Being a unicorn is a nice milestone but also arbitrary, says Lalamove's Blake Larson

Being a unicorn is a nice milestone but also arbitrary, says Lalamove's Blake Larson

Lalamove head of international Blake Larson (left) and regional country operations managing director Santit Jirawongkraisorn

For many startups, achieving that $1-billion valuation or unicorn status is a dream. But for Lalamove, a Hong Kong-based on-demand logistics startup, entering the unicorn club is a nice milestone to achieve but, at the same time, it is very arbitrary, said its head of international Blake Larson.

“…we actually became a unicorn long before that. But anyway, it’s not important to us. Our customers and drivers don’t care, right? …that’s more of like, a milestone that’s nice to write about,” he told DEALSTREETASIA on the sidelines of HKVCA China Private Equity Summit 2019.

The startup had raised $300 million in a Series D round led by Hillhouse Capital and Sequoia China this February. It also expanded into India in January. Its rival GoGoVan raised $250 million last July from Alibaba-backed Cainiao and others.

Founded in 2013, Lalamove matches drivers with customers via its website and mobile app to fulfill same-day deliveries. The company currently operates in 11 cities in Asia outside China, matching around 15 million registered customers with a pool of 2.5 million drivers of vans, trucks and motorcycles.

It is not surprising for unicorn startups to start thinking about going public. A TechCrunch report had said Lalamove intends to go public in Hong Kong. But Larson said the company so far has no particular plans for doing so.

“We always say as long as you build a good company, you have options. We have no plans for IPO. We don’t need an IPO because we don’t need the money. And our investors are not asking for liquidity. So then the reasons to IPO become less. As long as we keep growing, I think we’ll have options,” he said.

On fundraising, Larson said, it has never been easy but the startup had turned away a lot more capital than it took.

“When you need money, there’s no one. When you don’t need money, there’s as much as you want. So fundraising has been a very interesting learning curve for me. Most of our money came from mainland China and most of our revenues are still from there,” said the former Rocket Internet executive.

Prior to joining Lalamove in 2014, Larson was the co-founder of Rocket Internet’s e-hailing startup Easy Taxi, spearheading its Asia operations in Hong Kong. Reminiscing on his previous role, he said he has learnt a lot from the internet giant.

“So Rocket was amazing for me in a lot of ways, because of the lack of structure. I showed up in Hong Kong, my then CEO gives me a piece of paper with 10 things and he flies off to our HQ in Brazil. I spent my first two months at the petrol stations handing flyers to drivers. So it teaches you that at the beginning, there’s no one but you and there’s no backup. You can’t be afraid there’s no structure – you just have to make it happen. Whatever that means,” he said.

With Rocket Internet, Larson learnt about execution and let the market to tell him what it wants.

“Don’t overthink, just go do something. Doing something and getting feedback is more valuable. So I really learnt that. That has really helped me now as we (Lalamove) have many countries, I can empathise with the local challenges that each market has,” he added.

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