed $10 billion USD in cryptoassets transactions, mostly through retail investors.

Pintu chief operating officer Andrew Adjiputro told TechCrunch in an email that many Indonesian retail traders see crypto as an alternative investment asset class, and that the majority of retail investors are aged 20 to 35 years old. But the company is starting to see more older investors as crypto gains popularity.

“Based on our internal survey, in terms of public’s top of mind asset classes, we see crypto as a top three asset class in Indonesia, alongside gold and mutual funds,” he said.

Other Indonesian cryptocurrency exchanges include Indodax and Tokocrypto. When asked how Pintu differentiates, Adjiputro said it focuses on the mass market to reach mainly first-time crypto users, and its value proposition lies in its mobile-first app, easy user experience and educational materials developed by the company.

“For most Indonesians, the concept of investing and trading is new, because historically penetration in these categories have been so low,” he explained. “So what we’re seeing is also the opportunity to help Indonesians understand the concept of investing/trading and along the way leapfrog investments into other asset classes. What this means is that there is a large base of underserved first time investors that demand a simple and intuitive trading platform where they are handheld from the start to finish and also educated on the fundamentals of investing/trading on top of that of crypto.”

Pintu’s new funding will be used on marketing, hiring and product development.

#coinbase-ventures, #cryptocurrency, #cryptocurrency-exchange, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #intudo-ventures, #investing, #pantera-ventures, #pintu, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Facebook co-founder Saverin’s B Capital doubles down on SaaS in China

B Capital Group, the six-year-old venture capital fund formed by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and Bain Capital veteran Raj Ganguly, is doubling down on China as it looks to allocate $500 million to $1 billion of its fund into Chinese tech companies over the next few years.

With $1.9 billion assets under management, B Capital is going after enterprise software providers in China, an area that has seen “explosive growth” but is still only a “fraction the size of the U.S. SaaS market,” Ganguly said in an interview with TechCrunch.

The idea that Chinese companies are reluctant to shell out for software is “very backward-looking thinking”, he added.

One force fueling the boom of B2B companies in China is surging labor costs. As such, B Capital is hunting down software that could make labor and business operations more productive, and subsequently, give companies a competitive edge. Covid-19 accelerated the shift, as well-digitized companies had proven much more resilient to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

B Capital is able to discern what enterprises need thanks to its close partnership with Boston Consulting Group, which has a raft of customers ranging from healthcare, finance to transportation looking to digitize.

These large corporations “understand that their internal technology can’t be the only solution and they have to look to the outside and be willing to partner with early-stage, high-growth, or late-stage tech companies,” Ganguly suggested. They are also more willing to pay for software compared to scrappy, cash-strapped startups.

B Capital began deploying capital in China early this year and has already closed three deals. It’s stage-agnostic — though growth-stage startups are the focus — and plans to back 15-20 projects in China over the next few years. About 15 of its investment and operating employees are based out of Hong Kong and Beijing. It has around 110 staff worldwide.

Ganguly declined to disclose the names of its Chinese investees at this stage but said they include a biotech company, an automotive parts business, and an e-commerce enabler. Leveraging BCG’s expertise, the biotech company is learning how it can bring actual drugs to market faster. And the automotive business is similarly working with BCG to figure out its pricing and go-to-market strategy.

Going global

Overall, B Capital looks for opportunities in healthcare, fintech, industrial digitalization, and other horizontal enterprise services. Chinese startups that interest B Capital most are also those with the intention and ability to cross borders.

“Biotech is the area that we’ve been the most impressed by what’s happening in China and how that technology can be exported to other countries,” Ganguly said. B Capital has backed one biotech startup with offices in both Shanghai and Cambridge, Massachusettes, and is on track to close a deal with another that also straddles China and the U.S.

The other target is e-commerce, which Ganguly described as “cross-border by its nature” because a product is often sourced in one country, made in another, and then sold in a third market.

The investor is certainly right about the potential of cross-border e-commerce in China, where consumers have a big appetite for imported goods and manufacturers look for new ways to sell globally.

China is also in a good position to export its enterprise software, similar to how Indian counterparts have succeeded overseas, said Ganguly. The difference is that few Indian corporations are willing to pay big bucks for software, which forces B2B entrepreneurs to seek market abroad, whereas China’s domestic companies have an increasing demand for SaaS.

Despite ongoing geopolitical complications, Ganguly is optimistic that the world “is still moving towards globalization” over the long term.

“Certain innovation cycles have started in Silicon Valley and spread to places like China and Southeast Asia. But frankly, other innovation cycles have started in China and gone to South and Southeast Asia and the U.S. We think that China’s enterprise [software], artificial intelligence and biotech are some of the best technology that we’ve seen.”

But these globalizing companies must be able to adapt, hire talent outside their core market, get regulatory approvals, and build the right distribution networks, the investor suggested.

“I think that there are aspects of globalization that have become very politicized, and I think that’s unfortunate but understandable. Our belief is that businesses that we invest in have the ability to cross borders. Sometimes that means going from China to South and Southeast Asia, and sometimes that means extending to the U.S. Sometimes it just means the ability to import or export their products or software, and even staying in China where they can sell their technologies overseas.”

#asia, #b-capital-group, #bain-capital, #beijing, #china, #cross-border-e-commerce, #e-commerce, #e-commerce-enabler, #enterprise-software, #globalization, #private-equity, #raj-ganguly, #shanghai, #south-asia, #southeast-asia, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Indonesian agritech platform TaniHub Group harvests a $65.5M Series B round

TaniHub Group, an Indonesian startup that helps farmers get better prices and more customers for their crops, has raised a $65.5 million Series B. The funding was led by MDI Ventures, the investment arm of Telkom Group, one of Indonesia’s largest telecoms, with participation from Add Ventures, BRI Ventures, Flourish Ventures, Intudo Ventures, Openspace Ventures, Tenaya Capital, UOB Venture Management and Vertex Ventures.

Openspace and Intudo are returning investors from TaniHub’s $10 million Series A, announced in May 2019. The new funding brings its total raised to about $94 million.

Founded in 2016, TaniHub now has more than 45,000 farmers and 350,000 buyers (including businesses and consumers) in its network. The company helps farmers earn more for their crops by streamlining distribution channels so there are less middlemen between farms and the restaurants, grocery stores, vendors and other businesses that buy their products. It does this through three units: TaniHub, TaniSupply and TaniFund.

TaniHub is its B2B e-commerce platform, which connects farmers directly to customers. Then orders are fulfilled through TaniSupply, the company’s logistics platform, which currently operates six warehousing and processing facilities where harvests can be washed, sorted and packed within an hour, before being delivered to buyers by TaniHub’s own couriers or third-party logistics providers.

Finally, TaniFund is a fintech platform that provides loans to farmers they can use while growing crops and pay off by selling through TaniHub. Co-founder and chief executive officer Eka Pamitra told TechCrunch its credit scoring system is based on three years of performance, the company’s agriculture value chain expertise and partnerships with financial institutions.

“More than 100 data points are considered when doing the credit risk assessment. For example, for cultivation financing products, TaniFund tailors each credit scoring based on agriculture risks and market risk of each commodity, on top of the typical borrower E-KYC scoring and process,” he explained. “Beyond credit scoring, having TaniSupply and TaniHub as a standby buyer within the ecosystem also helps to mitigate risk of each loan.  TaniFund aims to further boost its credit scoring system with smarter data processing and better machine learning models.”

