Accion Venture Lab launches $23M inclusive fintech startup fund – gpgmail


Accion Venture Lab—the seed-stage investment arm of non-profit Accion—has raised $23 million for a new inclusive fintech startup fund.

The Accion Venture Lab Limited Partnership, as its called, will make seed-stage investments in inclusive fintech startups, defined as ventures that “that leverage technology to increase the reach, quality, and affordability of financial services for the under-served at scale,” per a company release.

The new fund was raised with capital contributions from a number of participants, including the Ford Foundation, Visa Inc. and Proparco—the development finance institution of the French government.

The additional $23 million brings Accion Venture Lab‘s total capital under management to $42 million.

The new LP fund will consider startups from any geography, as along as they meet specific criteria. Overall, Accion Venture Lab doesn’t have regional investment quotas, but does look to allocate roughly 25 to 30 percent of its funds to Africa, Accion Venture Lab Managing Director Tahira Dosani told gpgmail on a call.

“We want to continue to focus on Latin-America, on Sub-Saharan Africa, on Southeast Asia as well as in the U.S. It really is about…where we see the need and the opportunity across the markets that we’re in,” she said.

In line with Accion’s mandate to boost financial inclusion globally, Accion Venture Lab already has a portfolio of 36 fintech startup investments across 5 continents—including 9 in the U.S., 8 in Latin America, and 8 in India.

“Our goal is to really be the that first institutional investor in the companies we invest in. That’s were we see the biggest capital gap. And it’s where we build capability and expertise,” Dosani said. In 2018, Accion Venture Lab successfully exited Indian fintech company Aye Finance, following exits in 2017 and 2016.

This year Accion Venture Lab supported a $6.5 million Series A investment in Lulalend, a South African startup that uses internal credit metrics to provide short-term loans to SMEs that are often unable to obtain working capital.

Accion’s new LP fund will follow past practice and make investments typically in the $500,000 range. It will start sourcing startups immediately through its investment leads around the world and already made its first seed financing to U.S. venture Joust—a fintech platform for gig economy workers.

Accion Venture Lab’s LP fund is the first time the organization has pooled third-party investment capital, according to a spokesperson.

On the appeal for those contributing, Dosani named Accion’s geographic reach and experience. “We think that’s our strength, because we’re able to invest in similar business models across different markets. And we’re able to bring that knowledge from one market to another,” she said.

The Ford Foundation contributed $2 million, according to an email from Christine Looney, Deputy Director, Mission Investments. Visa didn’t disclose its capital contribution, but told gpgmail it will play a role in governance through its participation in a Limited Partners Advisory Committee for the new fund.

As a point of observation, Accion Venture Lab stands out as a fund for giving an equal pitch footing to fintech ventures across frontier, emerging, and developed markets from Lagos to London.

Accion’s new LP fund—along with the organization’s commitment to make nearly a third of its investments in Africa—means more capital to digital finance startups on the continent. By a number of estimates, Africa’s 1.2 billion people still represent the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population.

 

 

 


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YC-backed Eden Farm wants to cut out the middlemen between farmers and restaurants in Indonesia – gpgmail


Eden Farm is a startup with the ambitious goal of building a food distribution network for Indonesia, where many restaurants currently rely on markets for fresh ingredients.

But this means high markups and unreliable supplies for restaurant owners and lower profits for farmers, co-founder and CEO David Gunawan tells gpgmail. The company, part of Y Combinator’s current batch, wants to help both by simplifying the supply chain, ensuring stable pricing and reducing food waste. Eden Farm currently focuses on fresh produce and non-perishable items, but plans to expand its product line to meat and seafood, too.

The company launched in 2017 and now supplies produce from 60 farmers to more than 200 restaurants in six major cities: Jakarta, Tangerang, South Tangerang, Bekasi, Depok and Bogor. Eden Farm is currently raising an oversubscribed seed round. Gunawan says the target was originally intended to be $1 million, but has now increased to $1.75 million. Investors include Y Combinator and Everhaus.

Eden Farm started as a farm, but while talking to other farmers and researching the agricultural market, its founders realized there were many problems with food distribution in Indonesia.

