A Chinese ecommerce app that lures grocery shoppers with cash just raised $100M in Series B

There is no shortage of up-and-comers jostling for a spot in China’s massive ecommerce industry, and oftentimes they pick a niche market and present a novel business model different from the establishment of Alibaba or JD.com . Chinese social ecommerce app Fresh Buddy announced on Tuesday that it has raised $100 million in a series B funding […]

There is no shortage of up-and-comers jostling for a spot in China’s massive ecommerce industry, and oftentimes they pick a niche market and present a novel business model different from the establishment of Alibaba or JD.com .

Chinese social ecommerce app Fresh Buddy announced on Tuesday that it has raised $100 million in a series B funding round led by Genesis Capital, a growth-stage fund founded by two former Tencent executives. SIG China, DCM Ventures and Vision Plus Capital also participated in the round with China Renaissance serving as the exclusive financial advisor.

The new financial injection came just months after Fresh Buddy, or Meiri Yitao in Chinese, made its debut in April and raised $30 million from a series A round led by DCM Ventures in July. Fresh Buddy plans to spend the proceeds to strengthen its supply chain and logistics center.

The company is a project incubated by Miss Fresh (branded as Meiri Youxian in China), a Tencent-backed service that are used by 50 percent of China’s online fresh produce shoppers as of June, according to research firm Trustdata. Zeng Bin, founder and president of Miss Fresh, owns 40.79 percent shares in Fresh Buddy while Miss Fresh has an 11.8 percent stake in the new app, according to enterprise registration information that’s publicly available.

Like its parent, Fresh Buddy sells and delivers vegetables and fruits, but it comes with a twist. While Miss Fresh goes after consumers in China’s megacities, the new project lures small-town consumers with a multilevel revenue-sharing scheme: Users get cash rewards when they get other people to use the app.

A social media account on Weibo marketed at Fresh Buddy’s money-grubbing users claim it’s normal for an average “recruiter” to earn 10,000 yuan, or $145, a month. Someone that’s reached the “advisor-level” can pocket no less than 1,000 yuan a day and a senior “advisor” can make more than 10,000 a day.

Fresh Buddy has utilized the social reach of Tencent’s billion-user messenger WeChat where shoppers can discuss potential purchases and recruit others. Other ecommerce apps that have taken off on WeChat include group-buying site Pinduoduo, which scored one of the biggest US IPOs by a Chinese firm this year. Alibaba has also toyed with a few social ecommerce ideas, but the giant lacks a networking app that matches the size of WeChat, which has long blocked Alibaba’s range of products.

On the supply end, Fresh Buddy says it sources directly from farms, bypassing layers of distribution to cut costs.

The app grew 70 percent month-over-month to reach 30 million unique mobile installs in October, according to market research firm iResearch.

Cash rewards have been proven effective in acquiring users in China. Yunji Weidian, which also has a revenue-splitting program to incentivize users but covers a wider range of products, is reportedly targeting an initial public offering in the US that could value the company between $7 billion to $10 billion. Qutoutiao, the NASDAQ-listed rival to TikTok’s sibling news distributor Jinri Toutiao, also has a similar scheme that lets users earn money by reading content and bringing in new users.

Japan’s Sansan raises $26.5M to help Southeast Asia get more from business cards

The humble business card is a target for disruption in Southeast Asia after Japanese contacts management startup Sansan raised JPY 3 billion ($26.5 million) to expand its business into the region. Founded way back in 2007, Sansan helps bring business intelligence to companies through a system that helps build connections between users and both internal employees […]

The humble business card is a target for disruption in Southeast Asia after Japanese contacts management startup Sansan raised JPY 3 billion ($26.5 million) to expand its business into the region.

Founded way back in 2007, Sansan helps bring business intelligence to companies through a system that helps build connections between users and both internal employees and external contacts using, among other things, business cards.

“Our purpose is to use tech to enhance the utility and value of business cards,” Sansan co-founder and CEO Chikahiro Terada told TechCrunch in an interview. “They are customary for business in most parts of the world, esJapanlly japan, but there’s no easy way to digitize them.”

This new round will bring that focus to Southeast Asia, where Sansan already has an office in Singapore. The capital — which is a Series E round — was provided Japan Post Capital, T. Rowe Price, SBI Investment and DCM Ventures, and it takes Sansan to around $100 million raised to date.

