Categories
SME Featured Southeast Asia

BigPay’s US$100m secured funding to establish itself as a ‘challenger bank’ in SEA

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – BigPay, the digital portfolio and fintech company under AirAsia, has announced that it has finalized its funding, now amounting to US$100m, which entails the company to push through its vision of becoming a ‘challenger bank’ in the growing banking ecosystem in Southeast Asia.

Said funding was led by SK Group, one of the leading conglomerate groups, headquartered in South Korea.

Founded in 2017, the company, which is present in both Malaysia and Singapore at the moment, offers a prepaid debit card which can be used to spend anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted, local and international money transfers, micro-insurance, bill payments and a budgeting tool. BigPay has launched as well a series of products for its users focused on long-term financial health and accessibility.

According to Salim Dhanani, co-founder and CEO at BigPay, said funding speaks to the company’s vision to expand their product sets, along with growing the model to new markets. He added that they target to expand to Thailand and the wider ASEAN market, but for now, they will focus first in launching key products: fully digital personal loans, transactional lending and an offering for MSMEs.

“Our ethos has always been clear. We want to launch financial products that are not only simple and convenient but transparent and accessible to everyone. We are ready to embark on the next stage of our journey with SK Group and we will continue to provide fair financial services to communities across Southeast Asia,” says Salim.

The funding from one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates and tech innovator further strengthens AirAsia’s digital endeavor as it accelerates the scope of growth for its digital businesses, including logistics and financial services.

“We are happy to be joining forces with BigPay as we’ve had a keen interest in fintech and digital banking for a long time. SK Group will be able to make a significant contribution to BigPay in both technical and consumer service aspects given our experience and resources,” said Jung Kyu Kim, chief representative at SK Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Tony Fernandes, CEO at AirAsia Group, commented, “I am excited for this great partnership with SK Group and for their belief in BigPay’s mission to bring inclusivity to financial services. This is the first investment into one of our portfolio digital companies and a testament to our digital growth story – we don’t anticipate it being the last.”

He added, “SK Group is second to none when it comes to innovation and experience, so we truly believe they can share their expertise and know-how so that this investment can mark the beginning of a new exciting digital banking era.”

Categories
Technology Featured ANZ

AU-based martech IntelligenceBank secures US$37m growth investment

Sydney, Australia – IntelligenceBank, an Australian-based marketing technology company, has secured a US$37 growth investment, which will help fuel the continued growth of IntelligenceBank, fortify its market leadership position, and support global expansion plans.

Made possible by global growth equity firm Five Elms Capital, said funding will also accelerate IntelligenceBank’s innovative product roadmap which includes initiatives such as next-gen AI, flexible integrations and powerful content governance and compliance features.

The $37 million (USD) investment comes as brands and enterprises have realized that outdated technologies, disjointed data sources, and manual processes make it challenging to efficiently manage essential marketing workflows and ensure compliance across the organization. 

IntelligenceBank digitally transforms manual processes and poorly stacked systems with a purpose-built platform to improve marketing efficiency, increase speed to market, and minimize marketing compliance risks. 

Speaking about the investment, Tessa Court, CEO and founder at IntelligenceBank, stated that the funding will help the company to scale its platform and further support its rapidly expanding global customer base.

“We are looking forward to working with the Five Elms team to accelerate our growth during a time when marketing departments are undergoing massive digital transformations. There is a growing need for IntelligenceBank’s marketing system of record to better manage content, deliver go to market efficiencies, and streamline approvals as well as brand and regulatory compliance. The new funding will help us move faster and leverage global market opportunities that will serve our customers’ needs,” Court stated.

Meanwhile, Joe Onofrio, Managing Director at Five Elms, commented: “We have gotten to know Tessa and her team over the last four years, and during that time they have efficiently executed on their plan to build a world-class organization helping clients access, manage, deploy, and control their digital assets at scale. IntelligenceBank has an evangelical customer base across numerous industries and continents. 

He added, “The company’s platform is leading the way as organizations manage digital transitions and increases in remote workforces. We could not be more excited to support IntelligenceBank in their quest to deliver innovative solutions that enable marketing organizations to be more collaborative, efficient, and strategic.”

Categories
Technology Featured APAC

Virtual event platform EventX scores partnership, US$10m funding from HTC VIVE

Hong Kong – Realizing the greater need for virtual event management platforms in the Asia-Pacific region, virtual event platform EventX has announced an alliance with virtual reality (VR) company HTC VIVE, following its conclusion of a US$10m funding from its series B funding.

