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How a Hong Kong startup gets caught up in US-China trade war

05:53 | 18 July

Taylor Host has been operating his artificial intelligence startup out of Hong Kong for more than two years. The American entrepreneur has clients from Europe, North America and Asia, but he settled in the city for its adjacency to Southeast Asia and mainland China’s massive market.

Miro, which Host co-founded in 2017 with a British software engineer, had bootstrapped to six employees before raising a small note investment. Backed by Silicon Valley-based SOSV, it’s now seeking $2 million in a new funding round. As trade tensions between China and the U.S. drag on, the company is considering relocating for the first time because being a Hong Kong entity starts to turn off western investors.

Miro uses computer vision to tag images and videos of runners for the brands they wear. It then attributes that data — sporting goods purchases — to consumers profiles that are part of its clients’ customer relations management (CRM) system. Miro’s AI processes data in markets around the world, but China data, in particular, is desirable for western sports brands.

The Chinese rising middle-class has been fueling a marathon fever in recent years as they search for a healthier lifestyle. When they participate in a race, Miro’s sensors could be tracking their shoes and outfits for event organizers and sponsors. The technology has so far been used in nearly 500 events around the world and analyzed more than 10 million athletes — while most of the technical development has been conducted in Hong Kong.

“My co-founder and I both spent a considerable amount of time in Hong Kong. The majority of our team would call themselves Hong Kong Chinese, so we have a very strong foothold in Hong Kong and we love it here,” Host told TechCrunch over a phone interview.

“Lately though, it’s become very difficult to rationalize keeping the business in Hong Kong. There’s a number of reasons for that, but I think the ones that stand out are geopolitical.”

For one, Host has sensed a “dramatic” sentiment change among western investors towards Hong Kong, where a contentious extradition bill triggered a wave of mass protests recently. At the heart of the issue are fears that the special administrative region is ceding autonomy to Beijing. Critics cite examples of the disappearance of a Hong Kong bookseller and a Financial Times journalist’s visa denied by the local government.

miro tech2

Miro, a Hong Kong-based startup, uses computer vision to tag images and videos of runners for the brands they wear. / Photo: Miro

In an alarming move, the U.S. government stated the extradition bill “imperils the strong U.S.-Hong Kong relationship” that includes a special trade arrangement independent from that of mainland China.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced in early July that the bill was “dead“, but the die has been cast as concerns linger for Hong Kong’s autonomous status. Businesses in the territory now risk being dragged into the U.S.-China trade war.

In March, Miro won a pitch competition at SXSW and has since attracted institutional investors of all sizes. But two of its potential backers based in the U.S. have decided to leave the negotiation table seeing Hong Kong as a risk.

“Not a single firm has overlooked the issue of us being a Hong Kong-based company,” said Host. “There is zero appetite from the U.S. investors who we have talked to to invest in our Hong Kong entity right now.”

The risk of backing Miro, which processes seas of data with image recognition capabilities, is more pronounced than funding companies with little or no core technology as intellectual property is one of the main targets of the U.S.-China negotiations.

“Foreign venture capitalists have become more vigilant about investing in Chinese AI and chips companies, even when they don’t own core technology,” Joe Chan, founding partner of Hong Kong-based MindWorks Ventures, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Meanwhile, the trade war has had a tangential impact on U.S. fundings for Chinese startups that focus on education, lifestyle and other non-deep tech sectors, according to a handful of investors who we have spoken to in recent months.

Southeast Asia gains

With the help of legal and tax consultants, Miro has recently shifted to a U.S. entity by registering in Delaware but will keep its operations in Hong Kong. It’s a move which, in Host’s words, has “pleased and allowed the company to move forward” with some of its interested U.S. investors.

“It was a requirement of our conversations with those U.S. investors that they are investing in a U.S. — not Hong Kong — entity,” the founder noted. “If you are dead set on your company being the biggest company in your industry, why would you even consider being in a place that has so much uncertainty and risk?”

