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The supply chain’s ‘outdated tech’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.
Sotheby’s first NFT auction revealed
An art auction is set to take place in June of 2021 called “Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale.” This sale will be hosted by Sotheby’s, and it’ll take place entirely online. Sotheby’s started their description of this sale with the following: “NFTs will be considered one of the groundbreaking artistic breakthroughs of the century.”
This NFT auction at Sotheby’s will be co-curated by Sotheby’s and Robert Alice. The show will be “An artist-led survey of the many strands that comprise this emerging cultural ecosystem.”
SEE TOO: What is NFT? A simple explanation for the crypto newb
This showing will include NFT creations across time and space, from “some of the earliest” NFTs built raw, before Ethereum chains took hold of the platform. It’ll also include “newer, complex NFTs that showcase the cutting edge technical innovation.” Artists in the show include creators from four different continents.
Categories for NFT include:
• Early NFTs
• Digital Pop/Futurists
• Emerging NFT Artists
The show will take place between June 3, 2021, and June 10, 2021, all online at Sothebys.com. The show will be revealed in parts, starting with the three works you see (in preview) above.
The first three NFT shown are The Shell Record by Anna Ridler, CryptoPunk #7523 by Larva Labs, and Quantum by Kevin McCoy. More works will be revealed for this show in the coming weeks. UPDATE: More works will be posted to the Natively Digital digital catalogue as we reach the date where bidding will begin.
It’s likely Sotheby’s will allow (and perhaps require) works to be purchased with cryptocurrency. The first ever Sotheby’s physical artwork with the potential to be purchased with cryptocurrency was also just sold. As you might have already guessed, it was a Banksy. Sotheby’s allowed the transaction to take place with bitcoin or ethereum cryptocurrency should the winner of the auction choose to purchase the work as such.
Beats design at Apple now lead by Android hardware legend
Apple appears to have pinpointed one of the most influential Android hardware designers of the last decade in Scott Croyle. This guy was the head of HTC’s design team when they created the HTC One M7 – he was also a founder of the company Nextbit, creators of the Nextbit Robin. A report this week details the timing and details surrounding the designer’s joining Apple.
Below you’ll see the Nextbit Robin and an HTC One M7 (originally just called HTC One). These devices remain memorable pieces of hardware design even here, nearly a decade later. Now Croyle, one of the main keys behind this hardware design, is working with Apple.
FUN FACT: The HTC One (whose design team was led by Croyle), came with Beats Audio branding. This phone was released in early 2013, when HTC still owned stock in Beats. HTC sold their last shares of Beats by September of 2013. In the year 2014, Apple acquired Beats.
According to 9to5Mac, Scott Croyle “joined Apple last year specifically to oversee Beats product design.” It’s reported that Apple will continue to have the design firm Ammunition “create the look of Beats hardware products and company identity” while Croyle acts as “point person” between Beats and the design company.
It’s very likely that details like this appearing mean that we’ll see new Beats products in the very near future. The fact that Croyle is working with Apple specifically on Beats is a talking point that’s perfect for starting a fire in the minds of the public. We’re now reminded that Apple owns Beats, and Beats hasn’t released a brand new product for quite some time.
It’s likely there’ll be a new pair of Beats headphones in the near future, and it would not be shocking to find a new wireless speaker appearing soon, too. The Beats brand remains solid. The public still knows the logo, and it’s quite likely Apple will capitalize on the hype that will inevitably come with the release of a new Beats product before the end of the year 2021.
What sort of Beats brand hardware do you expect Apple will release next? Will it just be another pair of headphones with a slightly different shape from what’s come before, updated with Apple’s latest wireless chip tech? Or will it be something truly new?
Razor releasing new electric RipStik and their “SUV” of scooters
There’s a new electric movement machine in the mix this week from the folks at Razor. It has a long name: “The New RipStik Rush, the electric RipStik 2.0,” and it’s the second RipStik produced by Razor. There are other official RipStik products out with Razor, but only one other original electric RipStik. It’s “official” because Razor is the only one who holds the patent for Caster Boards as such.
This machine works with “enhanced RipStik technology” that’ll allow the back end of the board to move back and forth to “fishtail, carve, and drift like a snowboard.” This newest version works with an electric hub motor that allows the rider to roll at up to 10mph (16 km/h). The rider of this particular electric RipStik will be able to push forth with a remote control, as shown in the imagery above and below.
The New RipStik Rush, the electric RipStik 2.0, will be released for a suggested retail price of $249 USD. This device is recommended for “anyone age 9+” and will be available for sale “soon.”
Razor also announced that they’ll be making the Razor C25 electric scooter available this summer. Per Razor, the C25 is like the “SUV” of the Razor line-up. They’ve suggested that this scooter delivers “a comfortable, rugged ride that can easily navigate any surface.”
The Razor C25 has the ability to go 15.5 miles per battery charge and can move at a speed of up to 18 miles per hour. There’s a 250W rear brushless hub motor in this vehicle and a 36V lithium icon battery inside. The whole machine weighs in at 32.5 lbs. The Razor C25 will be released for sale in July of 2021.
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