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Startups of Bangladesh and its Future


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Shawkat Hossain

09 October, 2021, 09:40 am

Last modified: 09 October, 2021, 05:11 pm

Startup ecosystem in Bangladesh: Current status and future outlook

Bangladeshi startups have brought in over $125.7 million over the past eight-and-a-half months. But is there a hospitable ecosystem to sustain and foster their development?

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"Truck Lagbe" - a Bangladeshi startup - recently received $4 million funding in Series A from International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector investment wing of the World Bank. IDLC VC fund co-invested with IFC in this deal. "Chaldal" - another rising e-commerce platform - received $10 million worth of foreign funds for expansion in series C. Earlier, "Shop up" also received Tk6.4 billion ($75 million).

Over the past eight-and-a-half months, Bangladeshi startups have raised funds of $125.7 million, which is 30% of the $419 million – raised since 2010.

In light of these recent developments, it is time we take a look at the startup ecosystem in Bangladesh.

But first, what is a startup? Although it may seem quite intuitive, there is ambiguity about its definition.

Broadly speaking, a startup must satisfy the following criteria. Firstly, it has to be innovative either in product or service, market or process. Secondly, it must use technology to augment the business in a way that it has to be scalable above average.

In addition, a startup has to disrupt the existing way of doing business or meeting customer needs. Also, startups are generally light in fixed assets. Key performance Indicators of startups are also quite different from those used for evaluating traditional businesses.

One of the important indicators for measuring the performance of a new business is the break-even point (BEP) or break-even period. For startups, BEP is not important. Because BEP deters the growth of startups whereas startup growth is the name of the game.

A new set of KPIs has evolved to measure the performance of startups, namely, customer Acquisition cost (CAC), the number of monthly active users, the lifetime value of customers, average revenue per user, customer churn rate, revenue growth rate, monthly burn rate, monthly recurring revenue, gross profit margin, conversion rate etc. For a marketplace startup, gross merchandise value or GMV is also considered.

Data suggests, globally 8 out of 10 companies with the highest market capitalisation emerged from startups.

The history of startups in Bangladesh goes back to the emergence of Bkash in 2010, funded by 'Money in Motion' of USA and Brac Bank Ltd. Subsequently, IFC had financed the project in 2013 and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did so in 2014. Ant Financial, a sister concern of Ali Baba, provided funding to Bkash in 2018 when a few of the early investors withdrew.

Bkash's valuation soon rose to approximately $1 billion (as per the Annual Report of Brac Bank) making it the 1st unicorn of Bangladesh. It took around eight years for Bkash to reach this level.

For comparison, the market cap of Brac Bank as of 16th September 2021 (at Tk48.30 market price) is Tk67.24 billion ($781.8 million). Brac Bank was established in 2001. This is the difference between a startup and a traditional, asset-heavy, brick and mortar business.

Startups such as Bkash, Pathao and Brain station 23, recently bade goodbye to their initial investors. Although not disclosed to the public, market speculators suggest that the investors received very high returns from these ventures.

However, there is no reason to be complacent yet. Startups from competing nations are doing far better than us. For instance, startups in our neighbouring country, India got US$ 10 billion investment in 810 deals in 2020. Had the world not been affected by Covid-19, this figure would have been higher. Because in 2019 startups in India received a higher amount ($ 11.1 billion) in 755 deals. 

In addition, Bangladesh ranks 116th in global Innovation index while India ranks 46th. Even Sri Lanka is ranked 101st, 15 places ahead of us implying the poor and inhospitable startup ecosystem in Bangladesh.

India's start-up investment is around 0.3% of its GDP, which is estimated at $3.05 trillion (nominal, 2021). On the other hand, Bangladesh received $39.5 million in 2020 which is .01% of its GDP of 353 billion in (nominal, 2021). That means India's Startup Investment GDP ratio is 33 times higher than ours.

Most Indian startups had begun their journey back in the mid-eighties, while the very first Bangladeshi start-up, Bkash was launched only in the 2010s. So, they are roughly 25 years ahead of us in terms of start-up development.