For China-based companies whose cross-border business is anchored in Asia, Southeast Asia could be a safe haven from the trade war. As Chan observed, some Chinese startups have intended to move to Singapore “to become less politically sensitive.”

miro sxsw winner

Miro won a pitch competition at SXSW and has since attracted institutional investors of all sizes. But potential backers have decided to leave the negotiation table seeing Hong Kong as a risk. / Photo: Miro

Miro is also hedging risks by looking to Southeast Asia, which many would argue is emerging as a winner from the U.S.-China fight. Like China, the region has a burgeoning middle class that is getting into running and a range of other hobbies and habits that will spawn startup ideas.

Indeed, there’s been a lot of chatter about the rise of the region with a population of 640 million. A few big-name global investors, including Warburg Pincus and TPG Capital, have set aside new funds over the past few months to back Southeast Asian startups. Corporate investors including Tencent, Alibaba, Didi Chuxing and, are also clamoring to gain a foothold in this rising part of the continent, as we wrote two years ago.

“On a macro level, the trade war certainly has a substantial impact on China’s economy, so we are seeing a lot more money flowing to Southeast Asia,” said Chan.

“For example, some manufacturers have moved to Indonesia where labor is cheaper. China’s tech industry — and this is not entirely linked to the trade war — is reaching saturation and dominated by the BAT [Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent], so the window of opportunity is small. Meanwhile, Southeast Asia is still in development.”

In a way, the trade war has accelerated the shift of attention from China to neighboring countries. The momentum was what brought Miro to visit one of the region’s largest tech conferences Techsauce recently.

“Nobody is talking about the trade war out here in Bangkok. We are talking about how Southeast Asia is exploding. And that is not just Chinese investors. It’s western investors too,” said Host.



China startup deals shrink as fundraising for investors plummets

18:48 | 16 July

Chinese startups continue to weather tough times as private investors, caught in a cash crunch, are concentrating money into fewer deals.

China’s deal-making activity for startups in the six months ended June halved from a year ago to 1910, according to data from consulting firm ChinaVenture’s research arm. The amount invested in domestic startups during the first half of 2019 plummeted 54% to $23.2 billion.

The slide in startup investment comes as the money behind the money shrinks amid a cooling economy in China that is exacerbated by a trade war with the U.S. Fundraising for investors was already showing signs of slowdown a year earlier. In the first half of this year, private equity and venture capital firms in China secured 30% less than what they had raised over the same period a year ago, amounting to a total of $54.44 billion. 271 funds managed to raise, down 52%.

vc funding china

That money from limited partners is also flowing to a small rank of investors. 12 institutions accounted for 57% of all the capital landed by VCs and PEs in the period. Investment coffers that have gotten a big boost include the likes of TPG Capital, Warburg Pincus, DCG Capital, Legend Capital, and Source Code Capital.

Healthcare was the most backed sector during the six months, although proptech startups scored the biggest average deal size. Some of the highest funded companies from the period were artificial intelligence chip maker Horizon Robotics, shared housing upstart Danke and China’s Starbucks challenger Luckin.



India’s Rivigo raises $65M to expand its freight and logistics platform

09:14 | 11 July

Rivigo, a tech startup in India that wants to build a more reliable and safer logistics network, has raised $65 million as major investors continue to place big bet on opportunities in overhauling trucking system in the country.

The Series E round, which has not closed, for the five-year-old startup was led by existing investors Warburg Pincus and SAIF Partners.  The startup, which has raised more than $280 million to date, said it aims to be profitable by March next year.

Rivigo operates a tech platform that tracks and manages shipments and ensures that drivers are available at all times and trucks are as fully loaded as possible. The platform also automatically rotates drivers so that they can get enough rest and see their family while the trucks keep moving. Drivers use an app to navigate maps and accept assignments.

