If you’re looking for the next unicorn in Southeast Asia, Zilingo might just be it. The 3.5-year-old e-commerce company announced today that it has raised a Series D round worth $226 million to go after the opportunity to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain.
This new round takes Zilingo to $308 million from investors since its 2015 launch. The Series D is provided by existing investors Sequoia India, Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Germany’s Burda and Sofina, a European backer of Flipkart -owned fashion site Myntra. Joining the party for the first time is new investor EDBI, the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board.
Zilingo isn’t commenting on a valuation for the round, but a source with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch that it is ‘a rounding error’ away from $1 billion. We had heard in recent months that the startup was getting close to unicorn status, so that is likely to come sooner or later — particularly given that Zilingo has made it to Series D so rapidly.
Raising more than $300 million makes Zilingo one of Southeast Asia’s highest-capitalized startups, but its meteoric growth in the last year has come from expansion from consumer e-commerce into business-to-business services.
CEO Ankiti Bose — formerly with Sequoia India and McKinsey — and CTO Dhruv Kapoor first built a service that capitalized on Southeast Asia’s growing internet connectivity to bring small fashion vendors from the street markets of cities like Bangkok and Jakarta into the e-commerce fold. Zilingo still operates its consumer-facing online retail store, but its key move has been to go after b2b opportunities in the supply chain by digitizing its network to give retailers and brands gain access.
Revenue grew by 4X over the past year, with b2b responsible for 75 percent of that total, Bose told TechCrunch. She declined to provide raw figures but did say net income is in “the hundreds of millions” of U.S dollar. The company — which has over 400 staff — isn’t profitable yet, but CEO Bose said the b2b segment gives it “a clear pathway” to break-even by helping offset expensive e-commerce battles.
The supply chain’s ‘outdated tech’
Moving into the supply chain after building distribution makes sense, but Zilingo has long had its eye on services.
That business-focused push started with a suite of basic products to help Zilingo sellers manage their e-commerce business. Those initially included inventory management and sales tracking, but they have since graduated to deeper services like financing, sourcing and procurement, and a ‘style hunter’ for identifying upcoming fashion trends. Zilingo also widened its target from the long tail of small vendors operating in Southeast Asia, to bigger merchants and brands and even to the fashion industry in Europe, North America and beyond that seeks access to Asia’s producers, who are estimated to account for $1.4 trillion of the $3 billion global fashion manufacturing market.
Zilingo’s goal today is to provide any seller with the features, insight and network that brands such as Zara have built for themselves through years of work.
In Southeast Asia, that means helping small merchants, SMEs and larger retailers to source items for sale online through the Zilingo store. But in Europe and the U.S, where it doesn’t operate an outlet, Zilingo goes straight to the sellers themselves. That could mean retailers seeking wholesale opportunities from Asia or online influencers, such as Instagram personalities, keen to use their presence for e-commerce. Beyond just picking out items to sell, Zilingo wants to help them build their own private labels using its supply chain network.
That rest of the world plan has been on the cards since last year when Zilingo closed a $54 million Series C, but now the next stage of the journey is deeper integration with factories.
“If you think about these factories that make the products, the process isn’t optimized over there,” Bose said in an interview. “The guy or girl running factory likely has no technology, they don’t even use Excel. So we’re going to small and medium factories, increasing capacity utilization, helping to manage payroll, getting loans and other fintech services.”
Kapoor, her co-founder, adds that the fashion supply chain is “is marred by outdated tech.”
“It’s imperative for us to build products that introduce machine learning and data science effectively to SMEs while also being easy to use, get adopted and scale quickly. We’re re-wiring the entire supply chain with that lens so that we can add most value,” he added in a statement.
AWS for the fashion supply chain
Bose said Zilingo’s early efforts have boosted factory efficiency by some 60 percent and made it possible to develop links to retailers while also enabling factories to develop their own private label colletions, rather than simply churning out unbranded or non-descript products.
A large part of that work with factories is consultancy-based, and Zilingo has hired supply chain experts to help provide quality guidance and perspective alongside the software tools it offers, Bose said.
She compares it, in many ways, to how Amazon conceived AWS. After it built tech to fix its own problems internally, it commercialized the services for third parties. So Zilingo started out offering a consumer-facing e-commerce platform but it is making its sourcing networks open to anyone at a cost — almost like supply chain on an API.
That gives its business a two, if not three, sided focus which spans selling to consumers in Southeast Asia through Zilingo.com — which is present in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia with the Philippines and Australia coming soon — reaching overseas retailers through Zilingo Asia Mall, and developing the b2b play.
In Southeast Asia, its home market, Zilingo doesn’t pressure its merchants to sell on its platform exclusively — “we don’t mind if they go to Instagram, Lazada, Tokopedia and Shopee,” Bose said — but in the U.S. it doesn’t have a go-to consumer outlet. It’s possible that might change with the company considering potential partnerships, although it seems unlikely it will launch its own consumer play.
Zilingo was once destined to compete with the big players like Lazada, which is owned by Alibaba, Shopee, which is operated by NYSE-listed Sea, and Tokopedia, the $7 billion company that’s part of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, but its supply chain focus has shifted its position to that of enabler.
That’s helped it avoid tricky times for specialist e-commerce services, which battle tough competition, pricing wars and challenging dynamics, and instead become one of Southeast Asia’s highest-capitalized startups. The company’s U.S. plan is ambitious, and it is taking longer than expected to get off the ground, but that makes it a startup that is worth keeping an eye on in 2019. It’s also an example that the startup journey is not defined since, in some cases, the biggest opportunities aren’t presented immediately.
