Ecosystem Roundup: Ula raises US$20M; Microsoft VC arm invests in LottieFiles; SPACs are the construct VCs need to fund cleantech | e27

Ula co-founder and CEO Nipun Mehra

Indonesia’s micro-retail e-commerce platform Ula closes US$20M Series A; Lead investors are Quona Capital and B Capital Group; Since launching in Jan 2020, Ula claims to have grown to serve over 20K stores; Ula had raised US$10.5M seed in June 2020. More here

ELSA to expand its AI English pronunciation assistant globally with US$15M Series B; Investors include Vietnam Investments Group, SIG, Gradient Ventures, Monk’s Hill; The expansion will focus on the LatAm, Vietnam, India and Japan; ELSA claims to have 13M+ users worldwide. More here

Microsoft’s VC arm M12 leads US$9M Series A in Malaysia-based LottieFiles; It is an online  platform for the ‘smallest animation format’ for designers; A JSON-based animation file format, Lottie enables designers to ship animations on any platform as easily as shipping static assets; LottieFiles claims it has surpassed 1M users from over 65K companies globally, including Google, TikTok, Disney, Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix. More here

McKinsey on Asia’s digital-only banks: ‘Consortia present challenges but they offer a path to scaling relatively quickly’; A consortia approach enables new banks to more easily assemble the ingredients required for a successful proposition, including customer loyalty and trust, advanced tech capabilities and analytics. More here

Singapore’s sustainability media company Eco-Business raises funding from Tembusu Partners; Tembusu will be supporting the organisation in expanding its ESG (environment, social and governance) activities across APAC; Eco-Business publishes news and views in multimedia formats on business and policy developments around the world with a sustainability and ESG-focused lens. More here

Amazon, Enterprise Singapore to help small businesses venture offshore; Under the partnership, Amazon will support Singapore sellers as a channel for international sales, such as in the US, Canada and India; Amazon said it is extending the waiver of professional selling account subscription fees for new and existing sellers until June 30. More here

Supply chain management startup ICW bags US$5.7M Series A+; Investors include Infinity Ventures Partners, Integrated Capital, and HK government-backed Innovation and Technology Venture Fund; The HK- and Singapore-based co. helps them digitalise the supply chain process, from supplier sourcing and product testing to compliance management. More here

Nokia and M1 partner with 5G standalone Core to drive Singapore’s 5G ecosystem; With enhanced ML and AI, Nokia’s 5G standalone Core with Nokia Network Services Platform allows operators to design and automate network slices in order to drive the development of industrial uses cases like unmanned aerial or road vehicles, remote operations, wireless e-health, digital banking and smart manufacturing. More here

3 learnings from KKday CEO and founder on how his travel startup overcame the pandemic; Ming Ming Chen says the key principle is to not sink short-term assets into long-term investments, optimising for cash flow flexibility in return; The firm branched into products that extend far beyond their typical offering including protective masks and packets of mala hot pot. More here

Snap yourself using your smartphone, Nervotec app displays all your vital health signs within a minute; Apart from monitoring vital health signs, Nervotec can also store vaccination and swab tests reports to ensure companies remain compliant to new workplace management measures imposed by authorities. More here

APAC emerges as a leader in the global travel and mobility tech sector: Report; Digital acceleration, and the utilisation of technology to quickly adapt a business venture to changing circumstances are amongst the primary trends shaping travel and mobility tech in Asia in the last year. More here

‘E-commerce is the future, SMEs need govt support’: National Tech Association of Malaysia (Pikom); Chairman Danny Lee says the major e-commerce players in Malaysia are foreign-owned; that is why quite a number of the products you buy from them are being shipped from overseas. This is also why he believes it is imperative that t he local SMEs build a strong brand presence through online channels. More here

SPACs are the construct VCs need to fund cleantech; In 2020, SPACs capitalised cleantech companies with almost US$4B of capital; In 2021, it is likely to improvement because there are 43 active SPACs looking toward or finalising merger targets with a cleantech focus, potentially providing US$12B in growth capital. More here

Winning this year not about highest revenue growth but investing in right pillar, says Klook’s Gnock Fah; He says Klook’s recent US$200M fundraise came like a breath of fresh air to an industry struggling to breathe; He called the fundraise a testament that the travel industry is here for the long-term and a recognition of the potential for domestic leisure business which no one really looked at before in the region. More here

‘Regulate payments system, but don’t crowd out private digital currency players’; Singapore’s Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said while CBDCs are being actively explored by many countries, they should not aim to crowd out private providers of digital wallets, tokens and stablecoins, as they are an important source of innovation. More here

Online wholesale retailer Boxed taps Aeon for Asia expansion; Malaysia, which is home to more than 30M people, is its first stop in Asia and Aeon’s biggest market outside its home base of Japan; Aeon employs some 10,000 staff in Malaysia, where it has pledged to spur local employment amid the pandemic through its virtual mall. More here

Logistics experts reveal how tech is reshaping Asia’s distribution centres; APAC’s e-commerce market led the world at nearly US$2.5B in value in 2020; That scale is driving a transformation of once-simple warehouses into tech-enabled fulfilment centres; With operators under pressure to achieve ever-faster delivery times, companies that develop and lease warehouses are increasingly turning to tech solutions. More here

Employment in Singapore recovers as 40% of companies increase headcount in 2021; A survey says in view of the economic demands, the sectors earmarked for highest hiring activity are technology & telecommunications, banking & financial services, industrial & manufacturing, FMCG as well as professional services. More here

What’s next for digital insurer Singlife after its merger with Aviva?; Singlife group CEO Walter de Oude said the company will build upon its new ties with Aviva to build “a homegrown, Southeast Asian, technology-enabled and customer-centric financial services company”; Singlife provides digital life insurance services, initially targeting private banking customers and high net worth individuals. More here

SGX-Temasek JV Marketnode partners with Covalent Capital for end-to-end digital infrastructure; Under the partnership, Marketnode and Covalent will collaborate and build end-to-end digital infrastructure in the fixed income space; The entities will streamline the listing, straight-through processing and settlement of bonds and activities in bond lifecycle management. More here

This new book explores the difficulty of aligning AI with our values; In the book The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values, author, programmer and researcher Brian Christian discusses the challenges of making sure our AI models capture “our norms and values, understand what we mean or intend, and, above all, do what we want.” More here

Image Credit: Ula

The post Ecosystem Roundup: Ula raises US$20M; Microsoft VC arm invests in LottieFiles; SPACs are the construct VCs need to fund cleantech appeared first on e27.

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