“Relay trucking is now very well established where relay truck pilots lead better life and customers gets exceptional service. With technology and freight marketplace, we now want to bring relay to every truck in the country,” Deepak Garg, founder and CEO of Rivigo, said in a statement.

Rivigo, which competes with heavily-backed startups such as BlackBuck, owns its own fleet of trucks while also operating a freight marketplace. This separates it from competitors that serve purely as an aggregator — or Uber for trucks, if you will.

The startup, which claims to have the largest reach in India, said it would use the capital to further expand its network and tech infrastructure in the country.

“From building algorithmically complex models to accurately predicting the life journey of a consignment to creating a dynamic pricing engine for the freight marketplace, the company is working on hundreds of unique problems at scale,” said Garg.

More to follow…



Grab raises more money — again

13:21 | 27 June

Southeast Asia’s highest-capitalized startup is sitting on even more money from investors today after ride-hailing Grab announced it has raised $300 million from Invesco.

The deal takes Singapore-based Grab $7.5 billion raised to date. The money is part of its ongoing — feels-like-everlasting — Series H round which was started last June via a $1 billion capital injection from Toyota.

The round swelled to $4.5 billion thanks to contributions from a range of partners throughout 2018 and early 2019, then Grab said in April that it would add a further $2 billion to reach a $6.5 billion close before this year is out. This investment from Invesco is the first piece of that newest tranche to be announced, but there’s plenty happening under the surface, including a potential investment from PayPal, Ant Financial and others in a spinout of Grab’s financial services.

Grab declined to comment on the status of its Series H, and how much it has raised for the round so far.

Getting back to today’s news and, despite a relatively dry-looking announcement, there is an interesting takeaway to be found here.

Yes, this isn’t a SoftBank Vision Fund sized round — that $1.5 billion deal closed earlier this year — and it lacks the strategic significance of investments from backers like Toyota, or Microsoft, but it does represent a doubling down on Grab from Invesco.

The firm merged with emerging market-focused fund Oppenheimer back in May. Oppenheimer — which has close to $40 billion in assets under management for its developing market fund alone — was among the participants in an initial $2 billion raise for that Series H, and now the merged entity is coming back to increase its position.

That first deal (from Oppenheimer) was $403 million, Grab said, so this new addition takes its spend on Grab to over $700 million. It also comes at an interesting time for the firm, which is reported to have reorganized its management team following the completion of the merger.

Based on that clearing of the decks/realignment, the decision to double down on Grab is a positive validation for the ride-hailing company. While it might not be a household name to those outside financial markets, Grab president Ming Maa played up Invesco as “one of the smartest investors in developing markets” in a statement released alongside news of the investment.

Grab acquired Uber’s regional business last year to become Southeast Asia’s undisputed ride-hailing leader, but it perhaps didn’t reckon on its local rival Go-Jek mounting a bid to finally expand its service regionally.

Having built a strong presence in Indonesia — where it pioneered ‘super app’ concepts like services on-demand and payments in the context of ride-hailing — Go-Jek has since expanded into Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, with the Philippines also in its sights. Those moves were fuelled by investment from the likes of Tencent, Google and Warburg Pincus . As it seeks to go further and deeper in those markets, Go-Jek is currently raising a round for growth that is expected to reach $2 billion, half of which it said it had secured in January.

That accumulation of cash seemed to spark a call to arms for Grab, which turned its Series H into a gargantuan rolling round after increasing the overall round target first to $5 billion and then to $6.5 billion.

Uber may have decided to leave Southeast Asia, but the ride-hailing industry in the region is still as fascinating as ever.



Warburg Pincus announces new $4.25 billion fund for China and Southeast Asia

07:21 | 27 June

Warburg Pincus, the private equity fund with over $60 billion under management, is doubling down on Asia after it announced a $4.25 billion fund dedicated to China and Southeast Asia.

