Here’s what you should know today.

1. Malaysian VC association joins forces with regional counterparts

The Malaysian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (MVCA) is now part of the ASEAN Venture Council (AVC).  With four of ASEAN’s key VC associations now on board, the AVC could have a positive impact on growth prospects for startups across the bloc.

By linking the four national bodies together, the AVC is intended to facilitate greater knowledge sharing and collaboration among VC firms and early-stage businesses throughout the region.

This could lead to a boost in tech investment throughout Southeast Asia

While VC funding more than doubled quarter-on-quarter to US$191.6 million in Q1 2017, it fell far short of the US$330.6 million invested across 65 deals a year previously.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Rocket Internet sells 51% of fashion site Namshi to Dubai’s Emaar Malls for $151 million

Today Rocket Internet announced that it has sold 51%  of Namshi, its Middle Eastern Amazon clone, to Emaar for $151 million.

Emaar lost out on buying online retailer Souq.com when Amazon got ahead of the game.

Emaar Malls has long been looking to ramp up its presence on the web and said that it will use the new asset to expand its logistics and expand more brands to selling online. Emaar earlier this month also acquired Dubai-based online marketplace JadoPado, and it’s also involved in a joint venture with Yoox Net-A-Porter to expand the latter company’s business into the region.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Pinterest launches a ‘Shazam for food’ feature

Pinterest has announced a new recipe-finding feature that makes use of computer vision to tell you about a dish when you point your smartphone camera at it. The company is billing the feature as a way to perform real-time “dish recognition.” The new upgrade is eerily similar to the app from HBO comedy, Silicon Valley.

This is all part of a broader artificial intelligence push in the tech industry to apply machine learning techniques to everyday life.

By training neural networks on huge mounds of data and translating that into a real-time algorithm, tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are now developing software products that can digest and understand the world, from text to photos to even videos.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

 

 

 

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Sea (formerly Garena) files for $1 billion IPO

Sea Ltd., Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup, has filed confidentially for a potential U.S. initial public offering that could raise about $1 billion.

Sea is considering listing in early 2018, though no final decisions have been made

The company, founded in 2009 by entrepreneur Forrest Li, began as an online gaming portal and has since branched out to add mobile shopping and payment services. A $1 billion deal would be the largest technology IPO out of Southeast Asia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Any overseas listing of Sea would be a blow for Singapore, which has been trying to woo local startups to sell shares at home as it seeks to build a regional hub for fast-growing, innovative companies.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Philippine blockchain startup Coins tops up series A with another $5m

Blockchain-powered fintech startup Coins announced today it has raised an extra US$5 million for its series A, which it first raised last October.

The funding is led by Naspers Ventures, the investment arm of South African tech and internet conglomerate Naspers.

Headquartered in Manila, Coins uses blockchain technology to enable financial services like money remittances, bill payments, and mobile credit top-up for its users, whether they have a bank account or not.

The unbanked – people who don’t have access to traditional banking services – are a big part of the company’s mission. The startup’s technology helps them access a range of those services through just a mobile phone. Users can top up their e-wallet easily at physical outlets that partner with Coins and thereafter use it for online transactions.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Recommended Reading: Report: ‘Ultra-fast’ fashion players gain on Zara, H&M

Now, in a challenge to those fast-fashion stalwarts, many smaller apparel brands have sped up the design-to-sale process even more, turning fast fashion into “ultra-fast fashion,”

Boohoo.com, ASOS and Missguided can produce merchandise in two to four weeks, compared to five weeks for Zara and H&M and the six- to nine-month cycle for traditional retailers.

“Customers want it now,”said Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting. “There’s an emotional immediacy attached to that.”

Now lower-priced retailers like Boohoo and ASOS, which have strong (if not pure-play) ecommerce operations, are now challenging even the fast-fashion old-timers, according to Fung Global.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Cainiao now controls 81% of Alibaba’s domestic orders

Embedded within Alibaba’s most recent quarterly results was a clear sign that couriers in China have increasingly aligned their IT platforms with that of Alibaba’s logistics affiliate, Cainiao.

Hangzhou-based Cainiao operates a platform which integrates multi-modal transport suppliers and express couriers from every corner of the country in order to seamlessly deliver packages. This helps smooth the gaps in the courier’s service areas.

The average number of parcels moving through Cainiao’s network to be around 42 million packages per day.

Read the rest of the story here.

Want to read more on Cainiao? Check out eIQ’s series on the Chinese logistics giant here.

 

2. Singapore’s ongoing tech push: VR in schools, more fintech, and tech IPOs

Speaking at the Infocomm Media Business Exchange opening ceremony, Minister for Communications and Information Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim made a number of announcements that address problems such as tech companies that struggling when they prepare for an IPO, to education the next generation about tech.

