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SME Featured Southeast Asia

Singlife with Aviva launches cross-industry collaboration for startups, SMEs

Singapore – Local financial services company Singlife with Aviva has launched a cross-industry collaboration called ‘A Better Odyssey’, which will help promising start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore to digitalise and scale their operations.

The collaboration brings together leading international digital solutions partners, including Google, GrabForBusiness, Razer Fintech, ShopBack PayLater, Debia, Exabytes, Pand.ai, Quickdesk, Sleek and Volopay.

Emerging businesses can look forward to exclusive offers such as free credits, preferential pricing for products and services and further networking opportunities. They will also benefit from coverage from Singlife’s Group Personal Accident (GPA) insurance scheme, helping them to safeguard their early-stage growth.

The programme is the first open architecture programme by an insurance company in Singapore, helping to provide a one-stop shop for local start-ups and SMEs to access a wide range of solutions, including business management, operations and payment. 

“With digital transformation continuing to define today’s world and digital requirements becoming more complex and fragmented than ever, it has become increasingly important to establish a unified proposition that can support emerging enterprises and address their pain points.” the company said in a press statement.

Varun Mittal, group head for digital and ecosystems at Singlife with Aviva, said, “We are extremely grateful for the support from our many partners in helping us establish and lead this important ecosystem initiative. Singlife offers consumers a better way to financial freedom and we want to help emerging businesses find a better way to grow. We look forward to this journey as their technology-empowered, financial services partner.”

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

Indonesia fintech Xendit to empower SEA startups, SMEs in latest funding

Jakarta, Indonesia – Xendit, an Indonesian fintech, has raised US$300m in their series D funding, aiming to empower startups and SMEs in the Southeast Asian region. In total, Xendit has raised a total of US$538m in funding.

Coatue and Insight Partners co-led the round with additional investment from Accel, Tiger Global, Kleiner Perkins, EV Growth, Amasia, Intudo, and Justin Kan’s Goat Capital.

Xendit has been making strategic investments that serve startups and SMEs in Southeast Asian countries. The company recently invested in Bank Sahabat Sampoerna, a private bank in Indonesia that focuses on micro and SME businesses, as well as banking-as-a-service for technology-enabled businesses. 

Meanwhile, to complement its expansion into the Philippines, Xendit made a strategic investment into the leading local payment gateway, Dragonpay, doubling down on its commitment to modernising hyper-localised payments infrastructure in each market it enters.

Tessa Wijaya, co-founder and COO at Xendit, said, “We will continue to deliver access to Xendit’s payments products and services to enable more businesses and people in the region to participate in the digital economy. Xendit will continue to expand into new markets – like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam – where we can identify a need that doesn’t exist, similar to what we did in the Philippines. We plan to diversify our products with value-added services, like lending programs we’ve already started in Indonesia.”

Over the last year, Xendit tripled annualised transactions from 65 million to 200 million and increased total payments value from US$6.5b to US$15b.

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SME Featured Southeast Asia

KX Knowledge Xchange ties with TechNode Global to scale startup ecosystem in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand – Thailand-based innovation centre, KX Knowledge Xchange, has partnered with TechNode Global, a tech platform that offers tech news, events, and tailor-made marketing solutions, aimed at building a thriving startup ecosystem in Thailand.

The partnership will support Thai startups by offering them access to funding opportunities, networks, technology, knowledge sharing, and resource exchanges. It will also help promote and upgrade the innovation ecosystem in the country to expand into APAC.

Moreover, the partnership will support the Innovation Ecosystem of KX Knowledge Xchange. This will be achieved through the exchange of valuable information, promotion of cooperation in innovation and entrepreneurial activities, and public relations campaigns, as well as joint planning, to support startups through an efficient innovation ecosystem, amongst others.

Dr. Gang Lu, TechNode Group’s founder and CEO, noted that TechNode Global’s partnership with KX Knowledge Xchange seeks to build a stronger and wider startup ecosystem with the support of the Techbite incubator program starting from the early stage of entrepreneurship.

“Serving as the connector between the Chinese startup ecosystem with the rest of Asia, we look forward to working with more institutes of higher learning to equip a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, offering them access to real-time market knowledge, industry-leading international events and conferences. Be it serving entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, or other partners, we hope to be part of this exciting journey,” said Lu.

Meanwhile, Dr. Booncharoen Sirinaovakul, KX Knowledge Xchange’s CEO, said, “This year, we are so grateful to have meaningful collaboration with TechNode Global. This will be a springboard for entrepreneurs and startups in our ecosystem to have more international exposure and experience necessary for expanding their business.”

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Marketing Featured

Accelerating Asia invests into 13 startups; expands international market, industry presence

Singapore — International early-stage VC fund, Accelerating Asia, has announced its latest round of investments including nine new companies joining Cohort 6 of the flagship program and additional capital into four existing portfolio companies.

The new investments take Accelerating Asia’s portfolio to 52 startups that have raised a total of over US$42m. Cohort 6 continues the portfolio’s trend of attracting early investor interest with US$1.5m in soft commitments received during the first month of the program when access is reserved for Accelerating Asia’s network, adding to the $2.5m raised prior to joining the program. The new investments in Cohort 6 also have market traction and grow revenue with an average GMV of $100k per month and an average monthly recurring revenue of over $25k.

Cohort 6 startups have a market presence in more than ten countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, North America and Europe and cover verticals such as marketplace, fintech, logistics, e-commerce and health tech. The nine new startups also include 40% female co-founded startups.

Amra Naidoo, general partner at Accelerating Asia, said, “With the 9 new portfolio startups selected from 600 applicants and 4 follow-on investments, Accelerating Asia is excited to continue to invest in highly scalable pre-Series A startups that also have a positive impact on respective operating markets. Since 2019, we’ve built up our portfolio of startups with investors coming to Accelerating Asia to gain early access to a pipeline of startups that combine profit with purpose.”

Naidoo added, “Our VC accelerator model ensures high potential founders have greater access to needed capital financing, mentoring and skill sets to enhance their growth trajectory and quickly become leaders in their respective verticals while also lowering the overall risk for our investors at an early stage.”

In quarter 1 of 2022, Accelerating Asia also made follow-on investments into Shuttle, Transtrack.ID, Numu and Giftpack, adding to the additional investments into ProjectPro and iFarmer made last year. Accelerating Asia first invested in these six companies in 2020 and 2021, since then average monthly revenue has grown 332 per cent and is projected to grow revenue to an average of over $16m this financial year. Since joining the portfolio, the startups have also launched new product offerings, signed new clients and optimised operations to sustain revenue growth and develop new income streams.

Craig Bristol Dixon, general partner at Accelerating Asia, said that they’re excited to continue to invest in their portfolio companies as they grow alongside leading institutional investors. Dixon added that there is a significant market and investor demand for the portfolio, especially in the digitisation of transport and logistics networks with the industry at an inflexion point in emerging economies like Bangladesh and Indonesia.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

PR agency Value 360 Communications expands to Singapore

Singapore – India’s startup-focused PR agency, Value 360 Communications, has announced that it will be expanding its market to Singapore, to unlock growth opportunities in the country’s burgeoning start-up space.

Value 360 Communications handles various brands across industries such as fintech, proptech, lifestyle, and hospitality, among others. These brands include e-wallet Paytm, motor marketplace Droom, and car rental company Zoomcar, as well as healthcare platform Practo, and home services firm UrbanCompany.

The strategic expansion is driven by SEA’s growing stature as a hotbed for high-growth start-ups. Through this, Value 360 Communications will be tapping into its client base and identifying Indian partner brands operating in Singapore. In addition, the agency will be investing S$2m to develop and strengthen its presence in the new market.

In line with this endeavor, Value 360 Communications said that they had already spoken with some of its clients about offshoots in Singapore, which will lay the foundation for disrupting the region’s start-up ecosystem over the next few months.

Kunal Kishore Sinha, Value 360 Communications’ founder and director, commented that they are delighted to announce their foray into Singapore, especially since their very first steps in this new market will be in tandem with the brands that they have helped build in India. 

“As the Southeast Asian economy is witnessing the emergence of several promising start-ups, it makes Singapore the perfect avenue for our strategic international expansion and we foresee hyper-growth on the horizon for Value 360 as well as its partner brands,” said Sinha.

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SME Featured Southeast Asia

Non-profit org IdeaSpace PH unveils 15 local startups advancing to its ‘2021 Acceleration Program’

Manila, Philippines – IdeaSpace Foundation Inc. (IdeaSpace), the non-profit organization that supports the startup ecosystem in the Philippines, has announced the 15 startups that are advancing to its ‘2021 Acceleration Program’ – a project that aims to support startups in developing stable, scalable, and sustainable businesses through mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities.

The 15 chosen startups have stood out at the pre-acceleration phase and prevailed after pitching their business ideas to a judging panel composed of executives from the IdeaSpace team and the MVP Group of Companies, along with selected investors and startup founders.

In the health, wellness, and fitness sector, online marketplace for fitness Fitscovery, fitness coaches online marketplace Splore Fitness, and online concierge pharmacy XalMeds, as well as picture exchange communication platform Pic-A-Talk will be advancing on the program.

Meanwhile, living sustainability start-ups such as cleantech company Circula Recoon, online laundry services Dirt Bag, and virtual shopping mall Oh My Genie! are also moving to the next round of the program.