The firm has been present in China for 25 years, and it has invested over $11 billion in a portfolio of over 120 startups that includes the likes of Alibaba’s Ant Financial and listed companies NIO (a Tesla rival), ZTO Express (a courier firm)among others. The new fund will work in tandem with the firm’s $14.8 billion global growth fund which was finalized at the end of last year.

What’s particularly interesting about the new fund is that it has expanded to include Southeast Asia, where internet adoption is rapidly expanding among 600 million consumers, for the first time. It is the successor to Warburg Pincus’ previous $2.2 billion ‘China’ fund and, with the addition of Southeast Asia, it’ll aim to build on initial investments in the region that have included Go-Jek in Indonesia (although it is going regional) and Vietnamese digital payment startup Momo from its Singapore office.

Indeed, the firm’s head of Southeast Asia — Jeff Perlman — said in a statement that Southeast Asia is “exhibiting many of the strong investment themes and trends which have driven our China business over the last 25 years.”

While there is plenty of uncertainty around China, and more widely Asia, due to the ongoing trade battle with the U.S. — which has ensnared Huawei and other tech firms — Warburg Pincus said it had received strong demand for LPs whilst out raising this new fund.

Though it declined to provide details of its backers — and you’d wager that few, if any, are U.S-based — it said it surpassed its initial target of $3.5 billion for the China-Southeast Asia fund. That’s despite evidence suggesting that China’s investment space is experiencing a slowdown in total funding raised despite more deals.

In terms of target investments, the firm said it intends to focus on areas including consumer and services, healthcare, real estate, financial services and TMT — technology, media and telecommunications.

Warburg Pincus is already one of the largest investors in Southeast Asia in terms of potential check size, although it has been fairly selective on deals at this point. The fund’s move to include the region alongside will be a boon for companies looking for growth-stage deals that are hard to find in the current venture capital ecosystem.

More broadly, it is also a major endorsement for Southeast Asia as a startup destination. The region has long been seen as having immense growth potential, but it often sits in the shadows of more mature regions like India and China.



Newly public CrowdStrike wants to become the Salesforce of cybersecurity

02:14 | 13 June

Like many good ideas, CrowdStrike, a seller of subscription-based software that protects companies from breaches, began as a few notes scribbled on a napkin in a hotel lobby.

The idea was to leverage new technology to create an endpoint protection platform powered by artificial intelligence that would blow incumbent solutions out of the water. McAfee, Palo Alto Networks and Symantec, long-time leaders in the space, had been too slow to embrace new technologies and companies were suffering, the CrowdStrike founding team surmised.

Co-founders George Kurtz and Dmitri Alperovitch, a pair of former McAfee executives, weren’t strangers to legacy cybersecurity tools. McAfee had for years been a dominant player in endpoint protection and antivirus. At least, until the emergence of cloud computing.

Since 2012, CrowdStrike’s Falcon Endpoint Protection platform has been pushing those incumbents into a new era of endpoint protection. By helping enterprises across the globe battle increasingly complex attack scenarios more efficiently, CrowdStrike, as well as other fast-growing cybersecurity upstarts, has redefined company security standards much like Salesforce redefined how companies communicate with customers.

“I think we had the foresight that [CrowdStrike] was going to be a foundational element for security,” CrowdStrike chief executive officer George Kurtz told TechCrunch this morning. The full conversation can be read further below.

CrowdStrike co-founder and CEO George Kurtz.



China’s used car marketplace Uxin to raise $230M via convertible notes

08:43 | 29 May

Uxin, a Chinese second-hand car dealer with Leonardo DiCaprio as its latest brand ambassador, is tipped to get a bag of new funding less than a year after it raised $225 million from its public offering on the Nasdaq.

The company announced on Wednesday that it’s selling $230 million worth of convertible notes to — China’s answer to Craigslist, Warburg Pincus, TPG and other investors. The notes, due in June, convert to Uxin’s Class A ordinary shares at a price of $1.03 per share or $3.09 per ADS. Upon closing the deal, each of, Warburg Pincus and TPG will obtain the right to nominate one board director to Uxin.

