True Corporation, one of Thailand’s biggest mobile operators, unveiled its 200,000-square-metre Digital Park project yesterday, reportedly worth $500 million (20 billion THB), reports The Bangkok Post.

The planned facility also aims to foster the development of the country’s digital economy, with support for digital innovations and tech startups. The park will be located on Sukhumvit 101, and is currently under construction, expected to be commercially launched in mid 2018, according to True CEO, Supachai Cheravanont.

True Corp will ask the government to provide special tax incentives to foreign investors who will be setting up offices at the park. 

The project will feature a vast co-working space in an open air green area, offices and data centers. It will also include broadband and advanced 4G network, catering to big and small companies, universities and research institutions.

As reported by Tech in Asia, True Corp has made big investments in the country’s tech scene. Apart from the launch of the digital park, True has also launched a startup accelerator program, working closely with Silicon Valley VC firm 500 Startups to incubate young entrepreneurs and projects.

Thailand’s tech scene is relatively young and is often overlooked in favor of Singapore and Indonesia. However, True’s big investment into a ‘digital park’ may be a positive indication of the future landscape of Thailand ecommerce.

Versions of this appeared in Bangkok Post and Tech In Asia on August 19. Read the full versions here and here.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is in talks to buy online discount retailer Jet.com Inc, reports Wall Street Journal. 

A deal could give Wal-Mart’s ecommerce efforts a much-needed jolt as the world’s largest retailer seeks to grow beyond its brick-and-mortar storefronts with speedy home delivery from a network of massive suburban warehouses.

Although Wal-Mart has not announced how much it would pay for the startup, it is speculated that Jet could be valued at $3 billion. This would make it Wal-Mart’s biggest acquisition since buying South African retailer, Massmart Holdings for $2.3 billion in 2o1o.

This is a sign that Wal-Mart is willing to spend big to compete with Amazon and save itself from “traditional retailer death” plaguing legacy businesses.

However, industry analysts are questioning the slightly odd decision.

“I’m struggling with the math of why you would pay this much money for this business model at this particular time,” says Bryan Gidenberg, an analyst at Kantar Retail.

Jet is barely a year old and was set on going up against Amazon itself. A part of its early growth strategy relied on taking orders for products it didn’t sell and placing orders on behalf of its customers on other sites, often selling the items below what it paid while absorbing steep shipping costs. Jet has since abandoned the practice.

Wal-Mart has scrambled to keep pace with Amazon, which overtook Wal-Mart by market capitalization a year ago and now sports a market value that is 50% larger.

Wal-Mart’s ecommerce sales reached nearly $14 billion, or 3% of its $482 billion in annual revenue last year. Amazon’s revenue was $107 billion last year, including its Web-services business.

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Doug McMillon acknowledged his company’s ecommerce growth “is too slow” and that the company needed to expand the number of products sold on its site and give third parties more access to its website.
For Jet, a takeover by Wal-Mart would demonstrate the challenges of attempting to go it alone in the hypercompetitive ecommerce market. Jet has yet to prove that its unique pricing and supply chain model is sustainable.A version of this appeared in The Wall Street Journal on August 3. Read the full version here

Love With Food, a US based delivery service for healthy snacks has announced its international expansion, includes Singapore reports Tech In Asia.

The startup launched in 2012 by Aihui Ong, a US based Singaporean who noticed a missing gap in the food business.

In the US, a consumer can discover food through grocery stores, supermarkets and so on. The problem with them is that there’s limited shelf space, and new products get rejected because of this, as shelf space is reserved for bigger brands. – Aihui Ong, Founder of Love With Food.

What is Love With Food?

The startup is a subscription-based service that sends you a box of all-natural, organic, and gluten-free snacks. Everything in the box comes from smaller food brands that want to get their product in front of customers.

The company sells consumer data to companies looking to benefit from insights (product feedback and preferences).

Monetizing its data contributes about 10% of Love With Food’s current revenue, as the company started charging for that service only last year. The rest comes in through subscriptions. Over time, the company hopes the data business will bring in around half of the revenue.

By owning valuable consumer data, Love With Food is able to protect itself from a competitive grocery delivery market.

The startup also has a social impact component; Love With Food is in the process of coordinating with a global food bank network, so it can provide meals to countries where the purchases come from.

So far, Love With Food has raised $4 million in external funding and has acquired four other startups like gluten-free meal service G-Free Foodie Box Club and subscription food provider Taste Guru. Its revenue last year was $4.5 million and this year it expects to double that to about $10 million.