But that does not necessarily mean that we have to keep that distance. To bridge the gap between Bangladeshi startups and their Indian counterparts, several issues in Bangladeshi markets need to be addressed.

Bangladesh needs to sort out several issues such as IP (intellectual property) rights registration, repatriation of capital and profit by the foreign investors, efficient handling of contract and company act related disputes, industry-academia collaboration etc.

The government should also provide fiscal incentives such as tax cuts and subsidies to investors for investing in startups or venture capital funds. Bangladeshi universities are infamous for their poor research output and most pundits often point their fingers at the sheer dearth of funding.

Hence, government and relevant authorities should patronise research and development in both the government and non-government sectors as well as in academia.

And finally and most importantly comes the political will to become a "start-up nation". As the saying goes "it needs a village to raise a child" the same way it can be said "it needs a nation to develop a start-up ecosystem".

Shawkat Hossain FCMA consultant on venture capital, start up and SMEs.

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Re-commerce Startup SWAP Raises $1.25 Million In Seed Funding, Looks to Double Down On Growth

By Future Startup

|

Oct 14, 2021

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SWAP, Bangladesh’s first re-commerce platform, announced that it has raised $1.25 million in Seed Funding, led by Accelerating Asia with participation from ZA Capital Advisory, Bangladesh Angels and Southeast Asian angel investors.

Bangladesh, being the 8th largest country for mobile phone users, has been facing a growing e-waste challenge like many other countries globally. SWAP, being the first re-commerce platform in Bangladesh, solves the problem by offering customers both convenience and safety while ensuring guaranteed selling of old products from their doorstep in less than 24 hours. SWAP also provides consumers with an avenue to properly discard their e-waste. 

With an addressable market of over $3 billion, SWAP operates as a C2B, B2B and C2B2C marketplace where customers can buy, sell or swap used electronics and automobiles. Users can use a host of platforms, payment methods and service fulfillment options all while ensuring reliability and affordability. The platform enables many low-income earners to purchase, sell and exchange products increasing economic participation and technology accessibility in emerging markets.  

Founded in 2020, SWAP says it has generated more than $14.5M in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV), with a current monthly GMV of over $1.7M. The company says it has served over 40,000 customers till date and is poised to scale-up significantly in the next 6-12 months.  

With a mission to be the topmost, reliable re-commerce platform, SWAP aims to become a market leader and a global example of success for the circular economy approach and sustainable e-waste management venture. 

With e-waste poised to hit 4.5 million tons by 2025, SWAP says it has helped to reduce 1100 Metric ton of carbon emission and saved more than 65 metric ton of e-waste in Bangladesh, as part of the commitment to reduce carbon footprint and contribute to an environmentally sustainable ecommerce industry in emerging markets.  

The new injection of funds will enable SWAP’s growth and contribute to its mission. 

SWAP has introduced first ever cross category exchange platform to facilitate the quickest upgradation program from even one category to another, certified pre-owned products for consumers at as low as 60% of retail value with 1 year full warranty and insurance coverage including liquid and accidental damage and has enabled over 3000 agents with additional income source in the country.  

“We want to be Bangladesh’s most trusted platform for anyone trying to buy, sell or exchange in Bangladesh. We believe we can do that by providing our customers with as many choices as possible with the most affordable plans, from which they can pick the ideal one for them,” SWAP CEO and Co-Founder Parvez Hossain said.  

As the lead investor, Accelerating Asia sees the potential in SWAP and the founding team to deliver returns for the early-stage VC accelerator that operates across Southeast and South Asia.  

“SWAP is perfectly positioned at the intersection of ecommerce and circular economy, helping the aspiring middle classes in emerging economies access modern technologies while minimising the impact of digital waste through recycling of used devices. Parvez and the team have proved to have the right mix of skills and experience to execute on this model. We look forward to seeing SWAP continue its rapid business expansion for years to come,” Accelerating Asia General Partner Craig Bristol Dixon said.  