“Every restaurant in Indonesia faces a huge problem with supply, stability and extreme price volatility,” Gunawan says. “Fruit and vegetable prices can go up and down around 30% to 50% every day. In peak season, for certain commodities, prices can go up ten times, like chilis in the summer.”

Eden Farm tackles the problem of supply and demand with a mobile app that gives demand forecasts to farmers so they can plan their next harvests. Traditionally, farmers don’t sell produce directly to restaurants, Gunawan says. Instead, their harvest goes through several layers of middlemen before arriving at markets.

Eden Farm working with farmers in Indonesia

Eden Farm is able to ensure price stability and also allow farmers to make more profit by purchasing produce wholesale from them. On the demand side, Eden Farm’s value proposition includes quality control. Before produce is delivered to restaurants, it is inspected and washed. Gunawan says restaurants typically have to dispose around 30% of the produce they purchase from markets, but Eden Farm has a 100% guarantee and will refund the price of any produce that is unusable. It also partners with two large markets in Jakarta to help supply large quantities of vegetables and ensure there are enough supplies during peak season. Gunawan says Eden Farm’s quality control can help save restaurants up to 50%.

Eden Farm wants to build a network similar to Sysco, the American food distribution giant, but it has to solve several problems unique to Indonesia.

“We are serving a very traditional industry. Farmers already have their own way of planting and their own culture, which has lasted for generations, and we’re trying to change that,” says Gunawan. “At first we didn’t know how to talk to them, how to convince them, but we learned a lot about how to pay respect to farmers. Every time we go to a village, for example, we know how to present, who to pay respects to, like the elders there. We have to do that before the elders will introduce us to the farmers in the area.”

The company currently handles about half of its deliveries in-house and uses third-party logistics providers for the rest. Most produce is sourced from farms close to where it is sold so it can be delivered in less than 24 hours, but Eden Farms goes further for some vegetables. For example, potatoes are purchased from farms in Central Java, while carrots come from North Sumatra.

Eden Farm works mostly with small, traditional farms, but it also carries produce like lettuce and kale from hydroponic farms. After finishing Y Combinator, Gunawan says the startup will begin focusing on expanding into five new cities: Bandung, Surabaya, Bali, Medan and Malang. As its order volumes increase, the company will begin focusing on smaller markets and once it hits 25,000 restaurants, expand into meat and seafood.


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Y Combinator-backed Trella brings transparency to Egypt’s trucking and shipping industry – gpgmail


Y Combinator has become one of the key ways that startups from emerging markets get the attention of American investors. And arguably no clutch of companies has benefitted more from Y Combinator’s attention than startups from emerging markets tackling the the logistics market.

On the heels of the success the accelerator had seen with Flexport, which is now valued at over $1 billion — and the investment in the billion-dollar Latin American on-demand delivery company, Rappi, several startups from the Northern and Southern Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia have gone through the program to get in front of Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms. These are companies like Kobo360, NowPorts, and, most recently, Trella.

The Egyptian company founded by Omar Hagrass, Mohammed el Garem, and Pierre Saad already has 20 shippers using its service and is monitoring and managing the shipment of 1,500 loads per month.

“The best way we would like to think of ourselves is that we would like to bring more transparency to the industry,” says Hagrass.

Like other logistics management services, Trella is trying to consolidate a fragmented industry around its app that provides price transparency and increases efficiency by giving carriers and shippers better price transparency and a way to see how cargo is moving around the country.

If the model sounds similar to what Kobo360 and Lori Systems are trying to do in Nigeria and Kenya, respectively, it’s because Hagrass knows the founders of both companies.

Technology ecosystems in these emerging markets are increasingly connected. For instance, Hagrass worked with Kobo360 founder Obi Ozor at Uber before launching Trella. And through Trella’s existing investors (the company has raised $600,000 in financing from Algebra Ventures) Hagrass was introduced to Josh Sandler the chief executive of Lori Systems.

The three executives often compare notes on their startups and the logistics industry in Northern and Southern Africa, Hagrass says.

While each company has unique challenges, they’re all trying to solve an incredibly difficult problem and one that has huge implications for the broader economies of the countries in which they operate.

