Bangkok-headquartered digital media startup Ookbee has raised an undisclosed amount of funding via convertible bonds from Tencent Holdings and Sumitomo Corporation Equity Asia as it looks to expand across Southeast Asia.
Ookbee will use the funding to acquire new users across its existing platforms, expand its business across the region, improve its AI recommendation engine, and develop new products, CEO Natavudh Pungcharoenpong said in a statement.
Founded in 2012 by Moo Natavudh, Ookbee operates e-book stores as well as user-generated content platforms across Southeast Asia. With a presence in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, it claims to have over 11 million monthly active users and 3 billion monthly page views.
Ookbee plans to expand to Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries. Its storytelling and social platform, Joylada, is already well-established in Indonesia, with more than 1 million registered users.
In 2017, WeChat’s parent company Tencent Holdings had forged a joint venture with Ookbee called Ookbee U (OBU) to focus on user-generated content, investing $19 million into the Thai startup in the process.
In 2019, Tencent’s ebooks business China Literature announced it was acquiring a 20% stake in OBU for $10.5 million via its wholly-owned subsidiary Cloundary, according to a Hong Kong exchange filing.
Beacon VC, the venture capital arm of Thai bank Kasikornbank Plc, had in 2018 announced an undisclosed investment in Ookbee.
With one of the highest internet penetrations among ASEAN countries and the lowest cost of high-speed internet, Thailand is an attractive market for digital content consumption. According to DataReportal, the country had 48.59 million internet users as of January 2021, up 7.5% from the previous year. Meanwhile, internet penetration in Thailand stood at 69.5% in January.