Zahedul Arefin, Founder and CEO of ZA Capital Advisory and also Advisor to SWAP mentioned “SWAP has the potential to build the ecosystem for the circular economy of Bangladesh by connecting the nexus of e-waste, retailers, consumers and ensuring reusability and affordability for the masses. We are happy to be associated with one of the most promising and innovative online startups of the country.”  

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https://futurestartup.com/2021/10/14/indonesian-financial-wellness-platform-wagely-expands-into-bangladesh/?utm_content=buffer36f74&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Indonesian Financial Wellness Startup Wagely Launches in Bangladesh

By Future Startup

|

Oct 14, 2021

Indonesian financial wellness startup wagely announced that it has entered Bangladesh, launching with over 50,000 workers across some of the largest apparel manufacturers in the country including SQ Group, Youth Group, and Classic Composite, per a press release. Wagely helps companies to allow employees to access their “already earned but unpaid wages to reduce financial stress and boost their productivity, motivation, and retention.”

The expansion makes it Indonesia's first financial wellness platform to expand its services to Bangladesh. Wagely raised $5.6 million in funding about two months ago.

Founded in Indonesia in 2020, Wagely's financial wellness platform is centered around Earned Wage Access (EWA), the direct and affordable access to salary that has already been worked for. Wagely’s application allows workers to get paid at any day of the month, instead of waiting for month-long for salary, which helps eliminate their need to borrow, creating a significant impact on a worker's wellbeing. 

The company says allowing workers to see their earned salary in real-time provides visibility into their financial situation, motivating and helping them make responsible financial decisions. In exchange, employers benefit from increased productivity, reduced turnover costs, and increased business savings by offering wagely's financial wellness platform to workers. 

Wagely's plug-and-play platform ensures that companies do not have to change their existing processes and can be customized to the specific needs of any employer.

With the expansion into Asia's fifth-largest country, wagely is accelerating its mission to reduce financial stress for millions of workers in Asia. The company says it has partnered with over 70 companies in two markets servicing well over 100,000 workers. In Indonesia, it has built partnerships with some of Indonesia's largest enterprises in recent months including Adaro Energy, Medco Energi, British American Tobacco, Ranch Market, Century Pharma, among several others. The company says it has seen an unprecedented growth of its worker base by 517% in Q3 2021 and is well on track to reach over 250,000 workers by mid-next year.

Managing financial worries is the number one issue in everyday life for lower- and middle-income workers in Asia. With limited options to build sustainable savings, many struggles to cover basic needs. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the challenge. 

Tobias Fischer, CEO of wagely shared, "While Indonesia continues to be our priority in light of the country's large blue-collar workforce that is in urgent need of fair financial services, Bangladesh represents a sizable opportunity with over 4.5M workers in the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry alone. Bangladesh's workers have been severely impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulting in increased financial stress with a major impact on manufacturers. We're encouraged by the very strong demand by some of the largest Ready-Made Garment manufacturers to partner with us during this initial launch phase and look forward to more employers adopting the future of salary payments."

Mr. Warisul Abid, Chief People Officer at SQ Group said, "Thanks to the rapid advancements in technology, people today can access almost anything instantaneously. Worker wages shouldn't be different. We are thrilled to partner with wagely and allow our 18,000 employees real-time access to their salary. With wagely, our employees can now track and access their earned salary anytime between the traditional monthly pay cycle including evenings, weekends, and public holidays. Even only a few days after launch, we already witnessed the positive impact of wagely's solution on worker productivity and motivation."

"Offering workers real-time access to their salary and financial education is only the first step towards building financial wellness. We are on the path towards building a holistic financial wellness platform with the underlying effort to offer workers access to affordable services that encourage financial responsibility, and provide a path towards financial stability and inclusion," Fischer added.

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https://www.thedailystar.net/youth/young-icons/news/10-bangladeshi-youths-top-100-young-talent-asia-list-2203866

10 Bangladeshi youths on Top 100 Young Talent of Asia list

Youth Desk

Fri Oct 22, 2021 04:08 PM

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Ten Bangladeshi youths have made it to the Top 100 Young Talent of Asia list this year. 

The  Asia Young Talent Awards aims to recognise young people aged between 18 and 30, who inspire, influence, and motivate with their talent, story or work towards people and their community. 

