Thailand: Eko closes $2m strategic investment led by Itucho

A gold shrine in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thai business messaging app Eko has secured a $2 million pre-Series B investment, in the form of a $1 million strategic investment from Japanese trading house Itucho, which has acquired a 5 per cent stake in the company. The remaining capital originates from existing shareholders.

The investment was closed with a post-money valuation of $20 million. This brings it aggregate funding to $8.7 million across three funding rounds since inception in 2012, according to data compiled by CrunchBase.

Investment proceeds from this round will be used to establish a presence in Japan and to expand into Europe and the US. The company is founded and led by Korawad Chearavanont, the grandson of Dhanin Chearavanont, amongst the wealthiest men in Southeast Asia.

Previous funding rounds include a $5.7 million Series A round led by Gobi Partners in August 2015 and a $1 million seed investment in April 2014 from 500 Startups, angel investors and other backers like Siemer Ventures and Tigerlabs.

Tokyo-listed Itochu Corporation is the second-largest Japanese generating trading company after the Mitsubishi Corporation.

Earlier this year, it was selected by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) as “Noteworthy IT Strategy Companies” in the 2017 Competitive IT Strategy Company Stock Selection.

Itochu’s investment in Eko synchronises with strategic IT-related investment aimed at enhancing its competitiveness, internal work style reforms and development of its telework environment.

According to the company, it is scaling up for a Series B funding round next year, with the investment from Itochu allowing it to plan for deeper growth in Japan, which is the world’s second largest enterprise IT market.

As part of its go-to-market strategy for Western markets, it is targeting SMEs (small & medium enterprises) to build traction. This differs from its previous focus on corporate clients and brings it into direct competition with players like Slack, Hipchat, and Yammer.

Thailand remains its largest market for now but expands it to be overtaken by markets like China, the UK and US as it expands its business presence in those markets.

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