ASEAN Tech Unicorns Timeline

Southeast Asia’s economy is evolving – The Unicorn theory

Having added 12 unicorns to its nest in the most difficult period of the century one could say Southeast Asia is perhaps experiencing a boom in investments. Southeast Asia is led by 30 unicorn startups with a collective valuation of US$ 390 Billion is expanding domestically and within the region. Even as Singapore dominates the startup investments, but with Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Philippines picking up pace the emerging countries will surpass the mature market. It is also true that Singapore has friendly investment laws and has had the beginners luck so far, but the other markets in the region are much bigger promising a bigger growth.

The term “unicorn” describes a privately-owned startup with a valuation equal to or over US$1 Billion. With the funding explosion, these companies are now domestic and regional leaders in their respective sectors. SuperApps are a growing phenomenon in Southeast Asia.

Right from e-commerce to ride-hailing, from gaming to travel and digital payments these companies have in a brief span have become regional and global leaders in the respective fields. Southeast Asia is poised to transform into becoming next big market for venture capitalists. Government grants, incubators, accelerators, universities and a growing pool of angel investors and passionate entrepreneurs have hastened the number of startups and seed investments.

With growth in digitization initiatives by governments such as Thailand 4.0 and investment friendly laws such as Omnibus Law, Southeast Asia as a region could surpass, other developing nations. Business experts say that Southeast Asia will witness more companies ripe through an IPO in the coming years.

Major Tech unicorns in Southeast Asia based on the funds raised.

 

 

1. Go-Jek

Headquarters: Jakarta Major Investors: Google, Tencent holdings,Temasek Holdings

GoJek was founded in 2010 in Indonesia. They started with two handfuls of motorcycle taxi drivers, and later started going mobile. KKR, Warburg Pincus, Google, GIC, Tencent and many others have joined the ranks as investors. Its mobile payment Gopay is also one of the commonly used  e-wallets in Indonesia.

2. Traveloka



Headquarters: Indonesia Investors: East Ventures, Hillhouse Capital Group, JD.com and Sequoia Capital.

Established in 2012, Traveloka today is the largest OTA in Southeast Asia, it currently has its presence over Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. One of its key differentiator, when compared to international OTAs was that it accepted local payment methods in countries where credit card penetration is very low.

3. Tokopedia

Headquarters: Indonesia
Major Investors: Google, Temasek Holdings,
Alibaba Group, SoftBank Group, East
Ventures

Incepted in 2009, Tokopedia is Indonesia’s largest online marketplace. In 2014, Tokopedia received $ 100 million in investment from Sequoia Capital and Softbank. Alibaba also invested US$1.1 billion in. Alibaba and Softbank poured another US$1.1 billion in 2018. On May 17, 2021, Tokopedia and Gojek announced the completion of their merger and established a new holding company called GoTo. In November 2020, Tokopedia has received funding from US-based internet firm Google  and Singaporean state fund Temasek Holdings  .

4. Buklapak

Headquarters: Jakarta Investors: Ant Finacial, 500 Startups, Emtek Group, Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund

Bukalapak commenced in 2010 and is currently one of the largest e-commerce companies and fourth startup in Indonesia to have received its unicorn status. In 2015, it received a capital injection from Indonesian media giant Emtek, against a 49% stake in Bukalapak. Unlike BNI and Tokopedia that focus on offline and rural areas, Bukalapak is more active in international business. Bukalapak also launched Mitra Bukapapak to target small vendors in rural areas offline. In May 2019, it launched a new platform, BukaGlobal, to connect more than 4 million Indonesian merchants with overseas consumers.

5. JD.ID



Headquarters: Jakarta
Investors: Gojek, Provident Capital

JD.ID incepted its operations in Indonesia in 2015 and was placed as the first stop as an online mall overseas. JD Indonesia ’s valuation has exceeded US$ 1 billion & since its inception JD.ID ’s operations in Indonesia are spread widely locally  and they come with a promise of  lightning speed delivery. Thanks to JD.ID 85% of orders in Indonesia can be delivered within a day.

6. Trax

Headquarters: Jakarta
Investors: Softbank, Blackrock

Trax is an Israel based company founded in 2010 and has more than 150 customers in the retail and FMCG industries, including beverage giants Coca-Cola and Budweiser. The company today provides cloud-based retail analytics and execution platform and has its business and operations across more than 50 countries. The company was crowned as ‘Unicorn’ after the completion of US$ 100 million Series D financing led by Hopu Investment in July 2019. This year they have secured US$ 640 million in a Series E financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and technology-focused funds managed by existing investor BlackRock, Inc. The company today is more focused on acquiring companies than developing its own products and attracting investments for the same.

7. Grab



Headquarters: Singapore, USA
Investors: GGV Capital, Vertex Venture
Holdings, SoftBank Capital

Southeast Asia’s largest taxi giant, GrabTaxi, is Southeast Asia’s response to Uber an American ride-sharing platform. Most recently, the company has received investments from companies including Didi, Softbank, and Toyota. It is expanding into food delivery, payment, and financial services and transformed into a super app.  GrabTaxi rules Southeast Asia with up to 1.5 million daily bookings across six countries and 22 cities.