It is organised by Monsta Asia, a talent growth and engagement platform of Malaysia that designs, develops,  and discovers talents in both personal and professional skills. AIM Initiative Foundation from Bangladesh is the organisational partner of Monsta Asia in this year's Asia Young Talent Awards.

From more than 900 nominees, top 100 young, talented individuals have been selected because of their impactful stories,  and their contributions to their communities. 

Among them, the 10 Bangladeshi youths are: Mohammad Shafin Arshad (Volunteer for Bangladesh), Zisan Rehman (Founder & President, Penny for Many), Safa Jahangir (Founder, Sarin's Store), Sadi Muhammad Tamim (Pathshala), A S M Ashikur Rahman (Executive Board Member, Youth Hub), Nuzhat Fatima Faruk (Social Media Officer, Pensive Stories), Mehrin Laila (Senior Interviewer, Volunteer Stories), Sanjida Hoque (Documentation & Communications Officer, AIM Initiative Foundation), Rafeed Elahi Chowdhury (Lead, Content and Product Growth, The Business Standard) and Subrina Habib (Executive Director, AIM Initiative Foundation, and Project Manager,  AIM School). 

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Dhaka-based Leading IoT Company Bondstein Raises $1 Million in New Investment, Looks to Invest in R&D and Expansion

By Future Startup

|

Oct 23, 2021

Bondstein Technologies Limited, the Dhaka-based IOT company, announced that it has secured an investment worth of $1 million. The strategic investment is led by Runner Trading Limited, a subsidiary of Runner Group and is participated by other unnamed investors.

The company plans to use the fresh capital in acquisitions, R&D of new IoT solutions, inventory and expansion of manufacturing facilities, and expand in IoT Technology export in the coming days. 

The company says it is the market leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry in Bangladesh, serving a wide range of customers through offering connected technologies. Bondstein provides a connected vehicles solution, which is known as vehicle tracking services in the market, that helps customers to remotely monitor their vehicles and recover them in case of theft. The solution also offers driving behaviour monitoring features helping to reduce road accidents.  

Bondstein says it currently serves over 500 enterprise clients for whom it has tracked more than 40 million trips in real time. Bondstein’s hardware agnostic proprietary IoT Cloud processes over 250 million data transactions per month.

Built on the IoT Cloud, Bondstein also provides remote power monitoring solutions in over a thousand telecom towers across the country. Early this year, the company launched a smart home solution called Bond. 

To address question leaks in public exams, Bondstein created a solution called smartbox. The solution has since been replicated in Dhaka University and Combined Admission Examinations. 

Bondstein also serves customers across the border in Kuwait and Nepal. The company also has a partnership with Robi Axiata Limited, the second largest telecom operator in Bangladesh.

The investment in Bondstein is the first ever funding in the Bangladesh IoT industry. Zafir Shafiee Chowdhury, Co-Founder & CIO of Bondstein said, “Our plan is to be a regional IoT powerhouse in the next 10 years. Our investment in innovation will help us build new solutions and provide affordable IoT services in practical use cases”.  Runner, an automobile giant, looks at this investment as a strategic move. 

In a statement, Hafizur Rahman Khan, Chairman, Runner Group said, “Bondstein has a proven capability of innovation and solving real life problems. We are certain that with our experience and network we can help the tech company to reach newer heights”.  

ZA Capital was the financial advisor of the deal. Zahedul Arefin, CEO of ZA Capital has said, “Bondstein has a unique value proposition in the deep tech space. With the right kind of strategic investors like Runner, the company will scale fast.”

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14 hours ago, Joel Ahmed said:

https://futurestartup.com/2021/10/23/bondstein-raises-1-million-in-new-investment/?utm_content=buffer51e63&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Dhaka-based Leading IoT Company Bondstein Raises $1 Million in New Investment, Looks to Invest in R&D and Expansion

By Future Startup

|

Oct 23, 2021

Bondstein Technologies Limited, the Dhaka-based IOT company, announced that it has secured an investment worth of $1 million. The strategic investment is led by Runner Trading Limited, a subsidiary of Runner Group and is participated by other unnamed investors.

