April 22, 2019
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E-commerce startup Zilingo raises $226M to digitize Asia’s fashion supply chain

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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. That’s to say that it is building a network of supply chain pieces — manufacturing, logistics, payments, etc — that it can take to retailers or brands. So, in theory, anyone wanting to get into private labels or fashion selling could use Zilingo as an end-to-end solution to make and source their product.

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.

Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor founded Zilingo in 2015.

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.

Zilingo encourages retailers and brands to develop their own private labels by tapping into the supply chain network it has built

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 — 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.

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These 50 founders and VCs suggest 2018 may be a tipping point for women: Part 1

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For the last several years, we’ve compiled profiles of women founders and investors at the end of each year because they’ve either raised substantial amounts of money or otherwise achieved notable milestones.

This year, we don’t want to wait until December. We’re too excited about the progress we’re witnessing, with women-led startups getting seed, Series A or later-stage funding each week — all while top venture firms grow more serious about pulling women into their most senior ranks, female VCs band together to fund female founders and other women go about launching their own funds.

Some of you will note that this list is far from comprehensive, and we’ll readily agree with you. But we think it’s better to celebrate the accomplishments of some of the women who deserve attention than try to capture every last person we’d include if only there were more hours in the day.

Herewith, a list of 25 founders and investors who’ve had a pretty good 2018 so far, with a second list of women in the industry coming shortly, so stay tuned.

Brynn Putnam, founder and CEO of Mirror

Harvard grad Brynn Putnam was once a professional ballet dancer, but she may eventually find more fame as a serial founder. Two years after her last performance in 2008 with a ballet company in Montreal, Putnam started a New York-boutique fitness studio, Refine Method, around a high-intensity, interval workout. It would later sprout into three studios in New York and attract the likes of Kelly Ripa and Ivana Trump.

Now, Putnam is using its founding principal — that gym users can wring more from their workout hours — to build yet another business called Mirror. Centered around an at-home device, it looks like a mirror but enables users to see an instructor and classmates for fitness routines like Pilates, all while tracking their performance on screen. Mirror isn’t available to buy yet, but investors are already sold, providing the company with $13 million in funding earlier this year so it can bring its product to fitness buffs everywhere.

Ritu Narayan, co-founder and CEO of Zūm

Ritu Narayan led product management at stalwart tech companies, including Yahoo and eBay, but her biggest challenge eventually became how to ensure that her kids got to where they needed to go during her working hours. She knew she wasn’t alone; there are roughly 73 million children under age 18 in the U.S., many of whom are driven around by frenzied parents who are trying to make it through each day.

Enter Zūm, a now 3.5-year-old company that promises reliable transportation and care for children ages five and older. Zūm isn’t the first kind of Uber for kids. In fact, another competitor, Shuddle, shuttered in 2016 after burning through more than $12 million in funding. But Narayan’s company appears to be doing something right. Earlier this year, Zūm raised $19 million in Series B funding, including from earlier backer Sequoia Capital, which is famously metric driven.

The company has now raised $26.8 million altogether.

Daniela Perdomo, co-founder and CEO, goTenna

When Hurricane Sandy cut off power in and around New York City in the fall of 2012, Daniela Perdomo and her brother, Jorge, were struck by the need for a network that would enable people to call or text even when there’s no Wi-Fi or cell signal. Today, that company, goTenna, is taking off, powered by an early device it created that pairs with a cell phone via Bluetooth to transmit messages using radio frequencies, along with a newer version of the device that allows them to create a kind of mesh network.

To date, the company has sold more than 100,000 units of its devices. It has raised roughly $17 million from VCs. In May, the company also partnered with an outfit called Samourai Wallet to launch an Android app that, beginning this summer, will enable users to send bitcoin payments without an internet connection. The move could prove crucial for some of its customers, particularly in disaster areas.

Chloe Alpert, CEO and co-founder of Medinas Health

Hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of surplus medical supplies are discarded every year, according to Chloe Alpert, the founder of Medinas Health, a Berkeley, Calif.-based startup that uses inventory data and matching software to help big hospitals sell excess equipment to small clinics and nursing homes.

