Author: vivian

Bukalapak to become the Alibaba or Amazon for Middle East’s Muslims

Indonesian unicorn, Bukalapak has been really aggressive in expanding its footprint.

It launched its platform to international users via BukaGlobal, the startup has extended its reach outside of Indonesia to Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Brunei Darussalam.

Now, through an interview with Nikkei Asian Review, Bukalapak has disclosed its plans to target Muslims in the Middle East, with a goal of becoming the Alibaba or Amazon in the Middle East.

According to Bukalapak’s co-founder and president Fajrin Rasyid, the company hopes to kick start its expansion plans as soon as possible, starting off with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

There are currently 1.8 billion Muslims, which make up one-quarter of the world’s population. The Muslim population also currently ranks as the world’s fastest growing population, with a projection to hit 3 billion by 2060.
This therefore presents Muslim-related businesses with huge growth opportunities.

“If we just sell common products, then probably people will just buy from Amazon or Alibaba,” Rasyid told the Nikkei Asian Review. “So we want to provide differentiated products.”

While Muslim-focused business have typically focused on the finance sector, with local and international financial institutions offering products such as sukuk Islamic bonds, the rise of e-commerce is set to drive the rapid expansion of the Islamic economy.

Based on the latest State of the Global Islamic Economy report by Thomson Reuters, the world’s Islamic economy is forecast to grow to over US$3 trillion by 2023.

The Islamic economy’s leading sectors are currently food and fashion. The market for halal food set to expand from US$1.3 trillion in 2017 to US$1.8 trillion in 2023, while the market for clothing and apparel are expected to grow from US$270 billion to US$361 billion during the same period.

According to Rasyid, the ecommerce platform offers a lot of Islamic fashion and halal food options, which are quite popular among the Middle East or Islamic countries.

Regarding its Middle East expansion, the company plans to start cross-border sales first by building local partnerships with logistics companies, just as the company has done with the launch of BukaGlobal across Asia.

This means that Bukalapak would not need huge investments to fund the expansion, however the company will still face challenges like shipping costs and customer fees.

Back in its home market, competition in Indonesia’s e-commerce market is also intensifying, with other platforms such as Tokopedia and Singapore-based Lazada investing a lot to acquire new merchants and customers.

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Jakarta, Bukalapak is an ecommerce platform with 4 million merchant partners in Indonesia. Its major investors include 500 Startups, Ant Financial as well as Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC.

Here’s Why You Have Not Found a Thai Unicorn yet

Thailand is the second largest economy in ASEAN. It boasts 70 million people, strong tourism industry and a famous destination for shopping.

Unfortunately, the country still doesn’t have a unicorn or a major startup that is recognized internationally.

That’s right. Despite recent efforts by both government and VC firms like Seedstars and True Incube, no Thai startup has come close to reaching the US$1 billion valuation.

The country’s startup ecosystem is still in the toddler stage if compared to regional neighbors of Singapore and Indonesia, which have each produced several unicorns of their own.

So why is that? Let’s take a look into the startup ecosystem in Thailand.

Introduction to Thai Startup Ecosystem

Thailand has seen a healthier startup ecosystem than how it started out 8 years ago.

With the onset of the information age, the number of startups setting up a business in Thailand is exploding.

Thailand Startups


In 2014, there were approximately 300 startups from various industries. But compare that with 2015, the growth was around 900% increase from the previous year, with about 2,500 startups.

In terms of financing, however, Thailand startups, according to TechSauce had only raised a total funding of about $61.25 million. This pales in comparison to the $7.5 billion raised by Singapore startups in 2018 across 189 deals.

Techsauce explains that while there have been increased investments in startups, Thailand is still very premature when it comes to securing foreign venture capital funds.

And should startups set up their headquarters overseas to raise funds, they may not even be considered as Thai startups even if the entrepreneurs are Thai,

Besides, the current Thai investment trend that is corporate venture capital (CVC) is still very much interested in the mainstream market of deep tech.

In any case, things are changing.

Creating the Asian Startup Hub

Starting out with only three startups in 2011, the country now is recognized by Startup and Digital Nomad Index as the best startup destination in Asia.

The country’s capital – Bangkok was ranked #7 in the world and #1 in Asia, being called epicenter of change, growth, and connectivity.

This is mostly due to the increasing support from the Thai government to the startup community, in an effort to position the country as an Asian startup hub.

Thailand - Asian Startup Hub

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak urges all sectors to join forces in building up a thriving startup ecosystem to push the country to be the startup hub of Southeast Asia.