Pamitra said TaniHub will use its new funding to build the upstream and midstream parts of its supply chain—in other words, new cultivation areas, processing, packing centers and warehouses. The company will also expand its coverage beyond Java and Bali to source and sell locally, and continue improving its supply-demand forecast model to help farmers plans crop cultivation and timing, with the goal of reducing price fluctuations and maintaining a consistent supply. Pamitra added that TaniHub will also explore precision farming technology.

Over the last couple of years, TaniHub has started exporting several types of fruits and spices to the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and South Korea. This year, it plans to focus on expanding within Indonesia because the F&B (food and beverage) market there is worth $137 billion and the Indonesian agriculture sector is still highly fragmented, Pamitra said.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, TaniHub says it was able to grow its revenue 600% year-on-year in 2020 as demand for online groceries increased.

“We postponed our branch expansion plan and focused on increasing the seven existing warehouses’ since there was a surge of demand on the B2C segment and the process of onboarding farmers. This benefited us since the adoption of purchasing fresh groceries online increased significantly, and the willingness of farmers to work with us became remarkably high because the local traditional markets were closed due to lockdowns,” Pamitra said. “Since COVID-19, the eagerness of provincial governments to open communications for TaniHub to work with local farmers and SMEs in their region has been quite impactful.”

TaniHub is now working with several Indonesian government agencies, including the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs, to onboard more farmers, F&B businesses and increase exports.

In a press statement, MDI Ventures director of portfolio management Sandhy Widyasthana said, “TaniHub Group has an important role in transforming the agriculture sector and has proven that its presence can deliver positive impact on the quality of life of farmers. We hope our investment can help them continue their work and expand their coverage to more and more farming communities in Indonesia.”

#agriculture, #agritech, #asia, #farm-to-table, #farming, #food, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tanihub, #tanihub-group, #tc

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Rakuten and Beyond Next invest $1M seed funding in farm-to-table startup Secai Marche

Farmers and food businesses, like restaurants, deal with the same issue: a fragmented supply chain. Secai Marche wants to streamline agricultural logistics, making fulfillment more cost-efficient and enabling food businesses to bundle products from different farmers into the same order. The company is headquartered in Japan, with operations in Malaysia, and plans to expand into Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. This week, it announced 150 million JPY (about $1.4 million USD) in pre-Series A funding from Rakuten Ventures and Beyond Next Ventures to build a B2B logistics platform for farmers that sell to restaurants, hotels and other F&B (food and beverage) businesses.

This round brings Secai Marche’s total raised to about $3 million. The capital will be used to expand its fulfillment infrastructure, including a network of warehouses and cold chain logistics, hire more people for its engineering team, and sales and marketing.

Secai Marche was founded in 2018 by Ami Sugiyama and Shusaku Hayakawa, and currently serves 130 farmers and more than 300 F&B businesses. Before launching the startup, Sugiyama spent seven years working in Southeast Asia, including managing restaurants and cafes in Malaysia. During that time, she started to import green tea from Japan, intending to sell it directly to customers in Malaysia. But she realized supply chain inefficiencies not only made it hard to meet demand, but also ensure quality for all kinds of ingredients.

Meanwhile, Hayakawa was operating a farm in Japan and working on agriculture control systems that predicted weather and crop growth to help farmers maintain consistent quality.

Both Sugiyama and Hayakawa ended up at consulting firm Deloitte, researching how to create a more efficient supply chain for Japanese agricultural exports to Singaporean F&B businesses. Policies implemented by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration aim to increase Japanese agricultural exports from 922.3 billion JPY (about $8.5 billion) in 2020 to 2 trillion JPY (about $18.5 billion) by 2025, and 5 trillion JPY (about $46.1 billion) in 2030.

Seche Marche’s goal is to make it easier for farmers to sell their crops to F&B businesses domestically or overseas.

“We found that not only farmers in Japan, but also all farmers in Southeast Asia have the same problem in terms of the current supply chain,” Sugiyama told TechCrunch. “So we left Deloitte and started our own business to connect not only farmers in Japan, but farmers in all Asian countries.”

Secai Marche’s logistics management tech is what differentiates it from other wholesaler platforms. It uses an AI-based algorithm to predict demand based on consumption trends, seasonal products and farmer recommendations, said Hayakawa. Secai Marche runs its own warehouse network, but mostly relies on third-party logistics providers for fulfillment, and its platform assigns orders to the most efficient transportation method.

This allows F&B businesses to consolidate orders from farmers, so they can order smaller batches from different places without spending more money. About 30% of Secai Marche’s products are shipped to other countries, while the rest are sold domestically.

Secai Marche is reaching out to farmers who want to increase their customer base. About 30% of its products currently come from Japanese farms, 50% from Malaysia and the rest from other ASEAN countries. Sugiyama and Hayakawa said the COVID-19 pandemic affected Secai Marche’s expansion plans because it originally planned to enter Singapore this year, but had to slow down since they were unable to travel and meet with farmers.

On the other hand, many farmers have started selling directly to consumers through social media like Instagram or Facebook, and have approached Secai Marche for help with fulfillment, logistics, repacking and quality control.

#agritech, #asia, #farm-to-table, #food, #fundings-exits, #japan, #logistics, #malaysia, #secai-marche, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Mio, a social commerce startup focused on smaller cities and rural areas in Vietnam, raises $1M seed

Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in Southeast Asia, but many major platforms still focus on large cities. This means people in smaller cities or rural areas need to deal with longer wait times for deliveries. Social commerce company Mio is taking advantage of that gap by building a reseller network and logistics infrastructure that can offer next-day delivery to tier 2 and 3 cities.

The startup, which currently focuses on fresh groceries and plans to expand into more categories, announced today it has raised $1 million in seed funding. The round was co-led by Venturra Discovery and Golden Gate Ventures. Other participants included iSeed SEA, DoorDash executive Gokul Rajaram and Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal, co-founders of Indian social commerce unicorn Meesho.

Rajaram, Aatrey and Barnwal will become advisors to Mio co-founder and chief executive officer Trung Huynh, former investment associate at IDG Ventures Vietnam. Other founders include An Pham, who also co-founded Temasek-backed logistics startup SCommerce, Tu Le and Long Pham.

Founded in June 2020, Mio now claims hundreds of agents, or resellers. They are primarily women aged 25 to 35 years old who live in smaller cities or rural areas. Most join Mio because they want to supplement their household income, which is usually below $350, Huynh and Venturra investment associate Valerie Vu told TechCrunch in an email.

The social commerce model works for them because they are part of tight-knit communities that are already used to making group orders together. On average, Mio claims that its resellers make about $200 to $300, earning a 10% commission on each order, and additional commissions based on the monthly performance of resellers they referred to the platform.

Mio is among a crop of social commerce startups across Asia that leverage the buying power of areas where major e-commerce players haven’t reached dominance yet. For example, lower tier cities fueled Pinduoduo’s meteoric rise in China, while Meesho has built a distribution network in 5,000 Indian cities. Other examples of social commerce areas focused on smaller cities and rural areas include “hyperlocal” startup Super and KitaBeli, both in Indonesia, and Resellee in the Philippines.