Aside from the funding being led by HTC VIVE, the funding also saw participation from Gaocheng Capital, a top China-based private equity fund focused on enterprise software and technology-enabled services sectors.

EventX’s virtual event management platform has been well-used in the region, especially for events that involve Mainland China attendees where its unique design architecture overcomes internet firewalls to enable the service of any cross-region events. Meanwhile, HTC VIVE has gained great attention and acclaim for its strides in VR research and development. By combining the knowledge pools of the two respected digital trailblazers, a range of unique experiences is set to be developed through this strategic alliance. 

A major player for the rise of these virtual event management platforms can be attributed to the COVID-19 health pandemic, which has drastically curtailed travel and how people spend time in crowded places, decimating the wider event industry, estimated to be worth more than US$1t annually before the pandemic. 

COVID-19 has permanently transformed the professional events category and in turn raised attention to venture capitalists to pour in massive capital to the virtual event software space.

Speaking about the partnership, Sum Wong, co-founder and CEO at EventX, said, “It is certain that virtual workspaces and virtual events will become the new norm. The creation of this alliance will result in a deep level of integration between our own expertise and HTC VIVE’s groundbreaking work in the VR space. This collaboration will result in EventX bringing virtual and hybrid event experiences to a brand new level of immersion and interactivity. To take the responsibility as one of the event industry leaders, EventX will keep exploring new possibilities of event technology, popularizing the application, and creating users’ needs.”

EventX is going to invest heavily in products and engineering for leading the recovery of the events industry during the current pandemic, which will not only stabilize and solidify existing virtual event services but carve out new spaces and opportunities for the marketing and event industry. 

Meanwhile, Joseph Lin, president of VIVEPORT said, “VR has the power to improve the world. At HTC VIVE we strive to create the tools to expedite VR adoption — using not only our VR devices but also computers, tablets, and smartphones — and interact effectively. The strategic alliance with EventX illustrates HTC VIVE’s continuous efforts in providing people and enterprises with the tools to meet, socialize, and learn in VR and beyond. Massive possibilities and enthusiasm can be seen in this partnership to bring people closer together without any geographical boundaries.”

With their unique China accessible ability and together with HTC VIVE, they will be adopting VR and prospecting technology into the core capabilities of the event software-as-a-service (SaaS) product to make it accessible and reinvent the virtual event experience. For the first attempt to add VR and prospecting technology into core capabilities, they would be releasing a virtual event lite platform and open it for segments such as NGOs, SMEs and startups to register and organize virtual events for free.

Categories
Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

Filipino mom-centric e-commerce edamama raises US$5m to boost operations

Manila, Philippines – Coming fresh from its recently-concluded pre-series A funding, local mom-centric e-commerce platform edamama has reached US$5m in total, which will be used in the company’s new endeavors in automation, product development, and innovations, as well as the company’s warehouse and logistics operations. 

Said investment round was led by venture capital Gentree Fund, together with Foxmont Capital Partners, Robinsons Retail, and Kickstart Ventures, Inc. a wholly-owned subsidiary of local telco Globe Telecom. 

Edamama was established amid the pandemic by its founder Bela Gupta D’Souza, alongside her husband Nishant, to address the issue of quality, as well as the other challenges common among today’s e-commerce platforms, such as channel fragmentation, non-established brand trust, the lack of a discovery-led buying experience, and poor customer service. 

Furthermore, D’Souza also found pain points of mothers as consumers when purchasing online. She said that it is common for mothers to spend many hours in search of the best products for their children only to end up with mediocre items that have the inferior quality from untrusted sources.

“E-commerce is a scale game and we’re very excited about scaling up. Our goal is to continue being vertically focused, so we could gain and build the trust of more mothers in the country,” she said.

Edamama services mothers nationwide, although it acknowledges the need for further upgrades on its logistics operations to cope with the increase in orders coming from all over the country. It hopes to use part of the funds raised to expand its warehouse capabilities and further improve its delivery services for customers to receive their goods more quickly.

Apart from this, the company is also working on omnichannel expansion and providing new mediums of direct-to-consumer communication, such as selling through a live stream.

In addition, there are many features within the platform including ‘Gift Registry’ for creating gift wish lists for special occasions, ‘Subscribe and Save’ which is an online diaper subscription service, and ‘Explore’ which is a one-stop destination to book online events and activities for children.