Alpert thinks Medinas can create cost savings for both sides by creating something that’s fast and trustworthy and working with third parties who can disassemble, ship and re-assemble medical equipment.

Investors believe her surplus marketplace has a shot. Her 10-month-old company raised $1 million in funding earlier this year, including from Sound Ventures, Rough Draft Ventures, Precursor Ventures and Trammell Ventures.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, co-founder of Promise

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins was raised by a single mom who occasionally fed her two daughters with food stamps before a union job enabled the three to escape welfare. But that formative experience made a lasting impact. In fact, after graduating from college, Ellis-Lamkins worked for a union that helped organize low-wage home care. By the time she was 26, she was head of the San Jose-based South Bay Labor Council.

Ellis-Lamkins is far from done in her work to ensure that the disadvantaged can prosper. Her newest project: working in partnership with governments that release people from jail on condition that they work with her company, Promise. The big idea: Promise provides support to people caught in the criminal justice system to ensure they can return to their jobs and families until their case in resolved, rather than remain incarcerated because they can’t afford bail. The latter scenario happens all too often, agree VCs. Toward that end, earlier this year a handful of investors — including First Round Capital, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, 8VC and Kapor Capital — provided Promise with $3 million to help put an end to it.

Jesse Genet, founder and CEO of Lumi

In 2014, Jesse Genet was trying to convince a panel of investors on “Shark Tank” to write her a $250,000 check for five percent of her company, which, at the time, sold photo printing kits online. Genet left empty-handed, but she didn’t give up, instead turning her company, Lumi, into a business that designs and supplies beautiful packaging for many top e-commerce companies that sell directly to consumers. It also landed $9 million in funding earlier this year led by Spark Capital, with participation from Forerunner Ventures and earlier investor Homebrew.

It’s been a process, but Genet seems to have anticipated it would be, telling Business Insider back in 2015, “One key thing is not to rush your own business . . . Even if you’re not making a ton of money, that experience of just living the company day-in and day-out, getting that feedback and experience, is something you can never replace.”

Sarah Guo, general partner, Greylock Partners

Sarah Guo didn’t necessarily set out to become a venture capitalist. She certainly didn’t imagine she would become one of the most senior investors at one of the oldest venture firms in the country. Yet Guo is both of these things, having been promoted last month to general partner at 53-year-old Greylock Partners five years after joining the firm as a principal.

For Guo, the appointment caps a lifetime spent in the world of startups. Before joining Greylock, she worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, where she led much of the bank’s coverage of business-to-business tech companies and advised public clients, including Twitter, Netflix, Zynga and Nvidia.

A graduate (for both her undergraduate degree and MBA) of the University of Pennsylvania, Guo also worked previously at Casa Systems, a 15-year-old tech company that develops a software-centric networking platform for cable and mobile service providers and that — in a twist that we think is pretty neat — was founded by her parents.

Charlotte Fudge, founder and CEO of CentralReach

CentralReach builds practice management software for the developmental disabilities sector, with a focus on both research and practice. It isn’t the kind of company to make headlines, but the five-year-old, Pompano Beach, Fla., company managed to attract the attention of powerhouse firm Insight Venture Partners. Insight invested an undisclosed amount of funding in the company earlier this year, some of which CentralReach has already used to acquire Chartlytics, a behavioral change analytics software startup.

For Charlotte Fudge — a registered nurse who founded CentralReach and continues to lead it as its CEO — the developments have to be exciting. She has spent her career focused on people with autism and related disabilities; having the deep-pocketed support of an investor will presumably help her company reach more people than ever.

Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of Glossier

Emily Weiss has been called the “millennials’ Estée Lauder.” It didn’t take long for her to get there, either. Indeed, a little more than three years ago, Weiss was still overseeing highly popular blog Into the Gloss when an early meeting with Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures helped move Weiss in a new direction: that of selling beauty products that cost a fraction of what some traditional brands charge and are pared back in every other way, too.

