The mega funding floodgates are opening in Southeast Asia

Asia Tech Review: 16 June 2021

Welcome back to a mid-week issue of ATR,

It looks like the floodgates are opening in Southeast Asia after automotive marketplace Carro became the region’s latest unicorn following a $360M investment led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund. If reports are to be believed, Carro is plotting an IPO and its rival Carsome will join it in the billion-dollar valuation club soon.

You can expect to see a lot more valuation jumps this year as investors from outside the region enter the market with investments. Interest has never been higher thanks to a clear pathway to exits through big mergers (hello, GoTo), IPOs and SPACs. A good time, I guess, to plug my recent story on the rise of global funds in Southeast Asia.

That’s all for this edition—see you next week,



Didi has filed to (finally) go public with a US IPO—Didi reported a $1.7 billion loss on $21.6 billion in revenue for 2020. Despite international expansion into Latam and other parts of Asia, China is over 98% of revenue—SoftBank, Uber and Tencent stand to benefit most from the IPO

Grocery app Dingdong Maicai, which is backed by investors including Sequoia and Tiger Global, is reportedly aiming to raise around $500M in a US IPO

Apple is reportedly in early-stage talks with China’s CATL and BYD to supply batteries for its planned electric vehicle, according to sources who spoke to Reuters

The number of new company registrations in the semiconductor industry from January to May tripled in China, bolstered by generous national subsidies

Data is the new oil: Beijing is calling on China’s tech giants to share their information and, at the same time, asserting its authority over data held by US companies in China as well

The Chinese government is getting serious about blockchain

The Financial Times looks at the demanding working conditions of China’s tech firms

ByteDance has made its secret sauce into a product—comparable to an Amazon AWS but for social products  

Surveillance and overwork is leading to extreme mental stress and fatigue for China’s tech workers, who are being pushed to the limit and in some cases pushing back

Lidar maker Hesai, which works with customers that include Bosch, Lyft, and Baidu, raised $300M from Hillhouse Capital’s GL Ventures

Alibaba’s cloud division pledged $1B to support startups in Asia through training networking and more—Google, Amazon and co offer generous credits so let's see what Alibaba does

Meanwhile, Alibaba said it plans to develop self-driving cars with its Cainio unit


Paytm confirmed to shareholders that is going public—but first it is reportedly looking to buy three payment gateway companies

Byju’s is now India’s highest valued startup

Neobank Open is reportedly raising $100M from investors including Temasek and General Atlantic, as well as existing investor Tiger Global and PayPal. The valuation is said to be $600M up from $150M two years ago

Global telecom firms Nokia, Ericsson and Airtel are among those resisting India’s new 5G telecom standard

Edtech startup Cuemath said it plans to raise at least $100M at a valuation of $1B

Earned wage startup Refyne raised $201.1M from DST Global and RTP Global. Earned wage allows employees to get paid in real time rather than just once a month. This is already a huge focus for startups with a lot more to come—you can see Southeast Asia for more

SoftBank has reportedly led a $90M round for Whatfix, a digital platform for corporations, at a valuation of $600M—up from $150M a year ago

Zenoti, a platform that works with beauty, wellness, and fitness businesses, raised $80M at a valuation of $1.5B 

Car workshop and spare parts platform GoMechanic has reportedly raised $35M from Tiger Global and others 

Community monetisation platform Convosight raised $9M led by Singapore’s Qualgro

Tata Digital’s latest startup move is to buy a major stake in online pharmacy 1MG 

Inmobi’s Glance, which serves content to the lockscreen on phones, bought e-commerce company Shop101 to signal a new focus on selling

Southeast Asia

The region has a new unicorn after automotive marketplace Carro raised $360M led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund—this is a notable deal that’s likely to open the gates to more billion-dollar valuations, more SoftBank deals and future IPOs. (SoftBank had previously stuck to backing startups that were already established as mega players.) Carro is reportedly exploring an IPO

But hold on, rival Carsome is reportedly also headed to unicorn status with an incoming $200M round on the cards

There’s also a huge investment for Indonesian SME service BukuWarung, which pulled in $60M in a round that included a number of global firms

Grab’s SPAC was planned for July but now it’s completion has been delayed until the end of 2021, according to sponsor Altimeter Capital

E-commerce aggregators are picking up speed in Southeast Asia after Una Brands and Rainforest raised big rounds in May—I looked into the model with my colleague Ka Kay Lum

Bridgetown—the SPAC fund from Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel—is reportedly in “advanced talks” to merge with PropertyGuru. Bridgetown has other funds which have been linked with Traveloka, among others 

Speaking of which, what’s up with Traveloka’s SPAC—it turns out it had multiple offers despite being hit hard by Covid

Shopee’s Latin American push is extending to Chile and Colombia

The Philippines has given digital banking licenses to Tonik and Unobank

AirAsia will expand its grocery service, already active in Malaysia, to Singapore

Wagely, which lets workers get their salary early, raised $5.6M

Thailand has often talked about restricting social media. Now, after watching India, the cabinet is looking into ways to regulate social media platforms. (The country has some of the strictest regulations on free speech with regulator cases against citizens, as regular readers well know.)

Thailand also banned NFTs and some meme coins

Co-living startup Hmlet faces a tough job to rebuild its business

South Korea

Krafton, the gaming studio behind PUBG, is reportedly raising $5B in what stands to be Korea’s largest IPO for over a decade

Tutoring startup announced Ringle raised $18M at a valuation of $90M

Kakao Mobility, a unit of public company Kakao, secured an additional combined over $125M from a consortium led by private equity firm TPG and Carlyle Group

Other reads

Covid outbreaks are disrupting the global supply chain for smartphones

There’s drama at Y Combinator around speaking your mind or observing the privacy code

An insightful Twitter thread from the Chairman of Coatue Ventures on his time with Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s strengths as a CEO 

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