Also joining the program are start-ups that promote hassle-free remote work, namely, human resource-tech-enabled solution Betterteam, long-chain referral-based job platform Pasajob, and career progression platform Xperto, as well as free smart POS platform Peddlr.io, and e-signature platform Twala.

And lastly, several e-commerce platforms will also advance on the program, including auto and motor parts e-commerce platform Pieza PH, community-supported fishery platform Fishbee, and product-centric software provider Instahomes.

These chosen startups will be undergoing a four-month program consisting of access to mentorship, workshops, and legal services, among others, and will receive a ₱100,000 cash grant. At the end of the program, IdeaSpace will be selecting three startups to invest in through its Opportunity Fund.

Katrina Rausa Chan, IdeaSpace’s executive director, said that startups in the 2021 cohort for the IdeaSpace Acceleration Program offer the solutions, the technology, the innovations, and the businesses that have the potential to propel the country forward and shape the new normal. 

“IdeaSpace has always invested in ventures with great teams and forward-thinking ideas. We can’t wait to see them scale up their businesses, help people, and create longer-lasting impact in their respective categories,” said Chan.

Meanwhile, Rene Meily, the president of IdeaSpace, shared that every startup in this cohort delivers digital-first solutions and they need that now more than ever. 

“We’ve seen the variety of the industries that these startups represent, which only goes to show that no matter your category, you will have to quickly adapt in these changing times and find ways to integrate digital in your products and services to provide relevant solutions. We are excited to see how they grow throughout the program, IdeaSpace and QBO will be with them every step of the way,” said Meily.

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SME Featured APAC

Huawei to invest US$100m to the APAC startup system for 3 years

Hong Kong – Global technology company Huawei has announced that it is pledging to invest around US$100m for the benefit of the startup ecosystem in Asia-Pacific for three years, publicized during its recently-concluded HUAWEI CLOUD Spark Founders Summit held simultaneously in Singapore and Hong Kong.

The company said that the investment would go towards its Spark Program in the Asia Pacific region, which aims to build a sustainable startup ecosystem for the region over the next three years.

Such endeavor reflects the company’s continuous efforts in helping Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand build their respective local startup hubs. 

At the summit, Huawei also announced that this program would focus its efforts on developing four additional startup hubs – in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam – with the overarching aim of recruiting a total of 1,000 startups into the Spark accelerator program and shaping 100 of them into scaleups.

Furthermore, Huawei also launched its Cloud-plus-Cloud Collaboration and Joint Innovation Program, to further ramp up its support for startups around the world. Huawei will devote ongoing efforts and leverage its complete business portfolio in the cloud-plus-cloud collaboration space to foster technological innovation, global and local services, and business ecosystems, accelerating the growth of startups.

Catherine Chen, senior vice president and board member at Huawei, opened up the summit by emphasizing how important startups are to social advancement and what Huawei is doing to support startups.

“Startups and SMEs are the innovators, disruptors, and pioneers of our times. 34 years ago, Huawei was a startup with just 5,000 dollars of registered capital. Recently, we have been thinking: How can we leverage our experience and resources to help more startups address their challenges? Doing so would allow them to seize the opportunities posed by digital transformation, achieve business success, and develop more innovative products and solutions for the world,” Chen stated.

Three more additional initiatives under the Asia Pacific Spark Program were launched by Huawei at the event: The Spark Developer Program, which aims to nurture a developer ecosystem powered by HUAWEI CLOUD in the Asia Pacific region; the Spark Pitstop Program, designed to onboard and support startups on HUAWEI CLOUD to accelerate product development; and the Spark Innovation Program (SIP), focused on facilitating enterprise innovation through the Spark startup ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Zhang Ping’an, CEO of Huawei’s Cloud Business Unit, commented that since its launch in 2017, HUAWEI CLOUD has been the world’s fastest-growing cloud, and has driven the growth of countless startups. He also added that as they launched the Spark Program in Asia Pacific last year, they have been working with local governments, leading incubators, well-known VC firms, and top universities to build support platforms for startups in many regions, which has seen 40 startups participating in the program.

“Starting today, we are stepping up our support for startups through four new initiatives, aimed at cloud-plus-cloud collaboration, continuous tech innovation, global and local services, and high-quality business ecosystems. Today, we launched our Cloud-plus-Cloud Collaboration and Joint Innovation Program, through which we will support startups with US$40m worth of resources. Half of that investment is coming from HUAWEI CLOUD, half from Huawei Mobile Services (HMS),” Zhang stated.

He added, “In 2021, our plan is to support 200 startups in the HMS ecosystem, and share our network of channel resources with developers worldwide who together serve 1 billion Huawei device users. In addition, we will open an HMS Developer Innovation Center to support 100,000 HMS cloud-native developers.”