Uxin was trading at $2.46 at the end of Tuesday, a 74 percent decline from its recent peak in January. Its stock tanked in April after short-seller J Capital Research broadsided it over alleged frauds. Uxin denied the accusations, saying they were “false and misleading.”

The Chinese company is in a bruising fight with well-backed rivals including Chehaoduo, which pocketed $1.5 billion from Softbank’s Vision Fund in February, and Renrenche, which raised $300 million led by Goldman Sachs a year earlier.

As part of the transaction,, a 14-year-old Chinese internet firm that went public in New York six years ago, will come into a strategic partnership with Uxin in areas such as user traffic and inventory acquisition, used-car inspection, big data analysis and SaaS, says Uxin in a statement. The move follows Uxin’s agreement with Alibaba in December to set up a used car section on the ecommerce giant’s Taobao marketplace.

There are increasing synergies between and Uxin as both are exploring opportunities outside the crowded markets of China’s megacities. hit a notable milestone in 2018 after it racked up 100 million new users for its classifieds services customized for small-town populations, which include everything from job listings to trading cars.

In the same vein, Uxin has churned out reports that show demand for used cars coming from China’s lower-tier cities has surged in recent years. The boom is in part a result of a new Chinese policy that allows consumers to buy second-hand cars from a different province, enriching the variety of car options for rural residents.

“We see enormous growth potential in China’s used car market and believe that the volume of used-car transactions will overtake that of new cars in the years ahead,” said Michael Yao, chairman and chief executive officer of, which runs its own online used car business.

The deal will allow 58 Used Car to “benefit from Uxin’s tremendous offline transaction-related expertise,” added Yao, referring to Uxin’s mix of digital and physical sales channels. “By jointly integrating our online and offline services, we will be ideally positioned to significantly enhance the user experience for purchasing used cars and drive greater efficiency in this growing market.”



India’s BlackBuck raises $150 million to digitize freight and logistics across India

14:30 | 1 May

India’s trucking system has a big inefficiency problem that continues to drag the economy. BlackBuck, one of the handful logistics startups that is trying to overhaul this system, just raised $150 million in Series D round to further pursue its mission.

The new round was led by Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and Accel at a valuation just shy of $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. Wellington, Sequoia Capital, B Capital, LightStreet, and existing investors Sands Capital and World Bank’s investment arm International Finance Corporation also participated in the round.

The four-year-old B2B startup, which connects businesses with truck owners and freight operators, has raised about $230 million in equity financing and another $100 million in debt financing to date, CEO Rajesh Yabaji told TechCrunch in an interview.

Yabaji said the startup will use the fresh capital to expand and improve its technology stack that enables truck drivers to find more work, and grow its fleet of driver partners. As of today, BlackBuck has 300,000 trucks on its platform and about 10,000 clients including big names such as soft drinks manufacturer Coca Cola, consumer goods giant Unilever, and automotive conglomerate Tata .

BlackBuck has developed a simplified app for truck drivers in India, who are typically not very literate, to help them easily navigate to the destination using Google Maps and accept work. On the client side, businesses can fire up a similar app to place orders. Recently it also tied up with insurance company Acko to cover all the trucks on its network.

So as things work at the moment, truck drivers in India often struggle to find any work on their way back from a drop. Yabaji says BlackBuck enables them to find 25% to 30% more work opportunities. The startup takes between 15% to 20% cut of that and this is how it makes money.

India’s logistics market, valued at $160 billion, has attracted major VC funds in recent years. Delhivery, a supply chain startup, has raised north of $670 million from SoftBank, and Tiger Global among others. Rivigo, a startup that rotates drivers to improve efficiency, has raised north of $215 million from SAIF Partners and Warburg Pincus.

