#Asia 14 exciting startups from Malaysia that raised funds in 2016

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Photo credit: Sean Pavone / 123RF.

Despite talks of a cooling down in tech funding this year, investments flowed into Malaysian startups and we’ve noted both old and new names in the list.

Catcha Group’s portfolio companies secured huge amounts, while others raised mostly series A and seed funding rounds.

Here are 14 Malaysian startups that earned investors’ vote of confidence in 2016 and are doing promising work.

iFlix

In March, Rupert Murdoch’s European broadcaster Sky ploughed US$45 million in Catcha Group’s iFlix, Southeast Asia’s answer to Netflix.

The funding comes two months after Netflix upped its game, expanding to 130 nations around the world.

iFlix itself will launch in new markets and the funding from Sky will fuel this plan. “In response to both the rapid growth and customer adoption in our existing markets and strong demand from new markets, we have decided to accelerate our expansion plans for the business sooner than expected,” its co-founder Mark Britt said.

iFlix is available in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. It raised a US$30 million series A round last year to boost its rollout in Southeast Asia and emulate Netflix in producing original content.

iFlix CEO Azran Osman-Rani. Photo credit: iFlix.

iCar Asia

iCar Asia, which runs automotive marketplaces, raised around US$17.4 million via the sale of shares to private investors and its major shareholders in September.

The ASX-listed company – also owned by Catcha Group – said it would use the fresh capital for product development, advertising boost, and expansion in greater metropolitan areas of the markets where it is present.

iCar’s network includes Carlist and LiveLifeDrive in Malaysia; One2Car, ThaiCar, and Autospinn in Thailand; and Mobil123 in Indonesia. Together, the marketplaces have 6.1 million buyers and sellers per month.

KFit

Fitness startup KFit scored US$12 million in series A last February as it branched out into new categories and markets.

The round was led by Venturra Capital, with participation from Susquehanna International Group and Axiata Digital Innovation Fund. Existing investors Sequoia Capital India and 500 Startups also put in some money.

KFit gained popularity by offering unlimited gym and fitness classes for a fixed monthly fee. It tweaked its model this year, limiting membership to 10 classes per month, and then branched out into deals for massage, spa, and beauty services in a bid to gain a new revenue stream.

It launched a deals app called Fave, which offers people vouchers for food and certain activities, with discounts ranging from 10 to 70 percent.

KFit co-founder Joel Neoh. Photo courtesy of KFit.

The startup also acquired Groupon’s Indonesia and Malaysia businesses, solidifying its foray into the deals space.

KFit co-founder Joel Neoh said they plan to succeed where the US deals giant failed – which is to innovate and localize well.

Ultimately, he says the goal is to be a leader in Southeast Asia’s online-to-offline space.

Jirnexu

Jirnexu in May closed a US$3 million series A funding round, led by Singapore-based venture capital firm DMP.

Formerly known as Saving Plus, Jirnexu makes customer acquisition, retention, and management software focusing on banks, insurance companies, and telecommunications providers. The startup figures there’s a total addressable market of US$25 billion per year in Southeast Asia alone.

It caters to major clients such as Alliance Bank, Citibank, HSBC, and Standard Chartered.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, it runs financial comparison sites KreditGoGo and RinggitPlus, respectively.

The startup’s latest offering, XpressApply, simplifies the application process for financial products. It turns long and tedious forms into simple questionnaires that can be filled out in 10 minutes.

ServisHero

The ServisHero team. Photo credit: ServisHero.

In March, ServisHero raised US$2.7 million in pre-series A funding for its Southeast Asia expansion. The round was led by Golden Gate Ventures, with participation from Cradle Seed Ventures.

Described as an Uber for local services, the app debuted in Thailand this year – its third market after Malaysia and Singapore.

ServisHero lets its users search, get quotes from, and book local home service providers, say a plumber, cleaner, or a repairman. Service providers pay the company a fee for every lead.

The pre-series A investment builds on an exceptional year. ServisHero claims to have signed up close to 3,000 service professionals and registered 50,000 downloads, though it didn’t say how many of those are being actively used.

Carsome

Carsome began as a platform offering the ability to compare prices and features of new vehicles from various dealers and to complete a purchase online. Then it grew to include other aspects of the car buying process.

Carsome this year launched a car selling service where owners can access information on used car market valuations transparently and sell their cars in less than 24 hours, eliminating the hassle of going to one dealer at a time and haggling. Transfer of ownership and payment happen all in one day. Carsome takes care of inspecting the cars and putting them up for bidding among its network of certified dealers. This, in turn, assures dealers of a constant supply of thoroughly inspected vehicles. Soon, Carsome will offer its users the ability to also buy used cars.

Unlike other auto dealership platforms, Carsome does not require dealers to pay listing fees. Instead, it charges them based on sales made through the site. That means dealers save on marketing costs.

In March, the startup nabbed US$2 million in series A funding from existing investors IdeaRiverRun of Malaysia and 500 Startups, plus Japan’s IMJ Investment Partners.

Present in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia, it will use the money to expand to Indonesia and Thailand.

Carsome co-founders Eric Cheng (L) and Teoh Jiun Ee. Photo courtesy of Carsome.

