Southeast Asian companies like GoJek and Grab have made headlines for their competition with traditional U.S. tech giants. Knowledge of local cultures and languages makes them well equipped to challenge internationally-based startups looking to expand into emerging markets.
Capital flow into the region has followed this increasing interest, as more VCs look to fund companies that are challenging traditional heavyweights in mobile, ecommerce, fintech, and transportation.
According to Crunchbase data, the dollar amount and number of deals for Seed and early-stage startups based in Southeast Asia has grown from about $61 million in 2008 to $853.2 million in 2017—an increase of 326 percent. ¹
In light of this upward movement, Crunchbase News decided to create a tally of the top early-stage startups in the region. Not surprisingly, Singapore is a leading hub of venture activity in these areas, with 12 of the 20 startups included based in the region.
According to Bloomberg, the tendency for VCs to invest in Singapore-based companies is due to relaxed regulatory barriers supported by the Singapore government, increased efforts to protect intellectual property, and public money being directed to early-stage investments. Grab, the ride-hailing app which acquired Uber’s regional branch, is headquartered Singapore and boasts a valuation of $6 billion. Another Singaporean giant, ecommerce company Lazada, landed a total of $4 billion from Chinese ecommerce mammoth Alibaba.
Nonetheless, aCommerce, which has raised the most, is based in Thailand.
Acommerce Takes On Ecommerce
Founded in 2013 by Paul, Tom, and John Srivorakul, Bangkok-based ecommerce industry solutions platform aCommerce aims to help companies with all parts of the ecommerce experience, including shipping, logistics, webstore development, and digital marketing. Its website counts Line, Adidas, Kiehls, and L’Oréal as customers. According to Techcrunch, the startup’s focus on logistics due to poor infrastructure in many parts of the region is a trend for startups in Southeast Asia.
In preparation for its Series B, aCommerce landed a series of strategic investments. In May 2015, it raised a $5 million round from Ardent Capital and Indonesia-based Sinarmas and Inspire Ventures. That round was followed by an investment in December 2015 from Switzerland-based DKSH, which gave the group 20% stake for an undisclosed amount, as well as a pre-Series B round in July 2016 by MDI Ventures that brought in $10 million more for the company.
ACommerce’s then raised a $65 million Series B led by Mumbai-based Emerald Media in November 2017. That last round brought the startup’s total known funds raised to $93.8 million, ranking it at the top of our list.
Looking To China, Payment Startups Get Funding
Payments is another growing industry in Southeast Asia. Vietnam-based Momo offers a mobile wallet and payment apps that allow users to make purchases, initiate transfers, and pay bills with their smartphones. According to Techcrunch, the company was inspired by Alibaba’s payment system in China.
Founded in 2013, Momo raised a $5.8 million Series A from Goldman Sachs in January 2013. That round was followed by a $28 million Series B led by Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs in March 2016, bringing Momo’s aggregate total funds raised to $33.8 million.
Read on to see who else made the list. Startups are ordered by total funding amount from most to least and range in category from ecommerce and payment platforms like those mentioned above to carsharing and retail providers.
- Countries included in this analysis are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), namely, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. More than half of the 2,151 seed and early-stage rounds from 2008 through 2017 were in startups based in Singapore.
Illustration Credit: Li Anne Dias