For Hagrass, who participated in the Tahrir Square protests, launching Trella was a way to provide help directly to everyday Egyptians without having to worry about the government.

“It’s three times more expensive to transport goods in Egypt than in the U.S.,” says Hagrass. “Through this platform I can do something good for the country.”


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Automotive marketplace Carro acquires Indonesia’s Jualo, extends Series B to $90M – gpgmail


Carro, an automotive marketplace and car financing startup based in Singapore, said it has raised $30 million to extend and close its $90 million Series B financing round and acquired Indonesia-based marketplace Jualo as it looks to further scale its business in Southeast Asia.

The Series B round, for which Carro raised $60 million last year, was funded by SoftBank Ventures Asia, government-linked global investor EDBI, Dietrich Foundation, and NCORE Ventures.

Hanwha Asset Management as well as existing investors including Insignia Ventures, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group, Singtel Innov8, Golden Gate Ventures, and Alpha JWC also participated in the round. The three-year-old startup has raised over US$100 million from investors.

“There was an overflow of interest in our Series B round, which we initially closed towards the end of last year. We had a lot of quality strategic investors coming to the and therefore decided to extend the round. The round is now officially closed,” Aaron Tan, founder and CEO of Carro, told gpgmail.

As part of the announcement, Carro said it had acquired Jualo.com, one of Indonesia’s fastest-growing marketplaces where sellers trade new and used goods in over 300 categories including cars, motorcycles, property, fashion, and electronics. Jualo has amassed 4 million monthly active users and facilitated transactions worth $1 billion last year.

Carro, which operates in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, said more than $500 million worth of vehicles were sold last year on its platform, up from $250 million in 2017 and $120 million the year before.

Carro has already expanded in terms of services. Initially a vehicle marketplace, it launched Genie Finance and has also forayed into insurance brokerage and road-side assistance. Last year, it introduced a service that completes vehicle sales in 60 minutes — Carro Express. In March this year, Carro launched its first subscription-based car service in Singapore to offer consumers additional flexibility.

Tan said that Jualo, which operates in several more categories than Carro, will continue to operate under its original branding.  “Our aim with Jualo.com is to double down and grow the Jualo.com business; with a strong focus and emphasis on the automotive sector,” he said.

Carro, which sees more than 70% of its transactions come from outside home Singapore, will reveal expansion plans to new markets and more acquisition deals later this year, Tan said. The subscription service will also be extended, he added.

Carro is rivaled by a number of startups, including BeliMobilGue in Indonesia, Carsome, iCar Asia and Rocket Internet’s Carmudi, although with its new raise in the bank Carro is the best-funded by some margin.

iCar Asia, which is managed by Malaysian venture builder Catcha, raised $19 million in late 2017. Last year, Carsome — which covers Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand — raised a $19 million Series B, BeliMobilGue — Indonesia-only — raised $3.7 million and Carmudi landed $10 million.

In the case of Carmudi, the business has retrenched itself. At its peak it covered over 20 markets worldwide across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, but today its focus is on Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.


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SoftBank pumps $2B into Indonesia through Grab investment, putting it head to head with Gojek – gpgmail


Grab — the on-demand transportation app worth $14 billion that is the Uber of Southeast Asia — today announced how it would be using some of the $7 billion or so that it has raised to date: $2 billion provided by SoftBank is being earmarked Grab’s operations in Indonesia — the biggest economy in Southeast Asia — over the next five years, to help it go head-to-head with local rival Gojek.

Specifically, Grab said it and SoftBank met with Indonesian government officials and have agreed to use the money to help modernise the country’s transportation infrastructure and economy with the development of an electronic vehicle “ecosystem”, new geo-mapping solutions, and the establishment of a second headquarters for Grab in Jakarta focused on R&D for Indonesia and the wider region, to sit alongside its existing HQ in Singapore.

Grab has confirmed that this investment news does not affect the company’s valuation as it’s not fresh funding — although it looks like it might lead to another, new SoftBank injection in Grab, too.

“I’d like to invest more… We would invest (in) Grab more, and also encourage to invest more in other companies,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a press conference earlier today. “We will create a second headquarters of Grab in Indonesia, and become 5th unicorn and also invest $2b through Grab. On top of that, we will invest more.”