Customers are fanatical about the company, whose Instagram counts 1.2 million followers and counting. Investors love the company’s look, too. In February, Glossier closed on $52 million in Series C funding in a round that it characterized as oversubscribed. The company has now raised $86 million altogether.

Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank

There are powerful women in banking; there are powerful women in tech. Anne Boden is among a small but growing number of powerful women who are straddling both worlds, and her influence seems to grow by the month. The former COO of Allied Irish Banks and a former top executive at RBS and ABN AMRO before that, Boden is now founder and CEO of Starling Bank, a digital-only outfit that does its lending via smartphones, gained its U.K. banking license in 2016 and has big ambitions to expand across much of Europe.

Indeed, as rival challenger bank Revolut eyes the U.S., Starling — which has already raised a reported £48 million by hedge fund manager Harald McPike — is currently looking to raise another £80 million in fresh capital in an investor search that could potentially extend beyond the U.K. The company also quietly blew up a partnership with the fintech unicorn TransferWise, which it had partnered with last year to provide international payments capabilities. As Boden told TechCrunch last month of the move, Starling figured it “could provide a better user experience by doing it ourselves.”

Shruti Merchant, co-founder and CEO of HubHaus

Shruti Merchant (HubHaus) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

When Shruti Merchant dropped out of a med school program in Concord, Calif., to move 40 miles away to San Francisco, she didn’t know anyone, so she and six other people who discovered each other on Craigslist rented a big house together and . . . they became great friends in the process. Merchant was already trying her hand at entrepreneurship, but the experience made her think a bigger idea might center on managing such co-living situations, so she co-founded HubHaus to do exactly that.

So far, so good, it seems. HubHaus, which rents out large houses and subleases out bedrooms, creating housing communities in the process, now oversees dozens of properties in L.A. and San Francisco. It also raised $10 million in Series A funding earlier this year, led by Social Capital.

Kathy Hannun, co-founder and CEO of Dandelion

Nearly straight out of college, Kathy Hannun was brought onto the evaluation team of Alphabet’s X group, which is responsible for coming up with the next “moonshots” for the company. Eventually, she and several colleagues spied an opportunity too good not to pursue independently. The end result: Dandelion Energy, which says it makes “geothermal heating and air conditioning so efficient, it pays for itself.”

Investors certainly don’t mind relying on Dandelion. New Enterprise Associates, BoxGroup and others provided the year-old, Brooklyn-based company with $4.5 million in fresh funding earlier this year, bringing its total funding to $6.5 million to date. The day after the new round closed, Hannun had a baby.

Ran Ma, co-founder and CEO of Siren

Ran Ma spent years as a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University and, before that, as research assistant at Johns Hopkins Hospital, working in nephrology, including as it relates to kidney disease. In those roles, Ma learned plenty, including that kidney disease impacts up to 40 percent of diabetics, and that diabetes afflicts roughly 400 million people — a giant percentage of whom are unable to feel pain from ulcers and gangrene, which can lead to amputations.

It’s those kinds of stats that compelled her to start Siren, a three-year-old, Copenhagen- and San Francisco-based company that’s making textile products that empower their wearers, starting with machine-washable and dryer-proof socks that can measure a wearer’s foot temperature to show him or her what’s going on through a connected app. (A heat spot, for example, can signal a burgeoning infection.) Investors certainly like Ma’s approach to helping diabetics detect potential injuries before they become debilitating. They provided the company with $3.4 million in funding earlier this year. Among those footing the bill: DCM, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.

Nicki Ramsay, founder and CEO of CardUp

After spending roughly eight years with American Express in a variety of roles, Nicki Ramsay spied an unmet need. Specifically, AmEx customers couldn’t use their credit cards to pay for rent or taxes, among other things. Her solution: CardUp, a company that enables users to set up recurring payments to use their credit cards, from Citi, Visa, MasterCard and elsewhere, to pay for everything from rent to car loans to insurance to — in the case of small business owners — employees’ salaries, all while earning rewards. (Why just pay your rent, when you can pay your rent and get 70,000 air miles in the process?)

