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Daily Markup #135: Sheryl Sandberg tells the story of BloomThis; What First Circle and the…

500 Southeast Asia Team



In times of bloom

  • In her recent opinion piece, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org, gave a shout out to 500-backed Malaysian e-commerce startup BloomThis.
  • She detailed the journey the company’s co-founder and CEO, Giden Lim undertook, from spending time at his mother’s florist shop to building an ecommerce business with co-founder and then-fiance, Penny Choo.
Credit: Vulcan Post
  • When the Covid-19 pandemic came, BloomThis was hit on both ends of the business — demand for flowers fell as weddings and events were canceled, and lockdown restrictions held up their ability to import flowers, drying up supply.
  • The result: a 90% drop in revenue
  • Amid a global economic downturn, the duo got to work. They launched new products and promoted them through personalized ad campaigns on the same online platforms they used before.
  • “We continued to execute the plans that we had around food products like cakes and ice-cream, bundling them with the flowers,” Giden told The Edge Markets.
  • To bolster supply, the company looked local, towards flower farms in Cameron Highlands. “We had to tell our customers that we had to substitute flowers in certain products because of the MCO and I have to say, they were all very supportive and understanding.”
  • “For many businesses forced to close their doors during lockdowns, or run under restrictions as BloomThis has, Facebook and Instagram have been a lifeline,” Sheryl wrote. “Their stories show just how important e-commerce, powered by data-driven tools, is to recovery efforts in the region and beyond.”
  • Leveraging personalized advertising, BloomThis used customer data safely and responsibly to connect with their buyers in meaningful ways even during this difficult time.
  • “[This] is the secret ingredient that makes success possible…The pandemic has proved the value of connection, cooperation across borders and the economic opportunity created by an open internet,” she concluded.
  • Click here to read Sheryl’s full piece.

“Huge potential” for MSMEs

Credit: First Circle
  • 500-backed fintech startup First Circle has renewed its partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the Philippines.
  • What does this mean? More loans for MSMEs within the country amid the economic slowdown. Only 6 percent of total loans in the country are MSME borrowings, according to the Business Mirror.
  • Since signing their first partnership in 2018, First Circle has “extended borrowings to 6,000 SMEs and disbursed over 16,000 loans” worth over US$93 million.
  • It is also the only fintech company from the Philippines that earned a place on Metlife and Visa’s ‘Inclusive Fintech 50’, a roster of “most promising startups providing credit, insurance, savings, and other critical products to low-income households and businesses that are particularly vulnerable to financial shocks like the coronavirus (COVID-19) economic crisis”.
  • First Circle Managing Director Moritz Gastl, sees “huge potential” for the firm to reach the mass MSME market in the country. B2B MSMEs are still operating in “dark ages” according to Gastl. “First Circle’s business model creates a competitive advantage from market deficiencies, delivers unparalleled customer value and reaches the mass market.”
  • Get the full press release here.

Doubling down

  • “Consumers who have now tried online grocery shopping have doubled”, reads the new e-Conomy SEA 2020 report. And over 75% of those shoppers have indicated they’ll continue with online groceries post-COVID-19.
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 500-backed HappyFresh, Guillem Segarra, sat down with the Indo Tekno podcast to speak to that growth accelerated by the pandemic.
Credit: Yahoo News Singapore
  • “…what we’re seeing now in September, October and coming up to November, is that, besides the fact that our top line is probably our peak, our retention rates are better than ever. And what we can deduce from that is that the customers that tried HappyFresh for the first time in March, April and May have now turned into loyal customers, and are fully digital when it comes to shopping for groceries online,” said Segarra.
  • According to Guillem, HappyFresh focuses on three main things to turn their one-time users into loyal customers:
  1. providing a full range of products from the comfort of your home;
  2. developing a quality fleet of personal shoppers;
  3. and adding value through promotions and discounts.
  • In the spirit of getting others to join the party, HappyFresh also provides a ‘plug-and-play’ solution for brick-and-mortar supermarkets to go digital without them needing to put any upfront capital investment or worry about maintenance of the online system.
  • For 2021, Guillem shares that HappyFresh is looking to their supermarket partners to “double down or triple down into their digital channels.”
  • “Today, the opportunity in the markets we operate in alone is estimated to be already above US$1 billion of annualized revenues. We believe that that would rise to above US$10 billion by 2025.”
  • For its loyal customers, HappyFresh is planning to launch a loyalty program next year, aiming to provide additional benefits. An inter-country expansion in Indonesia is also in the works, with the company eyeing cities outside of Java.
  • Listen to the full podcast here.

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500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. In Southeast Asia, 500 Startups invests through the pioneering 500 Southeast Asia family of funds. The 500 Southeast Asia funds have backed over 240 companies across multiple sectors from internet to consumer to deep technology. It continues to connect founders with capital, expertise and powerful regional and global networks to help them succeed.

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500 Southeast Asia Team