500 Startups lands first investment in Myanmar

  • Undisclosed sum pumped into Yangon-based startup Bindez
  • App has recorded 75K downloads since June 2015 beta launch
500 Startups lands first investment in Myanmar

SILICON Valley’s 500 Startups has made its first ever investment in Myanmar, pumping in an undisclosed amount into Yangon-based startup Bindez, which operates an information search engine and ‘discovery platform.’
The third round of a pre-Series A was raised along with an “experienced consortium of angel investors across Asia’s Internet and tech industry,” said Bindez cofounder and chief executive officer Rahul Batra, declining to elaborate.
The funding will help Bindez grow its mobile news aggregation platform, Bindez Tha Din, as well as its team and product offerings over the next 12 to 18 months, he added.
The startup has raised over US$500,000 to date, according to Rahul.
In an official statement, 500 Startup managing partner Khailee Ng said, “In most parts of the world, Internet platforms like Facebook or Google are dominant.”
“But in Myanmar, we see Bindez offering a locally developed, alternative way of consuming real-time, relevant information,” he said.
When contacted by Digital News Asia (DNA), Ng said that 500 Startups will continue to invest in startups that are “creating real value through scalable businesses, whoever they are, wherever they may be.
“At some point, perhaps every corner on Earth,” he quipped.
“Every investment we make is a step in this direction, Bindez included. But as much as we think a lot about how we can get our job done faster, it requires us to be diligent and calculated with the steps we take, especially in newer ecosystems,” he conceded.
Ng declined to comment on whether 500 Startups will establish local operations or a micro-fund specifically for Myanmar, as it did in Thailand.
An app with social impact
500 Startups lands first investment in MyanmarBindez released its first product Bindez Tha Din, a mobile app that offers news in Burmese from popular and relevant sources in Myanmar, last June. The app is available only on the Android platform.
Although still in beta, the news aggregation app has had over 75,000 downloads and more than 20,000 active monthly users, according to the company.
Rahul said Bindez Tha Din will come out of beta phase and is due for a public release “soon.”
The company has inked partnerships with Doha-based Ooredoo, device manufacturers and distributors, and content hubs.
“Keen to develop core value and scalable impact, Bindez is actively involved with the coming together of peace-technology efforts in a country where many first-time users are taking to online information in an uncertain and inexperienced manner,” said Rahul.
“The team has worked on projects with local civil society organisations, including an online content monitoring-and-evaluation project funded by the US Institute of Peace (USIP) called ‘Building Peace by Fighting Dangerous Speech’,” he added.
USIP was created by US Congress in 1984 as an independent, nonpartisan, federally funded organisation that works to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict around the world.
Bindez was also featured as a case study in the GSM Association’s International Mobile for Development Impact report last year.
Its cofounder and chief technology officer Yewint Ko said as Myanmar came through a historic election last November and enters a subsequent phase of “building and growth,” Bindez hopes to offer its products and services to the majority of Myanmar’s native language speakers over the coming years.
“Creating the right connections and constantly defining your space on the map is key when building out a sustainable vision,” said Ko.
“We are optimistic that as Myanmar makes a stable and progressive transition over the coming years, many more entrepreneurial dreams like ours will take shape to pave the way for an exciting future,” he added.
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