Sansan claims that 7,000 corporations use its core product — also called Sansan — which helps build and organize networks. At its core, users scan another person’s business card which is then digitized, uploaded to the cloud and made part of their database. The Sansan system then allows interactions, such as meetings, calls, notes and more to be added to the entry to help track interactions. The resources are held within companies, rather than employees themselves, which means strategies around sales, marketing and more can be kept organized and centralized.

In addition, Sansan operates a LinkedIn -like service called Eight which is available for free and is linked to the core product, allowing users to update their job, company, etc without having to provide a new business card. Eight has some two million users today, according to Sansan.

Unlike LinkedIn, however, which is commonly used for finding jobs, Terada suggested that Eight and Sansan help maintain networks and increase communication and engagement.

Sansan CEO Chikahiro Terada started the business in 2006 alongside fellow co-founders Kei Tomioka, Joraku Satoru, Kenji Shiomi and Motohisa Tsunokawa

Terada — who previously worked for Oracle in Thailand — said that he sees much potential for the services in Southeast Asia, where the region’s digital economy is expected to triple by 2025, albeit with a greater focus on SMEs rather than Japan-style mega corporations.

Already, Sansan has picked up some 100 or so clients in the region — mostly by targeting Japanese corporations in Singapore — while Eight has reached 100,000 registered users across Southeast Asia since a soft launch in October 2017.

“We want to expand to globally and Singapore is our first step,” said Terada, indicating that there are future plans to look at business in India, Europe and potentially the U.S. further down the line. Elsewhere, the firm is hiring data scientists as it aims to bring additional smarts to its services.

The proposition is interesting — personally speaking I have multiple stacks of business cards sitting idle — but it remains to be seen how open businesses in Southeast Asia will be to paying for the service, even with clear benefits. Saas as a model is still establishing its roots among SMEs while there are already popular options. LinkedIn is, of course, the de facto professional social network while Facebook, which has been ramping up its efforts in that space lately, is also a popular option.

Former eBay product chief RJ Pittman takes the reins at 3D capture company Matterport

Matterport, a provider of 3D image capture technology, has named former eBay chief product officer RJ Pittman as its new chief executive. Pittman will take the reins from former chief executive Bill Brown, who will continue to advise Matterport as the company looks to capitalize on its library of three dimensional scans. The company currently […]

Matterport, a provider of 3D image capture technology, has named former eBay chief product officer RJ Pittman as its new chief executive.

Pittman will take the reins from former chief executive Bill Brown, who will continue to advise Matterport as the company looks to capitalize on its library of three dimensional scans.

The company currently has a library of 1.4 million three dimensional models that have been viewed at least 600 million times since the company launched.

According to Silicon Valley Business Journal, the company had revenue in 2017 of $33 million from selling its camera equipment and software services to businesses.

The company was launched when founders Matt Bell and David Gausebeck realized the commercial potential of the motion capture and sensor technology that Microsoft had unveiled with their Kinect camera back in 2010.

At the time, the company’s several thousand dollar pieces of hardware were the cutting edge for capturing images — now it can be done with software and a cell phone camera. The march of technology has put Matterport in a somewhat precarious position, but the company continues to lock in deals with companies like Donan, an investigation service for insurers and others that looks at fire damage.

The company has inked deals with a number of different enterprise customers — and even brought on State Auto Labs as a strategic investor earlier this year.

“Matterport has the opportunity to revolutionize how property risks are underwritten and claims are handled in the insurance industry,” said Kim Garland, Senior Vice President, Commercial Lines & Managing Director of State Auto Labs said in a statement at the time.

In all, Matterport has raised around $77 million from investors including State Auto Labs, Lux Capital, DCM Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, AMD Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, CBRE, Felicis Ventures, GIC, Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal, iGlobe Partners, Navitas Ventures, News Corp, and Sound Ventures.

Matterport’s hardware can digtially capture, document, visualize and collaborate around properties in 3D on web, mobile and in VR. And its hosted Matterport Cloud service automates the creation of state-of-the-art 3D models, high-quality 4K 2D photography, floorplans and other assets and stores them in easily accessible formats.

There’s still a lot of contested space in the collection and capture of the real world for use in augmented and virtual reality and the addition of Pittman should help Matterport as it looks at a much more crowded competitive landscape.

“RJ’s operating experience at scale, paired with his entrepreneurial DNA and deep product vision will be instrumental to unlocking the full potential of our breakthrough technology and unparalleled 3D media and data,” said company co-founder and chief technology officer David Gausebeck, in a statement.

Indeed, Pittman discussed the importance of Matterport’s library when he spoke of the opportunity he saw for the company. “Matterport Cloud is an unrivaled dataset of precision 3D environments that represents an enormous opportunity to scale the company’s data services business exponentially. This will open up new strategic partnerships and investments as we realize the full value of this data,” Pittman said in a statement.

As an entrepreneur, product developer and real estate investor, Pittman is uniquely qualified to take charte at Matterport.

He previously worked on product, design, engineering and mobile payments at eBay and held roles at Apple and Google. In addition, he had also co-founded and served as the chief executive for the search engine that created the industry’s first graphical information interface, Groxis.

Finally, Pittman worked on a number of real estate projects in the U.S. and UK, giving him insight on the role that technology can play in the new architectural landscape.

 

Sino-US investment firms are targeting over $4 billion for new funds launched this year

As limited partners increasingly demand greater exposure to emerging market opportunities, venture capital firms with a focus on Asia are bulking up their funds and chasing deals in an increasingly competitive race to own stakes in the next generation of local startups with global aspirations. Over the last year, firms, including DCM Ventures, GGV Capital, Matrix […]

As limited partners increasingly demand greater exposure to emerging market opportunities, venture capital firms with a focus on Asia are bulking up their funds and chasing deals in an increasingly competitive race to own stakes in the next generation of local startups with global aspirations.

Over the last year, firms, including DCM Ventures, GGV CapitalMatrix Partners China and Qiming Venture Partners, have all significantly increased the targets for their new funds. If each firm hits their targets, there’s roughly $4.4 billion in new capital that could be flooding into an already scorching market for investment into Chinese startups, according to SEC filings.

The largest of these new funds, by far, is GGV Capital, which has registered a new $1.8 billion fund with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Qiming Ventures has targeted $900 million for its latest fund, while DCM Ventures and Matrix Partners China are each looking for $750 million for their own new investment vehicles, according to securities filings.

Managing partners at the firms did not respond to a request for comment.

These four firms are among the last standing from the initial flood of U.S.-based venture capital firms that poured into Asia (and China specifically) in the first decade of the new millennium.

While marquee names like Kleiner Perkins, DFJ and others foundered in China, these four firms (along with global venture capital juggernauts like Sequoia Capital and NEA) put down deep roots and notched notable wins with investments in startups like Didi Chuxing, Kuaidi, Meituan-Dianping, Xiaomi and many more.

In part, these massive new funds are simply a response to the new world that venture investors find themselves in thanks to the massive amounts of capital raised by SoftBank with its $100 billion Vision Fund, or Sequoia with its $9 billion new investment vehicle.

Firms are also under pressure to raise more capital from limited partners, who want to reduce their exposure and consolidate their own investments around venture firms with track records of success and the ability to deploy capital into larger checks.

Couple those facts with the (still) low cost of capital given where interest rates are, and the sustained growth of technology companies across emerging market geographies, and you have a more willing pool of investors that want to commit more capital to emerging technology ecosystems (this is happening in Latin America, too).

But there are also some contours of China’s competitive environment that are pushing these venture capital firms to raise increasingly larger funds.

One is the sheer size of the opportunity that exists for new technology companies in China. As the WeChat messaging service increasingly evolves into a new operating system, there are opportunities to scale quickly with larger infusions of capital to capture the market.

Like their peers in the U.S., Chinese companies are also delaying their public offerings and spending more time to build a better outcome with their IPOs. That’s putting pressure on earlier-stage investors to raise capital so they don’t get crowded out in those later-stage rounds.

Chinese entrepreneurs are also often putting in their own money to finance companies at the earliest stages, which means startups are more mature when they’re seeking their first round. It’s this phenomenon that leads to the $100 million Series A and B rounds that crop up in the Chinese market more regularly than in the U.S.