The government has called for the Board of Investment (BoI) to spend 10 billion baht (about $312 million) of the Competitiveness Fund on the startup community, as well as implementing three startup-related laws.

The National Innovation Agency (NIA) is also overhauling its support program to accelerate startup progress, facilitating access to 44 billion baht (about $1.38 billion) in funding from various sources. NIA is looking to have 1-2 unicorns in 5 years.

Pun-Arj Chairatana, the executive director of NIA explains, “the growth of startups in Thailand is very limited because they don’t have a global or regional perspective.”

NIA will act as the system integrator, bridging and facilitating startups to venture capital firms or corporate VCs. The new strategy will be to groom and grow startups, on top of granting them with financial support.

Tying in with government efforts to speed up the growth of the Thai ecosystem are contributions from global tech giants like Google and Line.

Google opened Academy Bangkok – a Google Space at True Digital Park, serving as Asia’s first digital skill training center.

While LINE Scaleup has opened up a platform that allows developers to build apps, giving them the chance to reach LINE’s 42 million users in Thailand.

As more and more initiatives are taken to mint the homegrown unicorn, the question is who is likely to become the first Thai unicorn.

First Unicorn in Thailand’s Startup Ecosystem?

Cindy Kua

Cindy Kua, the Founder of Sunday Ins Co

“I think we can be the first one in Thailand,” said Cindy Kua, the founder of Sunday Ins Co, a Bangkok-based insurance tech company, speaking with the Bangkok Post in Singapore.

She explains that with most successful new companies in Southeast Asia being ride-hailing apps like Grab and Go-Jek, or e-commerce like Lazada, it can be very difficult to break into those markets.

“I really think the next big unicorn will be in insurance.”

Insurance aside, another industry to note in Thailand is tourism, given that it contributed 17 to 18 percent of the country’s GDP in 2017.

Startups in this industry include Local Alike, which equips residents with skills to handle visitors, training them to eventually run their own community-based tourism programs.

While Thailand startups had shown satisfactory growth and certainly doesn’t lack in ambition, the startup still lacks large emerging players.

Most Thai startups are still small players and far from being a market leader.

Their businesses are minimal compared to neighboring countries, and to focus solely on the Thai market is not enough. They have to expand their business beyond the Thai market.

Currently, Thailand does have several examples of successful international startups such as Cookly and Helpster.

Cookly is a platform for booking cooking classes that has its footprints in 20 countries, while Helpster is a growing on-demand staffing solution and recruitment marketplace.

However, both have been founded less than 3 years ago, and are still only in their seed stage of funding which would still take some time before they can finally test their business model.

Dusit Chairat, fund manager of AddVentures by SCG, said for startups to grow faster, they should begin with a promising idea that could solve customer’s pain point and evolve into a unicorn in the future.

“A unicorn is like a hero who inspires others and draws tech talents who work in giant firms like Facebook, Google, Apple to come back to Thailand and work with them. If they can attract these people, they would also attract investors to Thailand.”

In the end, the Thai startup ecosystem despite making headway is still in its early stages, and it would most likely be another few years before we can finally see a Thai unicorn.

New Google Docs SEO Add-On Helps Content Writers Become SEO Writing Experts

New York, May 30, 2019 – Having knowledge about SEO is different from implementing it. Many find it difficult to research, analyze and write SEO-friendly content, which is why Growth Seekers Hub is proud to present its new GDoc SEO Assistant, an SEO Add On for Google Documents.

The SEO content writing tool aims to help the users create content that both Google and audiences love. It is designed to be beginner-friendly and users just need to follow the SEO suggestions to rank for a specific keyword.

GDoc SEO Assistant is suitable for writers, online marketers, and bloggers who love to write on Google Docs. Now, they can write an SEO optimized content with these four main features:

Overall content SEO scoring that is calculated based on Google’s ranking factors
Keyword data such as search volume, trend, and keyword competition on your Google docs add-on
SEO suggestions to optimize content writing, fix any errors found and improve overall content for ranking
Related keywords to be used in the content that will improve the relevancy of the content to the targeted keyword

“The GDoc SEO Assistant is a great tool for those who are just getting started with SEO,” said Jeff Teh, Head of Marketing at Growth Seekers Hub. “When optimized accordingly with these valuable metrics, our users have reported better rankings for their content.”

Content marketers or SEO professionals who use the GDoc SEO Assistant will get the most from their content writing by entering their keyword and receiving an instant SEO score. This will let them know instantly how high are their chances of rankability. After all, an SEO optimized content will also lead to an increase in traffic and ultimately more sales too.