The company will expand to 25 new countries simultaneously because it has seen enough demand from other markets to justify the move. It has also achieved a big enough scale in the US market to be able to negotiate better shipping rates.

A version of this appeared in Tech In Asia on August 2. Read the full version here.

130 Malaysian startups have come together to celebrate Malaysian entrepreneurship by launching Project Merdeka and beat the negative headlines in Malaysia this past week reports Tech in Asia.

In recent news, The Wall Street Journal reported US federal prosecutors filing a lawsuit to seize more than $1 billion in assets, money siphoned off the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad Fund. Caught right in the middle of this scandal is Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is accused of pocketing $731 million from the fund.

Project Merdeka is driven by Unicroach, a community of the top founders and ecosystem enablers in Malaysia, Project Merdeka is a site offering deals from 130 startups like 123RF, Grab, KFit, iFlix and Lazada.

For the first time in the history of our country, local tech startups have put their industry differences aside and united for a common goal – to give back to the community . – Serene Gan, Project Lead.

Any Malaysian startup can submit deals to go live and it is a 100% free. There is no commission and participation fee. Users can click directly to each startup or just apply the discount code, ‘MERDEKA’.

The group intends to make this a yearly promotion, with plans to track sales and release data in the near future.

A version of this appeared in Tech In Asia on August 1. Read the full version here.

Singaporean e-marketplace Carousell, announced a $35 million in series B funding today. The investment is lead by Rakuten Ventures, with Sequoia India, Golden Gate Ventures, and 500 Startups also contributing some of the cash.

The Singapore-based team has already taken the app, which blends new and used items sort of like a classified listings site except that it’s all done in a streamlined mobile app, to six other locations. The latest is Hong Kong.

“A big part of this round will be just accelerating our international expansion,” says Siu Rui Quek, Carousell’s CEO, speaking over Skype from the startup’s HQ.

Carousell’s birth story

From the way Siu Rui Quek describes it, you know his startup hasn’t produced the usual kind of shopping app. He talks of the community, of users staying up well past midnight browsing the new stuff that flies in, of people using it each day for even longer than Instagram. He doesn’t compare it to Amazon.

The three co-founders set up Carousell in 2012, but its genesis goes back a year earlier to when the friends went to Silicon Valley to serve as tech interns while squeezing in some classes at Stanford.

Once back in Singapore, they went to a Startup Weekend event and came up with the bare bones of what would later become the shopping app based on issues they themselves faced when trying to sell odds-and-ends on the web. The trio won the event, but that wasn’t what persuaded them to build it into a business, Siu Rui says.

“The biggest motivation was having people tweet us, like our Facebook page, saying they really want to use this for themselves. So that really gave us the confidence to take it forward.”

Now with 35 million product listings put up by its community, the team is coy about revealing the number of active users. Siu Rui concedes it’s not pulling in a profit, but that’s because the crew is focusing on growing its user base rather than implementing some things they have in mind, like premium listings or some other paid services.

A version of this appeared in Tech in Asia on August 2. Read full story here

Indonesian ecommerce site Tokopedia is not planning to go public anytime soon. The company believes is still has enough funding to support expansion. Indeed, Tokopedia has recently raised $147.7 million funding, bringing the total funding of $247.7 million which sets the company as the best-funded startup in Indonesia.

Tokopedia operates in an increasingly tight competition in the Indonesian ecommerce market, with rivals like Lippo Group-backed Mataharimall.com, Bukalapak, or Djarum’s Blibli and Alibaba’s Lazada also vying to dominate a market worth an estimated $130 billion by 2020.

Meanwhile, Bhinneka.com, one of the country’s oldest ecommerce companies, has set a plan to sell shares to the public in 2018 to raise more capital. But Tokopedia remains confident that the fund that they got from various investors like Softbank, Sequoia Capital and other undisclosed investors is enough to support growth in the next few years.

“A startup’s target is not just fundraising or IPO. It’s just one of many ways to raise capital. The most important thing is how we can bring value to the community,” said Leontinus Alpha Edison, Tokopedia’s co-founder.

Leontinus admitted that an IPO can boost capital and offer early investors in the company to cash in their gain but he insisted that Tokopedia’s current investors are in no rush to do so.

“An IPO is still very far away for us. It will need a lot of consideration and is not going to happen anytime soon,” Leontinus said.

A version of this appeared in Jakarta Globe on July 31. Read the full article here