“The edamama team constantly works towards creating innovative features for moms to use, staying true to their mission of simplifying decision-making and reimagining online shopping for mothers,” the company said in a press statement.

Categories
SME Featured Southeast Asia

PH-based B2B e-commerce enabler GrowSari raises more than US$30m in funding for expansion

Manila, Philippines – GrowSari, a local-born business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce enabler, has recently concluded its Series B funding, where it has collected more than US$30m in funding, which will be used to expand its services across clients nationwide.

Said funding was led by Gokongwei-led listed Philippine retailer Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. (RRHI) and JG Digital Equity Ventures, as well as Wavemaker Partners. Other participants included Pavilion Capital, a Singapore-based investment company focused on Southeast Asian and North Asian economies Tencent, China’s leading technology company, International Finance Corporation (IFC) a member of the World Bank Group, ICCP SBI Venture Partners, and Singapore-based growth fund Saison Capital.

GrowSari is a tech-enabled B2B platform that outfits Philippine sari-sari store owners with inventory, infrastructure, and tools to manage and grow their business while generating crucial data and market insights for manufacturers and distributors. 

For context, sari-sari stores in the Philippines are generally defined as mom-and-pop neighborhood stores in the country, and are considered the backbone of the local economy in their respective communities.

There has always been a great significance and dependence to sari-sari stores in the country, as around 84% of Filipinos purchase essential goods at the over 1.1 million stores across the country, with 60% of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) shopper spending happening in such stores. These sari-sari stores are hyper-proximal, with 90% of consumers having a store less than 100 meters away from their home. On average, consumers transact twice a day from their nearest sari-sari stores.

GrowSari primarily aims to tap into the sari-sari store’s potential to be the biggest and most accessible distribution channel in the Philippines by driving efficiencies in route planning while collecting valuable insights on store behavior. 

Through its app, sari-sari stores can double their earnings through access to better pricing for more than a thousand of fast moving sari-sari store stock keeping units (SKUs) from the largest brands across all the major FMCG categories. This is in addition to microfinancing support and assistance, and multiple e-services including telco, bills payment and remittance. 

This objective is supported by its co-founder, ER Rollan, who states that the company aims to empower and significantly increase the earnings of sari-sari stores in the Philippines by providing direct access to a wide assortment of affordable products, e-businesses, and financial assistance.

“With the fresh funds, we aim to more than double GrowSari’s existing coverage and service more than 300,000 sari-sari stores, including those in Visayas and Mindanao. This will also help us broaden our supplier marketplace with new third-party partners and scale our financial service pilots,” Rollan said.

Meanwhile, Siddhartha Kongara, CTO at GrowSari, commented, “Through GrowSari, we want to use proprietary technology to accelerate financial health for Filipino sari-sari store owners, helping them to use, protect, and grow their business in the long run and transforming sari-sari stores into comprehensive service hubs for the Philippines’ grassroots communities.”

Categories
Technology Featured Global

Contentsquare scores US$500m funding to drive AI-driven DX globally

Singapore – Digital experience (DX) analytics company Contentsquare has recently concluded its Series E funding totalling to US$500m, which will be used by the company to augment its leadership in Europe and the US as well as supporting expansion into new markets across Asia.

Said investment round was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, who now joins existing investors such as Eurazeo, Bpifrance, KKR, Canaan, Highland Europe, and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock — most of whom also participated in this round. 

In addition to the investment, Contentsquare will take advantage of SoftBank’s depth of expertise in scaling companies and networks in Asia, which will be strengthened by the recent appointment of Michel Combes, president of SoftBank Group International, as part of Contentsquare’s board of directors.

The newly secured funding will also support Contentsquare’s rapid growth and geographic expansion, merger and acquisition activities, as well as go-to-market strategies.

This latest round comes one year after Contentsquare’s US$190m Series D raise, bringing the total funding to date to US$810m and valuing Contentsquare at US$2.8b.

“Innovation is in Contentsquare’s DNA and today’s investment is a result of the tremendous hard work of our passionate and ambitious team. Our growth has been accelerated by the world’s shift towards digital, and our technology answers many of the digital transformation challenges brands face today,” said Jonathan Cherki, CEO and founder at Contentsquare.