Social commerce companies typically don’t require resellers to carry inventory. Instead, resellers pick what items they want to market to their buyers. In Mio’s case, most of their resellers’ customers are friends, family members and neighbors, and they promote group orders through social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram or Zalo, Vietnam’s most popular messaging app. Then they place and manage orders through Mio’s reseller app.

To address delivery challenges, Mio is building an in-house logistics and fulfillment system, including a new distribution center in Thu Duc that can distribute goods to all of Ho Chi Minh and the surrounding five cities in Binh Dong and Dong Nai provinces. Vu and Huynh said Mio can process up to tens of thousands of daily order units at the center. Mio is also able to perform next-day deliveries for orders that are made prior to 8PM.

To lower logistics costs and ensure quick delivery times, Mio limits the number of products in its inventory. The company currently focuses on grocery staples, including fresh produce and poultry, and plans to add FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) and household appliances, too, especially white-label goods that have a higher profit margin.

Mio’s new funding will be used on its distribution center, and hiring for its tech and product teams. The startup plans to add more personalization options for product categories and resellers, so they can build their own brand identities.

#apps, #fundings-exits, #group-buying, #mio, #mio-app, #social-commerce, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #vietnam

0

Philippine e-commerce enabler Great Deals raises $30M Series B led by logistics firm Fast Group

Steve Sy, the CEO of Great Deals, and William Chiongban, CEO of Fast Group, sign the contract for the companies' strategic partnership

Steve Sy, CEO of Great Deals, and William Chiongbian II, CEO of Fast Group, sign the contract for the companies’ strategic partnership. Image Credits: Great Deals

Founded in 2014, Great Deals is an e-commerce enabler that helps brands like Abbot, L’Oréal and Unilever build their online retail operations in the Philippines. The startup announced today that it has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Fast Group, one of the Philippines’ biggest logistics firms, with support from CVC Capital Partners. Navegar, which led Great Deals’ Series A, also returned for this round.

The transaction was advised by Rocket Equities. The investment by Fast Group, which has a fleet of more than 2,500 vehicles and 90,000 stores in its distribution network, marks the beginning of a strategic partnership. Great Deals will use part of the new capital to build an automated fulfillment center, and the deal will help it increase its penetration outside the Greater Manila Area and offer more Instant Commerce, or deliveries under one hour.

Great Deals currently operates only in the Philippines, but plans to expand regionally next year, founder and chief executive officer Steve Sy told TechCrunch.

In a statement, Fast Group president and chief executive officer William Chiongbian II said, “The Fast Group sees a lot of synergies with Great Deals in building capacity. We are privileged to contribute to the growth of Philippine e-commerce, as it relies heavily on a strong supply chain backbone.”

Some of Great Deals’ other clients include Nestlé, Samsonite, GSK, Bayer and Fila. In addition to serving as an e-commerce distributor, it offers an end-to-end services for brands, including digital content production, marketing campaign coordination and management of marketplace listings (Great Deals’ partners include Lazada, Shopee, Zalora, Zilingo, Shopify and Magento).

#asia, #e-commerce, #e-commerce-enabler, #ecommerce, #fast-group, #fundings-exits, #great-deals, #philippines, #recent-funding, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Insight Partners leads $60M growth round in cross-border payments startup Thunes

The world of digital payments is very fragmented, with different types of online bank accounts, digital wallets and money transfer services used in different countries. Singapore-based Thunes, a fintech focused on making cross-border money transfers easier, announced today it has raised a $60 million growth round led by Insight Partners. One of the world’s largest venture capital firms, Insight is known for working closely with growth-stage companies, helping them expand through its ScaleUp program.

The round included participation from existing shareholders. Thunes’ last funding announcement was in September 2020 a $60 million Series B led by Helios Investment Partners. Other investors include GGV Capital and Checkout.com.

Founded in 2016, Thunes’ customers include Grab, PayPal, MPesa, the Commercial Bank of Dubai, Western Union, Remitly and Singaporean insurance firm NTUC Income. Its technology serves a similar purpose for online payments platforms as the SWIFT system does for commercial banks, acting as a hub to transfer money online to recipients in different countries, even if they use a different financial institution, digital wallet or mobile money account. For example, Western Union uses Thunes so it can move money into digital wallets and bank accounts. Thunes monetizes per transaction through a fixed fee and a small currency exchange fee. It is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom.

Chief executive officer Peter De Caluwe told TechCrunch that Thunes looks for active investos who can help it work with banks and regulators in new markets and connect it with potential clients. For example, Helios focuses on African companies and Thunes used part of its funding from the firm to build teams in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Likewise, GGV Capital, which led its Series A, helped Thunes’ operations in China.

When Insight approached Thunes, it was not planning to raise more funding.

“The important note here is that we were actually not planning to do another round and Insight was pretty persistent in knocking on our door,” De Caluwe said. “Since we last spoke in September, we more than doubled our workforce, our revenues, everything just became bigger and more scaled. So at the end, we decided getting extra funding from a very solid investor makes sense if they can help us.”

Insight’s portfolio also includes Twitter and Shopify and its ScaleUp program focuses on supporting software companies with high growth potential. For example, it recently became the first outside investor in Octopus Deploy, which had been bootstrapped for almost a decade, to help grow its enterprise market over the next five to 10 years.

De Caluwe said Insight’s resources, including its talent network, will help Thunes expand in North and South America, build its engineering and product teams and decide what new services to offer customers. Thunes has doubled its team from about 70 people to 160 over the past half year, including engineers in the United Kingdom, Singapore and China, and business development teams in Latin America and Africa.

“Geographically, this is an important step for us that ticks a big box,” De Caluwe said. For example, Insight can help Thunes onboard larger U.S. retailers and fintech companies, especially ones that want to collect payments from emerging countries.

“Our ambition now is if we have a large U.S.-based retailer, service or game company who uses us to pay somebody in emerging markets, like suppliers or partners, to let our API also collect from someone. So if are you are a U.S.-based player, you can also collect payments and that is something we have been working very aggressively on,” he added.

In a press statement, Deven Parekh, managing director at Insight Partners, said, “Taking an innovative approach to solving the problems of an extremely fragmented and complex payments ecosystem, Thunes has created a unique platform that provides accessible, fast and reliable payment solutions. We see the company as poised for massive growth as it expands its infrastructure. We are looking forward to helping them scale up.”

#asia, #cross-border-payments, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #insight-partners, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #thunes

0

BukuKas gets $50M from investors including DoorDash’s Gokul Rajaram and TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus

BukuKas co-founders Krishnan Menon (left) and Lorenzo Peracchione (right) with a BukuKas user

BukuKas co-founders Krishnan Menon (left) and Lorenzo Peracchione (right) with a BukuKas user

BukuKas, a startup focused on digitizing Indonesia’s small businesses, has raised $50 million in Series B funding. The round included participation from Gokul Rajaram, the DoorDash executive, and Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder and chief executive officer of TransferWise.

This news comes just four months after BukuKas announced a $10 million Series A led by Sequoia Capital India. BukuKas will use its Series B to hire for its engineering and product teams in Jakarta and Bangalore, and launch new services for merchants.

“We’ve been growing really fast and there was a lot of interest from some very good people,” chief executive officer Krishnan Menon told TechCrunch. “This is not a capital-need based raise, but more of a tactical raise and having the right people back us long term.”