The company plans to use the fresh capital in acquisitions, R&D of new IoT solutions, inventory and expansion of manufacturing facilities, and expand in IoT Technology export in the coming days. 

The company says it is the market leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry in Bangladesh, serving a wide range of customers through offering connected technologies. Bondstein provides a connected vehicles solution, which is known as vehicle tracking services in the market, that helps customers to remotely monitor their vehicles and recover them in case of theft. The solution also offers driving behaviour monitoring features helping to reduce road accidents.  

Bondstein says it currently serves over 500 enterprise clients for whom it has tracked more than 40 million trips in real time. Bondstein’s hardware agnostic proprietary IoT Cloud processes over 250 million data transactions per month.

Built on the IoT Cloud, Bondstein also provides remote power monitoring solutions in over a thousand telecom towers across the country. Early this year, the company launched a smart home solution called Bond. 

To address question leaks in public exams, Bondstein created a solution called smartbox. The solution has since been replicated in Dhaka University and Combined Admission Examinations. 

Bondstein also serves customers across the border in Kuwait and Nepal. The company also has a partnership with Robi Axiata Limited, the second largest telecom operator in Bangladesh.

The investment in Bondstein is the first ever funding in the Bangladesh IoT industry. Zafir Shafiee Chowdhury, Co-Founder & CIO of Bondstein said, “Our plan is to be a regional IoT powerhouse in the next 10 years. Our investment in innovation will help us build new solutions and provide affordable IoT services in practical use cases”.  Runner, an automobile giant, looks at this investment as a strategic move. 

In a statement, Hafizur Rahman Khan, Chairman, Runner Group said, “Bondstein has a proven capability of innovation and solving real life problems. We are certain that with our experience and network we can help the tech company to reach newer heights”.  

ZA Capital was the financial advisor of the deal. Zahedul Arefin, CEO of ZA Capital has said, “Bondstein has a unique value proposition in the deep tech space. With the right kind of strategic investors like Runner, the company will scale fast.”

https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/trade/bangladeshi-iot-company-secures-usd-1-million-investment-1635009768

Bangladeshi IoT company secures USD 1 million investment

 Mohammad Saiful Islam | Published:  October 23, 2021 23:22:48 | Updated:  October 24, 2021 12:16:22

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Bondstein, a Bangladeshi IoT solution provider, has raised USD 1 million in investment to enhance innovation in IoT solutions and expand IoT manufacturing in Bangladesh. 

Runner Trading Limited, a subsidiary of Runner Group, has led the investment with the participation of other investors. This investment will boost Bondstein’s aim to become a regional powerhouse of IoT solutions within the next 10 years.

“Our target is to use these technologies with further innovation to strengthen our services and reach a strong position in the Asia Pacific region in terms of IoT designs and solutions,” Mir Shahrukh Islam, Managing Director and CEO of Bondstein said to the Financial Express. 

As the South Asian countries are soon going to roll out 5G services, Mr Shahrukh believes that IoT will grow in this region faster than it is thought. 

One of the core products of Bondstein is Vehicle Tracking System which includes services like remotely monitoring vehicles, shutting down engines remotely, vehicle location and engine analytics dashboard, etc. 

Bondstein is now targeting to focus more on R&D for new IoT solutions to enhance their technology. They are enhancing road safety measures as well by state of art driving behaviour monitoring features.

These technological advancements led to this investment of BDT 8.5 crores as the CEO of the company affirmed, “Investors were attracted by our technological advancements, hence, invested to help us expand our services to another level.”

“Our investment in innovation will help us build new solutions and provide affordable IoT services in practical use cases,” said Zafir Shafiee Chowdhury, Co-Founder and CIO of Bondstein, in a statement.

Hafizur Rahman Khan, Chairman of Runner Group, has echoed Mr Shahrukh. He hopes that Runners’ investment will take Bondstein’s innovations to newer heights, as he said, “Bondstein has a proven capability of innovation and solving real-life problems.”