Contentsquare’s momentum last year has been defined by several milestones, including exponential growth globally, with a compound annual recurring revenue growth rate of 121% over the past four years; product launches such as ‘Contentsquare Merchandising’, ‘Contentsquare Insights’ and ‘Find & Fix’; and massive team expansion to APAC with teams in Singapore, Tokyo, Melbourne and Sydney.

“By democratizing access to actionable customer insights, Contentsquare empowers businesses in every sector to build better digital experiences for everyone. We’re excited to partner with Contentsquare on its journey as one of the global leaders in UX optimization,” Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, commented.

Categories
Platforms Featured South Asia

DataBird, Bangladesh’s promising internet giant, raises $3M in bridge round

Bangladesh – DataBird, Bangladesh’s leading Internet group, has recently raised US$3M in funding led by Skycatcher, a global Internet and software investor. Previously, the company raised a seed round of US$4M in 2018, its founding year. 

DataBird is the parent firm of Bangladesh’s leading brands in online travel with travel booking platform ShareTrip and in communication with mobile typing app Ridmik Keyboard. According to DataBird, ShareTrip obtains about 50% of the market share in the country’s online travel, while Ridmik Keyboard is said to be Bangladesh’s most used app and adopted by the majority of all smartphone users in the country.

Kashef Rahman, CEO of DataBird, shared that the additional investment will go into expanding its ecosystem footprint with investments into fintech and digital advertising. With this, DataBird will also be continuing to invest and nurture homegrown talent in Bangladesh, with the company now having over 160 employees. 

Tanveer Ali, board member of DataBird, said, “We are in this for the marathon ahead so one of the most important objectives for us is to invest into our team members to expand their skillsets. The real opportunity in a nascent market like Bangladesh is the knowledge transfer that can happen by studying Internet business models globally. We are really proud of how well our team has executed in the past few years and our bar is world-class products.” 

The company said that building an Internet giant takes time and requires laser focus, and that it is inspired by the cultures of Asia’s leading tech ecosystem giants like Tencent, SEA group, and Kakao who operate with decentralized teams on building a product. 

Sadia Haque, CCO of DataBird, said, “We believe we offer a unique culture in the local context of Bangladesh and are always actively recruiting talent locally or diaspora from abroad who want to come to Dhaka and make an impact.”

Aside from its flagship online travel and keyboard platform, DataBird’s product portfolio expands to news, eReader, and lifestyle mobile applications, and that it is aiming to invest to more with the aim of accelerating the development of ‘Digital Bangladesh’, the country’s political vision of the country for the year 2021, the nation’s golden jubilee. 

Sia Kamalie, Skycatcher founder, said that together with DataBird, it is playing a different game and that the company’s investment horizon can be ‘forever’ and that plans will be in tandem with where the world is headed by 2030. 

“For us, it’s clear that Bangladesh Internet ecosystem will be exponentially bigger than today when you consider that it’s the 8th largest country in world by population, growing GDP at +8% for last decade, and we estimate smartphone penetration is only 40% today. In the next few years, we expect another 50 to 75m smartphone users coming online for the first time and DataBird will be there to serve all their needs,” said Kamalie.

Categories
Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

SG-based coffee chain Flash Coffee secures US$15M in funding for APAC expansion

Singapore – Flash Coffee, a Singapore-based coffee chain backed by venture capital Rocket Internet, has secured US$15M in its recently concluded Series A funding to drive APAC expansion in 10 markets. The funding round was participated by venture capitals White Star Capital, DX Ventures, Global Founders Capital, and Conny & Co.

Flash Coffee which was launched in January 2020, aims to use the new funding to open three new outlets per week, an already ambitious pace that will be tripled to 10 store launches per week in order to open 300 additional stores across the region by end of this year. 

Flash-Coffee-Series-A-Funding-Coffee-Shop

The company is founded by CEO David Brunier and COO as well as CFO Sebastian Hannecker to make premium coffee accessible to Asia’s rising middle class. Through Brunier’s experience as foodpanda CMO and Hannecker’s Bain Consulting pedigree, Flash Coffee’s grab-and-go business model was created, allowing for significant cost savings to be passed on to customers.

“Strong investor support for our Series A round enables us to harness untapped potential in the region and replicate our success in seven new markets this year: Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam,” Brunier stated.

Flash-Coffee-Series-A-Funding-Coffee-Shop-App-Interface

He added, “We will also build a regional headquarters in Singapore and expand our regional tech hub in Jakarta to 50 people to support our vision of fully leveraging technology to improve customer experience, proactively drive growth and significantly increase operational efficiency.”