The Minister said that IMDA, Singapore’s main IT and media regulator, will collaborate with the Singapore Exchange (SGX). IMDA’s accreditation service, which vets promising local startups and helps them attract external investment and exit opportunities, will work with the country’s stock exchange to “increase accessibility to capital markets for tech companies.”

The nation will also stress on 5G infrastructure deployment, which is meant to address every growing demand of internet-of things networks.

Dr. Ibrahim said the vision is to “nurture a digital society where all Singaporeans have access to technology, understand it, and benefit from using technology in their everyday lives.”

 Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Amazon will open a bookstore in LA

Amazon is planning to open a bookstore in a Century City mall, its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in Los Angeles.

The online retailer, credited with causing a crisis in the physical bookselling industry, has opened five brick-and-mortar bookstores in the last 18 months and has announced plans for seven more.

Amazon Books stores are different from traditional bookstores in a number of ways. The Record newspaper of Northern New Jersey — where a future Amazon Books will be located — visited the Dedham store. It does not take cash or have price tags — instead, customers were encouraged to download the Amazon shopping app and scan merchandise with it.

Here’s what you should know today.

1. WeChat now lets mainland Chinese users share content to Facebook

With parent company Tencent seeking to expand its presence outside of China, WeChat has just launched a significant new feature allowing domestic Chinese users to synchronize Moments posts to Facebook and Twitter.

China’s Great Firewall means that access to Facebook and Twitter is still blocked inside mainland China, but the new feature should be useful to Chinese users living, traveling, and studying overseas, as well as those using a VPN within the mainland.

To access Moments synchronization to overseas social media platforms while residing in China, users will need to enable a VPN, but it’s not uncommon for wealthy WeChat users to have access to VPNs, especially if they frequently travel or do business abroad.

So what does this mean for brands? Firstly, the feature may make life easier for social teams already working with WeChat alongside Facebook and Twitter, by allowing one post to be automatically shared rather than posted multiple times.More importantly, the move allows social content to flow between WeChat users and the wider Chinese diaspora, some of whom may be using Facebook and Twitter, but not WeChat.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. A $60 billion ecommerce loophole in China may be narrowing

Known as cross-border ecommerce, the booming backdoor avenue allows Chinese consumers to buy overseas-manufactured goods online and effectively circumvent the regulatory issues that have stymied access to consumer products from cosmetics to Cognac.

Faced with pressure from conventional retailers at home, and the loss of tax revenue, the government is now looking at overhauling the legal loophole.

Source: Bloomberg

“If you do not harmonize the rules for commercial imports and cross-border ecommerce, there is an advantage you give to companies overseas,” said Chan Wai-Chan, a retail partner at consultancy Oliver Wyman in Hong Kong.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Siam Commercial Bank’s Digital Ventures reveal coin machine

According to data from the Treasury Department in 2017, there are about 29 billion coins worth a combined Bt50 billion in circulation. Approximately 10 per cent of these coins are not in the system due to several factors including people collecting coins at home and the tendency to not carry around change.

The product development team at Digital Ventures worked with our partners, namely Lightfog, RTech and Creatus, to create a coin machine capable of counting and checking coins, exchanging coins for notes, and linking with the bank’s system to allow users to carry out transactions with greater convenience and in ways that fit with their lifestyle.

“For example, consumers can choose to deposit the change directly into their bank account, transfer to their e-wallet by providers such as Line Pay and PayPal, top up their mobile phone, or donate the change to a foundation or charity of their choice.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. London’s Shipamax raises funding to expand to Asia

China’s early-stage VC investor Cherubic Ventures has joined theS$2.5 million seed funding round of London-headquartered shipping software startup Shipamax.

Shipamax will use the proceeds from this round to build the team, accelerate product development and expand the customer base.

Booking a ship for bulk commodities is a slow and painful process. Data is siloed, making it hard to work as a team — shipowners and brokers receive in excess of 5,000 emails daily.

As a result, ship brokers are under increasing pressure to prove they are still relevant and can add value to the booking process. In addition, shipowners must use all the data they have to improve return on their assets as banks tighten access to capital.

Shipamax’s vision is to become the platform of the industry — replacing the thousands of unnecessary emails, siloed excel files and instant messages between players required for each booking.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. China’s JD.com is developing one-ton delivery drones

The company said it will test the drones on a network it is developing to cover the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi. It said they will carry consumer goods to remote areas and farm produce to cities.

“We envision a network that will be able to efficiently transport goods between cities, and even between provinces, in the future,” the chief executive of JD’s logistics business group, Wang Zhenhui, said in a statement.

Drones are part of the industry’s response to the challenge of expanding to rural areas where distances and delivery costs rise.

