Top news that grabbed the headlines in SEA startup scene in 2021

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The Gojek-Tokopedia merger was the biggest event of 2021

The Gojek-Tokopedia merger was the biggest event of 2021

The year 2021 has been challenging for the startup world. With the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic still lurking, many businesses had to cease operations that affected millions of jobs worldwide.

However, amidst all this, the startup world also witnessed some positive developments — the birth of many unicorns, public listing of many tech behemoths, accelerative growth of technologies such as NFTs and metaverse, and so on. Southeast Asia has been no different.

e27 brings you a list of all the major non-funding stories that have changed the startup ecosystem in 2021.

1. Grab IPO

On December 3, Grab scripted history by launching the largest IPO by a Southeast Asian company in the US. This development was a follow-up of the agreement in April that combined the company with Altimeter Growth in a SPAC merger.

The deal was valued at nearly US$40 billion.

2. Gojek-Tokopedia marriage

On May 17, Indonesian tech giants Gojek and Tokopedia announced a merger to form GoTo Group. Although the financial details were not disclosed, the companies said in a joint statement that it marked the largest ever business combination in Indonesia and the largest between two Asia-based internet media and services companies to date.

GoTo Group will continue to focus on markets where Gojek already operates. Beyond Indonesia, this includes Singapore and Vietnam.

3. AirAsia snaps up Gojek Thailand

On July 7, airasia Digital (previously known as RedBeat Ventures), the digital arm of the Malaysia-based airline operator,  acquired the Thailand operations of Gojek. The budget airline firm expects the deal to rev up the expansion of the airasia Super App in ASEAN while enabling Gojek to increase investments in its Vietnam and Singapore operations.

In return, Gojek will receive shareholding in the airasia Super App, whose market value is said to be around US$1 billion.

4. GoTo gets US$400M from Abu Dhabi fund

On October 20, GoTo Group said it was set to receive US$400 million from a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) in its pre-IPO round. ADIA would be the lead investor in the round and would join a global list of prominent GoTo investors, including Alibaba Group, Astra International, Facebook, Global Digital Niaga, Google, KKR, Sequoia India, and PayPal, SoftBank Vision Fund, Telkomsel, Temasek, Tencent and Warburg Pincus.

5. Carousell to take SPAC route to list in US

On June 28, Bloomberg reported that Singapore’s leading online classifieds company Carousell was mulling public listing in the US via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The transaction could value the tech company at about US$1.5 billion.

The firm is already working with an adviser on the potential deal.

6. PropertyGuru to go public

On July 23, digital property marketplace group PropertyGuru announced it would merge with Bridgetown 2 Holdings, a blank-cheque company formed by Pacific Century Group and Peter Thiel’s Thiel Capital, to go public on the NYSE. The combined entity will have an enterprise valuation of approximately US$1.35 billion and an equity value of approximately US$1.78 billion at closing.

The transaction is expected to deliver up to US$431 million of gross proceeds through the contribution of up to US$299 million of cash held in Bridgetown 2’s trust account, a concurrent US$100 million private placement (PIPE) of common stock anchored by Baillie Gifford, Naya, REA Group, Akaris Global Partners, and one of Malaysia’s largest asset managers, priced at US$10.00 per share.

7. VNG mulling public listing

On August 12, Bloomberg reported that Vietnamese internet giant VNG Corporation was considering going public in the US via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) at a US$2 to US$3 billion valuation. The technology giant is working with financial advisers and is holding talks with several SPACs for a potential merger, the report said quoting sources.

VNG is Vietnam’s first tech unicorn with a valuation of about US$2.2 billion. The firm has been considering a potential listing for several years. Back in 2017, Bloomberg reported that VNG had signed an MoU to list its shares on the Nasdaq, the second-largest stock exchange in the world.

8. Catcha SPAC files for a US$250M IPO

Catcha Investment, a blank cheque company formed by Malaysia’s Catcha Group, filed to raise up to US$250 million in an initial public offering on January 27. The Kuala Lumpur-based SPAC plans to raise the proposed capital by offering 25 million units at US$10. Each unit will consist of one share of common stock and one-half of a warrant, exercisable at US$11.50.

At the proposed deal size, Catcha Investment would command a market value of US$313 million.

9. Traveloka prepares to list via SPAC in the US

On February 15, a Bloomberg report said Indonesian travel giant Traveloka was planning to publicly list in the US this year through a SPAC. The Jakarta-based startup engaged JPMorgan Chase as plans to go public accelerate amid the capital influx into the stock market. Traveloka is said to be valued at close to US$6 billion.

10. AirAsia to launch ride-hailing services in Malaysia

Budget airline operator AirAsia Group founder and CEO Tony Fernandes announced in end-March that it would soon be launching ride-hailing services. Understanding the potential comparison with existing ride-hailing giants such as Grab, Fernandes affirmed that AirAsia can become successful in this sector even with the heavy competition, citing history where the company managed to raise funding quicker than any other airline company.

11. Gorilla Mobile launches blockchain-powered telecom offerings

On June 23, two-year-old Singaporean startup Gorilla Mobile rolled out a Switchback feature that enables customers to convert their unused data into redeemable non-expiring ‘Gorilla Go Tokens’. The tokens can be used to offset their bills and redeem other services like international direct dialling calls and travel roaming data. Founded in 2019, Gorilla Mobile originally started as a travel SIM card company that focused on business travellers who had plenty of unused travel roaming data.

