Author’s Blurb: While COVID-19’s impact was lesser felt in this region early in the year, it would be logical to think that many investors would’ve held back on investing in companies at such an uncertain time. However, all over the world, a variety of companies were still successfully closing rounds, some of which even went up to a few hundred million dollars.
In Malaysia, we’ve had our fair share of local and foreign companies who are active here raising funds of their own, whether through VCs, ECF platforms, and more.
Out of curiosity, we took a look at what kind of businesses here had gained enough investor confidence and closed funding rounds since March 2020 up till now.
1. BMS Organics
You’ve seen it, you’ve heard of it. BMS Organics is an organic health food product franchise that started out as a single organic shop in Subang Jaya, launched by the Lee brothers over two decades ago.
Today, it has grown from a humble family business into one that operates over 40 outlets and 20+ organic vegetarian restaurants across Malaysia. In their financial year 2019, they had a net profit of RM414,000.
On March 24, 2020, the company successfully fundraised on MyStartr, an ECF platform, achieving its minimum target of RM800,000 in just 1.5 hours after launching its campaign. They went on to exceed that target, raising up to RM1.515 million in the following 2 days.
This campaign was meant to raise funds for its Puchong Jaya branch, and the money would be used for expanding their inventory, refurbishing, and strengthening their marketing.
Healthy eating is especially relevant at the moment, since it’s said to be a habit that can boost immunity, which is necessary at a time when COVID-19 is targeting those with weaker bodies. People are getting more health-conscious about what they put into their bodies, and BMS Organics is well positioned to fulfill that demand.
2. Borneo Waste Industries Sdn Bhd (BWI)
Established in 2013, BWI is a renewable energy and waste management company based in Sabah. Its aim is to maximise the recovery of incoming waste into landfills, enhance the market for intermediary materials, and set a precedent for economically viable waste management projects in Sabah.
The company was given the rights to develop and operate an Integrated Waste Management Processing Plant (IWMPP) at the Kayu Madang Sanitary Landfill (KMSL) in Telipok, Sabah from April 2018 to April 2048, after executing a 30-year concession agreement with Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu.
After launching a campaign on Ata Plus, another Malaysian ECF platform in late December 2019, they closed the campaign on March 18, 2020 having raised RM649,774 from 18 investors, exceeding their minimum target of RM450,034.
With the funds raised, the company is expected to expand by channelling resources to site preparation and other pre-operating expenses above all else. Further in the future, they intend to expand their business model to landfills in Peninsular Malaysia.
While waste management isn’t something that I feel is particularly relevant to the current COVID-19 situation, I believe that now’s as good a time as any to invest in a long-term plan that benefits the environment, especially since waste remains one of Malaysia’s biggest issues.
3. iPrice Group (iPrice)
Launched in 2014, iPrice is an e-commerce aggregator platform where you can compare the prices of various items across different platforms like Lazada and Shopee. The types of products that you can search for range from electronics, fashion, sports, and even home living items.
However, they’ve also moved beyond being a simple price comparison platform; iPrice provides users with a list of the most popular products, professional product reviews, and in-depth information about sellers so consumers make better informed purchasing decisions.
On March 2, 2020, iPrice announced that it had raised US$10 million in a Series B round led by ACA Investments Pte Ltd, with participation by Daiwa PI Partners, and returning investors LINE Ventures and Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund.
Following the funding, they were planning on increasing their workforce of 205 to 300 in the next year, while also enriching the e-commerce platform experience for consumers through their platform and external partners.
Lots of people are buying things online at the moment, with Commerce.Asia releasing a report in April that showed products being sold online experiencing a sales growth percentage in the high hundreds over the first 30 days of MCO.
Therefore, I have no doubt that people were doing price comparisons before making their purchases, since we’re being more careful with how we spend our money now too.
4. Naluri Hidup Sdn Bhd (Naluri)
You might know Naluri as that health app launched by ex-AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani. To be more specific, it’s a digital therapeutics solution that combines behaviour science, data science and digital design in an app that’s meant to help Malaysians achieve that healthier lifestyle we all crave.
