Category: Business

GrowPal wins G-Startup Indonesia 2017 for aquaculture investment platform

Global startup competition G-Startup Worldwide recently announced GrowPal, an aquaculture investment platform as the winner of G-Startup Indonesia 2017.

Foreign language e-learning platform Squline and logistics aggregator platform Shipper has won the second and third place respectively.

GrowPal is a P2P lending platform that helps freshwater fishermen to raise funding for their businesses, in addition to shipping these products to countries like the United States, France, and Russia through partnerships with export companies.

Founded by Paundra, the startup is currently working with fishermen in Pacitan, Situbondo, Karimun Jawa Island, and Makassar. It monetizes through taking 15 percent of every investment, claiming to be profitable with US$1.5 million of Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV).

As the winner, GrowPal has won an investment cheque worth US$150,000 from GWC Innovator Fund and Kejora Ventures, as well as represent Indonesia at the G-Startup Worldwide final round in Silicon Valley.

GrowPal will go up against representatives from other countries, including Tel Aviv winner Donde Fashion, an AI-powered visual search for eCommerce and Beijing winner Zion China, a startup researching the kinetics of glucose metabolic.

Filipino fast food chain Jollibee may take a bite of UK sandwich chain Pret A Manger

Filipino fast food restaurant chain Jollibee has been engaging in talks exploring a bid for Britain’s sandwich chain Pret A Manger, according to various sources familiar with the matter.

The valuation for the upscale sandwich chain may exceed US$1 billion, based on the sandwich chain’s 2016 core earnings of over 93 million pounds (about US$125 million).

This unsolicited offer for Pret A Manger was also derived to compete with its likely valuation from a potential listing of its private equity owner, Bridgepoint which was preparing for a New York listing later this year.

If the deal is successful, this would mark Jollibee’s biggest overseas deals to date and potentially one of the biggest ever outbound deals from the Philippines.

Jollibee’s most recent expansion move was in May through the acquisition of SuperFoods Group who owns and operates the brands Highland Coffee and noodle house Pho 24.

The pairing comes unlikely as Jollibee has a huge following in the Philippines for its fast food burgers, fried chicken, and sweet-style spaghetti.

On the other end, Pret A Manger with over 400 shops worldwide is famous for selling organic coffee and wholesome sandwiches to office workers in Britain and in cities like Hong Kong and New York.

At present, Jollibee operates the largest foodservice network in the Philippines with 2,700 restaurant outlets in the country – giving it a market valuation of US$5.2 billion.

The fast food chain, which outsells McDonald’s and KFC in the Philippines, has been starting to push into global markets to boost sales and profits through acquisition.

Jollibee has also been expanding across Southeast Asia, looking to appeal to lucrative local consumers as well as overseas Filipinos with coffee, donuts, and noodle offering.

JAS Asset acquires cafe chain Casa Lapin to set up joint venture Beans and Brown

Thai listed property developer JAS Asset Plc has bought over the trademark food and cafe chain Casa Lapin from Coffee Project Co Ltd for a price tag of 42 million baht (about US$1.27 million).

The company concluded the agreement earlier last month, whereby the high-end coffee house chain will enter into a new joint venture – Beans & Brown Co Ltd. – with JAS Asset having 60 percent ownership while 40 percent is held by Coffee Project.

In other words, three of Casa Lapin current seven branches in Bangkok will belong to Beans and Brown while the remaining four will be jointly operated by the company and its partners on a revenue-sharing basis.

Additionally, Beans and Browns plans to open three more Casa Lapins in the central business districts this year and at least another 10 in 2018 including its first flagship store at a premium shopping complex in the heart of Bangkok which will cover at least 200 square meters.

“Coffee Project was very successful in building the Casa Lapin brand,” said Suphot Wanna, the Chief Executive Officer of JAS Asset Plc. “It is clearly different from other cafe franchises.”

“Casa Lapin is famous for its quality coffee beans, as well as neat coffee-making, and attention to every step from roasting to brewing and other stages of preparation.”

Moving forward, Casa Lapin is looking to expand its presence to Asian cities in the region such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore.

But ultimately, this move for JAS Asset is aimed at diversifying JAS Asset’s portfolio and springboard the firm to enter the food and cafe market that it has long expressed interest.

“We target our revenue will grow from 60 million baht this year to 180 million baht ($5.4 million) in 2018 and 360 million baht ($10.87 million) in 2020 and get it listed on the stock market in the same year,” Suphot said.

At present, 70 per cent of Casa Lapin’s revenue comes from coffee and beverage sales and the rest comes from food and bakery. It plans to generate more revenue from selling souvenirs in the future.

Myanmar’s search technology startup Bindez secures six-digit USD round from Vulpes Investment

Singapore’s Vulpes Investment Management Pte Ltd (VIMIC) has announced an investment in Bindez, a search engine and discovery platform based in Yangon.

Following this funding, VIMIC’s adviser Rita Nguyen will also join Bindez’s board.

For Vulpes, this will be the company’s third equity investment in Myanmar after sealing two seed investments in logistic startup Kargo and online freelance job platform Chate Sat using its tech-focused VC fund .

“The potential for harnessing the great technology which Bindehas already built is massive and will be transformative in Myanmar’s emerging technology story. We are very excited to be part of their future growth,” said VIMIC.

Providing a localized solution, Bindez uses natural language processing and machine learning technologies for easy access to data and content which are created in Burmese.

The search technology startup currently owns two products:

    – Bindez Thadin: a B2C content discovery platform where people can access the latest Burmese news
    – Bindez Insights: a social media monitoring product that helps understand market trends and insights

Launched in 2014, the startup is also the first Myanmar startup to have raised a seed and angel investments from international investor 500 Startup.

Yewint Ko, the Co-founder of Bindez said, “Bindez is a mix of linguistic data and machine learning capabilities. It is helping brands to overcome long-time Burmese language issues.”

This includes font compatibility to better understand their customers and how their brand is being perceived online.

“Because of this, we are seeing a real demand for our products more so than ever before. This investment from VIMIC will allow us to scale up the business to meet this growing demand.”

The startup also claims to be the only social media listening tool specific to the Myanmar market, with its news aggregation app reaching a million downloads and 2 million page views per month.

Japan’s fintech startup Money Forward gets IPO approval

Japan’s Money Forward, a leading SaaS (Software as a Service) accounting startup announced that its IPO application to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) board has been approved.

From 29th September onwards, the fintech startup will be listed on the TSE Mothers Market offering 1,617,700 shares for public subscription and to sell up to 382,000 shares in over-allotment options, for a total of 931,000 shares.

SMBC Nikko Securities is appointed as the lead underwriter and the company’s market capitalization is expected to be between 10 billion yen to 20 billion yen.

According to Money Forward, the capital raised from the IPO will be spent on boosting sales offices and its expanding operations.

Founded in May 2012, Money Forward was initially known as Money Book. The company has been providing an automated household account and asset management service platform.

Users can simply register their bank accounts, credit cards, and electric money – to check and easily manage their daily expenses and account balances. The service is also made available for businesses to file taxes and prepare financial statements.

To date, the app has gained enormous popularity with more than 5 million users.

In November 2016, the company lead by CEO Yosuke Tsuji logged sales of about 1.54 billion yen (US$14.1 million) and a net loss of about 880 million yen (US$8.1 million). Currently, the cost of opening sales offices and advertising are weighing on profits.

Aside from Money Forward, it is estimated that about 80 to 90 companies will go public this year. Flea market app operator Mercari is also expected to debut later in 2017.

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