BukuKas was founded by Menon and chief operating officer Lorenzo Peracchione, who met while working at Lazada Indonesia. Since its launch as as a digital bookkeeping app in December 2019, BukuKas has added new features, including online payments and an e-commerce platform. The app has onboarded about 6.3 million businesses so far and now has a total of 3 million monthly active users. It claims its annualized bookkeeping transaction volume is $25.9 billion USD, or the equivalent of about 2.2% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product.

According to Bank Indonesia, the country’s central bank, there are about 60 million SMEs, though Menon says that number may range from 55 million to 65 million. The majority still operate mostly offline, but the push to digitization began even before the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Indonesian government launched a program two years ago with marketplace Blibi to encourage more businesses to sell online, with the goal of helping more SMEs go global.

This means there is a growing roster of startups and services focused on helping small businesses go online. These include Y Combinator-backed BukuWarung, WarungPintar, Grab’s Mitra GrabKios and wholesaler-focused CrediBook. India-based Khatabook, another Sequoia Capital India portfolio company, launched BukuUang in Indonesia, but has since pulled out of the market.

“There’s obviously a macro shift that’s happening in the market right now. People are rushing to get digitized and people are coming out of a rough year. They started to realize ‘I need to upgrade,’ so there’s a rush to get digitized, to manage their money better, a movement to digital payments,” said Menon.

BukuKas’ goal is to become an end-to-end software stack for micro, small and medium enterprises and serve 20 million MSMEs by the end of 2022, with inventory management, invoicing, payment-related analytics and other tools. The company recently took several steps toward that goal. In April, it launched BukuKasPay for business owners to pay suppliers online or accept digital payments, including virtual bank accounts and e-wallets like OVO, Dana, GoPay, LinkAja and ShopeePay from customers. In September 2020, it acquired a digital ledger app called Catatan Keuangan Harian to expand its market share before launching an e-commerce platform called Tokko that enables MSMEs to set up online shops. About 1.3 million merchants have created shops using Tokko in the six months since its release.

Tokko focuses on merchants who find big marketplaces, like Tokopedia, too complicated, and want an alternative way to set up an online brand.

BukuKas’ users include warungs (small stores), fashion retailers, electronics stores, social commerce sellers and service providers. On average, its users make several thousand U.S. dollars per month in revenue, but some earn as high as tens of thousands of dollars.

The app is designed to work as a layer on top of WhatsApp. For example, many merchants allow customers to buy on credit, so they can use BukuKas to send automatic reminders through WhatsApp with a payment link. Businesses can also send invoices or take Tokko orders through WhatsApp. Menon said since many Indonesian merchants already relied on WhatsApp to communicate with suppliers and customers, this helps it onboard more users because they don’t have to make major changes to their operational routines. It also creates viral loops, as other businesses get payment reminders or invoices sent through BukuKas, and decide to try the app, too.

“Our thesis is very similar to what Square or Shopify did in the U.S. We keep merchants as the center of the universe, and we keep building solutions for them,” Menon said. “That can be software-related solutions like BukuKas’ early version and Tokko moving further into commerce. We’re moving further into banking solutions, so payments come first, and then actually building out the full banking suite. The end goal is if a merchant five years from now looks back and says, thanks to BukuKas I was able to adapt to the digital era, and sticks with us.”

#asia, #bukukas, #digital-bookkeeping, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #msmes, #smes, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

The 1,000-Year Secret That Made Betta Fish Beautiful

Scientists found that the fish were gradually domesticated like dog breeds into the beautiful shapes and colors that turn up today in pet stores.

#biorxiv, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #genetics-and-heredity, #research, #southeast-asia, #thailand, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Vietnamese flexible pay startup Nano raises $3M seed round

Nano Technologies, a startup that lets workers in Vietnam access their earned wages immediately through an app called VUI, has raised $3 million in seed funding. The oversubscribed round was led by returning investors Golden Gate Ventures and Venturra Discovery, and included participation from FEBE Ventures, Openspace Ventures and Goodwater Capital.

Nano recently took part in Y Combinator’s accelerator program. Golden Gate Ventures and Venturra Discovery both participated in its pre-seed funding. The startup was founded at the beginning of 2020 by Dzung Dang, formerly a general manager at Uber and chief executive officer of ZaloPay, and Thang Nguyen, who previously served as chief technology officer at Focal Labs and SeeSpace.

VUI launched six months ago, and now serves more than 20,000 employees from companies like GS25, LanChi Mart and Annam Gourmet. Nano Technologies claims that about 50% to 60% of employees sign up for VUI as soon as their employers offer it, and use the service about three times every month to withdraw their earned wages.

Nano’s earned wage access features can be used by employers of all sizes, in all sectors, to offer flexible pay to their employees, but its focus is currently on retail, food and beverage, and manufacturing, especially for textiles, garments and shoes. The startup says companies in these sectors have seen recruitment costs increase, while worker retention drops. This is in part because many people are opting for gig economy jobs, like ride-sharing, where their earning are automatically deposited into their digital wallets or bank accounts.

Nano usually fronts wage advances, and then is paid back back by employers on their paydays through payroll deduction. Employers who have higher liquidity can also front wages through their own balance sheets. VUI is usually offered by employers as a benefit, and they can opt to cover fees, have their workers pay fees or use a co-pay model.

Nano is among a crop of companies across the world that offer earned wage access, meant to help companies retain workers by letting them withdraw earnings whenever they want, instead of waiting until payday. In Southeast Asia, this also includes GajiGesa in Indonesia. In the rest of the world, other companies that offer similar services include Square, London-based Wagestream and Gusto). Nano’s plan is to continue focusing on Vietnam, and develop new products for employers, including tools for managing staff and engagement.

In a press statement, Chi Phan, the CEO of LanChi Mart, a subsidiary of Central Retail with about 2,000 employees, said “On-demand salary via VUI is an obvious idea and practical HR initiative that LanChi team is pleased to roll out to our employees as a new voluntary benefit. VUI provides a much-needed financial lifeline from LanChi to our employees, keeping the employee morale up during the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing attrition rites post-Tet.”

#apps, #asia, #earned-wage-access, #fintech, #flexible-pay, #fundings-exits, #nano-technologies, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #vietnam, #vui

0

Aspire’s business accounts reach $1B in annualized transaction volume one year after launching

Singapore-based Aspire, which wants to become the financial services “one-stop shop” for SMEs, announced that its business accounts have reached $1 billion in annualized transaction volume one year after launching. The company also unveiled Bill Pay, its latest feature that lets businesses manage and pay invoices by emailing them to Aspire’s AI-based digital assistant.

Launched in May 2020, Aspire’s online business accounts are targeted to startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises, and do not require minimum deposits or monthly fees. Co-founder and chief executive officer Andrea Baronchelli told TechCrunch more than 10,000 companies now use Aspire’s business accounts and that adoption was driven by two main reasons. The first was Aspire’s transition to a multi-product strategy early last year, after focusing on corporate cards and working capital loans. The second reason is the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it harder for companies to open accounts at traditional banks.

“We can go in and say we offer all-in-one financial tools for growing businesses,” he said. “People come in and use one thing first, and then we offer them other things later on, so that’s been a huge success for us.”

Founded in 2018, Aspire has raised about $41.5 million in funding so far, including a Series A announced in July 2019. Its investors include MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia, Arc Labs and Y Combinator.