Investors clearly like the idea of providing incentives to users willing to use their credit cards as a financing tool. In March, Sequoia India and the seed-stage venture firm SeedPlus gave Singapore-based CardUp $1.7 million in seed funding, money it is using to grow its staff, as well as market itself to a growing number of small- and medium-size businesses.

Gwyneth Paltrow, founder and CEO of Goop

Goop, the wellness newsletter-turned-media and e-commerce company founded a decade ago by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, gets plenty of grief for its highly unscientific advice around vaginal steaming and the dangers of bras. Perhaps most famously, it has marketed jade eggs to its followers, suggesting that they put them in their vaginas to cultivate their sexual energy.

While funny to a great many people, Paltrow may get the last laugh. In March, her 150-person company raised $50 million in Series C funding from new and earlier backers, including New Enterprise Associates, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Fidelity, money that Goop intends to use to expand internationally, including through experiential retail, “image events” and through good-old-fashioned marketing.

Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, co-founders of Shine

While Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey worked together at a nonprofit in New York, they formed their own personal support system with each other and close friends; they wanted to create something like it for others, too. There were already plenty of self-care apps, but none reflected their experience as women of color. As Hirabayashi told TechCrunch earlier this year, “We saw there was something missing in the market because well-being companies didn’t really reach us — they didn’t speak to us. We didn’t see people that looked like us. We didn’t feel like the way they shared content sounded like how we spoke about the different well-being issues in our lives.”

The product they settled on would become Shine, a startup that sends users a daily text with actionable tips around confidence, daily happiness, mental health and productivity to help them get through the day. Investors are feeling good about Shine, too, seemingly. Two years after raising seed capital, the company nabbed $5 million in Series A funding in April led by earlier backer Comcast Ventures, with participation from numerous other outfits, including The New York Times.

Ankiti Bose, co-founder and CEO of Zilingo

Ankiti Bose is the rare female founder in Asia’s startup scene, but that fact doesn’t seem to be slowing down her company in any way. Rather, Zilingo, an e-commerce startup that recreates online the experience of visiting Southeast Asia’s bazaars, raised $54 million in fresh funding in an April round that brings the company’s total funding to $82 million.

Why are investors so enthusiastic? Bose’s background — she worked both as a McKinsey analyst in Mumbai and later an as investment analyst for Sequoia Capital in Bangalore — certainly helps. But so does the market she is chasing. By providing a way for independent merchants to operate online storefronts, Zilingo is managing to compete effectively against the likes of Amazon in what’s expected to be an $88 billion market by 2025.

Aditi Avasthi, founder and CEO of Embibe

Five years ago, Aditi Avasthi decided to apply what she’d learned about economics at the University of Chicago and two years at Barclays to help students in her home country of India. The result was Embibe, a Bengarulu, India-based online coaching startup that tries to address not only access but also under-performance by taking a forensic approach to everything a student does online and trying to reach them when and where they most need help. The idea is to deliver far more accurate feedback — while simultaneously having to rely on fewer teachers.

Avasthi must be on to something. Earlier this year, the Indian conglomerate Reliance paid out $180 million to the company in exchange for a 73 percent stake in the business, a part of which came from Embibe’e earlier investors. It was a big win for these backers, Kalaari Capital and Lightbox, which appear to have provided Embibe with just $4 million in backing. Of course, it’s none too shabby a development for first-time founder Avasthi, either.

Katie Haun, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Earlier this week, nine-year-old Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) announced its first female general partner: Katie Haun, whose star has quietly been rising in the Bay Area over for the past couple of years. Haun, who is leading Andreessen’s new $300 million crypto fund with general partner Chris Dixon, is kind of a big deal, so it’s no surprise that a16z nabbed her.

Among her other many accomplishments, Haun spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where she focused on fraud, cybercrime and corporate compliance no-nos alongside the SEC, FBI and Treasury. According to Haun’s bio, she also was the DOJ’s first-ever coordinator for digital assets, and she led investigations into the Mt. Gox hack and the task force that investigated and ultimately took down the online drug marketplace Silk Road. Haun is also a lecturer at Stanford Business School and she’s a director on the board of the digital exchange Coinbase, which was backed early on by a16z.