Amazon Sidewalk is coming – and not everyone will be happy
Amazon is preparing to launch Amazon Sidewalk, its localized networks for Echo, Ring, and other devices, and it looks likely to be one of the most controversial products from retail behemoth so far. Echo owners have begun being notified by Amazon that Sidewalk shared networks are launching later in the year, along with apparent confirmation that it will be turned on by default.
Sidewalk basically creates a special, separate network, hosted by so-called Sidewalk Bridge devices. That includes certain Echo and Ring models. What distinguishes them from your regular WiFi connection is that proximate Sidewalk devices can collaborate, even if they’re not necessarily your own.
Your neighbors’ Ring camera, for example, could join a local Sidewalk network. The advantage, Amazon says, is that even if your internet connection goes down, things like your Ring security system may still potentially be able to get online using a neighbor’s bandwidth. It also improves range, since Sidewalk devices can in theory fill in gaps in WiFi coverage.
Of course, to do that, Amazon needs to grab some of your internet bandwidth to share. What’s likely to prove divisive is that Amazon will turn Sidewalk on by default, its email to registered users confirmed today. If they don’t want to have their internet connection shared in part, they’ll have to manually turn it off.
“The maximum bandwidth of a Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps, which is about 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high definition video,” Amazon says. “Today, when you share your Bridge’s connection with Sidewalk, total monthly data used by Sidewalk, per account, is capped at 500MB, which is equivalent to streaming about 10 minutes of high definition video.”
While Sidewalk isn’t active as a feature yet, you can already turn it off in the Amazon Alexa app. That switch is found at More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk.
Sidewalk is designed so that users don’t actually know what other devices are connected to the network, or indeed what network their own devices are linked with. “Information transferred over Sidewalk Bridges is encrypted and Bridge customers are not able to see that Sidewalk-enabled devices are connected to their Bridge,” Amazon explains. “Customers who own Sidewalk-enabled devices will know they are connected to Sidewalk but will not be able to identify which Bridge they are connected to.”
Of course, for Sidewalk to fully work as Amazon hopes – with the potential down the line, when the networks are sufficiently established, to do things like localized device-finding and more – it needs as many Echo and Ring owners to opt-in as possible.
Nonetheless, it’s likely to raise concerns among both users and security advocates alike. Having a second network running, which has access to your home internet, and which you have only marginal control over seems like a recipe for potential disaster. Even if all works as planned, it requires trusting Amazon to do all the management and security necessary. That may well be a bigger ask than even Echo and Ring owners can stomach.
Moto E7 serves up a 48MP camera and a solid battery on a budget
Motorola today revealed the Moto E7, which is the latest in its line of budget devices. Like many of the budget phones Motorola has released throughout the years, the main focus here seems to be on the camera. In fact, Motorola says in its announcement today that smartphone users deserve “an incredible camera system that delivers gorgeous results,” regardless of their budget.
So, does the camera array on the back of the Moto E7 deliver that? That’s ultimately for users to decide, but the phone does come equipped with a 48MP main shooter which has been paired with a 2MP macro lens. Motorola says that the camera has been outfitted with its Quad Pixel tech for better low-light shooting, which is bolstered further by Night Vision mode.
In looking at the specifications that Motorola shared today, the Moto E7 doesn’t seem all that different from the Moto E7 Plus we saw earlier in the year. The Android 10-based Moto E7 is equipped with a 6.5-inch Max Vision HD+ display with a 20:9 aspect ratio, which is nothing to write home about but will get the job done for a budget handset.
One major draw might be the battery, which clocks in at 4,000mAh. Since the Moto E7 uses an octa-core MediaTek Helio G25 CPU and a low-resolution display, that battery can probably last a long time. Motorola, for its part, says that the battery can go for 36 hours on a full charge, so budget-minded customers looking to get a lot of mileage out of their phone’s battery might find a lot to love here.
Obviously, though, this is a budget device by pretty much every definition of the phrase, so we’re not expecting a whole lot. Those expectations extend to price as well, with the Motorola giving the E7 a price tag of €119.99. We’ll see the Moto E7 launch first in “select European countries” before spreading to select countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia in the weeks to come. We’ll let you know if the E7 eventually makes its way stateside, so stay tuned for more.
Xiaomi foldable smartphone could comes with a pop up camera
Xiaomi has been working hard on folding smartphone prototypes filing patents that show off potential designs for folding devices coming in the future. A new Xiaomi folding smartphone design has turned up that ditches the thick bezels or notches on the screen featured on smartphones for sensors and cameras. Instead, this folding device uses a pop-up camera.
Xiaomi’s design is neither the first to fold nor the first to have a pop-up camera, but it’s interesting to see the two features combined in a single device. The design patent was filed with The Hague International Design System on September 25, 2020. The application was published on November 20, 2020. Like most other folding smartphones, it folds in half to create a smaller and more pocketable device.
In the renderings, the front screen is small at 4.6-inches and has thick bezels. When the phone is opened, it has a large screen of unspecified size. Considering the smaller front screen is said to be 4.6-inches, the assumption would be that the large main screen is somewhere in the 7 to 8-inch realm, but again that is unclear. Unlike other folding smartphone designs from the company, this new design ditches the band located to the screen’s side for sensors and cameras seen in past designs.
The pop-up camera design allows it to act as the front selfie camera with two lenses, and there are three cameras on the back of the device. Specifications for the camera system are unknown at this time. On the right side of the smartphone are a pair of buttons with one for volume and another on-off button.
The left side has the SIM card slot with a microphone on the top and bottom. The USB-C port and speaker are on the bottom of the phone. We hope this design makes it to production in the future.
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