BookDoc

BookDoc closed a seed round in January that included a US$2 million investment from Prince Abdul Qawi, a member of the ruling family of Brunei.

The health tech startup lets people search and book doctors, and offers employee health monitoring and medical coverage. It’s a cross between ZocDoc, and CXA, which assists corporations to fine-tune employee benefits.

Its paying clients include Frost & Sullivan, University of Nottingham, Tricor Group, and two others it didn’t identify – an Asian telco and a regional logistics company.

Nuren

Anyone who’s gotten married will tell you – weddings are stressful. It’s a ton of work and drowning in the details, which can take away all the excitement for what’s supposed to be the best day of your life.

Nuren simplifies the whole planning process for brides-to-be. The startup operates ecommerce sites (Wedding.com.my in Malaysia and Nuren.sg in Singapore) that offer tips and advice on each step, and link you with vendors who can help you with whatever you need. The company also provides consulting services via its in-house team of experts to manage the A to Z of weddings.

Nuren in March secured a US$2 million series A funding round led by China’s Gobi Partners. It’s using the investment to expand its operations and hire new talent.

TheLorry

On-demand logistics startup TheLorry raised in January a US$1.5 million series A from SPH Media Fund, with participation from Silicon Valley-based Elixir Capital.

TheLorry offers on-demand cargo transportation throughout Malaysia, connecting thousands of lorry and van owners with customers who wish to move anything – from household appliances to commercial cargo.

TheLorry’s HQ in Kuala Lumpur. Photo credit: TheLorry.

The way it works is pretty straightforward: individual customers just need to go to the site to book vehicles and if necessary, other extra services such as manpower, boxes, packing, and dismantling. Then jobs will be dispatched to TheLorry’s vendor app where vendors can claim on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For corporate customers, there’s a specialized product which allows them to book transportation, track drivers’ whereabouts, and receive invoices.

This year, the company expanded into the online shopping industry, working with leading ecommerce vendors and retailers to deliver bulky items.

TheLorry earns through commission out of every transaction.

RecomN

On-demand app RecomN scored a US$1 million seed round led by Gobi Partners. The plan is to use the money to enter new markets. Right now, it operates in its home turf Malaysia and in Indonesia, where it is known as Sejasa.

RecomN lets you submit requests for a plethora of services such as home renovation, event photography, catering, pest control, and many others. Within hours – goes the promise – you will receive responses from professionals complete with cost estimates, a portfolio of their work, and reviews from previous customers.

The company monetizes through two avenues. Service providers can pay a small fee each time they respond to a customer request. Alternatively, they can sign up for a six-month subscription – a package deal that includes being able to respond to a capped number of inbound requests and additional support from RecomN, like SEO and content marketing.

StoreHub

StoreHub’s iPad POS. Photo taken from StoreHub’s site.

StoreHub is a startup that turns iPads into point-of-sale systems, replacing the clunky cash registers at stores. It helps store owners easily manage their inventory and customer relationships, and analyze their data.

The company raised US$850,000 in seed funding from 500 Startups and other unnamed investors in May.

It’s using the money to grow its footprint in Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia, where it already operates.

The company counts over 850 retail clients paying a monthly subscription fee of at least US$39, and has been profitable since late 2015, says co-founder and CEO Wai Hong Fong.

Tripfez

Tripfez helps Muslim travelers discover, compare, and book hotels and tours that fit their specific needs. The hotel and tour operators on the site provide things like Halal food and a list of Halal restaurants in the vicinity, a prayer mat and Quran, and a symbol to indicate Qiblah, the direction to face when praying.

It also operates Salam Standard, a new hospitality rating system for Muslim-friendly amenities and services.

Tripfez lists over 200,000 properties on its site worldwide, of which 20,000 are Salam Standard certified. Of those, 10,000 are hotels, including the popular brands Accor, Movenpick, and Archipelago Hotel Group, Indonesia’s largest hospitality firm.

In May, the company nabbed US$750,000 in seed funding from Gobi Partners and Malaysia’s Intres Capital – both of which led the round. Douglas Khoo, co-founder of Chinese travel booking site Qunar, participated.

Favful

Sasha Tan. Photo credit: Favful.

Favful was born out of its founder’s own frustrations. “I remember I was going through puberty and all excited about the beauty world out there, so I constantly changed my beauty products and brands. I ended up with worse skin and had to resort to drastic injections and laser treatments,” Sasha Tan previously told Tech in Asia. “Over 10 years, I’ve spent a ton of money to find out the skincare products that actually worked on me. I thought there must be a better way for us to obtain information easily.”

So she launched Favful, which offers price comparisons and ratings for beauty products based on skin type, and features reviews from users to make the shopping experience less overwhelming.

The beauty advisory platform closed in April a US$500,000 seed round from Gobi Partners. It had been backed by investors like 500 Startups even prior to its launch.

Supplycart

Supplycart helps offices shop for equipment and supplies quickly and easily through its website. It offers price comparison from a number of vendors as it aims to be a one-stop shop for office procurement.

In October, the team raised US$500,000 in seed funding from seed-stage venture fund KK Fund, Malaysia’s Cradle Fund, and some private investors.

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