Sara Mauskopf and Anne Halsall, co-founders of Winnie

Sara Mauskopf and Anne Halsall know how to build products. Mauskopf spent most of the last decade working on products at Twitter, Postmates, YouTube and Google, while Halsall was doing much the same at Postmates, Quora and Google. No wonder when the two came together to create Winnie — a mobile app that offers parents information about nearby kid-friendly places, what sort of facilities for families a location may have and, more recently, an online community where parents can ask questions and participate in discussions — investors took notice, investing $2.25 million in the company two years ago.

They haven’t lost interest. Instead, the now two-and-a-half-year-old app, which has reportedly surpassed one million users, just locked down a fresh $4 million in seed funding earlier this week, led by Reach Capital. Winnie has now raised $6.5 million altogether.

Falon Fatemi, founder and CEO of Node

Falon Fatemi used to take pride in becoming Google’s youngest employee at age 19. But after logging four years with the search giant and another two years at YouTube, Fatemi is making her mark by building her four-year-old startup, Node, into an ever-growing operation.

Just in April, the company — which makes an AI-driven search tool that helps people understand who in their professional network can be the most helpful at any one point in time and why — raised $5 million in fresh funding from Recruit Strategic Partners and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo. The round brings Node’s total funding to $21 million altogether.

Renee Wang, founder and CEO of Castbox

Renee Wang was born in China and reportedly attended a boarding school in the rural countryside outside Beijing, tutoring the students to fit in — while also teaching herself to code. Indeed, after graduating from Peking University with a double major, Wang found herself at Google, where she worked for the company in Tokyo for more than four years. It was there, from inside the search giant’s operations, that she could see spikes in user searches for podcast content and decided there was room for an app to dominate the space.

Enter Castbox, an app that uses natural language processing and machine learning techniques to power some of its unique features, like personalized recommendations and in-audio search. The app is also capable of suggesting what to listen to next based on users’ prior listening behavior, and its in-audio search feature actually transcribes, indexes and makes searchable the audio content inside podcasts. With so much going on, it’s no wonder investors are listening. In April, they gave Castbox $13.5 million in Series B funding. Altogether, it has raised $29.5 million.

Laura Deming, partner of Longevity Fund

Photo: Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

Twenty-four-year-old Laura Deming is younger than most of her venture capital peers, but she’s taken seriously nonetheless — and it’s no wonder. The New Zealand native was home-schooled, developing along the way a fascination with the biology of aging. In fact, before she was even a teenager, she found herself working in the lab of Cynthia Kenyon, a renowned molecular biologist who specializes in the genetics of aging. By the time she was 14, Deming was a student at MIT, and by age 16, she was a college-drop out, having been accepted into Peter Thiel’s two-year-old Thiel Fellowship program, which gives $100,000 to young people “who want to build new things.”

Build things she is. Last year, Deming closed her second venture capital fund with $22 million. Earlier this year, Deming took the wraps off an accelerator program, too, one with backing from famed investor Marc Andreessen, the early-stage venture firm Felicis Ventures, and other, unnamed investors. The idea is to help startups, especially those focused on late-onset medical conditions get to a significant “value inflection point” within four months, which is how long the program runs.

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Southeast Asia fashion startup Zilingo continues its meteoric rise with $54M Series C

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Many will rightly say that raising money as a startup in Southeast Asia is no easy thing, but up-and-coming online fashion service Zilingo sure doesn’t seem to have problems on that front.

Fresh from raising an $18 million Series B round last September, Zilingo has announced its $54 million Series C to takes it to $82 million from investors to date.

The round was led by new investor Sofina — an investor in Flipkart-owned fashion site Myntra among others — and existing backers Burda and Sequoia India. Zilingo’s other existing investors, including Tim Draper, SIG, Venturra, Beenext, Manik Arora, all took part with Amadeus Capital joining the party, too.

Raising this much money is rare over the lifecycle of any startup in Southeast Asia, but to do it less than 2.5 years after launching your product is unprecedented.

