Week in Review: A home run missed by GrabTaxi

  • Not revealing Series A missed opportunity for greater buzz
  • Thai startup Eko Communications shows how it's done

Week in Review: A home run missed by GrabTaxiIN the end, it was a fizzle. Despite my excitement at GrabTaxi raising Series A funding, as was announced on April 8, it declined to reveal the amount raised for what one of its key executives told me were “strategic reasons.”
 
With that, I think GrabTaxi has missed an opportunity to cement itself in the minds of its potential customers throughout South-East Asia. Disclosing the amount is very important to me as it would have acted as the anchor around which people throughout the region would have had their conversations about GrabTaxi.
 
It has also missed an opportunity to create a huge buzz in the South-East Asia tech ecosystem and Malaysia, in particular. The local ecosystem could do with another huge boost after Mark Chang sold his company, JobStreet.com, for RM1.74 billion in a deal announced on Feb 10.
 
But without the amount disclosed, I feel there is nothing to act as the anchor for GrabTaxi's Series A. All the sound-bites that founder Anthony Tan used during the media blitz in the day or two surrounding the deal will have receded into memory by this weekend.
 
Only those in the startup and funding space in the tech ecosystem will remember that GrabTaxi raised some serious money, north of US$10 million (RM32.2 million). How far north? Your guess is as good as mine. That US$10 million came from a mainstream media report last Friday, April 4, that cited sources.
 
While I understand if investors want to keep their investment amount a secret, this does not make sense when you are a consumer play and need all the visibility you can get. And, when you have a deep pocket competitor playing in the same space.
 
I am of course speaking of Easy Taxi, powered by the financial muscle of Rocket Internet. It and GrabTaxi have already been going at it aggressively in Malaysia and I am sure it is the same in the other South-East Asian markets. A nice publicity boost via their media coverage from their Series A round will surely have helped GrabTaxi raise its profile above that of Easy Taxi.
 
I don’t think in this case you can use Asian values as the convenient reason why investors shy away from revealing their investments. Just look at the angel investment announced by Thai startup Eko Communications on Wednesday, April 9.
 
Not only did it share the amount invested, US$1 million, but even named some of its angel investors who include Suphachai Chearavanont, president and chief executive officer of Thai telecoms conglomerate True Corporation and Sammy Lee, chairman of China-based health products company Infinitus.
 
Some angel investors were also involved in GrabTaxi’s Series A but were not named. As the Malaysian Business Angels Association (MBAN) begins to ramp up its education and market awareness activities, any Malaysian individuals involved in the investment round could have been used by MBAN as an example to encourage others.
 
Though this week was bittersweet for me, I am going to keep my thoughts short and sweet. Do you agree there is ‘strategic value’ to GrabTaxi keeping the investment it raised quiet, or do you think going public with it would have done more good than bad?
 
Meanwhile this week’s most read article was GrabTaxi raises Series A for undisclosed amount.

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Previous Instalments:
 
Week in Review: DNA’s exclusive with Mr Dell himself

Week in Review: Growing the ecosystem, one exit at a time 
 
Week in Review: Investors ask the wrong question

Week in Review: Tootpay scores one for the ‘old-school’ boys
 
Week in Review: Tech tales from two cities

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