Sequoia’s Surge selects 17 Asian startups for first cohort

Sequoia Capital India, which kicked off its accelerator programme dubbed Surge in January, has selected its first cohort of 17 startups from an array of sectors covering e-commerce, edtech, fintech and consumer brands, to name a few.

Surge’s first cohort has startups from India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Bangladesh.

Surge will invest $1.5 million in the participating companies at the start of the programme in the form of equity or a convertible note. Surge received applications from nearly 1,570 startups for its inaugural programme.

The 16-week programme includes a mix of global immersion weeks in China, India and the US, execution sprints in the founders’ home markets and an investor week, called UpSurge, in Singapore.

Surge, which will take place twice a year, is open to companies who are based in, or building for, the India and Southeast Asian markets. Each Surge programme is targeted to induct 10 to 20 companies.

Alongside Surge, approximately a dozen seed funds and institutional co-investors are joining the Surge rounds – tying in a total investment of $36 million across the 17 companies, according to a blog post on Surge website.

Earlier this month, Sequoia Capital India announced the appointment of Google India and South Asia vice-president and prolific angel investor Rajan Anandan as a managing director. Anandan will focus on developing Sequoia’s accelerator initiative ‘Surge’ for startups targeting India and Southeast Asia.

Here is the list of startups from Asia who made it to the first cohort:-


Set up in 2018, the Indonesian tech-enabled accommodation provider startup offers capsule hotel experience to travellers and millennials.

Its pods come equipped with an-app controlled door access, Bluetooth speaker, king-sized mattress, adjustable lights, and even a working room.

The startup – headquartered in Bandung and backed by investors such as Alpha JWC Ventures, Genesia Ventures, among others – plans to expand its operations into 11 new cities, including Bali, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Bogor in West Java.


Qoala is an insurance technology (insurtech) startup in Indonesia that offers insurance for specific ‘new cases’ ranging from travel, P2P lending, e-commerce to screen phone damages.

Founded in September last year and backed by co-investors such as SeedPlus, MassMutual Ventures SEA, Golden Gate, MDI, CCV and Genesia, the startup has partnered with well-established companies, including Panorama JTB, a Sinar Mas insurance Asuransi Simas and MNC Travel.

The startup recently announced that it has officially registered under the Financial Service Authority (OJK) and also has been selected as the model in the regulatory sandbox. Its role will be to assist other startups and help to draft the OJK’s regulation for the industry.


Singapore-based DancingMind, a virtual reality-enabled health tech startup, offers an interactive therapy module for patients suffering from stroke, Parkinsons and dementia.

The startup, founded in September 2018, has already joined hands with 15 healthcare facilities in Singapore and the UK, to provide cognitive and physical therapy to patients.

The founder, an Oxford-graduated Jennifer Zhang, had earlier created an award-winning smart home for people suffering from dementia.


Vybes is a Singapore-headquartered startup that acts as a marketplace for influencers. Using a proprietary AI technology, the startup provides matches influencers with brands, thereby providing with a variety of tools to enable them to sell their products to people.

Launched early this year, Vybes reportedly has 400,000 influencers on its platform.


Zenyum, a Singapore-based dental care provider startup, offers invisible 3D-printed orthodontic braces at a lower cost ($1,622) than invisible braces priced at $4,415 on an average.

Customers only need to wear Zenyum’s braces for up to nine months, while conventional orthodontic braces need to stay on for two years.

Founded in October last year, Zenyum claims to have already hit a single-digit million dollars in revenue.


Vietnam-based B2B e-commerce platform Telio connects small, medium, traditional retail companies with large brands and wholesalers.

It provides a wide range of products, including stationery, food and beverages products, personal hygiene, and cooking ingredients.

The startup, founded in November last year, claims to offer lower logistics cost, competitive pricing and various other choices for small retailers.

Azani Sport

Founded by Indian squash champion Siddharth Suchde in November 2017, Azani Sport is a performance sportswear brand that offers footwear, apparel and accessories for men, women and kids.

Azani’s products are available online, as well as on leading e-commerce destinations and specialty sports outlets across India.

The startup – that co-invested by Fireside Venture – has a fully integrated, in-house design and manufacturing facility that helps reduce the gap between design and delivery from the six-month industry standard to just two weeks.