Baronchelli said Aspire’s business account users consist of two main segments. The first are “launchers,” or people who are starting their first businesses and need to set up a way to send and receive money. Launchers typically make less than $400,000 a year in revenue and their Aspire account serves as their primary business account. The second segment are companies that make about $500,000 to $2 million a year and already had another bank account, but started using Aspire for its credit line, expense management or foreign exchange tools, and decided to open an account on the platform as well.

The company has customers from across Southeast Asia, and is particularly focused on Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. For example, it launched Aspire Kickstart, with incorporation services for Singaporean companies, at the start of this year.

Bill Pay, its newest feature, lets business owners forward invoices by email to Aspire’s AI-based digital assistant, which uses optical character recognition and deep learning to pull out payment details, including terms and due dates. Then users get a notification to do a final check before approving and scheduling payments. The feature syncs with accounting systems integrated into Aspire, including Xero and Quickbooks. Baronchelli said Aspire decided to launch Bill Pay after interviewing businesses and finding that many still relied on Excel spreadsheets.

Aspire’s offerings overlap with several other fintech companies in Southeast Asia. For example, Volopay, Wise and Revolut offer business accounts, too, and Spenmo offers business cards. Aspire plans to differentiate by expanding its stack of multiple products. For example, it is developing tools for accounts receivable, such as invoice automation, and accounts payable, like a dedicated product for payroll management. Baronchelli said Aspire is currently interviewing users to finalize the set of features it will offer.

“I don’t want to close the door that others might come toward a multiple product approach, but if you ask me what our position is now, we are basically the only one that offers an all-in-one product stack,” he added. “So we are a couple years ahead of the competition and have a first-mover advantage.”

 

#asia, #aspire, #business-accounts, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #online-banking, #singapore, #smes, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

GajiGesa, a fintech focused on Indonesian workers, adds strategic investors and launches new app for micro-SMEs

GajiGesa, a fintech startup that provides earned wage access (EWA) and other services for workers in Indonesia, has added strategic investors to help it launch new services and expand its user base. Its new backers include OCBC NISP Ventura, the venture capital arm of one of Indonesia’s largest banks, and the founders of grab-and-go coffee chain Kopi Kenangan. GajiGesa also recently expanded beyond the enterprise space with a new employee management system for SMEs and micro-SMEs. Called GajiTim, the app is aimed at businesses with between five to 100 workers and has gained more than 50,000 active users since it was launched in mid-March.

The amount of GajiGesa’s latest funding was undisclosed. The startup, launched last year by husband-and-wife team Vidit Agrawal and Martyna Malinowska, announced a $2.5 million seed round led by Defy.vc and Quest Ventures in February. Over the last quarter, GajiGesa’s enterprise customer base has doubled to more than 60 companies, representing tens of thousands of workers.

GajiGesa is part of a new wave of startups focused on digitizing the 60 million small businesses in Indonesia. Others include digital bookkeeping apps like BukuWarung and BukuKas for very small businesses including neighborhood stores; Moka and Jurnal for larger companies; and CrediBook, which focuses on B2B businesses.

Before starting GajiGesa, Agrawal’s experience included serving as Uber’s first employee in Asia, while Malinowska was former product lead at Standard Chartered’s SC Ventures and alternative credit-scoring platform LenddoEFL. They created GajiGesa to give workers an alternative to payday and other high-interest lenders by allowing them to access their earned wages immediately, instead of waiting for semi-monthly or monthly paychecks. (Other companies that offer similar services around the world include Square, London-based Wagestream and Gusto). Based on a recent survey, GajiGesa said more than 75% of workers at companies that use its EWA feature have stopped using informal lenders for short-term needs.

The founders of Kopi Kenangan, the grab-and-go coffee chain backed by investors like Sequoia Capital India, Alpha JWC and Horizons Ventures, have become prolific angel investors in other startups, and their network will help GajiGesa onboard more employers, Agrawal told TechCrunch. Its strategic partnership with Bank OCBC NISP, meanwhile, will help it launch more services.

GajiGesa co-founders Vidit Agrawal and Martyna Malinowska

GajiGesa co-founders Vidit Agrawal and Martyna Malinowska

“One thing we are realizing is that a lot of employees who use the earned wage aspect of GajiGesa are expecting more kinds of products, either a loan product or an insurance product, and that’s where an opportunity arises to partner with a bank,” Agrawal told TechCrunch. About two-thirds of Indonesia’s population is “unbanked,” meaning they don’t have a bank account, so this also gives Bank OCBC NISP a chance to onboard new customers.

“Having a bank as a partner allows us to structure the right interest rate, the right size of products and create a larger impact,” said Malinowska.

GajiGesa does not charge interest rates or require collateral, since users are pre-approved by their employers. Instead, companies can decide to charge fees or offer GajiGesa as part of a benefits package. When a worker withdraws money, GajiGesa asks why they are using the Earned Wage Access feature, and presents that data to companies in an anonymized and aggregated format.

This allows employers to see what needs their work base has and potentially develop new benefits. For example, one of the top three reasons workers use EWA is to pay medical bills. “This is a strong signal to an employer that if you’re trying to retain employees, especially a blue collar employee, even a basic insurance product might be very attractive for the family,” said Agrawal.

GajiGesa also discovered that many workers, especially in Tier 2 to Tier 3 cities, use its EWA to fund family businesses instead of taking out loans for working capital.

“A lot of families in Indonesia often have one member working in a factory with fixed salaries, and they have micro-industries at home, for example making wafers or stickers to sell in their communities or online,” said Agrawal. “They were going to loan sharks previously or private lenders for very expensive rates so they can run their business, and now the family member who is working in a factory can withdraw capital to support the family business so they don’t need to go to loan sharks.”

GajiTim was launched because the startup saw many inbound inquiries from SMEs, like restaurants, small factories and general stores, that have a lot of part-time workers. These businesses often rely on paper systems, including punch time cards, to track working hours and calculate paychecks. But this often results in disputes, so having an app that counts working hours and earned wages in real-time gives workers more transparency and helps companies save time. GajiTim also has access to GajiGesa’s flagship EWA service and allows it to bring more clients onto the platform.

#asia, #earned-wage-access, #fintech, #gajigesa, #gajitim, #indonesia, #southeast-asia, #tc

0

Founded by former Carousell and Fave execs, Rainforest gets $36M to consolidate Asia-Pacific Amazon Marketplace brands

A group photo of Rainforest’s team members Elita Subaja, J.J. Chai and Jerry Ng

From left to right: Rainforest business operations and strategy director Elita Subaja; co-founder and CEO J.J. Chai and brand manager Jerry Ng

Singapore-based Rainforest is one of the newest entrants in the wave of startups that “roll-up” small e-commerce brands. Launched in January by alumni from some of Southeast Asia’s top startups, including Carousell, OVO and Fave, Rainforest acquires Amazon marketplace sellers. This is similar to the Amazon-centric approach taken by Thrasio, Branded Group and Berlin Brands Group, three of the highest-profile e-commerce aggregators, but Rainforest is one of the first companies in the space to launch out of Asia and focus specifically on acquiring brands in the region. It is also laser-focused on home goods, personal care and pet items, with the goal of building the e-commerce version of conglomerate Newell Brands, whose portfolio includes Rubbermaid, Sharpie and Yankee Candle.

Rainforest announced today that it has raised seed funding of $36 million led by Nordstar with participation from Insignia Venture Partners. This includes equity financing of $6.5 million and a $30 million debt facility from an undisclosed American debt fund.