E-commerce is a hot space in the region but few companies have made the jump to Series B and beyond with success, in order to make the leap Singapore-headquartered Zilingo has gone about things in a different way to others in its immediate space.

Beyond consumer sales

The company started out in Thailand in 2015 when it was founded by Ankiti Bose (CEO) and Dhruv Kapoor (CTO). Bose, a former analyst with Sequoia India and McKinsey, had the idea of bringing traditional sellers online after visiting Bangkok and marveling at the rich variety of fashion items being sold at street markets.

Now, however, the company has risen above online sales to a position as a platform that caters to merchants, retailers and brands for both B2C and B2B sales. That’s been enabled by an early focus on providing basic services for retailers beyond just an online storefront.

We noted when we first wrote about Zilingo that the company offered a seller management tool which handled processes like inventory management, stock and sales for small retailers who might not already be digital. Aside from boosting touch points with merchants, its key target, these services have evolved over time and become both an additional revenue generator and an important defensive moat for Zilingo’s business, while not to mention providing insight and direction for product development.

Zilingo’s e-commerce site sells directly to consumers in Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and it ships internationally to four more countries. Its tech team is in India while it has supply bases in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia, but it has pushed on.

With financial services from third parties, a ‘style hunter’ that aggregates upcoming trends from fashion watchers and icons, product sourcing, and content and photography services, the targets have expanded to include professional fashion sellers, SMEs, brands, and B2B buyers located outside of Southeast Asia.

The idea is no longer just about bringing the longtail of market sellers online, but instead to enable increased efficiencies for all. That means organization services, financial products and sales for the longtail merchants, but trend analysis, B2B sales/sourcing and more advanced options to the more sophisticated end of brands and larger retailers.

Zilingo co-founders Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor

“We realized that the longtail is a good way to start, but if you want to build the biggest player in this space, then you have to have all the supply,” Bose told TechCrunch. “The reason they’d stay with us is because they have a dependence with us.”

Bose said that Zilingo doesn’t pressure its merchants to use for consumers sales — although it is obviously preferential — which means it has a potential in that allows it to start working with those who are on rival services, which chiefly includes Rocket Internet’s well-funded Zalora business.

So a brand using Zalora for sales, for example, might source its products or materials from sellers on Zilingo. Further down the line, Zilingo could use that relationship to persuade it to open a store.

That has seen revenue skyrocket. While Bose isn’t revealing exact sales figures, she said that revenue has grown “over 10X” in the last 12 months with more than 10,000 sellers and two million products now on the platform.

That jump is primarily thanks to a move into Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, the emergence of B2B sales — i.e. labels or merchants using Zilingo to buy fashion items to then sell to consumers — and some of the optional, paid-for services such as loans or credit. Now, Bose said, the once-core B2C business from accounts for just 40 percent of the revenue.

That platform strategy goes some way to explaining why investors are doubling down on the business despite a “bloodbath” — as Bose puts it — in the B2C fashion commerce space in Southeast Asia.

Zalora is the big player, while others include Pomelo and Singapore’s Love Bonito, both of which have raised low double-digit USD rounds to move into brick and mortar retail. Zilingo, meanwhile, has transcended the sales race by building a product that can live without a dependency on its e-commerce service.

Looking to U.S. and Europe

The company is putting that to the test this week with the launch of a B2B service for U.S. and Europe-based fashion sellers and labels. is a destination where smaller retailers and other B2B buyers can source fashion items from Southeast Asia-based resellers for similar prices to that which top global fashion names enjoy, but without the commitment of massive order volumes.

Zilingo Asia Mall

“Major global fashion brands source most apparel from Asia at $1.5/piece for massive quantities of over a million pieces,” a Zilingo representative explained. “We saw how Zilingo could leverage its existing Asian supply chain network built from its consumer business to drive value for the American and European fashion businesses. ZAM has figured out how retailers can source quality, current products at $2/piece for quantities as low as 200 and also make it an easy experience.”

“Some 49% of all exports globally in fashion come from ASEAN, China and Bangladesh [so] we are basically sitting at the source,” Bose told TechCrunch.

