Southeast Asia Startup Scene 2012 – 2017

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, Vietnam and the Philippines

It helps to create lucrative markets in the region with 245, 65, 90, 93 million customers (respectively).
Retail has always comprised a large part of GDP in each of these countries.

Some exits/successes of previous start-ups in the region

Southeast Asia

Indonesia

  • Alibaba invested to own a minor share of Tokopedia, the largest ecommerce startup with more than $1B funding from Sequoia, SoftBank…
  • JD – Alibaba rial invested in Go-Jek, another unicorn of Indonesia doing ride-sharing and ecommerce delivery service.
  • Traveloka got another hundred of million dollars bill, from Expedia ($350M) to become Indonesia third unicorn after Tokopedia and Go-Jek. Traveloka is trying to translate it’s success in Indonesia to other markets such as Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines by using similar approaches it has used in Indonesia: SEO with brand keywords, TV advertising, outdoor advertising in public transportation. Read some of my interviews with Ferry Unardi since Traveloka is finding its way to grow
  • Disdus.com acquired by Groupon, it’s now Groupon Indonesia. Read my interviews with the two co-founders/CEO of Disdus on their new startups BerryBenka and  Bilna
  • Read Top 10 ecommerce sites in Indonesia 

    Vietnam

  • SEA (Garena) bought up to 80% of Foody.vn – the largest restaurant reviews and food delivery site in Vietnam.
  • VNG.vn, used to be the first unicorn of Southeast Asia, 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.
  • VNG poured nearly $20M to Tiki.vn to own a majority share in the ecommerce startup following Amazon model. Tiki also started from books as the first category.
  • Read Top 12 ecommerce sites in Vietnam

Malaysia

  • Grab – one of the first unicorns from SEA is expanding aggressively with more than $2b in funding. Grab is decisively competing with Uber in most Asean major markets and also fiercely with Go-Jek in Indonesia.
  • Groupmore  acquired by Living Social
  • Read Grab’s CMO on Southeast Asia expansion

Thailand

2. Venture Capital from China, 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

Indonesia eCommerce

  • Alibaba, JD, SoftBank and Sequoia are pouring billions of dollars to Indonesia market, nearly 100% on ecommerce startups.
  • 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)
  • MonksHill Ventures from Singapore with $SGD100M also came to Jakarta to set up shop
  • MatahariMall decisively invested $500M to set up online channel, invited Hadi Wenas, an ex Zalora/McKinsey to run MatahariOnline. Read my interview with Hadi Wenas on How to grow big and scale fast in Indonensia market

Thailand eCommerce

  • 500 Startups set up 500 Durians with Krating Poonpol and Moo Natavuth as Founding Partners, raised up to $15M to do seed funding in the Land of Smiles.
  • Now some leading banks also join the tech games: SCB, Kasikorn with Accelerators. They even invested in some Blockchain startups.
  • 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. Read my interview with Paul Srivorakul!
  • An active groups are VC arm of the big 3 telcos: InVent by AIS, DTAC Accelerate, True Move. Read my interview with True Incube – the investment arm of True Move

Vietnam eCommerce

  • FPT one of the largest ICT companies set up an accelerator fund.
  • 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. Read Lazada Marketing Strategy in Southeast Asia 2013 – 2017
  • Amazon started it’s runway last year in Singapore
  • Alibaba is also promoting Alibaba.com, Taobao.com, AliExpress.com, Alipay in Southeast Asia
  • 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. Read my interviews with most of the successful ecommerce entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia

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.

Read more on my interview with a Bamboo VC in Southeast Asia on the successful traits of startup founders

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