Co-founder and chief executive officer J.J. Chai, who previously held senior roles at Carousell and Airbnb, told TechCrunch that Rainforest raised debt financing (like many other e-commerce aggregators) because it is non-dilutive and will be used to acquire about eight to 12 brands sold through Amazon’s B2B service Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA). The startup’s other co-founders are chief financial officer Jason Tan, who held the same roles at OVO and Fave, and chief technology officer Per-Ola Röst, who previously founded Amazon analytics tool provider Seller Matrix and ran a FBA brand worth seven figures.

Rainforest’s portfolio currently includes three brands, which it acquired for about $1 million each. The company wants to wait until its portfolio is larger to disclose what brands it owns, but Chai said they include a mattress brand that is a best seller on Amazon, a cereal maker and a kitchenware brand. Focusing on specific verticals will allow Rainforest to streamline supply chains, product design and marketing as it scales up its brands.

Amazon’s total gross merchandise volume in 2020 was about $490 billion. According to Marketplace Pulse, $300 billion of that came from third-party sellers. Thrasio and Branded Group, which was started by Lazada co-founder and former CEO Pierre Poignant, also acquire Asian brands, but most e-commerce aggregators have so far focus on American, European or Latin American sellers (like Mexico City-based Valoreo, which also recently raised funding). Rainforest will look at sellers in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, Southeast Asia and Australia.

Chai said about 30% of Amazon’s third-party sellers are based in Asia, and he expects more e-commerce aggregators to launch in the region. “All the ingredients are there and I guess it’s just a matter of time when more people figure it out and solve this problem,” he said. “Everything we’ve seen has worked out, and of course the original creators noticed this trend, which is that there is an explosion of microbrands.”

Rainforest looks for home goods, personal care or pet product FBA sellers that are currently doing about $5 million to $10 million in sales per year, and making a minimum 15% profit margin. Most of its pipeline of potential deals are inbound inquiries. Rainforest can give brands a valuation within two days. If they are interested in the offer, due diligence usually takes about a month, and sellers get the first tranche of their payment in about 40 days.

The company plans to look at other marketplaces in the future, but is starting with Amazon because its analytics allows quicker valuations. Rainforest looks at the “Three R’s,” or product reviews, ratings and ranking, to see how well a seller is performing. It also wants brands that can expand beyond Amazon into other channels and have unique intellectual property with wide appeal. “We’re looking for products that can traverse global markets,” said Chai. “So, for example, no lawnmower covers, a very American kind of thing that’s maybe less relevant in this part of the world, because our intention is to take these brands to their next level potential.”

Many of the brands in Rainforest’s pipeline are run by sole proprietors who have gotten to the point where they need to hire a team to continue growing, but want to exit instead so they can move on to their next venture.

“Being able to create a physical goods brand and build a sizable business out of it is a relatively new phenomenon. It used to be that you needed a factory, big branding, R&D. The combination of online advertising, marketplaces and supply chains being disrupted has created an opportunity where individuals can create brands in the same way that the App Store allowed people to start distributing software,” said Chai. “Where we play into that trend is that there are a lot of microbrands and many will get stuck, so we can give the entrepreneurs a way to exit and bring a brand to its full potential.”

#asia, #e-commerce-aggregator, #ecommerce, #fulfilled-by-amazon, #rainforest, #roll-ups, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #tc

0

Una Brands launches with $40M to roll up brands on multiple Asia-Pacific e-commerce platforms

Una Brands' co-founders (from left to right): Tobias Heusch, Kiran Tanna and Kushal Patel

Una Brands’ co-founders (from left to right): Tobias Heusch, Kiren Tanna and Kushal Patel. Una Brands Una Brands

One of the biggest funding trends of the past year is companies that consolidate small e-commerce brands. Many of the most notable startups in the space, like Thrasio, Berlin Brands Group and Branded Group, focus on consolidating Amazon Marketplace sellers. But the e-commerce landscape is more fragmented in the Asia-Pacific region, where sellers use platforms like Tokopedia, Lazada, Shopee, Rakuten or eBay, depending on where they are. That is where Una Brands comes in. Co-founder Kiren Tanna, former chief executive officer of Rocket Internet Asia, said the startup is “platform agnostic,” searching across marketplaces (and platforms like Shopify, Magento or WooCommerce) for potential acquisitions.

Una announced today that it has raised a $40 million equity and debt round. Investors include 500 Startups, Kingsway Capital, 468 Capital, Presight Capital, Global Founders Capital and Maximilian Bitner, the former CEO of Lazada who currently holds the same role at secondhand fashion platform Vestiaire Collective.

Una did not disclose the ratio of equity and debt in the round. Like many other e-commerce aggregators, including Thrasio, Una raised debt financing to buy brands because it is non-dilutive. The round will also be used to hire aggressively in order to evaluate brands in its pipeline. Una currently has teams in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia and plans to expand in Southeast Asia before entering Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

Tanna, who also founded Foodpanda and ZEN Rooms, launched Una along with Adrian Johnston, Kushal Patel, Tobias Heusch and Srinivasan Shridharan. He estimates that there are more than 10 million third-party sellers spread across different platforms in the Asia-Pacific.

“Every single seller in Asia is looking at multiple platforms and not just Amazon,” Tanna told TechCrunch. “We saw a big gap in the market where e-commerce is growing very quickly, but players in the West are not able to look at every platform, so that is why we decided to focus on APAC, launch the business there and acquire sellers who are selling on multiple platforms.”

Una looks for brands with annual revenue between $300,000 to $20 million and is open to many categories, as long as they have strong SKUs and low seasonality (for example, it avoids fast fashion). Its offering prices range from about $600,000 to $3 million.

Tanna said Una will maintain acquisitions as individual brands “because what’s working, we don’t change it.” How it adds value is by doing things that are difficult for small brands to execute, especially those run by just one or two people, like expanding into more distribution channels and countries.

“For example, in Indonesia there are at least five or six important platforms that you should be on, and many times the sellers aren’t doing that, so that’s something we do,” Tanna explained. “The second is cross-border in Southeast Asia, which sellers often can’t do themselves because of regulations around customs, import restrictions and duties. That’s something our team has experience in and want to bring to all brands.”

Amazon FBA roll-up players have the advantage of Amazon Marketplace analytics that allow them to quickly measure the performance of brands in their pipeline of potential acquisitions. Since it deals with different marketplaces and platforms, Una works with much more fragmented sources of data for revenue, costs, rankings and customer reviews. To scale up, the company is currently building technology to automate its valuation process and will also have local teams in each of its markets. Despite working with multiple e-commerce platforms, Tanna said Una is able to complete a deal within five weeks, with an offer usually happening within two or three days.

In countries where Amazon is the dominant e-commerce player, like the United States, many entrepreneurs launch FBA brands with the goal of flipping them for a profit within a few years, a trend that Thrasio and other Amazon roll-up startups are tapping into. But that concept is less common in Una’s markets, so it offers different team deals to appeal to potential sellers. Though Una acquires 100% of brands, it also does profit-sharing models with sellers, so they get a lump sum payment for the majority of their business first, then collect more money as Una scales up the brand. Tanna said Una usually continues working with sellers on a consulting basis for about three to six months after a sale.

