- ‘From Day One, e27 has always been an ecosystem builder,’ says CEO
- New funds to help in connecting the startup ecosystems in China and SEA
SINGAPORE-based ecosystem pioneer e27 has raised a S$3-million (US$2.2-million) Series A round led by Beijing-headquartered TechTemple Group, which it said would be used to connect the startup and investor communities in China with those in South-East Asia.
Also participating in this round were Linear Venture, Convergence Ventures, Venturecraft and Spacemob, as well as successful entrepreneurs and investors such as Qunar cofounder Douglas Khoo and Spacemob founder Turochas Fuad.
In an official statement, e27 said it is now set to leverage these strategic connections with investors from Singapore, China, Indonesia and Malaysia to benefit entrepreneurs across South-East Asia: Whether it is to enter new markets, receive funding, or explore strategic partnerships in China.
Founded in 2007, e27 is also the company behind the Echelon series of startup and investor conferences.
It has been usually described as a media outfit – including by Digital News Asia (DNA) in our earlier stories on the company – but cofounder and chief executive officer Mohan Belani (pic above) was quick to stress that the media business is only a small part of what it does.
“From Day One, e27 has always been an ecosystem builder. We’ve always had a vision of creating products offline and online that would help us achieve that vision,” he told DNA via email.
“And one of the ways we did this at the start was through media. Through the years, we have launched a jobs platform, a startup and investor database, and last year we launched our B2B (business-to-business) marketplace.
“e27 is still what it is today with what we have built it up to be in the last few years, and media is part of that entire product package,” he added.
TechTemple, founded in 2013, provides co-working spaces, incubation services, community, events, financial services and investments, and said it has incubated over 200 startups and hosted over 400 events.
In its official statement, e27 said that TechTemple’s investment “brings incredible opportunities” in connecting the Chinese and South-East Asian ecosystems.
“China’s rapid development of the Internet industry brings important lessons and experience to South-East Asian entrepreneurs, as well as opportunities for cross-border investment and collaboration,” said TechTemple founder Jerry Wang.
“However localisation is also very important, hence investing in a platform such as e27 brings a wealth of local knowledge and connections that will be extremely valuable for … entrepreneurs and investors from China,” he added.
Qunar’s Khoo, a Malaysian serial entrepreneur and angel investor, concurred.
“I strongly believe in the need to train and nurture tech professionals in South-East Asia,” he said.
“Working with China will accelerate the growth opportunities in South-East Asia by working with, instead of against, worthy competition.
“It is time to get ready for the next generation of ecosystem drivers,” Khoo said in the statement issued by e27.
Meanwhile, Mohan was quick to dismiss any idea that having an investor such as TechTemple on board would affect e27’s editorial independence.
“We’ve raised money before, and that has not changed our editorial independence or the independence we’ve had with our platform,” he told DNA.
“The investors we have always brought on board have had the same agreement with and understanding as us – that if we want to build the ecosystem, we have to look out for what’s best for the entrepreneur, and to help them along the path of growth,” he added.
In early 2013, it secured a S$760,000 (US$614,000 at the time) round of funding with B Dash Ventures, Pinehurst Advisors, Ardent Capital, as well as angel investors.
That round of funding was a boost to its regional game plan, and was used to spread Echelon and related events to more cities across South-East Asia.
But the competition also upped the ante, mainly in the form of Singapore’s Tech in Asia, which also has a media play and organises similar events. In January, TechCrunch reported that e27 had laid off half of its 40 staff.
Mohan declined to confirm TechCrunch’s numbers, but said it currently has a team of 25 people and would continue to hire across the board.
“The unique thing is that as the company scales, both the online and offline teams have to support each other to grow organically,” he said.
“The new funds are going to be used to hire the people that we need to execute on the mission that we have laid out.
“We are also going to continue to develop features and improve our online service, as that will allow us to scale to new cities, to reach out to entrepreneurs and startups that really need it, as well as make sure that our product is more user-friendly, easy to use, and impacts the ecosystem in ways we want it to,” he added.
e27 gets US$614,000 worth of funding, to expand regionally
From entrepreneur to angel: Douglas Khoo’s journey
Singapore’s Tech in Asia raises US$4mil in Series C funding
Echelon: Advice and caution from 9GAG, Rotten Tomatoes cofounders
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