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The supply chain’s ‘outdated tech’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.
USAF taps Exosonic to develop supersonic combat training drone
The US Air Force has awarded Exosonic a contract to develop a supersonic combat drone concept. The demonstrator vehicle will be used to demonstrate the technologies behind the quiet supersonic concept and to train pilots. The project will, among other things, help the USAF train its fighter pilots for potential future encounters with “near-peer adversaries.”
Low-boom supersonic technology is a hot topic at the moment, promising a rapid rate of travel without the loud booming noises typical of these aircraft. Exosonic will use its low-boom technologies to develop the demonstrater unmanned aerial vehicle for the USAF under a Direct to Phase II Small Business Innovation Research contract.
The company says this will be the USAF’s first purpose-built supersonic drone intended to help train pilots. Of note, the US Air Force is currently facing both a pilot shortage and training budget constraints, which has resulted in a lack of new fighter pilots that have been fully trained. The Exosonic UAV will be leveraged as a “mock adversary” for use during live flight training exercises for fighter pilots
Compared to existing live training processes, Exosonic says its low-boom supersonic drone will help the USAF train fighter pilots at a much lower cost while also reducing the wear and tear on existing aircraft. Beyond that, the company points out that using an unmanned drone as the faux adversary will free up pilots to focus on their own training rather than requiring them to spend time serving as the enemy in a training situation.
Beyond the USAF, Exosonic says that it can also leverage the unmanned drone for its own purposes, namely as a way to test its low-boom supersonic tech. The data from these flights may then help pave the way for a revision on regulations that limit overland supersonic flights, which are intended to prevent the public from being disrupted by the loud booming sounds.
Apple adds more ports and a notch to 2021 MacBook Pro
For a while, the MacBook’s disappearing ports were something of a meme among the I/O enthusiasts of the world. However, with today’s new MacBook reveal, Apple has reversed course, announcing that it’s actually adding ports to the new MacBook Pro. In addition, it looks like the display on the 2021 MacBook Pro is taking a design cue from modern iPhones, picking up a notch it can call its own.
The ports on the new MacBook Pro may not be able to challenge the port-heavy laptops of yesteryear, but there’s still some good stuff here. On the right side of the device, we’ll see an HDMI port, a Thunderbolt 4 port, and an SDXC card slot. In addition, we get two more Thunderbolt 4 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack that supports high-impedance headphones on the left side. While the headphone jack departed iPhones years ago, it looks like we’re still getting one on the 2021 MacBook Pro.
Apple says these port selections are enough to connect two Pro Display XDRs on the M1 Pro-based MacBook, while the M1 Max-based MacBook will connect to three Pro Display XDRs and a 4K display. In addition to those ports, the new MacBook Pro will feature a MagSafe 3 port for charging.
If you look closely at the main image at the top of this article, you’ll also see that the MacBook Pro display has a notch for the first time. Of course, iPhone users are already well familiar with the notch, but Apple decided to employ it in the MacBook Pro to cut back on the borders around the display while still providing a space for the front-facing camera.
It’s certainly a little strange at first, though the presence of a notch does give a nice space for the menu bars in apps and Finder to nestle into. We’ll find out if the notch is a distraction or if the smaller borders around the screen make a noticeable difference soon enough, as the new MacBook Pro will be launching in 14-inch and 16-inch varieties next week.
MacOS Monterey release date and requirements
Your Apple computer will soon get a significant update to the latest version of macOS, the company’s desktop operating system. This latest version is macOS Monterey, and it’ll be available for almost every Apple desktop computer all the way back to late 2013. You’ll find the new MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch machines running this software right out of the box next week.
If you have a macOS computer at home, you’ll find an upgrade awaiting you on October 25. That’s assuming the macOS Monterey release date (of October 25, 2021) fits with your machine’s build. The eldest Mac that’ll get this update is the “Late 2013” version of the Mac Pro.
If you have a Mac Pro from late 2013 or later, you’ll get macOS Monterey at launch. You’ll find the same is true of the Late 2014 and later Mac mini, and the early 2015 and later MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. If you have an early 2016 or later version of the MacBook, you’ll get this upgrade. So will late 2015 and older iMac machines. You’ll be set with an update if you have an iMac Pro released in 2017 or later.
If you’re unfamiliar with the contents of macOS Monterey at this point, take a peek at our timeline of features below. Keys to this next upgrade to the OS include the release of Shortcuts support, Focus Mode, and Universal Control. If you’re planning on buying a new mobile device from Apple soon, you’ll want this upgrade for your macOS machine as well.
Some features in this operating system update will require specific hardware to operate. For example if you’re using an Intel machine, some new features won’t function. Meanwhile, since you’re using an Apple machine, no further investigation into hardware requirements is needed outside of the release date of your machine from Apple to access whether you’re able to download and run this new OS – easy as can be.
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