The total number of tech unicorns Southeast Asia is home to increased marginally last year with eight privately-held companies receiving enough funding to cross over the USD 1 billion valuations, achieving the “unicorn” status. The eight newly-minted unicorns represented a significant drop from the twenty-three record of unicorns minted in 2021.
According to The Straits Times, 2021’s unicorns of Southeast Asia came about in large numbers due to several factors; growing smartphone usage, a young demographic, increased private equity funding, and an expanding middle class. For 2022, the massive drop-off was because of the global economic slowdown, which has led to a reduction in investment.
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DealStreetAsia reported that Southeast Asian companies only raised USD 2.88 billion in the fourth quarter (Q4)of 2022, a two-year low. Moreover, there was a 32% drop in private funding compared to 2021’s record figures, going from USD 23.2 billion down to USD 15.8 billion. Thus, only eight companies achieved the unicorn tag, with Singapore and Indonesia getting the most unicorns (three each). Thailand and the Philippines wrapped it up with the remaining two unicorns.
Unicorns minted in 2022
According to DealStreetAsia, Singapore has the most unicorns in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at twenty-five. Indonesia is next with sixteen, followed by Vietnam with four, Thailand with three, and both the Philippines and Malaysia with two.
Singapore’s new unicorns raised the most money in 2022 at USD 9.79 billion, followed by Indonesia at USD 3.77 billion. Together, they accounted for 86% of the total funding of USD 15.8 billion. Deal volume was 554 in Singapore, 259 in Indonesia, 81 in Vietnam, 68 in Malaysia, 58 in the Philippines, and 38 in Thailand. The financial technology (fintech) sector accounted for the majority of the funding, with five of the eight unicorns being fintech companies.
Indonesia’s fintech company Akulaku received USD 300 million investment from Thailand-based Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) Group in a Series E + Venture Round. Akulaku provides digital banking, wealth management, and other financial services.
Singapore’s marketing technology (martech) company, the Insider, received USD 121 million from the Qatar Investment Authority in a Series B funding round. Other investors included Sequoia Capital, Wamda Capital, 212, Esas Private Equity, Riverwood Capital, and Endeavor Catalyst. Insider is a platform for cross-channel and individualised customer experiences.
Philippine-based Voyager Innovations, also a fintech company, received USD 210 million from SIG Venture Capital in an unspecified round. Other investors included Singapore-based EDBI, First Pacific Company Ltd, Tencent, KKR, the International Finance Corporation, and other funds. Voyager Innovations develops technology for emerging markets to provide digital and financial solutions.
Health technology (healthtech) company Biofourmis from Singapore received USD 300 million in a Series D round. Its investors included CVS Health, General Atlantic, OpenSpace Ventures, and EDBI. Biofourmis is a digital therapeutics company that uses artificial intelligence and provides remote health monitoring solutions.
Another Singapore-based company, Coda Payments—which operates in the fintech sector—raised the highest number of the companies on the list, getting USD 690 million in a Series C round. It got funding from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, Smash Ventures, and Insight Partners. GIC’s investment gave it a minority stake in the company. Coda Payments collects payments for digital content globally, like video on demand (VOD), live and music streaming, online and mobile games, and more.
Indonesia’s fintech company DANA Wallet raised USD 200 million in a Corporate round from the Sinar Mas Group to become a unicorn. DANA Wallet is a digital payment processing solution.
LINE MAN Wongnai
Thailand-based LINE MAN Wongnai, a restaurant technology-based company, raised USD 285 million in a Series B round. Investors include GIC, BRV Capital Management, and LINE Plus Corporation. LINE MAN Wongnai is an eCommerce platform for services seeking to empower Thai locals and businesses.
Finally, Indonesia-based fintech company Kredivo, known under the name Fin Accel, received USD 140 million in a Series D round from Naver Financial to become a unicorn. Other investors included Mirae Asset, GMO Global Payment Fund, Cathay Innovation, Square Peg, Openspace Ventures, Jungle Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Kredivo is a buy now, pay later (BNPL) service.
Despite the low number in 2022, the tech unicorns Southeast Asia minted provide great value to their communities. Other sectors were not represented but may emerge in the coming years as countries open up after the pandemic. For example, the travel and hospitality sectors may very well provide a future unicorn.
Once the global economic challenges decrease, local and foreign investors will start providing more financial backing to create the next best unicorns of Southeast Asia. Governments and other stakeholders must provide adequate startup support to make it a reality.