When it comes to funding, these startups and their countries are on a fast-track and catching up to its neighboring countries like Singapore and Indonesia. Remember their names because it might be the next big thing coming out of the frontier market tech ecosystem.
Groupin, Cambodia: The Buzzfeed of Cambodia and Myanmar
Based in Cambodia, Groupin is the holding company of e-commerce Little Fashion and digital media firm Mediaload. It has raised a Series A funding of US$5 million from Mekong-focused private equity firm Belt Road Capital Management (BRCM).
The company can lay claim to have raised the largest public funding round in the Cambodian tech startup scene. Groupin is set to expand its footprints by investing in mobile technology, logistics chains, product vertical expansion, and customer support.
Groupin was founded by siblings Vichet In, Vichea In, Visal In, and Mayan In. Managing companies from two vastly different sectors seems to be working in their favor.
Little Fashion, its fashion and lifestyle brand, was launched as an informal Facebook retailer distributing fashion apparel from China/Thailand into Cambodia in late 2010. It slowly grew into a low-cost online fashion platform called L192.
Mediaload, on the other hand, is a digital media firm boasting 8 million monthly users and 20 million social media followers. It focusses on a content generation of local information with topics ranging from entertainment to sports. It is best known under the brands Khmerload in Cambodia and Myanmarload in Myanmar.
2019 is showing some signs that the Cambodian startup scene is beginning to burgeon. The country saw its first startup conference called Cambodia Outlook conference being held in March and the launch of a US$5 million USD startup fund by Smart Axiata.
Cambodia is sprinting, and Groupin is its first of many success stories.
Leflair, Vietnam: The flash-sale model, branded goods e-commerce platform
Leflair is a Vietnam-based e-commerce platform that sources branded goods and becomes the official distributors to Vietnamese customers. In January, it raised a total of US$7 million in series B funding, with US$3 million from South Korean TV home shopping company GS Shop, and US$4 million from Cambodia-based Belt Road Capital Management, as reported by Tuoi Tre News.
Just a year before that, the startup raised US$3 million in series A fundin. In total the company has raised almost US$12 million.
Loic Gautier, the co-founder, and CEO at Leflair, said that the company is optimistic that cross-border is the future of e-commerce in Southeast Asia. Founded in December 2015, Leflair follows the flash-sales model that has proven successful in Europe.
In a recent development, Vietnam has seen multiple deals from prominent investors that have committed to bankrolling the country’s startup industry.
Just a week ago, an agreement at the Vietnam Venture Summit that saw Golden Gate Ventures, Access Ventures, Burda Principal Investments, 500 Startups, Jungle Ventures, and Cyberagent Ventures, among others will see them committed VND10 trillion (US$425 million) investment in Vietnamese startups for the next three years.
The country’s top VC Vina Capital also entered into an agreement with Mirae-Naver Asia Growth Fund in which Mirae Asset invested an undisclosed amount in VinaCapital Ventures. Naver will provide access to its portfolio companies to facilitate their expansion plans.
Rent 2 Own Myanmar: Motorcycle access for the rural population
Launched in January 2016, Rent to Own (R2O) provides an affordable motorcycle contract for rural users. R2O managed to cover a massive portion of central Myanmar — spanning the Ayerwaddy delta area to Shan State mountains. The startup says it means they are serving 70,000 clients.
Last year in November, it received a US$6 million investment from Germany’s development finance institution DEG and agRIF, an impact focused fund which provides funding to financial intermediaries targeting farmers and the rural population.
Joining the German investors was Daiwa PI Partners, an investment arm of a major Japanese securities firm who purchased shares from one of the existing shareholders, as reported by The Myanmar Times.
This move signified the growing attention towards Myanmar as an emerging startup scene by the international investors. Interest in Myanmar’s startups has been on the rise as investors scour the region for potential returns.
Partnering over 400 motorcycle dealers in the country, R2O allows their clients access to a fully insured bike, as well as maintenance, for a monthly fee, said R2O CEO Philippe Lenain.
Looking at what R2O does, Myanmar has been showing time and time again the knack for having fully-adjusted, innovative startups that provide the very solution for the country and its population. Myanmar recorded an 80 percent smartphone penetration rate that leaves room for similar startups to catch up.
First Circle, Philippines: Tapping into the GDP’s main contributor with friendly loan terms
First Circle was founded by CEO Patrick Lynch and CTO Tony Ennis with the goal of offering short-term, friendly loan for small businesses to scale. SMEs account for 99.6 percent in the country’s business, and First Circle provides a formal credit scoring system and reliable loan coverage.
In the investment led by Venturra Capital, with participation from Insignia Ventures Partners, Hong Kong’s Silverhorn Investment Advisors, and Tryb Group, Philippine-based SME-lending service First Circle raised US$26 million just nine months ago, as reported by TechCrunch.
Realising that emerging markets are not capital-developed, First Circle’s business model is to use third parties for capital-sourcing, including asset managers and family offices, who take half of the loan book.
From the Philippines, the most recent game-changing fund would be the one by JG Summit Holdings, a conglomerate in the Philippines. The conglomerate launched a US$50 million fund to back startups in Series A or Series B rounds that either supplement or disrupt its current holdings — such as real estate, retail, and airlines as well as targeting finance, consumer services, new media, logistics, and healthcare.
Sindabad, Bangladesh: a B2B, direct-to-office e-commerce service
Sindabad.com provides a B2B e-commerce service that supplements businesses like offices and factories with a platform for manufacturing and consumption purchases, all direct-to-office deliveries.
Just last month, Dhaka-based e-commerce company Sindabad.com raised a US$4.15 million in a Series A funding round from Aavishkaar Frontier Fund, which is managed by impact investment firm Aavishkaar, as reported by Business Standard.
Before this funding, Sindabad had received investment from Frontier Fund – a Bangladesh-focussed private equity fund managed by Brummer & Partners Bangladesh.
In one of our contributor pieces, it is stated that Bangladesh has around 90.501 million internet users, as of August 2018, which creates a huge opportunity for e-Commerce to grow. The startup environment in Bangladesh is nascent but very active, with 200 startups slated to launch every year, most of which are in e-commerce and software development, in a country of 170 million people.
Bangladesh’s tech scene is opening up, with a few local accelerators springing up training first-time founders, and the government set to add three more high-tech parks by 2020.