It’s a capital-heavy business. BlackBuck, which employs about 2,000 people, generated $135.5 million in revenue at a loss of $17 million in fiscal year 2018, according to regulatory filings. Yabaji says the startup aims to aggressively grow its business, so profitability is not something it is hoping to go after in the immediate future.

“Given the market we are in today, in terms of private capital being available, we do not have to do IPO for a really long time. It is all about optimizing for the objective,” he said.

BlackBuck said it will also give about 200 of its employees an option to liquidate up to 25% of their vested shareholding in the company at the current price.



Bike sharing pioneer Mobike is retreating to China

21:04 | 8 March

In a telling sign of the state of bike sharing, Mobike, a once red-hot startup that attracted billions in investment capital, is closing down all international operations and putting its sole focus on China.

On Friday, Mobike laid off its operations teams in APAC, which entailed more than 15 full-time employees and many more contractors and third-party agency staff across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Australia. Those affected were told the company will “ramp down” the regional business without being provided specific reasons for the rollback, five people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

These layoffs are a key step towards the eventual goal of closing Mobike’s international footprint since the Asia Pacific region accounts for the majority of its non-China business. More staff cuts are impending outside Asia that can include Europe and the Americans, according to two sources. Eventually, Mobike will only be operational in its native China, which accounts for the majority of its overall global business.

The change of strategy encapsulates the struggle that Chinese bike sharing companies have experienced over the past year. Mobike was arguably the most successful from the camp. Before it was ultimately bought by Chinese delivery giant Meituan for $2.7 billion 11 months ago, it had raised over $900 million from investors such as Tencent, Foxconn, Hillhouse Capital and Warburg Pincus as bike-sharing became the hot topic in 2017. Ultimately, though, Mobike wasn’t able to find a sustainable business model amid tough competition and tight financials.


Photo source: Mobike

Employees were taken aback by Friday’s announcement as they had been under the impression that Mobike’s prospects were bright and there had not been issues with salaries or other financial concerns. In Singapore, specifically, the bike app claims to be the top player and is working closely with the government to make the city-state greener.

“I was shocked. The business is doing well from my perspective,” one source told TechCrunch. “But just because one country does well doesn’t mean the whole region will survive. Mobike ran a lot of analysis on profits and losses in the [overseas] region and came to the conclusion that there is no way it would turn profitable.”

Things were rosier just a year ago. When Meituan, the one-stop app for neighborhood services in China, acquired Mobike, the buyout was widely seen as a triumph for the young startup as its Chinese peer Ofo suffered mounting financial pressures standing as an independent company. Ofo started to phase out its international operations last year and was reportedly preparing for bankruptcy recently.

Before long, Meituan also started to show its restraint over the mobility segment. In an effort to cut costs, the Hong Kong-listed firm focusing on food delivery and hotel booking announced it would pause expansions on dockless bikes and car-hailing. Its bike unit is also facing growing competition from Hellobike, which is Alibaba’s latest attempt to crack China’s two-wheel transport industry.

Despite the hurdles, Mobike’s APAC employees told TechCrunch that they had believed the overseas business would stick it out as they had generated “a lot of cost-saving and progresses” in recent months after being assigned to boost the company’s operational efficiency.

mobike 3

Photo source: Mobike

Those affected won’t have much time to ponder but feel “unbalanced” and “upset” about the company’s “one-sided” decision. TechCrunch understands that staff weren’t given a chance to negotiate and most will leave by mid-April with a limited number of “key” employees asked to stay until the “ramping down” is completed. Severance packages vary on people’s termination dates, while some employees received no compensation altogether as the notice had arrived before the 30-day period required by the contract.

Meituan’s decision to close down the regional business has also come as a risky move for the company. In Singapore, Mobike’s largest market outside China, bike-sharing companies are required to file an exit plan with the government before they pull the trigger. Mobike has not informed the Singapore Land Transport Authority of its layoff as of Friday, according to two sources, although it has been in talks with the transportation regulator regarding a potential shutdown. Mobike told employees to keep news of the job cuts private before it announces them officially to the LTA.