Touted as India’s first multi-language live-streaming video e-commerce platform, Bulbul aims to redefine how products are sold in India, thereby providing a live, engaging and interactive experience for buyers and sellers.

The startup, backed by Leo Capital, provides a platform for hosts to demonstrate their products live, and answer viewers’ questions in real time. It also offers group buying and sharing features that allow viewers to involve their friends and family for a more social experience.


The India-based startup offers a multi-lingual online learning platform that uses AI technologies for image recognition, natural language processing and proprietary machine learning algorithms to throw up solutions to students’ queries.

Founded by an IIT-Delhi alumni couple, Doubtnut has over 3.5 million monthly active users and another 8 million monthly video views across platforms.

Its existing investors include Water Bridge, Omidyar and AET.

Hippo Video

India-based Hippo Video – co-invested by Kae Capital – is a next-gen video marketing SaaS platform that leverages AI and machine learning technologies to help marketers create, edit and personalize video content, analyse responses and convert more viewers into customers.

Launched in India in July 18, the startup counts over 200 companies across the globe as customers, including Freshworks, Lessonly, Tailwinds, Chargebee, Essilor and Goulet Pens.

InterviewBit Academy

The startup, headquartered in Pune (India), started off its operations in 2015 as a recruiting and interview prep platform for programmers to practice technical questions typically asked in interviews.

Today, InterviewBit Academy offers intensive six-month computer science courses through live online classes delivered by top-tier tech mentors and instructors. Students pay only when they land a job beyond a target salary threshold.

It has as many as 500,000 registered users globally and has placed 4,000 engineers in over 450 tech companies, including Amazon, Uber and Flipkart in India.


Flynote, headquartered in Bangalore (India), is an experiential travel company, which was founded last year by a band of travel enthusiasts, including Abhinav Prakash, Devvarat Meena, Ankit Abhishek, Parth Pratik and Shukant Agrawal.

The startup is working on building a global community of freelance travel enthusiasts, called Flynote Fellows, who travel, learn and experience the world on the company’s sponsorship.

Flynote’s platform is designed to help this network of travel enthusiasts grow and use their knowledge to attract more customers through community referrals, grow their own micro-businesses and inspire more people to travel.


Khatabook is a mobile application that can be used by merchants to record all their transactions and send reminders to their creditors via SMS and WhatsApp to ensure they receive payments in time.

The startup, which counts YCombinator and InfoEdge as co-investors, services SMBs that operate in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan cities, and is available in a wide variety of Indian languages. The app recently claims to have crossed 120,000+ weekly active merchants and is growing at 40 per cent month-on-month.

Kyte Technologies was founded by four IIT-Bombay grads – Ravish Naresh, Jaideep Poonia, Dhanesh Kumar and Ashish Sonone in October last year.


Skillmatics is a direct-to-consumer brand that develops educational products and games designed to help children build core skills, ranging from math and language to science and logic through systematic play.

Founded by Dhvanil Sheth in July 2017, Skillmatics claims to be building a new age business model to disrupt a $100 billion global industry. The company has a vertically integrated supply chain with in-house manufacturing to rapidly iterate, launch and scale new products.

The company sells globally across 15+ countries through its own website, various e-commerce marketplaces and through an international network of 3,000+ retail stores, with a primary focus on the North American market.

Skillmatics, which started shipping products in July 2017, also sells across Hamleys globally.


The Vietnam and Singapore-based startup allows companies, brands and services across sectors to bypass the likes of YouTube and stream videos directly from their own app through a set of simple APIs.

At a time when the world is moving to video, many brands find it difficult to add video and live-streaming to their app.

Established in July 2018, Uiza has build a video infrastructure, which is currently used by over 250 apps, serving viewers to over 100 countries.


Founded in Bangladesh in February 2017, ShopUp is a social commerce platform that provides a range of sales and trade management tools to micro entrepreneurs within the country.

The startup, backed by Flourish Ventures, helps emerging businesses set up a storefront on Facebook, access working capital and grow their ventures by automating many sales and operational processes.

ShopUp currently has 95,000 micro entrepreneurs registered on its platform.

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