“Something that Amazon players know very well is that they can find a product, sell it for four to five years, and then ideally make a multi-million deal exit and build another product or go on holiday,” said Tanna. “That’s something Asian sellers are not as familiar with, so we see this as an education phase to explain how the process works, and why it makes sense to sell to us.”

#468-capital, #500-startups, #asia, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #global-founders-capital, #kingsway-capital, #presight-capital, #recent-funding, #roll-ups, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #una-brands

0

Fewcents raises $1.6M to help publishers take payments for individual articles, videos and podcasts

Fewcents co-founders Dushyant Khare and Abhishek Dadoo

 

Fewcents co-founders Dushyant Khare and Abhishek Dadoo

Many publishers are focused on converting visitors to subscribers, but there’s another important bracket: people who want to view a premium article or video, but not enough to sign up for a subscription. Fewcents, a Singapore-based fintech startup that enables publishers to take “micropayments” for individual pieces of content, announced today it has raised $1.6 million in seed funding.

Fewcents can be used to monetize articles, video and podcasts. It accepts 50 currencies and is meant to serve as a complementary stream of revenue to advertisements and subscriptions. Its current clients include India’s Dainik Jagran, which has a readership of 55 million; Indonesian news site DailySocial; and streaming video site Dailymotion. The company, which monetizes by sharing revenue with digital publishers, also struck a partnership with Jnomics Media to expand in Europe.

Its funding round venture capital funds M Venture Partners and Hustle Fund. Participation also came from angel investors from some of the top fintech, adtech and media companies: Koh Boon Hwee (fomer chairman of DBS Bank); Kenneth Bishop (former managing director of Southeast Asia at Facebook); Jeremy Butteriss (head of partnerships at Stripe); Shiv Choudhury (partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group); Francesco Alberti (former APAC regional sales director for Bloomberg Media Distribution); Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng (Summit Media president); Prantik Mazumdar (Dentsu managing director), Saurabh Mittal (Mission Holdings chairman and founder) and Nitesh Kripalani (former director and country head of Amazon Video India).

Fewcents was launched last year by Abhishek Dadoo and Dushyant Khare. Dadoo’s previous startup Shoffr, an online-to-offline attribution platform, was acquired by Affle in 2019. Khare spent 12 years working at Google, including as director of strategic partnerships in Southeast Asia and India.

In an email, Dadoo and Khare told TechCrunch that only 1% to 5% of publishers’ active users are willing to commit to a monthly subscription. The majority are casual or referred users, and publishers rely on advertising to monetize that traffic.

Content creators are experimenting with micropayments, and other services include Flattr, which allows people to make one-time contributions and Axate’s pay-per-article tools. But publishers still debate how effective the model is and last year, TechCrunch reported that Google decided not to launch a tipping feature for sites.

To successfully implement a pay-per-content model, publishers not only need to produce compelling content, but also make it extremely easy for people to pay for it. For Fewcents, this means solving three key challenges, Dadoo and Khare said. First, they need to create a ubiquitous platform, since casual users won’t want to sign up for a new service every time they visit another site. It also needs to accept cross-border payments in local currency using the most popular payment methods, like digital wallets. And publishers need to be able to manage digital rights, like how long someone has access to content.

Publishers also need to determine price points that won’t turn away buyers, but will generate substantial enough revenue. Fewcents currently uses existing traffic data to manually price each piece of content. “Based on the supply-demand curve within each geography, we retroactively change the price to get the best revenue results,” Dadoo said. “However, as we develop our AI algorithms, the intent is to dynamically suggest the pricing depending on the geography and the semantics of the content.”

Khare said that by unbundling content, Fewcents can also provide deeper data than pageviews, helping them understand the preferences of specific markets and user segments, and develop customized “micro-bundles.” He added that Fewcents’ goal is to be able to automatically recommend customized content bundles for each user.

#content-monetization, #fundings-exits, #micropayments, #publishing, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Hangry, an Indonesian cloud kitchen startup with plans to become a global F&B company, closes $13M Series A

Hangry, an Indonesian cloud kitchen startup that wants to become a global food and beverage company, has raised a $13 million Series A. The round was led by returning investor Alpha JWC Ventures, and included participation from Atlas Pacific Capital, Salt Ventures and Heyokha Brothers. It will be used to increase the number of Hangry’s outlets in Indonesia, including launching its first dine-in restaurants, over the next two years before it enters other countries.

Along with a previous round of $3 million from Alpha JWC and Sequoia Capital’s Surge program, Hangry’s Series A brings its total funding to $16 million. It currently operates about 40 cloud kitchens in Greater Jakarta and Bandung, 34 of which launched in 2020. Hangry plans to expand its total outlets to more than 120 this year, including dine-in restaurants.

Founded in 2019 by Abraham Viktor, Robin Tan and Andreas Resha, Hangry is part of Indonesia’s burgeoning cloud kitchen industry. Tech giants Grab and Gojek both operate networks of cloud kitchens that are integrated with their food delivery services, while other startups in the space include Everplate and Yummy.

One of the main ways Hangry sets itself apart is by focusing on its own brands, instead of providing kitchen facilities and services to restaurants and other third-party clients. Hangry currently has four brands, including Indonesian chicken dishes (Ayam Koplo) and Japanese food (San Gyu), that cost about 15,000 to 70,000 IDR per portion (or about $1 to $6 USD). Its food can be ordered through Hangry’s own app, plus GrabFood, GoFood and ShopeeFood.

“Given that Hangry has developed an extensive cloud kitchen network across Indonesia, we naturally would have interest from other brands to leverage our networks,” chief executive officer Viktor told TechCrunch. “However, our focus is to grow our brands since our brands are rapidly growing in popularity in Indonesia and require all kitchen resources that they need to realize their full potential.”

Providing food deliveries helped Hangry grow during COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing, but in order to become a global brand within a decade, it needs to operate in multiple channels, he added.

“We knew that we will one day have to serve customers in all channels, including dine in,” said Viktor. “We started the hard way, doing delivery-first business, where we faced the challenges surrounding making sure our food still tastes good when it reaches customers’ homes. Now we feel ready to serve our customers in our restaurant premises. Our dine-in concept is an expansion of everything we’ve done in delivery channels.”

In a press statement, Alpha JWC Ventures partner Eko Kurniadi said, “In the span of 1.5 years, [Hangry] launched multiple brands across myriad tastes and categories, and almost all of them are amongst the best sellers list with superior ratings in multiple platforms, tangible examples of product-market fit. This is only the beginning and we can already foresee their growth to be a top local F&B brand in the country.”

#alpha-jwc, #asia, #cloud-kitchen, #fb, #food-and-beverage, #food-delivery, #fundings-exits, #hangry, #indonesia, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Bibit raises another growth round led by Sequoia Capital India, this time for $65M

Four months after leading a $30 million growth round in Bibit, Sequoia Capital India has doubled down on its investment in the Indonesian robo-advisor app. Bibit announced today that the firm led a new $65 million growth round that also included participation from Prosus Ventures, Tencent, Harvard Management Company and returning investors AC Ventures and East Ventures.

This brings Bibit’s total funding to $110 million, including a Series A announced in May 2019. Its latest round will be used on developing and launching new products, hiring and increasing Bibit’s financial education services.

