[RECAP 2023] The Top 10 Tech News Stories of The Year in Southeast Asia

[RECAP 2023] The Top 10 Tech News Stories of The Year in Southeast Asia

The year 2023 has come to an end, leaving behind many interesting stories, not least in the field of technology. It began with a difficult period for the tech industry in Southeast Asia, with a wave of global layoffs spreading to the region. Top tech companies, including Shopee, Goto Gojek Tokopedia, and Grab Holdings, cut jobs to realign their organizations and improve profitability. This led to a 65 percent drop in funding to $4.3 billion through December 2023, compared to $12.4 billion a year earlier, according to "Geo Annual Report: SEA Tech 2023" from Tracxn.

However, there were also interesting developments in the region's tech sector, such as Tik Tok's investment in Goto Indonesia and Indonesia's eFisehry becoming a unicorn. Here's a roundup of the top 10 tech news stories in Southeast Asia in 2023:

1. Temasek's VC Arm, Vertex, Gathers $900M in First Round for Latest Fund

Vertex Venture Holdings, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, raised more than $900 million in the first round of fundraising for Vertex Master Fund III. The fund surpassed its predecessor, which raised $730 million in 2019. Of the total capital raised, $80 million came from four Japanese investors. 

Vertex's fund network specifically focuses on early-stage technology, early-stage healthcare, and growth investments through multiple funds. This fundraising comes at a challenging time for regional venture capital firms affected by rising interest rates and the economic slowdown. With more than 300 global companies in its portfolio, including PatSnap and Nium, Vertex continues to play a key role in supporting business innovation and growth across multiple sectors.

2. TikTok to Invest $1.5B in Indonesian E-Commerce Giant GoTo

TikTok plans to invest $1.5 billion to acquire a majority stake in Tokopedia, the e-commerce platform that is part of Tokopedia's GoTo Gojek in Indonesia. As part of this strategic move, TikTok will also integrate its TikTok Shop business in Indonesia into Tokopedia, creating a new entity that will manage TikTok's shopping capabilities in Indonesia. 

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2024, with Tokopedia receiving $1 billion in promissory notes from TikTok for working capital. With TikTok's user base of 125 million in Indonesia and more than 270 million people actively using social media, this move is expected to strengthen TikTok's position in Indonesia's rapidly growing e-commerce market.

3. Singapore's Grab Announces 1,000 Job Cuts for Cost Management

To adapt to technological changes and meet rising capital costs, Grab took the drastic step of cutting 1,000 jobs, or 11% of the company's total workforce. The cuts, the largest since the start of the pandemic, reflect the challenges the company faces in maintaining its operational balance. 

In May, Grab reported a quarterly loss of $250 million, despite a 130.3% year-on-year increase in first-quarter revenue to $525 million. The move reflects Grab's efforts to maintain its financial health while remaining competitive in a rapidly changing environment.

4. eFishery Indonesia Secures Unicorn Status with Successful Series D Funding Round

eFishery, an Indonesian aquatech startup, raised $108 million in Series D funding. G42 Global Expansion Fund (42XFund) from the United Arab Emirates was the lead investor with $100 million, followed by SoftBank Vision Fund II with $5 million and Northstar Group with $3 million. The additional funding brings the company's total valuation to $1.26 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2024. Along with this milestone, eFishery also revealed that it is currently in "advanced discussions" for another round of funding that could potentially increase the company's valuation to $1.2 billion.

5. J&T Express Debuts on HKEX with $450 Million Global Funding

The Indonesian company made its official debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange by raising $450 million through a global offering. The offer price per share was set at HK$12 ($1.53), resulting in net proceeds of HK$3.53 billion ($450 million). Proceeds from the IPO will be focused on expanding the company's network and infrastructure, strengthening its presence in Southeast Asia, and research and development of technologies that support the company's innovation.

6. YTL and NVIDIA Collaborate to Build AI Data Centers in Malaysia

YTL Power International Berhad (YTL) and NVIDIA have entered into a strategic partnership to build an artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure in Malaysia. The project will utilize NVIDIA H100 Tensor Core GPUs and NVIDIA AI Enterprise software. The AI infrastructure will be located at the YTL Green Data Center Park, a 500 MW facility in Johor, Malaysia, which is the first site in the country to be powered entirely by solar energy. In addition to providing green AI infrastructure, YTL plans to develop specialized AI applications and services, including Malay language models. 

With a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency, YTL hopes that this collaboration will accelerate Malaysia's development as a leader in artificial intelligence technology. On the other hand, NVIDIA sees this partnership as an important step to help Malaysia build large language models (LLM) and advance generative AI applications.

7. VinFast Launches on NASDAQ Following Completion of SPAC Merger

VinFast, a Vietnamese electric car manufacturer, made a successful debut on the NASDAQ following a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) on August 16, 2023. VinFast shares surpassed the initial deal value, opening at $22 and closing at $37.06, valuing the company at $85 billion. 

The successful debut makes VinFast the largest Vietnamese company to list on a U.S. exchange. The NASDAQ listing is also considered an important milestone in the company's global expansion and provides an opportunity for other Vietnamese brands to follow in its footsteps. VinFast, which has delivered nearly 19,000 electric cars by June 2023, also plans to launch new models to further strengthen its position in the electric car industry.

8. China's Meituan Eyes Partnership with Delivery Hero's Foodpanda in Southeast Asia

With this strategic move, Meituan decided to diversify its market outside of China. Singapore's app super, Grab, emerged as a potential acquisition candidate with a transaction value estimated at more than EUR 1 billion. However, analysts warned that regulatory approvals could be a major obstacle to a potential acquisition by Grab. With Meituan's expansion in Southeast Asia, competition with Grab, which has only recently achieved profitability in the region, is expected to be a major challenge. This decision reflects Meituan's strategy to become more active outside its home market and create more competition in the region.

9. Vertex Tech Acquisition Corp. from Singapore to Merge with Streaming Giant 17LIVE Inc

VTAC, a Singapore-based special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), announced the acquisition of streaming platform 17LIVE Inc. for $675.35 million, with a pro forma equity value of $847.56 million. The transaction includes the signing of a conditional sale and purchase agreement, under which 17LIVE Inc. will become a listed company on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX-ST). As part of the transaction, VTAC will issue up to 160,605,109 new shares to 17LIVE upon completion of the acquisition. Upon completion, VTAC will change its company name to 17LIVE Group Limited. This decision reflects VTAC's strategic move to expand its business portfolio by entering the streaming industry and creating a new SGX-ST listed company.

10. Thailand Eyes $5 Billion Investment from Tech Giants Tesla, Google, Microsoft 

Thailand hopes to attract at least $5 billion in investment from electric vehicle company Tesla and tech giants Google and Microsoft, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said Tesla is considering building an electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing plant, while Microsoft and Google are interested in building data centers in the country. 

However, it is not clear whether the $5 billion figure includes the combined investment of the three companies or an individual amount from each company. Tesla, Google and Microsoft did not respond to requests for comment.

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