In addition, the company aims to digitize today’s offline-dominated coffee industry with a newly launched consumer app that boasts a streamlined pick-up feature, sophisticated loyalty program, personalized promotions, and interactive challenges. Its dedicated barista app improves the operational efficiency of its stores and enables performance-based incentives for its baristas, ensuring an unparalleled customer experience.

Categories
Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Klook bags US$200m funding for SaaS-powered merchant solutions

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Travel and leisure booking platform Klook has successfully concluded its Series E round investment, led by investment fund Aspex Management. The recently concluded investment round has raised US$200M in additional funding, which will be used to develop Klook-powered merchant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.

Klook’s merchant SaaS solutions power millions of bookings for more than 2,500 merchants worldwide. Doubling down on its SaaS solutions will enable even more merchants who have had a challenging year to transform and accelerate their business by easily creating an online storefront powered by Klook. This is supported by a backend engine that manages ticketing, distribution, inventory management, marketing, and more. 

“Despite a challenging 2020, we have shown our mettle, turning challenges into growth opportunities with agility and constant innovation. We’ve observed over the past year that consumers have a pent-up desire to explore and enjoy themselves, despite international travel being paused. Instead, they are turning inwards – exploring new and unique experiences right in their backyard,” said Ethan Lin, CEO, and co-founder at Klook (center).

He added, “This new capital further strengthens our leading position to take us from defense to offense, as domestic tourism becomes ubiquitous and international travel gradually returns.”

At the height of the pandemic, Klook onboarded 150% more activities compared to the same period in 2019. With this new capital, the company will accelerate the development and roll-out of its merchant SaaS solutions. Designed to bridge the gaps faced by merchants today, these tools will empower any merchant to build, manage, and scale their business with Klook.

“The travel industry has undoubtedly been hit hard by the pandemic, but Klook has shown resilience and adaptability despite the market headwinds. We believe the transition toward digital bookings will only accelerate post-COVID-19, and that Klook’s ability to reinvent itself as a one-stop-shop for experiences and services across the region puts it in prime position to capitalize on this trend,” said Hermes Li, CIO, and founder of Aspex Management.

Meanwhile, Eric Gnock Fah, COO, and co-founder at Klook (left) commented, “We are setting out to reimagine the next digital leap for the experiences sector which has traditionally been fragmented with offline practices or legacy systems that do not truly address the realities of a post-COVID world. Since day one, Klook has been working closely with our merchants, both big and small, to identify common pain points that we can solve together.”

He added, “With this new funding, we have additional ammunition to accelerate our technology innovation, and truly transform and empower this space for future growth.”

Klook has piloted several of its SaaS tools during the second of 2020 namely ‘Contact Tracing System’ which will be used to trace back clients should the need for tracing ensue, ‘Attractions Plus’ which creates an online itinerary for travel in one app, and ‘Klook! Live’ which is an interactive livestream mobile feature for merchants and users alike.

Categories
Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Malaysia-based ad tech company Rodeo eyes raising $120K, opens round of funding

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Rodeo, an ad-tech company specializing in transit advertising mainly on ride-sharing, food delivery, and last-mile delivery has announced that it targets to raise a minimum of $120K (RM500K), and has opened its first round of funding via equity crowdfunding platform pitchIN.

The company is currently live on pitchIN, and it has prepared an exclusive 30% lifetime discount or rebate from all Rodeo media assets to brands, advertisers, and agencies who will be investing.

Inspired by the company’s revenue that hit $1.2M (RM4.4M) in 3 years, Rodeo seeks to increase the bar even higher by setting a new target revenue of $500K (RM1.9M) by end of 2021.

The investments raised will be used to increase workforce, to incorporate AI technology such as Computer Vision and Machine learning, and for marketing to scale the business and capture market share.

Launched three years ago, Rodeo comprises of 10,000 fleets of cars, taxis, motorcycles, and trucks. During the country’s Movement Control Order (MCO) amid the pandemic, it decided to pivot to online by introducing RodeoGO, an influencer marketing gamification app,

Rodeo’s Chief Executive Officer and Founder Valens Subramaniam shared, “Due to the pandemic, we saw that there was a growing demand and trend for RodeoGO especially when users are practically on idle mode; be it at home and glued on their mobiles phones, TVs and computers. This brings us a good mix of Offline and Online.”