The big stories from the past few days include new VC funds from Golden Gate Ventures, Tikehau Capital and SPRIM Ventures, and Thai beer giant Singha. Elsewhere, ride-hailing startup Ola launched its first service outside of India.
Kujiale secures US$100 million in series D round (China). The virtual home design platform will use the funds to build R&D centers in Hangzhou and Shanghai and to boost its global growth plans. Kujiale claims that close to three million interior designers use its VR-driven software for home design and furnishing, hauling in US$47.4 million in annual revenue in 2017. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun’s VC firm Shunwei Capital led the round, with GGV Capital, Hearst Ventures, IDG Capital, Linear Venture, Yunqi Partners, and Temasek unit Pavilion Capital also participating. (China Money Network)
Enterprise software and services
Whispir nets US$10 million post-series A funding (Australia). Whispir is a cloud-based platform that uses AI to manage and streamline communications between businesses, their staff, and external partners. It claims to have more than 450 enterprise clients worldwide. MDI Ventures, the VC arm of Indonesian telco Telkom, led the round, with existing investors NSI Ventures and Telstra Ventures joining in. (MDI Ventures)
Ant Financial to pump US$79 million into eco-friendly investments by the end of the year (China). The commitment follows the Alibaba affiliate’s launch of its Ant Forest feature last September. The feature in the Alipay payments app allows users to “grow” a virtual tree by performing green-minded tasks such as walking or using public transportation instead of driving, asking for electronic rather than paper invoices, and recording their carbon emissions. Once the virtual tree is fully grown, Ant Financial links the user with non-profit partners to plant an actual tree. Ant Financial said that if its 300 million-plus Ant Forest users continue their environmentally friendly behavior at current tack for another five years, they and their partners will be able to plant 500 million (actual) new trees. (Technode)
Ola goes live Down Under in first international expansion (India/Australia). The ride-hailing company has officially launched its service in Sydney, having signed up more than 7,000 drivers since indicating it would enter the Lucky Country late last year. Users will get free rides for a limited period. Ola’s main regional competitors are Uber, which operates in over 20 locations across Australasia, and Estonia’s Taxify, which is present in Sydney and Melbourne and, like Ola, is backed by Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing. (TechCrunch)
Grab partners with Yoma Strategic Holdings on Myanmar initiatives (Myanmar/Singapore). The ride-hailing company form has entered into a strategic partnership with Yoma to assist the latter with upgrading its taxi fleet in Myanmar. The two will also work on offering vehicle financing solutions to Grab drivers in the country. (Grab)
Binance offering US$250,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the hackers who targeted it last week (China). The cryptocurrency exchange has set aside a further US$10 million for future bounties. Binance revealed last week that it had been subjected to a hack which led to artificial price inflation, market panic, and almost 10 percent knocked of the value of major tokens including bitcoin, ether, and litecoin. Several crypto-exchanges went offline in the following days, with the Chinese government suspected to be blocking them in response to the hack.
Investors, incubators, and accelerators
Golden Gate Ventures raising US$100 million third fund (Singapore). The VC firm is reportedly hoping to close the new fund by the end of 2018, with a first close at the end of this month. It will focus on investments in ecommerce, digital payments, and mobile apps. Wavemaker Partners, Vickers Venture Partners, and Temasek affiliate Vertex Ventures are among the other Southeast Asia-focused firms to have raised new, well-capitalized funds of late, while local player NSI Ventures is also said to be establishing a US$125 million second vehicle. (Bloomberg)
Singha establishes VC arm, backs regional funds (Thailand). Singha Corporation – the conglomerate behind the well-known Thai beer brand of the same name – has launched a US$25 million VC fund that will focus on backing startups at the series A stage. It also revealed it had invested a total of US$25 million in funds operated by Vertex Ventures and Indonesian player Kejora Ventures. (DealStreetAsia)
Tikehau Capital and SPRIM Ventures launch US$50 million medtech fund (Singapore). Paris-based asset manager Tikehau is teaming up with the VC arm of health industry consultancy SPRIM to establish a new fund to make early-stage investments in medtech and life sciences startups. Named TKS1, the fund will be based in Singapore, which has been chosen due to its “reputation as a global innovation hub – stemming from strong government support, its robust R&D ecosystem with a wealth of research institutions, multinational medtech and life science companies, as well as a flourishing startup scene,” said Tikehau chairman Bruno de Pampelonne. (Tikehau Capital)
See: Previous Asia tech news roundups
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