Alibaba Group to acquire Israeli QR code startup Visualead

Photo: Reuters

Chinese e-commerce major Alibaba Group, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is to acquire Israel-based personalized QR code startup Visualead Ltd. in a deal estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, Calcalist reported that the Alibaba Group and Visualead had been in discussions regarding the acquisition of Visualead for some time. Alibaba Group is an existing investor in Visualead.

The company was founded in 2012 in Herzliya, nine miles north of Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital. The software enterprise is engaged in the research, development and enablement of IOT technologies using Visual QR Code. 

Its software generates personalized QR codes which users can scan with their smartphones and differ from the typical black-and-white codes by incorporating colourful designs. For e-commerce operators, QR codes serve as optical labels that contain product information, as well as allowing for product tracking and protection against counterfeiting.

According to data compiled by Crunchbase, it has raised $7.35 million across three rounds of funding, while Calcalist quotes a figure of $10 million. Its last financing round being a $5 million Series B investment that was led by Alibaba Group. Other investors in Visualead are Tel Aviv-based Kaedan Capital Ltd. and Herzliya-based Entrée Capital.

If completed, the acquisitive transaction would be Alibaba’s first in Israel. Since 2015, the Chinese e-commerce major has been establishing a presence in Israel. In 2015, it emerged as a limited partner (LP) for Jerusalem Venture Partners.

Earlier this year in October, it announced plans to establish a laboratory in Tel Aviv – one of seven worldwide – as part of a $15 billion global research and development push over the next three years.

These labs are located in Beijing, Hangzhou, Singapore, Moscow, Bellevue (in the Seattle area), and San Mateo (in Silicon Valley), these labs will concentrate on research in areas such as data intelligence, natural-language processing, quantum computing, and machine learning.

This latest acquisition is part of a strategy by Alibaba to evolve beyond its e-commerce roots; the company has invested heavily in cloud computing, with 14 data centres across China, Silicon Valley, Europe, and Southeast Asia that serve clients who use Alibaba Cloud. In China, it is also competing against the likes of Tencent Holdings and Baidu, who are intensely focused on developing their competitive advantage through the use of AI.

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Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.