Meituan declined to comment for this story. The company is scheduled to report earnings on Monday which may shed more light on the situation.



Momo, Vietnam’s top payment app, lands big Series C investment led by Warburg Pincus

15:40 | 18 January

Fintech in Southeast Asia continues to pique the attention of global investors. Alibaba, Tencent and others have jumped into the region and deployed hundreds of millions of dollars, and now Warburg Pincus is joining them. The U.S-headquartered PE firm has led a Series C investment in Vietnam’s Momo, which claims to be the company’s largest mobile wallet company with 10 million downloads.

Momo already has some big-name investors; Standard Chartered led a $28 million round in 2016 while Goldman Sachs invested $5.7 million back in 2013.

The size of this new round isn’t being disclosed, but Pham Thanh Duc, CEO of M-Service — the parent company of Momo — said it is a record deal for an e-commerce or fintech startup in Vietnam. A lot of the biggest deals in Vietnam have been undisclosed, but one of the largest from last year was a $50 million-odd investment in e-commerce company Tiki from China’s which gives an indication of the size. The deal might even be as high as $100 million, that’s according to a Deal Street Asia report, although Pham declined to comment on the figure.

M-Service was founded over a decade ago, Momo is its take on digital payments in Vietnam, a market of nearly 100 million people, one-quarter of whom are aged under 25.

Momo started out offering digital payment via an e-wallet app. It has since expanded into utility bill payments and mobile top-up, as well as areas like movie tickets, airline flights and payment for goods and services at 100,000 payment points nationwide, including popular chains. The service recently began offering bill payment for loans, and Pham said it is developing a credit scoring system that will allow it to introduce financial services to users in partnership with financial institutions.

The playbook, he said, is very much based upon the success of Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay services in China, which went from payments to loans and investing and more.

While both of those Chinese internet giants have stepped into Southeast Asia with fintech investments in markets like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, neither has entered Vietnam at this point. Pham said Momo has an ongoing dialogue with Alibaba, but there’s been no investment. Since neither Alibaba nor its fintech affiliate Ant Financial has an operating presence in Vietnam, he said the relationship is “just conversations” at this point. That’s certainly a pairing that is worth keeping an eye on as Alibaba aims to enlarge its presence in Southeast Asia, which — with a cumulative population of 600 million people, growing middle classes and rising internet access — is seen as a growth opportunity by Chinese tech companies.

Partner-wise, Momo works with the likes of Facebook and Google to provide payment for their services and it will soon begin working with Apple, Pham revealed.

While other businesses may be looking region-wide, Momo is not entertaining new market expansions at this point.

“For the next two to three years, we are still very focused on the domestic market,” Pham told TechCrunch in an interview. “There’s no short-term plan to expand to other countries [and] our main effort is focused on user base expansion in Vietnam.”

But, Pham said, he does expect that overseas players will enter Vietnam.

“Grab Pay and GoPay [from ride-hailing duo Grab and Go-Jek) will come soon and even Alipay, but I think that for the last five years we have been the number one e-wallet provider,” he said. “We don’t care much about competitors because we are leading the market… other players have had to imitate our model.”

Estimating that nearest-competitor ZaloPay, from Vietnam’s top chat app Zalo, may have around “one-tenth” of the user base Momo, Pham explained that he believes his company is around 12-18 months ahead of the competitor.

This new investment — which was led by a Warburg Pincus affiliate in Vietnam and closed last year — is aimed at fortifying that lead and grabbing a much larger slice of the Vietnamese population, which is tipped to rocket past 100 million by 2025.


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I'm still fascinated by DNA though I favour pure chemistry what could be
Offered is for future gen…
Peter Short

U.K. Push For Better Broadband For Startups
Verg Matthews
There has to an email option icon to send to the clowns in MTNL ... the govt of India's service pro…
Verg Matthews

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short