2018 has been a very different year for the startup community in Bangladesh for many reasons. We have come to see some meaningful events to take place. Relatively big investment rounds have happened. The number of startups has increased. Tech has received a lot of serious attention and much more. We have a long way to go. There is no doubt about it. Good thing, for now, is that things are hitting up. First, pathao raised a US$10M investment led by Go-jek. Shohoz followed up with a whopping US$15M pre-series B investment led by Golden Gate Ventures. In 2018 alone, about 22 startups raised investment of different size. Some of the sectors that attracted the most attention from the investors are - ride-hailing/transportation, eCommerce, fintech, education, messaging, AR/VR, travel, energy, agri-tech, and gaming.
Here is our countdown of top-funded startups in Bangladesh based on the latest financing.
1. Bkash: bKash is the leader in MFS market it in Dhaka with about 75% market share, according to last year data. It is the second largest mobile money service in the world. Launched in 2011, as a joint venture between BRAC Bank Limited, Bangladesh and Money in Motion LLC, USA, bKash has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years and has become synonymous to P2P money transfer in the country. Over the past few months, it has been aggressively pushing into the payment area. It has also requested official permission to provide loan and insurance services.
In April 2018, Ant Financial Services Group, an Alibaba Group affiliate, bought a 20 percent stake in bKash as part of a strategic investment. The companies did not disclose the valuation. Previously, bKash raised investments from International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 2013, a member of the World Bank Group and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014.
2. Shohoz: Shohoz was founded in 2014 by Maliha M Quadir as an online ticketing platform, a platform where you could buy tickets – bus, events, movie, and launch. For the first three years, it focused solely on online ticketing. In March 2018, Shohoz entered the ride-hailing market in Dhaka.
A few months into it, it has raised US$15M in pre-series B investment led by Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures and participated by Linear VC, 500 Startups and Singaporean angel investor Koh Boon Hwee. Shohoz has since expanded to food delivery, car and it aims to add more services in the future.
On February 14, Shohoz announced that it has secured an undisclosed amount of investment in a round led by Sweden based investment firm Vostok New Ventures. Partech Ventures, Heritas Venture Funds, Cypress Capital, Tekton Ventures, and participated by existing backer Golden Gate Ventures.
3. Pathao: Founded in 2015 by Hussain Elius, Shifat Adnan, and Fahad, Pathao started out as a consumer-facing on-demand delivery startup. In 2016, it made its foray into ride-hailing transportation space with Pathao Rides. The idea was to use the same fleet to carry passengers in the peak-office hours and maintain eCommerce delivery during the off-peak hours. The rest is history.
Subsequently, Pathao launched cars, Pathao food, and Pathao tong. Pathao is the leader in bike-hailing space and aims to do much more. According to Crunchbase, Pathao has raised a total of $12.8M in funding.
4. Chaldal: Chaldal, the leader in online grocery space in Dhaka, was founded in 2013 by Waseem Alim, Zia Ashraf, and Tejas Viswanath. In its latest Series A funding round, Chaldal raised $5.5M from Y Combinator, International Finance Corporation, and IDLC Finance. The YC company previously raised two rounds of funding from investors both in the US and Bangladesh.
5. Zero Gravity: Zero Gravity is an e-commerce venture of Ananta Group. It currently operates two e-commerce sites – sindabad.com and kiksha.com. Sindabad.com is the country’s first B2B online shop where offices, factories or any business organizations can purchase their regular consumptions online in a transparent, seamless way. Orders are delivered at their offices or factory premises by sindabad.com on time. Kiksha.com is a B2C online shop for fashion, lifestyle products, mobiles, gadgets, electronic appliances, and home décor items.
In February 2018, Zero Gravity has raised north of $5M in Series A funding from Frontier Fund, a Bangladesh-focused private equity fund.
6. Cloudwell: Founded in 2012, CloudWell is a last-mile payments startup based in Dhaka. CloudWell offers a number of payment solutions under its brand name PayWell including point-of-sale systems, prepaid debit cards, and payment gateways. PayWell is used for things like prepaid mobile phone top-ups, utility bill payments, and train ticket purchases and so on.
Cloudwell has raised US$2 million in series A funding from Indian VC Aavishkaar Frontier Fund in 2016. Previously, it has raised an undisclosed seed round from local and international investors.
8. Shopup: ShopUp is a digital credit platform that helps online MSMEs access affordable working capital micro-loans at a reduced cost by automating their online sales and credit assessment process. Shopup started as a social commerce and marketing company enabling small f-commerce companies to streamline their promotion, order management, and delivery and eventually moved on to become a fintech player.
The startup has raised $1.7M in two funding rounds. In its latest round closed in November 2018, ShopUp raised USD $1.62 million in seed funding led by Omidyar Network, the impact investment firm established by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. The fund also includes a grant from UK AID.
9. SOLshare: SOLshare, founded in 2015 by Sebastian Groh, enables customers to produce, trade, and consume solar energy using a local microgrid. It has developed a peer to peer solar electricity trading platform that allows customers to sell their excess energy. It uses an internally developed energy meter connected to solar panels called SOLbox that enables electricity trading between households and micro-enterprises.
In October 2018, SOLshare has raised a US$1.66M investment in series A led by IIX Growth Fund, a Singapore-based organization that seeks to support high-impact enterprises.
10. Deligram: Deligram, an omnichannel eCommerce startup that aims to operate at the intersection of online and offline and integrate the power of digital commerce with offline retail by enabling existing corner shops in neighbourhoods to act as their collection points, has raised total US$2.5 million in See and Series A investment from a network of institutional and angel investors including Skycatcher and Everblue Management. Founded in 2017 by Waiz Rahim, Deligram is trying to do is solving some serious challenges that have been exacerbating ecommerce in Bangladesh due to lack of infrastructure through a localized distribution model that companies like bKash and Telecom operators have used successfully in the past. Like any other ecommerce companies, Deligram has a website and also launched an app through which users can order and get their products delivered. Apart from these two channels, it also partners with corner shops who do two things for Deligram: 1) these corner shops work as a selling point for Deligram. Deligram provides these shops a tablet and product catalog and customers can come and place orders through them 2) these shops also work as delivery points from where customers can pick up or return their products. This could meaningfully improve cost efficiency for Deligram. You may learn more here.
cover photo courtesy - Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash