Malaysian commerce startup Bemalas, or Belazee as it’s known regionally, has raised a fresh round of undisclosed funding co-led by Japanese venture firm DeNA and Silicon Valley-based Fenox Venture Capital.
RIMU Group from Singapore too participated in the round.
This investment is the first for all three parties in Malaysia.
Belazee will channel its funds into building their proprietary technology platform and strengthen their market leadership in all of their operating countries, the company said.
The company was founded by Adlin Yusman, Suthenesh Sugumaran and Puvanendren M. Maniam in May 2015.
Yusman told DEALSTREETASIA that the funds will be channeled into the startup’s technology development, which will entail the introduction of a mobile app.
“We are planning to launch the app in Malaysia by the end of January, and in the other markets that we are in later on. Every country will have its own app, better suited to the different needs of the consumers there,” he said in an interaction.
Belazee is moving away from its SMS-only concierge business model, to a commerce platform to service its customers. It is Asia’s first “conversational commerce platform”, with omni-channel chat functionality and a full-fledged e-commerce store.
“We are moving away from the SMS model. Our commerce platform will be launched this month as well, which will make the user experience more seamless and quicker,” he said, noting that building a commerce platform is a capital-intensive matter, hence the funding needed for it.
Yusman added that both the app and commerce platform will be available in all its existing markets within the first quarter of this year.
“We started the commerce platform because people wanted things they could not get in the stores in their countries. We help them to buy it, and we deliver the item to them,” he said of Belazee “making commerce conversational again”.
The pre-Series A funds will be used solely for its technology roll-out, Yusman shared with DEALSTREETASIA, noting that the company will hold back on geographical expansion for the next six to eight months as it gears up for a Series A round of funding.
“We are targeting to raise our Series A in the next six to eight months, and then the funds will drive our expansion into more emerging markets, before we go into more mature markets,” he said.
The company presently handles 30,000 requests monthly across five cities – Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Metro Manila, Ho Chi Minh city and Brunei.
“We intend to infuse the interactivity back into commerce,” he added.
KK Fund general partner, Koichi Saito noted that Belazee is the firm’s third investment in Malaysia, which “goes to show the strength of the Malaysian startup ecosystem”.
DeNA’s senior vice president of strategic investment office, Masatoshi Fukasawa believed that Belazee is the best growing mobile concierge service in Southeast Asia, which the firm wants to support and collaborate with.
Fenox general partner Anis Uzzaman said: “Belazee is uniquely placed to lead the on-demand concierge business in SEA. It is a pleasure to support Belazee through the journey and growth.” RIMU Group commented that it believed conversational commerce will be the next big thing and, given founders’ expertise, Belazee will definitely be the go-to platform in Southeast Asia.
Yusman noted that while there are competitors throughout the region, none of them have the regional reach Belazee has.