A 1 ton payload is heavier than what most drones available now can carry, though some can carry hundreds of kilograms and major drone makers are working on devices able to carry more.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Recommended Reading: The Amazon Strategy

Source: factor-a GmbH

Garena, a Singapore-based internet company, recently made splashes in the news as the tech unicorn, one of the few in Southeast Asia, raised US $550 million in funding. The fresh batch of investors include Cathay Financial and GDP Venture, who are supporting Garena’s aggressive push into Indonesia. The company also announced plans to change its name to ‘Sea’ Ltd., an acronym for Southeast Asia.

If the new name is anything to go by, it seems Garena is making big plays within the region this year – namely with its mobile-first ecommerce platform, Shopee.

The mobile shopping app reported more than 5 million downloads in Thailand since its official launch two years ago, and 25 million downloads in total across seven markets; Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

In an email interview, representatives from Shopee Thailand shared exclusively with eIQ that the platform achieved 43% MoM growth across Asia last year and reported over 3 billion in annualized GMV to date.

The company’s healthy growth can be attributed to the rise of mobile adoption in the region. Bain estimates 85% and 79% of online shopping happens on mobile outside of major metro areas in Thailand and Indonesia, respectively.

But with other strong mobile-first contenders and e-marketplaces in the field, notably Singapore’s Carousell, the company needed to innovate.

A shift towards B2C

Blackmores’ official brand store on Shopee TH

A glance at Shopee’s homepage indicates that the marketplace is onboarding brands such as phone maker Vivo and Blackmores, in addition to facilitating its normal C2C transactions. This move places the C2C-B2C platform in the same playing field with marketplace heavyweights such as Lazada and Korea’s 11Street that made its Thailand debut at the end of 2016.

“Shopee Thailand is currently focused on the expansion of our market segments, including having more corporate brands on the platform in order to strengthen our portfolio,” says Terence Pang, COO at Shopee.

With an already strong consumer base in Thailand, Shopee is heading down a path naturally explored by other C2C players:

  • Indonesia’s Tokopedia initially started as a C2C platform, but recently integrated official brand shops from P&G onto its platform.
  • Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace is a C2C platform but sprung out Tmall as a B2C subsidiary of the marketplace.

One reason that may explain the C2C-B2C pivot is financial change. Ironically, as C2C marketplaces grow in membership and transactions, the model essentially hits a dead end.

An example can be made from European car sharing platform, BlaBlaCar. As a C2C business, it relied on customer interactions to drive revenue but pivoted to B2C in 2015 after the founder realized that by facilitating transactions between customers, it essentially demoted the platform into a lesser role.

“We [now] manage not only the interaction but also the transaction,” said Nicolas Brusson, founder of BlaBlaCar.

Does this mean that C2C models are all essentially poised to adopt the B2C model?

Well, why not? An already existing user base can only grow with more product variety and marketing dollars provided by the brands while the marketplace itself is poised to earn commission.

But what companies should watch out for is having two stark businesses coexist on the same platform. Some marketplaces can be at risk of alienating businesses and established brands due to the fear of being placed next to hastily taken images of home appliances from an inexperienced merchant but Shopee has successfully separated the two.

 Characteristics of a strong C2C-B2C hybrid

“We are working to bring more personalization for Shopee users through product recommendations based on browsing history and also optimizing our chat feature so consumers have direct contact with sellers,” says Terence.

Shopee’s efforts to optimize its product features does not come as a surprise as Thai consumers highly enjoy chatting on social platforms and also connecting with sellers.

A study conducted by Forrester revealed that 44% of consumers surveyed said that having questions answered live while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features of a website.

A communications platform also eases concerns about fraud and heightens trust during online transactions.

Personalized suggestions can benefit the marketplace itself because it provides a solution to the long-tail problem; more exposure to obscure items that are not very popular and do not drive revenue.

Recommending long-tail items to shoppers can provide higher return on investment for slower moving inventory.

By showing customers what they may enjoy, but might not necessarily discover on their own, marketplaces are able to heighten the entire shopping experience.

These tactics are already being used across the globe by tech titans such as Amazon and Netflix and it all seems to be working for Shopee Thailand as the company is experiencing over 1 million orders a month.

What does the future look like for Garena (Sea)/Shopee?

Sea is doubling down on the region and has publicly expressed intention to seize a larger chunk of the Indonesian market. Recent reports suggest the company is already performing in the top leagues.

The region’s largest market makes up 40-50% of Shopee’s transaction volume and the country experiences 200,000 daily transactions for physical goods, according to CEO Chris Feng.

As the region continues to thrive as an attractive retail ecosystem, Shopee’s expansion to a C2C/B2C marketplace will help it withstand the incoming tech titans and compete with the existing e-players for the attention of 650 million Southeast Asians.

Shopee Thailand team with Shopee University attendees, a workshop to help SMEs sell more efficiently on the platform.