SoftBank’s Son said to be keen to back Zilingo, Indonesia’s Ruangguru, Aruna

Masayoshi Son. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Japanese giant SoftBank Group Corp has expressed interest in leading the next funding round for fashion marketplace Zilingo, edtech startup Ruangguru and fisheries e-commerce firm Aruna, according to two industry sources.

SoftBank Group chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son is learnt to have met the founders of the three firms during his visit to Indonesia last month.

Sequoia-backed Zilingo started out as a fashion and lifestyle marketplace in 2015. It has since expanded its focus to include B2B services, which now account for more than half of its revenues, and raised more than $300 million in capital to support its growth.

Founded in 2014, edtech startup Ruangguru’s offerings include an online self-learning platform, a private tutoring marketplace, on-demand in-app tutoring services, online exam simulations and tutoring centres. It claims to have more than 15 million users and over 300,000 teachers on its platform.

Aruna has partnered with more than 2,000 fishermen across different provinces of Indonesia, who can then sell seafood directly to customers using its mobile apps. It also helps fishermen assess the production potential of fisheries to strategically and sustainably earn their livelihoods.

“The talks with SoftBank are at an early stage and both Zilingo and Ruangguru are in no hurry to raise funds anytime soon,” said one of the industry sources who spoke to DealStreetAsia on the condition of anonymity.

Zilingo and Ruangguru have both secured substantial funding this year. The Singapore-headquartered fashion marketplace raised $226 million in a Series D round backed by Sequoia Capital, Burda Principal Investments, Temasek Holdings and EDBI in February.

The Indonesian edtech firm, meanwhile, closed a follow-on investment from existing backers UOB Venture Management and East Ventures recently.

A potential investment from the Japanese conglomerate is likely to push Zilingo’s valuation over the $1-billion mark. SoftBank’s Southeast Asia portfolio has only two unicorns so far – ride-hailing major Grab and e-commerce startup Tokopedia.

Zilingo declined to comment for this story. An industry insider confirmed the company was not currently in the market to raise funds.

An existing Zilingo investor, who wished to remain unidentified, told us that another investor –  Singapore’s Temasek – had earlier expressed its keenness to back the startup’s next funding round. The increased interest from these large investors could compel Zilingo to return to the negotiating table sooner than expected.

SoftBank’s interest in Ruangguru and Aruna was confirmed by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Pandjaitan, in an address to the local media.

Venture capital (VC) firm East Ventures is learnt to be the link between SoftBank’s Son and Runagguru. SoftBank is a limited partner, or investor, in EV Growth, a joint growth-stage fund managed by East Ventures, while Ruangguru is one of the VC’s several portfolio companies.

After a meeting with Indonesia President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in July, Son had said that the Japanese corporate giant will invest $2 billion in Indonesia over the next five years through ride-hailing major Grab.

SoftBank also plans to increase its investment in Tokopedia and back smaller startups in the country, Son had said.

SoftBank, which is regarded as one of the world’s most prominent tech investors, has backed several other companies in Indonesia, including mobile POS startup Moka, co-working space Co-Hive and stock platform Ajaib.

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.

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.