A $100m bet on Vietnam’s logistics space
VietReader 24-11-2020, 16:38

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Hello readers,

My impulsiveness often rears its head at the worst times. Take two weeks back, for example. It was close to midnight when a friend annoyingly pinged me: “The iPhone 12 mini’s on sale!!” along with a link to a Shopee page.

We both know what happens next.

Minutes later, I found myself stewing in mild regret and trying not to think about the fact that I had just spent [redacted amount] on a phone I didn’t actually need. To be fair, I’d been on a secondhand iPhone 7 for almost two years, much to the derision of my friends.

The ecommerce space is clearly designed for this purpose: to stir excitement where there was none, to entice users with coins and cashback rewards, and to make it so easy that you’d do it all over again.

In Vietnam, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a surge in online shopping – and with it, the demand for ecommerce logistics providers. Scommerce is one such player in the field, but it’s joined by at least 49 other startups. The bigger question is, does it stand a fighting chance?

Today we look at:


Temasek’s US$100 million bet on Vietnam-based logistics provider Scommerce
Why Byju’s WhiteHat Jr has served a critic a US$2.7 million defamation suit
Other newsy highlights such as TikTok and WeChat’s tough luck in the US, and Blackstone’s hopes of raising US$5 billion
PREMIUM SUMMARY

Will Temasek’s big bet on Scommerce pay off?


A $100m bet on Vietnam’s logistics space

From congested and poorly constructed roads to confusing street addresses, these obstacles make fulfilling last-mile deliveries in Vietnam no easy feat. But the pandemic has fueled the demand for delivery solutions, and Singapore’s Temasek reckons Vietnam-based ecommerce logistics provider Scommerce has got game. The company, which specializes in last-mile express and on-demand delivery, solely serves the Vietnam market. In 2019, Scommerce raised US$100 million in a Temasek-led round.


A booming sector: It makes sense for Temasek to vie for a slice of the country’s logistics sector pie. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of orders processed by fast-delivery logistics companies in Vietnam grew by 45% on average and could reach 530 million orders by year-end. And given 98% of Vietnamese firms are small and medium-sized enterprises, it explains the heavy demand for more (and better) delivery solutions.
The ties that bind: Scommerce’s origins trickle to 2012, when a startup called Giao Hang Nhanh (GHN) was created by ex-employees of Mobile World, Vietnam’s leading electronics retailer. When Scommerce was established in 2017, it subsumed GHN into a grander plan – and by 2018, the company had crossed the US$100 million revenue mark. But with ecommerce platforms establishing their own logistics arms – such as Shopee Express – analysts believe third-party logistics providers like Scommerce could lose out.
Filling the last-mile space: Thanks to the upswing in online shopping, at least 50 active startups are offering ecommerce logistics services in both the first-mile and last-mile sectors. Despite this, Hang Do, chief operating officer at Scommerce, says the firm has a healthy balance between serving formal ecommerce platforms and directly serving SMEs and sellers on social media. “Vietnam’s SMEs market is big enough and no player can capture it alone,” Do adds.

Read more: Can Temasek-backed Scommerce beat a sea of rivals in Vietnam’s logistics race?

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT

Byju’s-owned WhiteHat Jr files US$2.7 million defamation suit against critic



It’s about to go down. Karan Bajaj, the CEO of Byju’s-owned online coding platform WhiteHat Jr, has filed a US$2.7 million defamation suit against one Pradeep Poonia. The notice claims that the software engineer is in violation of trademark and copyright laws.
Enter: WhiteHatSnr: Poonia, who goes by the handle WhiteHatSnr on Twitter, supposedly began making defamatory remarks on the social media platform in September this year after commenting on WhiteHat Jr’s advertisements featuring an imaginary child named “Wolf Gupta” who lands a job in Google. According to the defamation notice, the tweets “turned sinister” prior to the withdrawal of these ads, with Poonia claiming that WhiteHat Jr had “murdered” Wolf Gupta.
He said, she said: According to WhiteJat Jr, Poonia reportedly hacked into the firm’s internal business communications platform, Slack, to obtain confidential information – such as the company’s communications with its customers – which was then posted online.
Everybody play the game: Separately, child-focused online coding platform Tekie accused WhiteHat Jr of impersonating a student to attend one of its online classes, saying: “We encountered a suspicious session where the student had their camera turned off, and the voice from their side sounded almost like a 30-year-old adult.” Pass over the popcorn, please.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH


5 things you need to know about this smart city



In 2014, Singapore announced its Smart Nation goal. Ever since then, the country has been building up its startup ecosystem to create a digital society. How have its efforts been so far?
Raining money: Internet of things (IoT), digital payments, and cleantech are three areas that are crucial in developing smart cities. And funding for these startups in the city-state have been steadily growing from just US$84.8 million in 2015 to US$276.7 million this year.
Who are the ones funding? There are a couple of familiar names: Wavemaker Partners, which has backed nine startups across all three sectors, and Entrepreneur First, which has invested in 11 companies across IoT and cleantech.
The buzz about IoT: IoT startups in Singapore cover many aspects of life from property management, food waste, to even aquaculture. One IoT product that Singapore is in the process of trialing includes smart lamp posts.
Payments go digital: Fintech has always been a hot topic, so it’s not surprising that investors have poured in US$154 million into Singapore-based startups in the payments and remittance industry. One of these firms is Thunes, a “super highway” for payments which raised US$60 million in September this year.
Making a clean sweep: Cleantech startups in Singapore are gaining traction. Investments in this area have climbed from US$55.5 million in 2015 to US$170.9 million in 2020 to date. This is mostly thanks to energy startups like solar energy startup Sunseap which closed US$72 million in a series D round this year.

Dive deep into more charts: Delving into Singapore’s smart-city startups and the funds flowing into the sector

QUICK BYTES

1️⃣ Blackstone hopes to raise US$5 billion

Investment firm Blackstone Group is doubling down on Asia and looking to raise US$5 billion for its second Asia-focused private equity fund. That’s more than double what the company closed in its first 2018 fund at US$2.3 billion. The company is now looking to invest in markets including Japan, Australia, Korea, China, and India.

2️⃣ Byju’s could raise some big bucks

As the demand for online education rises amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian startup Byju’s is riding on the wave. The Bengaluru-based edtech unicorn could raise around US$200 million by end-November from investors including BlackRock and T. Rowe Price Group – which, if successful, will take its value to US$12 billion. The startup claims to have over 64 million registered students and 4.2 million annual paid subscriptions.

3️⃣ No luck for TikTok and WeChat in the US

Donald Trump’s hopes of banning social media apps WeChat and TikTok in the US are likely to “ultimately” succeed, according to US national security adviser Robert O’Brien. Meanwhile, president-elect Joe Biden called TikTok “a matter of genuine concern” and had in September promised to review security risks surrounding the video-sharing app.

4️⃣ Finantier bags pre-seed funding from East Ventures

Finantier, an Indonesia-based fintech platform, has raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-seed round led by East Ventures, with participation from AC Ventures and Genesia Ventures. The startup operates a model called Open Finance – one in which datasets from banks and financial companies are collected and enriched, then passed to other companies through an application programming interface. This allows two applications to “talk” to each other.

5️⃣ Tencent launches automatic subtitling solution

Tencent’s cloud computing business, Tencent Cloud, has debuted its own speech recognition and automatic subtitle generation solution, AI Transfy. The service can be used for livestreaming, e-learning, conferences, news, and broadcast entertainment. It supports languages such as Chinese, English, Malay, Indonesian, and Thai.

6️⃣ 500 Startups partners with Cambodian government unit

VC firm and early-stage startup accelerator 500 Startups has announced a partnership with Khmer Enterprise, a unit under the Cambodian Ministry of Economy and Finance. The initiative, Angkor 500, aims to help entrepreneurs establish tech startups and prepare for regional expansion.

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