Grab last raised money just four weeks ago, $300 million from Invesco as part of a larger, ongoing Series H that it wants to use in part for acquisitions. That round is already at around $4.5 billion, with SoftBank having already put in just under $1.5 billion. This $2 billion is on top of that previous round, the company said today.

The company’s last reported valuation from a couple of months ago was around $14 billion, a figure that we have been able to confirm remains the same today.

“With our presence in 224 cities, Indonesia is our largest market and we are committed to long-term sustainable development of the country,” said Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab, in a statement. “We are delighted to facilitate this SoftBank investment, as we believe by investing in digitizing critical services and infrastructure, we hope to accelerate Indonesia’s ambition to become the largest digital economy in the region and improve the livelihoods of millions in the country.” Indonesia accounts for the lion’s share of Grab’s business in terms of total footprint: its in 338 countries overall, meaning this country accounts for two-thirds of the whole list.

The news puts Grab head to head with another big on-demand transportation startup Gojek: the two were already rivals in the region, but GoJek is based out of Jakarta and has been the dominant player in that specific market up to now.

Indeed, the deal is notable not just for the amount, but for how it casts both Grab and SoftBank as allies of the government, not just accepted as businesses but endorsed as key players in helping improve the Indonesian economy and how the country is able to deliver critical services like healthcare and transportation, as well as give more services to drive the growth of “micro-entrepreneurs” by way of Grab-Kudo, the payments startup in the country that Grab acquired in 2017 for less than $100 million.

Given the track record that companies like Uber have had in locking horns with regulators, this puts Grab immediately into a strong position in terms of introducing and running with new services in the future. Its restaurant delivery business, GrabFood, is already the largest in the region, it claimed today.

Grab said the financial commitment was the result of a meeting between Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group, Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab and Ridzki Kramadibrata, President of Grab Indonesia, at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta.

“Indonesia’s technology sector has huge potential,” said Son in a statement. “I’m very happy to be investing $2 billion into the future of Indonesia through Grab.”

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan also had words supporting the deal: “Supported by the growing economy, Indonesia has a good investment climate where we are working together to boost the ease of investment in Indonesia,” he said. “This investment is evidence that Indonesia has been on the radar of investors, especially in the technology sector. We look forward to working with Grab, the fifth unicorn in Indonesia, and SoftBank to empower SMEs, accelerate tourism, and improving health services.”

This deal is a win on a couple of levels for Grab.

Most obviously, it’s giving the company a huge injection of capital to continue expanding its business aggressively in what is the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, with GDP of around $1 trillion annually.

A well-worn strategy by on-demand transportation companies — typified by others like Uber, Lyft and Didi — is to go big and go fast in order to establish a market presence among drivers and passengers, which can be used as a foothold to expand into other areas like food or package delivery and to then increase prices to improve margins.

Given that Indonesia is Gojek’s home country, and given that Indonesia is one of the biggest markets in the region, this makes it one of the most important territories for Grab to — err — grab.

“Grab is an Indonesia-focused company,” said Ridzki Kramadibrata, president of Grab Indonesia, in a statement today. “Having our second headquarters in Jakarta will allow us to better serve the needs of all Indonesians and those from emerging economies in the region. As a technology decacorn, Grab very well understands the needs and challenges we have here. We are also well positioned to support more high tech industries and infrastructure companies originating from Indonesia.”

On another front, this is an important strategy for the company on the regulatory and government front.

In a climate where it’s not unusual to see companies banned from operating in markets where they have run afoul of officials and the public, Grab is essentially buying its way into working with the state, and actually taking a commercial role in building its infrastructure. This — offering help with building infrastructure and simply passing on some of its experience and learnings — is a route that Didi has also been taking to make its way into new markets.

Grab said that it has invested $1 billion to date in Indonesia before now, and it said that its contribution to the economy in 2018 was $3.5 billion (48.9 trillion Indonesian rupiahs).

Updated to clarify that this is NOT a new infusion of capital, but a specification of how existing investments will be used. Meanwhile, Grab is still raising money and SoftBank said it wants to invest more.


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