Bibit was launched in 2019 by Stockbit, a stock investing platform and community, and is part of a crop of Indonesian investment apps focused on new investors. Others include SoftBank Ventures-backed Ajaib, Bareksa, Pluang and FUNDtastic. Bibit runs robo-advisor services for mutual funds, investing users’ money based on their risk profiles, and claims that 90% of its users are millennials and first-time investors.

According to Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority (Otoritas Jasa Keuangan), the number of retail investors grew 56% year-over-year in 2020. For mutual funds in particular, Bibit said investors grew 78% year-over-year to 3.2 million, based on data from the Indonesia Stock Exchange and Central Securities Custodian.

Despite the economic impact of COVID-19, interest in stock investing grew as people took advantage of market dips (the Jakara Composite Index fell in the first quarter of 2020, but is now recovering steadily). Apps like Bibit and its competitors want to make capital investing more accessible with lower fees and minimum investment amounts than traditional brokerages like Mandiri Sekuritas, which also saw an increase in new retail investors and average transaction value last year.

But the percentage of retail investors in Indonesia is still very low, especially compared to markets like Singapore or Malaysia, presenting growth opportunities for investment services.

Apps like Bibit focus on content that helps make capital investing less intimidating to first-time investors. For example, Ajaib also presents its financial educational features as a selling point.

In press statement, Sequoia Capital India vice president Rohit Agarwal said, “Indonesian mutual fund customers have grown almost 10x in the past five years. Savings via mutual funds is the first step towards investing and Bibit has helped millions of consumers start their investing journey in a responsible manner. Sequoia Capital India is excited to double down on the partnership as the company brings the same customer focus to stock investing with Stockbit.”

 

#asia, #bibit, #indonesia, #investment-app, #robo-advisor, #sequoia-capital-india, #southeast-asia, #tc

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How UK-based Lendable is powering fintechs across emerging markets

What moves the needle for digital lenders is serving loans to their respective customers. But where does this money come from? The pool is usually equity or debt. While some lenders use the former, it can be seen as folly because, over time, the founders tend to lose ownership of their businesses after giving out too much equity to raise capital for loans. Hence the reason why most lending companies secure debt facilities. 

TechCrunch has recently reported on two prominent digital lenders (also digital banks in their own rights) gaining steam in Africa — Carbon and FairMoney. In 2019, Carbon secured $5 million in debt financing and the following year, FairMoney did the same but raised a higher sum, $13 million.

Enter Lendable, the UK-based firm responsible for supplying both lenders with debt finance.

The company with offices in Nairobi, New York, and Singapore advances loans to fintechs across eight markets in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Since launching in 2014, the company has disbursed over $125 million to these fintechs — SME lenders, payment platforms, asset lenders, marketplaces, and consumer lenders.

In a phone conversation with TechCrunch, Samuel Eyob, a principal at the firm, said the company is raising almost $180 million to continue its investment efforts across the three continents.

“We want to raise more than $180 million and we have investors that have committed cash to us,” he said. “Right now, we’re already investing out of that amount because we’ve already closed on a bunch of it. Ideally, the goal is to invest that amount over this year.”

Lendable was founded by Daniel Goldfarb and Dylan Friend. It was based on an insight that they had while Daniel was a partner at Greenstart, a venture capital firm focused on data, finance and energy. That insight was that the poorest people in the world pay the most for goods and services, so if capital markets could provide a path to ownership, that could help individuals build assets. So the pair set out to solve this by providing capital to fintechs catering to the needs of these people.

Eyob, a first-generation American from Ethiopia, knows what a lack of access to fair finance does to people and countries. Given the millions of people and businesses not effectively served by banks and MFIs, Eyob joined the team to drive financial inclusion in these markets

“Over a billion people still lack access to financial services and multiple reports indicate that the financing gap for micro and small businesses is trillions of dollars and growing. We believe this is a massive opportunity. So, whilst we started in Africa, the lack of access to fair financing solutions is a problem across all emerging markets, which we want to address,” he said.

Samuel Eyob

Samuel Eyob (Principal, Lendable)

So in 2014, Lendable started as a SaaS platform to democratize access to African capital markets by providing risk and analytics software. “We hoped to do this by bringing the securitization market from the Global North into Africa,” Eyob added

The company built an analytics platform to analyze loans and used machine learning to predict loan portfolio cashflows. In addition to that, they created an automated investment platform helping ventures to raise nondilutive (not equity) capital to help scale their businesses.

After sufficiently proving out its tech, the firm made a pivot. According to Eyob, the previous model wasn’t experiencing enough growth and was incurring unsustainable costs. So the company began raising capital based on its own analytics in 2016. It had only raised $600,000 and was focused on East African startups with SME financing and Pay-Go solar home models. That number has since increased to over $125 million across Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

So why do these companies actually need debt financing? Here’s a clearer picture of the instance used at the beginning of this piece.

Imagine a VC-backed startup whose ultimate goal is to help scale up female-founded SMEs with one-year loans. The startup could easily use its equity to provide the capital for all the one-year loans. The payoff from the loans, after one year, would be the interest due to them. Or, it could put that capital into hiring developers, build a go-to-market strategy, hire a CTO, all of which would likely have payoffs that are up to a 100x multiple of the interest they would have made on the single SME loan that is tied up for an entire year.

So ultimately, debt would be an ideal source of nondilutive capital for the startup as they wouldn’t have to tie up equity for one year. Therefore, debt would be a much cheaper source of capital to scale up their operations, especially if it has scaled up to having tens of thousands of one-year loans. If it were equity, they would have to raise an endless amount with constant dilution as they scale.

In its five years of official operations, Lendable has given debt facilities to more than 20 startups. While the stage at which Lendable gives money differs, it is particular about startups that are post Series A. 

Apart from Carbon and FairMoney, some startups to have raised debt from Lendable include Tugende, Uploan, KoinWorks, Planet42, TerraPay, Watu Credit, Trella, Amartha, Payjoy, Solar Panda, Cars45 and MFS Africa. Collectively, Eyob said, Lendable has reached 1.2 million end borrowers through its partners and helped finance up to 290,000 SMEs.

Of the $125 million disbursed so far as debt, Eyob said the company has a default rate of about 0.01%. The reason behind this low number, Eyob reckons, is because Lendable ensures to be in constant conversation with the companies offering help, advice or connections when necessary.

“We view lending as a partnership and typically when both parties act in good faith, there are ways to solve problems,” Eyob said

The debt facilities start at $2 million but can go up to over $15 million, Eyob said. But while the global standard at which lenders pay back their debt investments is typically 4 to 6 years, Lendable expects the companies it gives cash to do so in 3 to 4 years

Eyob pushes that founders in emerging markets should be willing to take more debt financing to scale their startups. These days, startups tend to be high on giving out equity instead of weighing options on effectively using debt in critical points when scaling.

Equity could be used to help attract the best talent or expand into new markets. Still, debt proves essential when scaling up capital-intensive operations like working capital or pre-funding activities. More often than not, debt and equity are complementary to one another, and Lendable is hoping to use the new funds it’s raising to push that notion

I think, just like everywhere else in the world, debt and equity are tools that should be used to support one another, supporting the venture’s ultimate mission. We have lasting relationships with multiple VC teams across emerging markets that we work with to ultimately support one another’s partner investees.”

 

#africa, #asia, #carbon, #debt, #fairmoney, #finance, #latin-america, #lendable, #money, #nairobi, #planet42, #private-equity, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #tc, #trella, #tugende, #venture-capital

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