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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

The problem for new startups trying to secure a slice of the ecommerce pie is an issue of differentiation, which will shape the future of ecommerce in Southeast Asia. Most stores are vanilla products – you log on to the site, search for products that interest you, compare prices and place your order. The likes of Amazon, Lazada, Flipkart, and Alibaba already have millions of items for sale, why should a user buy from someone else unheard of?

“That’s precisely how iBuySell aims to set itself apart,” says Kaustuva Mukhurjee, the startup’s CEO. What is iBuySell?

A mobile shopping marketplace with a very unique feature – a “live sale” section where new products across several categories are listed every few minutes.

The price of each item drops every second until one person decides to purchase it, thereby “locking” it.

Once the price is frozen, the item is taken offline and reserved for the shopper. It does not follow a bidding mechanism similar to how eBay functions. Shoppers have to decide whether to wait for the price to drop further, in which case they risk losing it to someone else, or purchase straight away. There’s initially a free, one-month-long trial through which they can familiarize themselves with the dynamics of the store. Afterwards they have the option of paying a transaction fee anywhere between 5 and 15 percent or a monthly subscription fee which starts at US$29.

A win-win strategy for sellers and consumers

Kaustuva says there’s plenty of incentive for sellers to come onboard the marketplace too. “Listing process is simple and fast for sellers – click some product pictures and upload from their phone or desktop. Enter the item title, description, a few details such as size, brand, and shipping costs,” he adds.

The discount window is small, lasting about 90 seconds.

The trick behind this 90 second discount model is that prices do not fall under a minimum ceiling indicated by the seller. This helps eliminate the uncertainty associated with online auctions as sellers do not know what price they might get and may also end up sustaining losses.

Kaustuva explains the idea for his store came about after he thought about consumers disliking the seven day wait period for the auction to close or having to bid several times in order to nab the item.

‘The online bidding systems on sites like eBay were frustrating and time-consuming so why not make thing fun and exciting while moving products fast for sellers?’

And that’s how iBuySell is different from other flash sales sites. Discounted products on those stores are usually available anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days.

“The ultimate goal of ecommerce is to engage consumers and encourage them to make a purchase decision. People don’t buy stuff just to get the things they want but also have an exciting experience,” affirms Kaustuva.

A version of this appeared in Tech in Asia on July 11. Read the full article here.