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It's raining deals—and unicorns
Asia Tech Review: 5 October 2021
We are a day late as this week has been particularly manic—The Ken celebrates five years since its launch. This year, my colleagues in India have launched a range of daily newsletters covering topics as diverse as financial services, crypto and the business of sport among other things.
Shout out to Rest of World, which has this comprehensive report on gig worker challenges across the world, from India and Southeast Asia to Latin America and beyond.
As for this week’s newsletter, it’s raining funding and unicorns, particularly Southeast Asia once again.
That’s all for this edition—see you next week,
China is reportedly unlikely to approve Baidu's $3.6B purchase of JOYY's YY Live apparently as part of its efforts to rein in gaming-related businesses and corporate expansion via deals
Researchers have found evidence that China’s Great Firewall internet censorship system is more sophisticated than previously thought
China has released ‘ethical guidelines’ for AI, placing emphasis on protecting user rights and preventing risks in ways that align with Beijing’s goals of reining in the influence of big tech and making China the world’s AI leader by 2030
Lenovo plans to raise $1.5B on through a listing on the Shanghai STAR market
Chinese companies are suing Amazon after getting banned for paid reviews
A recent rise in censorship allegations may impact the ambitious global plans of Xiaomi and other Chinese smartphone makers—Germany is investigating Xiaomi smartphones, following on from Lithuania’s warning about the censorship capabilities of the devices
A detailed look at TSMC—”the world’s largest contract manufacturer of the semiconductor chips—otherwise known as integrated circuits, or just chips—that power our phones, laptops, cars, watches, refrigerators and more”
Oyo filed for $1.16B IPO—it’s seeking a valuation of around $12B with $942M to be raised in new shares and the remainder in secondary sales. Notably, SoftBank owns 45% of the company and founder Ritesh Agarwal isn’t planning to sell any shares yet
Ola Electric raised over $200M from Falcon Edge, SoftBank and others at a valuation of $3B
Meesho raised $570M at a $4.9B valuation—the social commerce company counts Facebook, Prosus, SoftBank and B Capital among its backers
Meanwhile Byju’s is now worth $18B after it raised $300M as part of a larger round of new investment
Thrasio, the company that pioneered Amazon seller business aggregation which has raised nearly $2B, reportedly plans to enter India and has held talks to potentially buy Lifelong Online
Reliance is said to be “close” to finalising an investment in Glance, the InMobi unit that covers lock screen advertising—a partnership or rollout across Jio’s network could be significant
Online learning platform Vedantu just become a unicorn with a new $100M round
Swiggy is in talks to raise as much as $800M at a valuation of $10B
Here’s more crazy growth from a relatively new name: OfBusiness, a commerce startup that sells industrial goods and provides small businesses with credit, raised $207M led by Tiger Global at a valuation of $3B—more than double from 3 months ago when it raised $160M
Capital Float, a buy now, pay later service backed by Amazon among others, raised $50M
BP’s venture fund made its first direct investment in India by leading a $13M deal for EV ride-hailing and charging company BluSmart
A debt marketplace for enterprises, CredAvenue raised a $90M round that is India’s largest Series A deal ever—it was led by Sequoia Capital and included Lightspeed, TVS Capital Funds and Lightrock India
Digital health startup MFine raised $48M
AlphaSense, which helps companies turn data into decisions, closed a $180M Series C
The next phase of SPACs is complicated: On one hand, local IPO options in Indonesia are giving companies pause for thought on how to go public. With the FT reporting that IPOs are more popular. Singapore is, however, hatching a plan to ride the SPAC wave, as my colleague Kay wrote for The Ken
The future of wallet OVO has been up in the air ever since major shareholder Tokopedia agreed to merge with Gojek—rival to OVO shareholder Grab—but now things look to be clearing themselves up. Grab is preparing to double its ownership to 90% which will mean OVO becomes its de facto wallet. It may also lead to OVO and Dana ongoing merger finally coming together, particularly since Grab has upped its alliance with Emtek, the largest shareholder in Dana. Adding to the drama, OVO CEO Jason Thompson (a former Grab fintech exec) has departed to join Temasek’s new blockchain organisation.
Ninja Van is Southeast Asia’s news unicorn after it raised $578M from investors that include new backer Alibaba—logistics is the hot space for venture capital right now. Watch out for the IPOs coming
Speaking of which, my colleague Nadine wrote about Indonesian logistics player SiCepta, which she reported is shooting for an IPO in Q1 at a valuation of $2B
There’s a lot of focus on unicorns, but here’s an old school IPO success: Singapore’s TDCX—a 25 year-old company that offers BPO services like customer service or content moderation, raised US$349M via a US IPO.
Amazon might not have expanded across Southeast Asia as had been expected, but that isn’t stopping Jeff Bezos from investing in Indonesia’s Ula via his family office Bezos Expeditions. That’s part of a $87M round that includes Prosus Ventures, Tencent, and B Capital. I wrote about Ula nearly a year ago and it was raising big sums quickly even then.
Speaking of future unicorns: fintech startup Aspire closed $158M as it aims to broaden its business into areas like payroll, invoice management and more
Investments rebounded in the first half of this year to reach a record 393 investment deals, although the total amount declined—according to a report from Cento Ventures
Southeast Asia got a new startup fund: Forge Ventures, which raised a $22M debut fund
A more established name is stocking up again, too—Vertex expects to raise at least $400M for its new Southeast Asia and India fund
Cambodia’s PM has ‘zoombombed’ opposite party calls as the county prepares for a national internet gateway—but how it actually works is not clear
Laos is the latest country to consider its own digital currency in the style of China’s ‘digital yuan’
Singapore granted licenses for digital payment token services to the brokerage arm of DBS Bank. and Australian cryptocurrency exchange Independent Reserve—you’d imagine there will be more to come
Japan is turning its 2.7M utility poles into AI beacons that could help self-driving vehicles and more
ISP SK Broadband filed a counterclaim against Netflix to demand payment for the bandwidth the streaming platform has used for the last three years. This is a response to a court telling Netflix in June that it should pay for traffic sent over SK Broadband’s network—now SK seemingly intends to stick the knife in
Meanwhile KT, another telco, plans to inject $150M into its media unit—which includes Netflix rivaling service Seezn and online novel platform Wavve—to grow its multimedia presence
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