Stipulated as well in the event was Huawei’s showcase of the latest data on its innovation research programs with startups. The data shows solid relationships between Huawei and more than 2,000 partners from across the Asia Pacific region, with ongoing initiatives to build support platforms in close partnerships with governments, top VC firms, and leading universities in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Huawei rounded off the series of announcements with a plan to build an HMS Developer Innovation Center. Through this center, Huawei aims to cultivate future talent in cooperation with 210 leading universities across the Asia Pacific region.

“For the past two decades, we have remained committed to being ‘In Asia Pacific, For Asia Pacific’. Leveraging Huawei’s global customer base and full-stack technologies, the Spark Program will invest more than US$100m over the next three years, and provide comprehensive support to the establishment of a sustainable startup ecosystem that creates new value for this dynamic region,” Jeffery Liu, president for Asia-Pacific Region at Huawei stated.

The summit was attended by representatives from many prominent Asian startups, academia, various industries and governments, and the media, as well as more than 50 regional top venture capitalists and over 300 startup founders. Speeches and panels at the event focused on the social value of this startup ecosystem and how startups can promote technological and ecosystem innovation, contribute to local communities and drive socioeconomic development.

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SME Featured East Asia

HSBC Hong Kong launches B2B digital community platform

Hong Kong – HSBC Hong Kong has rolled out a new business-to-business (B2B) digital community platform HSBC VisionGo. The platform will serve as an ecosystem for SMEs, startups, and prospective entrepreneurs where they can exchange dialogue for business insights as well as a place for networking. 

The platform is built on the company’s cloud computing platform Microsoft Azure. It employs machine learning technologies to offer personalized professional insights and networking opportunities through an AI-enhanced interface, along with new interactive features designed to further foster conversations and collaboration. 

The platform also enables SME operators to follow each other. Business topics can also be discussed among the community through interactive polling. In addition, SMEs can promote their own offers to create new business leads, or redeem available offers as added benefits. 

According to a recent HSBC report, 95% of Hong Kong businesses have extended support to, or have received support from other businesses they work with by exchanging expertise and sharing premises (50%), enabling others to get their products to customers (46%), or relaxing payment terms for their smaller partners (35%).

Terence Chiu, head of commercial banking at HSBC Hong Kong said, “HSBC is committed to investing in digital innovation to help Hong Kong’s SME sector. We are a connector in the business community, and we aim to use our strength to build a collaborative business ecosystem that will help businesses get through these challenging times and position themselves to make the most of the opportunities when they come.” 

A beta version of the platform was unveiled in March 2020. As the platform continues to develop, HSBC will be introducing features such as integration with its mobile payment service PayMe. 

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SME Featured APAC

Global services firm Aon, Singapore’s Doerscircle partner to provide insurance solutions to independent workers in Asia

Singapore – Aon, a global professional services firm which provides a broad range of risk, retirement, and health solutions, and Singapore-headquartered Doerscircle, an all-in-one services platform dedicated for startups, have entered into a collaboration to provide insurance solutions to the often underserved workforce of entrepreneurs, startuppers, and freelancers. The partnership will initially target Asia, and solutions will be offered through Doerscircle’s platform.

According to the information by the companies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore account for two-thirds of all employment and contribute to close to S$200 billion to the Singaporean economy. 

Meanwhile, on a global scale, despite the World Bank’s recent findings that almost 50% of the global workforce is self-employed, access and affordability continue to be a challenge as traditional insurance plans are not usually designed to fit the needs of the self-employed.

Aon and Doerscircle aim to address these pain points and at the same time, leverage the economical contribution of this demographic of workers. The collaboration will see the development of commercial, risk, and health insurance solutions to answer the needs of smaller enterprises and independent workers, enabling them to focus on growing their business instead of spending time and energy on understanding and managing insurance issues.

Members of Doerscircle will be able to have access to tailored insurance solutions through a streamlined online process on the Doerscircle platform.

Over time, Doerscircle aims to extend these offerings to include more products and countries, leveraging Aon’s broad network, risk management expertise, and global capabilities.

“The current business and economic environment are changing the way people work. We are excited to collaborate with Doerscircle to address the specific insurance needs of this key segment of independent workers,” said Tobias Schneider, head of financial institutions and SME of Affinity Asia unit at Aon.

Meanwhile, Doerscircle founder Helle Priess said, “Doerscircle aims to challenge the status quo and reshape the world for independent doers – entrepreneurs, startuppers and freelancers. We strongly believe that insurance solutions should be accessible, relevant, easy to understand, and transparent. We’re thrilled that Aon has the same vision. We’re confident that together, we will set new standards in insurance offerings for independent doers.”