“Merchants want to buy from our B2B platforms and sell on B2C channels, Zilingo could be one of them,” she added. “It’s a high margin profitable business and we want to scale that up.”

Future plans

Zilingo said it still has its Series B round in the bank so that, combined with this newest funding, gives it quite the war chest for investment.

Aside from pushing its international strategy, the company plans to add more tech services to its merchant ecosystem while also expanding its e-commerce site deeper into Southeast Asia. The Philippines is top of the list, but opening up in Vietnam and Malaysia is also on the planner.

The company will also continue to build its brand and market share in its existing Southeast Asian markets. There’s a particular focus on Indonesia where it recently signed up actress Pevita Pearce to front its first TV ad campaign.

As for raising more money right after the Series B, Bose said that the timing felt right.

“The logic behind raising this round is that Southeast Asia is heating up but fashion doesn’t have a big leader because Zalora is stumbling, but it is also the only high margin vertical in e-commerce,” she said.

“When things are going well, there’s momentum, and we figured that we might as well use that because this is a fantastic time to be running a startup in Southeast Asia — people are taking the region seriously,” she added, referencing increased investments from Tencent and Alibaba.

Unbelievably, Zilingo closed the Series C round “weeks” after its Series B, according to Sequoia India managing director Shailendra Singh. Bose explained that investors had begun to see the results of the B2B push and were keen to double down right there and then.

Luckily for the rest of the market, there are no imminent Series D plans at this point… apparently.

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Zilingo raises $18M for its fashion e-commerce service in Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asia-based fashion marketplace Zilingo has closed an $18 million Series B funding round led by Sequoia Capital India and Burda Principal Investments.

Zilingo was founded less than two years ago by ex Sequoia analyst Ankiti Bose (CEO) and former Yahoo engineer Dhruv Kapoor (CTO). The basic vision is to help Southeast Asia’s thriving independent fashion sellers and boutiques stores expand their businesses online.

The startup had existed largely under the radar until it raised $8 million around one year ago. This newest round includes participation from existing backers Venturra Capital, SIG, Beenext and Wavemaker, as well as new investors — two angels — Tim Draper and Manik Arora, ex IDG Ventures India head, via his family office fund.

This new funding is being put to work growing Zilingo’s presence in Southeast Asia, and particularly Indonesia — the region’s largest economy. The startup said it has grown its revenue over 10-fold and added 5,000 new merchants during the past twelve months. It currently ships to eight countries, with seller hubs in Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, with five company offices.

“A large part of this round is dedicated to growing in Indonesia,” CEO Bose told TechCrunch in an interview. “There’s no other comparable fashion brand, so we probably have a window of about a year to make to big before others follow.”

Zilingo expanded into Indonesia earlier this year after Bose relocated to Jakarta to learn more about the market. Some six months into operating there, she’s impressed by the opportunities of the country.

“I’ve never seen a market that’s so ready to consume consumer internet products,” she said. “We are seeing 85 percent growth each month, that’s not something anyone has seen in other Southeast Asia markets. People spend a bit less on every transaction, but the behavior is crazy and they shop more times.”

“We were initially really worried about logistics, because Indonesia is an archipelago, but it hasn’t been that hard. If your expectations are correctly set, it’s a great market,” the Zilingo CEO added.

Zilingo founders Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor

Aside from aiming to grow its share of the local market, Zilingo is also making moves overseas. It has just opened a B2B network that will allow fashion sellers in the U.S. and parts of Europe to purchase items direct from Zilingo at a competitive price for local resale.

“There’s demand for that supply outside of Southeast Asia,” Bose said. “If you run a boutique in Europe or America, it’s likely you are procuring products from Asia but there are a lot of middlemen.”

For now though, the primary focus is Southeast Asia at this point.

Bose added that she’s particularly excited to work with Burda, which has emerged as one of the few traditional Series B investors in Southeast Asia after hiring ex-GREE investor Albert Shy to head up the region.

“These guys bring a whole new perspective on fashion and lifestyle,” she said in reference to Burda’s investment in Etsy and its global media portfolio, which includes brands such as Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle.

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