8. Razer

Headquarters: Malaysia
Investors: Accel Partners, Intel Capital,
Temasek Holdings

Razer is a dinosaur when compared with other Unicorns, it was founded in 1998 in Singapore as a gaming equipment company. This high-end gaming hardware company was founded in Malaysia. It recently commenced its third concept store in Bangkok after Taipei and Manila, which  its long-term focus in the growing Asian gamers.

9. VNG



Headquarters: Vietnam
Investors: GIC, Goldman Sachs Group, IDG
Ventures, and others

VNG is a technology company, founded in 2004, specializing in entertainment & social content. Its Zing – video music platform, Zalo – social app, and Zalo – Pay – mobile payment app serve millions of consumers in Vietnam. Despite its focus on Vietnam, it has secured US$ 100 Million revenue, with 2,700 employees. VNG has also received investments from IDG Ventures Vietnam and CyberAgent Capital, and its current valuation is about US$ 2.7 Billion.

10. Ovo

Headquarters: Indonesia
Investors: Accel Partners, Intel Capital

OVO a leading digital payment service in Indonesia is the fifth unicorn in Indonesia after ride-hailing company Gojek, travel service firm Traveloka and two e-commerce companies Bukalapak and Tokopedia .

11. Lazada



Headquarters: Singapore Investors: Tesco, Temasek Holdings, Summit Partners, JPMorgan Chase, Investment AB Kinnevik and Rocket Internet.

Established by the German Internet group Rocket Internet in 2012, This international E-Commerce company experienced high growth after success in China’s JD and Alibaba, as well as India’s Flipkart and Snapdeal. Lazada has received more than US$3 million strategic investment from the Hangzhou-based parent. In April 2018, Lucy Peng, Co-founder of Alibaba and Chairwoman of Ant Financial, took over Lazada’s CEO from Rocket veteran Max Bittner.

12. Sea

Headquarters: Singapore
Investors: Tencent

Founded as GarenaOnline in the year 2009 in Singapore and later renamed as Sea in the year 2017, the company went public in and raised US$ 550 Million. The company initially commenced with desktop gaming has expanded into mobile gaming, ecommerce (Shoppee) and fintech (Seamoney). Sea operates the popular e-commerce site Shopee , which has been expanded through Asia and Latin America, and the company is planning expansions into Europe by opening in Poland.

13. VN Pay



Headquarters: Vietnam
Investors: Soft Bank GIC

Founded in 2007, VNPAY is a financial services company, providing electronic payment solutions in Vietnam. Banking, phone recharge, and bill payment solutions and services are a few of its core service areas, It provides services to 40 banks in Vietnam, 5 Telcos & over 200 e-commerce enterprises.

14. Bigo Live

Headquarters: Singapore
Investors: Joyy

BIGO Technology, a Singapore based artificial intelligence and machine learning was founded in 2014 & launched its live streaming app ‘Bigo Live’ in 2016. In March 2020, it ranked 6th in the United States and 5th worldwide for streaming apps. Today, Bigo Live had 400 million users in more than 150 countries.

15. HyalRoute



Headquarters: Singapore
Investors: Kuang-Chi Corporation

Incepted in 2015, HyalRoute is a provider of shared communication fiber networks in Myanmar and Cambodia that focuses on overall planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of shared fiber networks. Hyalroute signed an agreement with Philippines subsidiary PFOCN with investment in the fibre optic cable network is valued at between $1 billion to $2 billion.

16. J&T Express

Headquarters: Indonesia
Investors: Hillhouse Capital Management,
Boyu Capital, Sequoia Capital China

J&T Express is an Indonesia based freight logistics company that was founded in 2015. This In Indonesia, J&T Express is a major shipping and e-commerce partner such as Shopee, Tokopedia, and Bukalapak.

17. Nium



Headquarters: Indonesia
Investors: Silicon Valley Bank, Global
Founders Capital, Vertex Ventures

“Neeyam” which means ‘rules’ in Sanskrit targets B2B market. It operates in more than 100 countries and processes over US$8 billion annually for banks and payment institutions. Nium basically creates a financial infrastructure for a seamless movement of money in any type of industry at every level of sophistication.


COVID-19 may have dawdled the global economy, however, it has accelerated digital transformation globally in general and Southeast Asia in particular. There is a paradigm shift in Consumers habits, preference, taste for online interaction, and these behavioral changes provide strong tailwinds to sectors such as health – tech, online education, logistics and fintech. Cash transactions were replaced by mobile and digital payments for the first time during this period.

Enlisted below are a few more start ups coined as ‘Unicorn’

Indonesia, the younger generations, which make up the majority of the population, are driving adoption of alternative lending and digital wallets. In Singapore, artificial intelligence fintech and blockchain startups received the most funding in 2019. In Vietnam, digital payments have grown rapidly with the help of government support and a booming e-commerce sector. Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam are considered to be the most appropriate investment destinations due to their booming internet economies, high and rising internet penetration rates, and increasing inflow of venture capital investments. The emerging markets are competing against the likes of India and China, while also attracting startups from these countries. The important factor to note for investors is to keep up with the trends of startup investments, government rules and regulations, economic needs and people’s aspirations. Understanding the cultural fabric and nuances of each market is important and calls for an inhouse representative in these times. The solutions offered by companies must be tailormade for these markets because of the uniqueness the region provides.



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