12. Ascend Money becomes unicorn

On September 27, Ascend Money, a Bangkok-headquartered fintech firm providing payment and financial services in Southeast Asia, announced a US$150 million funding at US$1.5 billion to become Thailand’s first fintech unicorn. US-based Bow Wave Capital Management and existing shareholders — Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group and Ant Group — invested in the round.

So far, Ascend Money has made inroads into six Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

13. Carousell joins unicorn club

On September 15, Singapore’s leading classifieds company Carosell Group entered the unicorn club by bagging a US$100 million financing, led by Korean PE firm STIC Investments. Carousell plans to use the money to “redefine commerce for second-hand goods and automobiles in an increasingly digitally-savvy, affluent and sustainability-conscious region”. Quek Siu Rui, co-founder and CEO, said Carousell will deepen its investments in re-commerce across more categories and markets and will continue to seek opportunistic acquisitions in scaling up.”

14. Carro first automotive marketplace to turn unicorn

In mid-June, Singapore-based Carro raised US$360 million in a Series C funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, making it the first automotive marketplace unicorn in Southeast Asia. This news followed Carro’s US$110-million raise in debt financing last year. Carro plans to use the fresh capital to strengthen its market position and expand the retail offering across Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Carro is a subscription-based service that allows customers to drive a car without the hassle of owning it. It provides a range of services that offer car owners everything they need. These include an in-house financing solution, after-sales services like Singapore’s first on-demand roadside recovery platform, and a flexible car ownership experience with Singapore’s car subscription service.

15. Society Pass launches US$26M IPO on Nasdaq

On November 10, Vietnamese company Society Pass, which provides a data-driven loyalty platform, launched a US$26 million IPO on the Nasdaq stock exchange in the US. The company, which offers about 2.8 million shares of common stock for US$9 per share, trades under the ticker symbol “SOPA” on November 9. With this, Society Pass has become the first Vietnamese company to complete a traditional listing on a stock market outside of its home country.

16. Mynt makes it to the unicorn club

On November 2, Mynt, a leading digital financial solutions company in the Philippines and the owner of the mobile payments GCash, scored over US$300 million in a funding round. Global growth investor Warburg Pincus led the new round, bringing its valuation to over US$2 billion to turn it into the first fintech unicorn of the Philippines. This deal follows the announcement of over US$175 million funding from ASP Philippines early this year.

17. Kopi Kenangan joins unicorn club

Kopi Kenangan, a fast-growing new retail F&B chain in Indonesia, became the latest Indonesian company to enter the unicorn list after closing a US$96 million Series C financing round, led by Tybourne Capital, on December 27.

Founded in 2017 by Edward Tirtanata, James Prananto, and Cynthia Chaerunnisa, the firm aims to address the gap in the market between the high-priced coffee served at international coffee chains and the instant coffee sold in Indonesia’s street stalls. It allows customers to order coffee through an app. They can either get delivered to their doorsteps or pick it up at one of Kopi Kenangan’s outlets.

18. Trax bags US$640M Series E

On April 8, Trax, a Singapore-based company harnessing computer vision to provide vision and analytics tools for retailers, secured US$640 million in a Series E financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and BlackRock. Founded in 2010, Trax’s cloud platform is accelerating the digital transformation of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and grocery retailers by providing granular visibility of rapidly changing store conditions.

Trax claims its proprietary computer vision solutions enable users to make timely, data-driven decisions and implement immediate corrective actions. This helps retailers accelerate growth, reduce costs, and drive awareness and purchasing intent.

19. Flash Express becomes first Thai unicorn

On June 1, Flash Group, the company behind the leading express delivery service Flash Express in Thailand, closed a combined US$150 million in its Series D+ and Series E rounds.

SCB10X, the corporate VC arm of Siam Commercial Bank, led the Series D+ round, with additional investment from Thailand’s Chanwanich Security Printing Company. Buer Capital, a Singapore-based Founder’s Fund, led the Series E round. Existing investors SCB10X, Alibaba’s eWTP Capital, PTTOR, TCP Group’s Durbell, Krungsri Finnovate also joined this round.

The latest rounds bring Flash Group’s total funding raised to more than US$400 million, taking its enterprise valuation to more than US$1 billion and becoming the first unicorn startup in Thailand.

20. Ninja Van raises US$578M Series E

On September 26, Singapore-based logistics tech firm Ninja Van announced a US$578 million Series E fundraise from existing investors Geopost/DPDgroup, B Capital Group, Monk’s Hill Ventures, and Zamrud, an entity linked to a Southeast Asian sovereign wealth fund. It followed a US$274 million in Series D funding round that the company announced in May 2020.

Founded in 2014, Ninja Van has a presence in major SEA markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The company said that it currently employs more than 61,000 staff and delivery personnel that support the delivery of around two million parcels a day throughout the region.

21. Xendit turns unicorn

On September 15, Xendit, a payments infrastructure company based in Indonesia, secured a US$150 million Series C funding led by Tiger Global. This deal followed a US$64.6 million Series B round led by Accel and brings its total funding raised to US$238 million since its inception in 2015.

Xendit aims to simplify the payment process for businesses — from SMEs and e-commerce startups to large enterprises — in Indonesia, the Philippines and Southeast Asia. It enables them to accept payments, disburse payroll, run marketplaces on an easy integration platform supported by 24×7 customer service.

With the Xendit tools in place, businesses can accept payments from direct debit, virtual accounts, credit and debit cards, e-wallets, retail outlets, and online instalments.

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