Korea’s Naver backs Southeast Asia-based e-commerce startup iPrice

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iPrice, an e-commerce aggregation service in Southeast Asia, has landed a strategic investment from Naver, the Korean internet giant valued at over $21 billion, as part of a follow-on to the startup’s $4 million Series B from May.

There’s actually a strong connection around that recent round. It was led by Line Ventures, the investment arm of messaging app Line, which is owned by Naver . The size of the Naver investment hasn’t been disclosed, but iPrice has raised close to $10 million to date. Its investor base includes Asia Venture Group (AVG), Venturra Capital, Gobi Partners, Cento Ventures, Econa and Starstrike Ventures.

Naver is best known for its search engine, gaming business and content portals, but it also operates a shopping and price comparison engine in Korea. That’s something that iPrice can take valuable lessons from, according to a statement from the startup’s CEO David Chmelar.

iPrice is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and it operates an e-commerce aggregator service that pulls in prices from a range of services, including Alibaba-owned Lazada and Shopee, the online retail site from U.S.-listed Sea. Founded in 2015, it covers six countries in Southeast Asia — Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines — and also Hong Kong.

The idea is that a one-stop shop offers a better experience to Southeast Asia’s consumers, of which some 330 million are estimated to be online. That’s more than the entire population of the U.S..

While Southeast Asia often sits in the shadows of China and India, the region’s digital economy is tipped to grow five-fold over the next eight years to pass $200 billion by 2020, according to a report co-authored by Google. E-commerce is forecast to account for some 45 percent of that figure in 2020, and it reached an estimated $10.9 billion last year.

Naver is one of a number of Korean companies that are becoming more active within Southeast Asia, which is seen to have real growth potential. This investment in iPrice looks like it follows the firm’s blueprint of sourcing prospective investments via the Line fund. Line’s messenger app is popular in Thailand and Indonesia, which gives it additional roots.

iPrice last revealed that it had 50 million monthly visitors in December 2016, but it is aiming to reach 150 million by the end of this year. The company said it has seen 50 percent growth over the past three months on account of its development in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, but it did not supply raw figures nor financial information.

The company is more willing to provide data on the e-commerce industry. Last year it released a report on the state of e-commerce in Southeast Asia.

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