What is the eCommerce startup scene in Southeast Asian countries?

southeast_asia ecommerce map

It’s recently getting hot in Southeast Asia as a result of a few key factors.

1. The middle class is quickly growing in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam 
It helps to create lucrative markets in the region with 245, 65, 90 million customers (respectively).
Retail has always comprised a large part of GDP in each of these countries.

Some exits/successes of previous start-ups

  • Regional: Ensogo, a group of Groupon-clone sites in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, sold to Living Social with an 8-figure number
  • Vietnam: VNG.vn with valuation $200M in 2013, backed by Goldman Sachs & Tencent. VNG is actively expanding its eCommerce business with a new department since 2012 with an ex-SAP Germany executive as its head.
  • Indonesia: Disdus.com acquired by Groupon, it’s now Groupon Indonesia
  • Malaysia: Groupmore  acquired by Living Social
  • Thailand: Tarad.com C2C site acquired by Rakuten
  • Singpore: travelmob.com acquired by HomeAway

2. Capital from Japan, Singapore and local VCs

There are many seed funds in Singapore, and there are around 3-5 major funds in each of the following countries: Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. $US 1M and bigger deals are mostly from Japan with Rakuten, Global Brain, GREE, Recruit Strategic Partners. Cyber Agent Ventures comes up with deals less than $US 1M

It’s estimated that at least 2/3 of these funds always have eCommerce as one of their major interests.

Major local VCs in each country


  • East Ventures: this firm probably has the most powerful eCommerce forfolio in Indonesia and even Southeast Asia with a long list of eCommerce startups: Disdus (aqquired by Groupon), BerryBenka (just secured series A funding with $5M last November, founded by Jason Lamuda, a Disdus co-founder), Traveloka (pivoted from travel meta search to an OTA, received series A round from Global Founders Fund, a Rocket Internet fund, this is the its first invesment in Asia too), PriceArea (largest price comparison site), Bilna (baby product, founded by a Disdus co-founder), Tokopedia (one of the top C2C sites)… You can check out more detail with this ventures’ infographic
  • Global Digital Prima Ventures (GDP Ventures) :  is led by Martin Hartono —the son of Djarum Chief Executive Budi Hartono, Indonesia’s richest man, according to Forbes magazine. GDP Ventures made headline last year when it aqquired Kaskus, Indonesia largest local online community for an undisclosed sum (rumored at $30M). GDP also invested in Blibli.com (a top online shopping site), Merah Putih (a leading incubator)


  • ArdentCap, based in Bangkok and founded by Paul Srivakul who is the founder of  the mentioned above Ensogo/AdMax, focuses only on eCommerce startups. It’s a seed fund with invesment range from $100-300k.
  • An active groups are VC arm of the big 3 telcos: InVent by AIS, DTAC Accelerate, True Move.


  • IDG Ventures Vietnam: IDGVV has poured $100M into Vietnam market with 42 porfolio companies. The investees are scattered into many categories online content sites, mobile and web games, online HR… Several are eCommerce startups: Vatgia, Project Lana, NhomMua, MuaBan, VCCorp, Vinabook, Vinapay.
  • Cyber Agent Ventures: CA invested mainly in mobile games, eCommerce. Vatgia, the leading C2C site, perhaps the most famous investee of CV, its founder Nguyen Ngoc Diep studied in Japan and Vatgia learned from Kakaku + Rakuten model. Tiki.vn is a another featured startup and also got funded series A from Sumitomo.

3. Market expansion from the big firms

  • Rocket Internet effect: this aggressive incubator has many business lines with regional headquarters in Singapore and other local operations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam
  • Amazon, Wotif/MakeMyTrip

4. The advanced and experienced entrepreneurs 
They’re now more mature with lessons from their past failures. Now they form the first serial-entrepreneur generation in the SEA region.

5. The overseas generations
We can see this trend from Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Most of the recent promising startups’ founders have studied abroad or have overseas working experience.

Do you want to update any insights about your country’s eCommerce startup scene?

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Minz Buii is a digital marketer/market advisor from both startups and corporates in online ecommerce and offline retail chain in Southeast Asia. He's also an avid Asia explorer and love enjoying local foods and learning different cultures in Asia. Currently Minz is based in the melting pot of Bangkok!

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