Regarding ongoing plans for Growth Seekers Hub and GDoc SEO Assistant, Jeff has this to say, “We also have SEO courses to help marketers and SEO professionals to prepare for a change. The team is working to expand the add-on into a full-fledged tool to help marketers improve their website and provide more value on their SEO journey.”

This free Google Docs add-on is now available on Google Chrome webstore. To learn more about it, visit GDoc SEO Assistant on the web store.

About GDoc SEO Assistant:

GDoc SEO Assistant is designed to strengthen your content with profound SEO optimization. It lets you quickly check your overall SEO score to further optimize your content for search engine and readers. This add-on integrates with Google Docs to provide users a seamless SEO experience. Visit for more information on this.

About Growth Seekers Hub:

The Growth Seekers Hub is a leading platform where we source stories and the lens through which we show you the latest industry trends. With smart, incisive videos, SEO tools, in-depth courses, and resources that speak to the essential questions of shaping the future world of Digital Marketing, Growth Seekers Hub holds a mirror to highlight practices that are in trend now and where it is actually headed. Check it out at

Uber IPO-ed and here’s what it means for Grab and Go-Jek

After a decade of disruption in urban transportation, Uber has finally gone public.

The company has been the highest valued tech IPO since Alibaba and Facebook, and is one of the main highlights among the wave of Silicon Valley unicorns going public this year.

But in the end, Uber’s IPO was a bumpy ride.

As its public offering closed in, the ride-hailing startup’s valuation began to slip, finally settling on US$45 per share, the lower end of the expected range between US$44 to US$50.

This puts its valuation at about US$75.46 billion, which is a 38% drop from its initial US$120 billion valuation late last year.

Uber’s low valuation comes as it met with setbacks of data scandals, the fatal car crash in Arizona, as well as Uber driver demonstrations 2 days before their IPO.

Besides, Uber’s competitor Lyft market debut in March has not been smooth. The shares tumbled over 20% since its debut and plunged to US$56.11 on April 15, 35% below its first trading day highs and 22% below its IPO price.

That’s not all. Lyft has also reported a loss of US$1.14 billion for the first quarter, a sharp increase from the loss of US$234.3 million in 2018.

Similarly, it also hasn’t been very good for Uber.

Uber Quarterly Earnings from 2017 to 2018

Source: Bloomberg

If you look closely at the financial structure of Uber, while the company’s income indeed rose 43% to reach US$11.3 billion in 2018, it has never recorded a net profit.

“To be absolutely practical, a lot of these startups are not going to start making money within a 10-year period,” said Sze-Hui Goh, a partner at Evershed Harry Elias to BusinessTimes.

These companies need a longer run, and more than ever a solid business model if they want to display a positive company performance in the future.

You see, this situation in Amazon which while going public, still recorded losses. However, its growth was high and now the ecommerce company has exceeded a US$1 trillion market cap.

But still, investors have to remain cautious and attentive when it comes to ride-hailing. Because, in terms of fundamentals, these companies are still handing in a red report card.

The same goes for China’s Didi Chuxing, Southeast Asia’s Grab and Go-Jek, India’s Ola, the Middle East’s Careem and Russia’s Yandex have been burning cash at an impressive rate while showing little or even negative operating leverage.

A decade after ride-hailing services were first launched, they makeup just 0.4% of total vehicle miles traveled in the US and indeed much lower elsewhere.

The Atlantic magazine noted in a recent opinion piece that, “Uber almost doesn’t feel like a business, but rather some essential service that investors believe should exist, so they have kept injecting money into it.”

Okay, so enough with the backstory. With Uber and Lyft now public, what does this mean for Grab and Go-Jek in Southeast Asia?

Grab, Go-Jek

Well, it is a reality check for the Southeast Asian unicorns when it comes to their turn to follow Uber and Lyft steps to becoming public companies.

With the conservative pricing in the initial public offering for Uber, on top of the lackluster stock market performance for Lyft – this could encourage venture funds to rethink their investments in the future.

“In general, startup valuations have been stretched especially at an early stage. This is a good reflection on how valuations normalize as money becomes more scarce,” Rachel Lau, the managing partner at Malaysian investment firm RHL Ventures told BusinessTimes.

“What people will be more concerned about is startups’ performance versus valuation; and whether their performance is consistent… There is likely to be a pullback once the market becomes fatigued with companies without strong profit fundamentals,” she added.

Startups simply have to find a way to make money before going public, especially amidst the public capital market being skeptical of the profitability of ride-hailing companies.

But profits aside, publicity is also equally important. These companies also have to take the right business strategy and signal to investors of a positive clean image.