On Naluri’s platform, you can connect to a team of health professionals like psychologists, dieticians, fitness coaches, financial planners, medical advisors, and more.
Just recently in late April, Naluri shared that they completed a US$1.1 million pre-Series A round led by Duopharma Biotech Bhd, M Venture Partners Pte Ltd from Singapore, RHL Ventures from Kuala Lumpur, and other local and international private investors.
Naluri planned to use the funds to extend its runway for at least 12 to 15 months and position itself for its next Series A round.
Aside from healthy eating, people have been more conscious of their mental health and physical fitness, and have perhaps turned to apps like Naluri to form better lifestyle habits with the extra time they have nowadays.
5. Ninja Van
Singapore based e-commerce logistics startup Ninja Van boasts a workforce of over 30,000 across six markets—Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam—and claims to handle an average of a million parcels daily.
In early May, they announced that they had raised Series D funds amounting to US$279 million from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital, Grab, Europe’s GeoPost, Monk’s Hill Ventures, Carmenta, Golden Gate Ventures Growth Fund, Intouch Holding, and two sovereign wealth funds.
In a statement, they shared that they plan to use these funds to dig deeper into the B2B sector while also growing their services for small firms and direct-to-consumer brands.
E-commerce has been booming ever since the globe began quarantining and going on lockdown, so the demand for logistics is also currently at an all-time high. Furthermore, Ninja Van’s wide reach across SEA has surely given them some advantage over other logistics players.
Malaysian insurtech startup PolicyStreet has been operational since 2017 and was founded by former insurance and banking corporate professionals who believed that insurance could be simpler and more affordable.
2 months into 2020, they had sold over 40,000 policies and shared on their PitchIn campaign that they were growing rapidly in the current time of crisis.
On the ECF platform, they raised RM5.268 million from 271 investors in a campaign that ended on May 9, exceeding their minimum funding target of RM1 million. These funds will go to supplement their exponential growth in the region.
Across the globe, a few other insurtech startups also received funding recently, like Jakarta based Qoala and Singapore based Axinan. I believe that more people are beginning to realise the importance of life insurance right now, when so much could happen in so little time.
On March 12, Singaporean rewards and discovery platform ShopBack announced it had raised US$75 million in an extended funding round led by Temasek, with participation from existing investors like Rakuten, EDBI, EV Growth, Cornerstone Ventures, and 33 Capital.
How ShopBack works is by rewarding users with cashback across a range of categories including F&B, fashion, health and beauty, travel bookings, and more. In 2019, it saw a 250% year-on-year growth in sales and orders.
It has a presence in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and Australia, and has a user base of over 19 million.
According to the team, this extended funding would be used to enhance its technology infrastructure, expand data capabilities, and drive growth in existing markets.
Again, with the current state of e-commerce, users are probably looking to get the best bang for their buck and cashback is always an attractive option that many won’t lose out on the opportunity to get.
Relatively new to the Malaysian region is Singapore based knowledge sharing platform Tigerhall, who launched here in October 2019.
Their objective is to help professionals learn and upskill on the go from the knowledge shared by successful business leaders who are in the positions they aspire to be in. This is done by offering podcasts and reads created by these business leaders for the app.
On April 27, they announced that they had raised US$2 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital India’s scale-up programme Surge, and other investors included the XA Network (formerly known as Xoogler Angels), Taurus Ventures, and angel investors.
The investment will go towards product development, senior hires, market expansion, and boosting efforts to support organisations in digitising their learning programmes.
People are vigorously upskilling right now, and what better way to do it than with an app that has content created by renowned experts in their fields? (Less sketchy than a majority of the FB Lives out there now, if you ask me.)
Bottom Line: These investments point to the fact that investors were confident that these companies can pull through the pandemic triumphant. It makes sense to me, as with people’s current habits, these services and products are probably experiencing a high demand, which no doubt is attractive to investors.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.