From Singapore’s deep-tech space, a US$1.2b unicorn rises
VietReader 20-11-2020, 16:40

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Hello readers,

From clocking workouts on your smartwatch to texting while on the commute home, our everyday devices sure do a heap of heavy lifting to simplify our lives in subtle ways.

And here comes another startup that’s adding some magic to the mix: Nanofilm, a Singapore-based firm that has built a (unicorn) business out of adding coatings to gadgets. Never ever paused to wonder why the logo on your Microsoft Surface tablet doesn’t seem to suffer from scratches, have you?

Today we look at:

How deep-tech unicorn Nanofilm found its profitable formula
Gojek’s unsurprising management reshuffle
Other newsy highlights such as Future Capital’s fresh flow of funds and Acronis’ acquisition of CyberLynx

Singapore’s latest deep-tech unicorn has risen

From Singapore’s deep-tech space, a US$1.2b unicorn rises

The deep-tech space is enough of a mystery to the layman, but Singapore startup Nanofilm has risen from its depths with a valuation of US$1.2 billion and a record initial public offering (IPO) that raised some US$375 million, making it the country’s biggest in at least six years. Nanofilm’s domain of expertise? Coatings for devices, from smartwatch bands and printer components to the logos on smartphones and tablets.

The uncoated truth: Nanofilm is the brainchild of Shi Xu who founded the firm in 1999 while completing his stint as an associate professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU). His work soon attracted the attention of Japanese electronics conglomerate Hitachi, prompting NTU to spin off Nanofilm into a standalone company. According to a Frost and Sullivan report, the Nanofilm coating’s unique formulation is among the “hardest materials in the world known to mankind.”
A true unicorn: The startup’s long-time clientele includes Japanese companies such as Fuji Xerox, Nikon, Canon, and Ricoh. However, its China subsidiary has supplanted them in recent years in terms of total revenue, contributing 66.6% of the total compared to just 12.5% from Japan.
No straight roads: Nanofilm still has some hurdles to overcome, including concentration risk. One of its clients – an undisclosed company – accounts for up to 51% of Nanofilm’s revenue for the past three years. According to Lim Jui, CEO of SGInnovate, a Singapore government-owned firm that invests in deep-tech startups, such companies typically require a longer time to market, and more time and money for long-term growth.

Read more: A successful IPO gives hope to Singapore’s deep-tech ambitions


As the digital payments sector heats up, Gojek restructures its management

Amid fierce competition in the digital payments sector, Indonesia’s Gojek has announced a managerial reshuffle to double down on its e-wallet business.

The ties that bind: Gojek’s two co-CEOs will now separately oversee the ride-hailing and payment operator’s two arms, with Andre Soelistyo helming the company’s payment services division GoPay and Kevin Aluwi taking charge of its ride-hailing and food delivery arm. Meanwhile, Aldi Haryopratomo, the current CEO of Gojek’s payment arm, will leave the firm in early 2021.
Operationally ready: According to Gojek, the reshuffle will not affect the group’s structure. But having suffered losses in key areas, including ride-hailing and delivery, as a result of the pandemic, the Indonesia-based startup made the decision to streamline its payments business. This comes on the heels of Gojek’s announcement that it’s at last seeing a path to profitability after a decade.
Edging in: This week, Gojek raised US$150 million from PT Telekomunikasi Selular, Indonesia’s biggest wireless network provider. Its rival Grab recently led a US$100 million funding round for LinkAja, Indonesia’s state-owned payments company.

Scale like a beast

Traveling the world or owning a Tesla is a cool goal in life. But for us in Tech in Asia, it’s all about business — our goal is to uncover the why behind all the biggest companies that scale.

That is the reason we have been hunkering down on articles like these:

The China-Singapore game publisher that went from US$1 million in revenue to US$181 million within a year
The Bangladeshi startup with 22 million monthly active users and is looking to scale even bigger.
The Indian video-streaming platform that saw a 400% month-on-month growth in revenue
The car platform that is finally EBITDA positive this year

…and the list goes on.

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1️⃣ Tencent might just have invested (big) in Udemy

Education never ends – and Tencent knows it, if its recent tech bets are anything to go by. The Chinese internet major has reportedly led a series F round for online learning and teaching platform Udemy to the tune of US$50 million. The round, which also saw participation from Learn Capital, was based on Udemy’s pre-money valuation of over US$3.2 billion.

2️⃣ Singapore’s Acronis expands its portfolio

Singapore- and Switzerland-based cybersecurity firm Acronis has acquired CyberLynx, an Israeli cybersecurity consultancy firm. This marks Acronis’ third acquisition since late 2019, though financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

3️⃣ More moolah for this Israeli cloud network startup

Cloud-based tech firm Cato Networks has secured US$130 million in its series E round, bringing its total financing to US$332 million. The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners with participation from new investor Coatue Management.

4️⃣ Mixed martial arts matches set to stream on social media

Singapore-based sports entertainment firm One Championship and Facebook have announced a global partnership to distribute “exclusive” gameplay content on Facebook Watch, the social media giant’s video-on-demand service. To heighten the second-screen experience, content from One Virtual Reality will also be added to Facebook’s VR app Venues.

5️⃣ India’s Quintype gets a boost

Quintype, a Bengaluru-based content management software (CMS) startup, has raised US$3.4 million in a series A round led by IIFL Asset Management, which is part of the Indian firm IIFL Wealth Management. These funds will be used to further its expansion into the Southeast Asian region starting with Singapore, as well as into Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

6️⃣ Fresh funds flow in for Future Capital

Future Capital, an early-stage VC firm in China, has closed its fourth US-dollar fund with US$187 million. The USD Fund IV will remain focused on investing in early-stage enterprise technology and tech companies in the Greater China region.


Hey, Jamie! Thanks for your submission – your company takes the spotlight this week.

Elevator pitch: Thailand-based company Table is a marketplace for premium lifestyle experiences. Users can book the top nightclubs, bars, restaurants and events via its platform.
Story: Whenever company founder Jamie Bubb would travel to Southeast Asia for business, one issue he and his co-founder would frequently face was the difficulty in discovering the best in local nightlife. And even when they managed to find the right places, they still often had to book or pay for them in advance, which was challenging since their trips were usually impromptu.
How many years in operation: Just over a year
Number of users: They have 50 active partners and 500 active customers.
What’s the monthly revenue? US$10,000
Opportunities: There are very few competitors that are focused on the high-end lifestyle experience. Table is also seeing a huge spike in Thai locals enjoying the nightlife.
Challenges: Optimizing the business model post-Covid-19. Previously, 80% of the startup’s bookings were from tourists. Now, they have pivoted to attract locals instead.

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