But for now, it looks like both startups are more focused on stepping up competition with each other for market share rather than considering IPO.

So far, Grab CEO and Co-founder Anthony Tan said that Grab is not going to be listed anytime soon, even though the startup is already a decacorn with a valuation above US$10 billion.

“We will continue exploring potential strategic partners to invest further into Grab. IPOs are not needed in the near future,” Anthony Tan said in Jakarta on March 6.

Go-Jek also stands in line with Grab as it mentioned that IPO is not a top priority for the startup at the moment. The company instead, is more focused on strengthening its application and services in Indonesia and other targeted countries for expansion.

One point that makes a difference between these Southeast Asian ride-hailing apps is their movement towards becoming a superapp.

Unlike Uber which focuses solely on ride-hailing, Grab and Go-Jek have expanded beyond ride-hailing and are trying to create a comprehensive superapp that offers customers everything from food delivery to financial services.

However, when you have the same or similar cars and mostly the same drivers, riders will use whichever service that is cheapest. Almost everyone will have both apps on their phones, and when it comes to choosing, the decision is often made based on which is the cheapest or offers the most discounts.

There’s no brand distinction between Grab and Go-Jek, and things such as loyalty card points are definitely not enough to differentiate one ride-hailing service from another, they need to bring it out from the battle of prices.

In the end, coming to IPO. It is ultimately not just for branding or more capital, rather it is an objective market test for a startup’s true valuation and potential.

So let’s look forward to the development of these ride-hailing unicorns and see which company is going to be the first in figuring out that successful business model.

Number of Chinese unicorns surged to 202 in Q1 2019

Hurun Research Institute, the firm which creates China’s wealthiest individual lists has released its country-wide unicorn index for the first quarter of 2019 on May 7.

The new report titled “Hurun Greater China Unicorn Index 2019 Q1” mentions that China added 21 new unicorns in the first quarter, that is twice as many unicorns as in Q4 2018.

Among these 21 new unicorns, fashion clothing ecommerce Shein, apartment management platform Danke Apartment, IoT solutions provider Tuya Smart, autonomous driving startup, and media company XinChao are leading with over US$10 billion valuations.

The report also notes that the unicorns mostly derived from both AI and logistics fields, such as autonomous driving startup and B2B logistics startup Lalamove.

Hurun, the Chairman and Chief Investigator of the institution noted that “the number of unicorns in China has surprising exceeded 200, which is almost ten times that of India. At this time, China should be the first place in the world in terms of the number of unicorns.”


Rupert Hoogewerf, a.k.a Hurun – Chairman and Chief Investigator of Hurun Report

Of course, this wouldn’t have been so successful without capital funding from investors. In terms of unicorns breeders, Sequoia Capital has been the most successful with 53 unicorns in its portfolio. This is followed by Tencent and IDG, with each having invested in 31 and 25 unicorns respectively.

In terms of exits, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Nasdaq board have also witnessed the most listings of China’s unicorns in the first quarter of this year.

A total of five unicorns listed successfully on the list, including Maoyan Entertainment, Futu Securities, CStone Pharmaceuticals, Tiger Broker, and Weimob.

China now has 202 unicorns

Hurun Greater China Unicorn Index

Hurun Greater China Unicorn Quarterly Index from 2018

The biggest news after all, is that China now has a total of 202 unicorns. Among the startups, the total valuation of internet services companies topped the list with over 1.6 trillion yuan (about US$232 billion).

From the 202 Chinese unicorns, 42 are involved in the internet services sector, including ecommerce giant Alibaba’s Ant Financial with a US$1+ trillion valuation, Bytendance with a US$500+ billion valuation, and Didi with US$300+ billion valuation.

But aside from the Unicorn Index, the startup has also published its first Hurun China Future Unicorns 2019 Q1 listing another 70 high-growth enterprises from emerging industries.

These seventy potential unicorns are most likely to be valued at US$1 billion in the next three years, with 66 percent of the startups coming from Beijing and Shanghai.

In 2018, Hurun reported that a new unicorn was minted approximately every 3.8 days in China, making for a total of 97 new startups worth US$1 billion.

Though everything is looking to be on a good start with the results from the Q1 2019 report, Hurun said not to be overly optimistic as he estimates that 20% of current unicorns could eventually fail.

Also, Hurun’s methods of calculating unicorns aren’t exactly undisputed. By contrast, China Money Network’s calculations noted the number of new unicorns in 2018 at just 25.

A March Credit Suisse report also warned that despite the prominence of tech unicorns in China, the percent of firms in advanced fields including AI, big data, and robotics still well lagged behind US figures.

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