Mir Shahrukh Islam believes that growing tech adaptation of the local customers will certainly lead to an industry expansion. 

“Bangladesh’s industry is a reactive one as most of the techs here are the replications of global trends, however,” explains Mr Shahrukh, “customers and producers here have grown interested in innovative ideas which is a positive sign for the industry.”

Nevertheless, plenty of work remains to be done at the policy level as there are no definitive policy guidelines from the government yet for non-mobile based manufacturing in the country. 

Bondstein was established back in 2014 and officially started operating in 2015. They are now the market leader of IoT in Bangladesh with more than 500 enterprise clients (B2B). They have the capacity to process over 250 million data transactions per month now.

The company recently made an investment in Bangabandhu HiTech City Kaliakoir, where a leading IoT assembly unit in the country has been built. A part of the investment will be used to build a full-scale IoT manufacturing facility there. 

Big names like Walton, Omera, Unilever, University of Dhaka, Robi Axiata, GTV, Lafarge, Brac Bank, etc. are now on the list of the company’s growing client list. 



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https://businessinspection.com.bd/openrefactory-received-100000-in-grants-at-big-2021/

OpenRefactory Received $100000 in Grants at “BIG 2021”

NEWS

November 1, 2021

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OpenRefactory, a Bangladeshi origin deep-tech startup, has won The best of the best startup, received grants of $100000 at the ‘Bangabandhu Innovation Grant (BIG) 2021’. 36 startups out of 7000 startups were chosen from home and abroad for the finale. These startups will receive a total grant of BDT 3 crore 60 lac.

Bangabandhu Innovation Grant (BIG) 2021, a reality show organized by the iDEA project under the ICT Division has started with the objectives to discover and fund innovative startups through the participation of local and foreign contestants.

OpenRefactory offers Intelligent Code Repair (iCR) which detects bugs with precision and can synthesise fixes for the detected bugs. With the vision of pioneering the next wave in software development using automation systems, OpenRefactory aims to attain quality goals faster and with fewer human errors.

At the grand finale of “BIG 2021” Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the government has allocated BDT100 crore in the current budget to support young innovators. Also, State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak announced that the “Bangabandhu Innovation Grant (BIG) 2021” contest will be held every year.

Best 10 International Startups:

ThermoNorth, MyCash Money Pte. Ltd, Agrovisio, Inkspired, WTEAM, SOSO CARE, Grant Master, BioMec, Evreka, Care Form Labs Private Limited 

Best 10 iDEA Portfolio Startups:

AlterYouth, OxyJet, Bloodman, Bhumijo, Jahaji Ltd, GARBAGEMAN LIMITED, Avijatrik, Bike lock, The2HoursJob, Shadhin Music Limited

 

 

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https://futurestartup.com/2021/11/02/3-bangladeshi-startups-dana-fintech-sohopathi-and-supply-line-get-into-the-cohort-5-of-accelerating-asia/?utm_content=buffer7df09&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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3 Bangladeshi Startups, Dana Fintech, Sohopathi, and Supply Line, Get Into the Latest Cohort of Accelerating Asia

By Future Startup

|

Nov 2, 2021

  • Accelerating Asia, the Singapore-based international accelerator VC targeting pre-Series A startups in the region, has announced its fifth cohort of startups today.  
  • The cohort features nine startups from Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, the US, and Vietnam
  • The company says the Cohort 5 startups covers eight industries including fashion, e-commerce, fintech, healthtech, insurtech, and edtech.  

Bangladeshi startups have been a regular presence in Accelerating Asia. For example, in last year's cohort 4, we saw 4 Bangladeshi startups out of 11. This year, out of 9 startups in cohort five, 3 are from Bangladesh. The companies are: 

Dana Fintech: Dana enables banks, financial institutions, and fintechs to offer digital lending and buy now pay later (BNPL) facilities to underbanked SMEs and individuals through its unique credit scoring engine, digital underwriting, and API platforms. Dana Fintech has raised US$200,000 in seed funding, onboarded major financial institutions, and has teamed up with network partners including Ajkerdeal, Accelerating Asia portfolio company iFarmer, and Vcube. 

Sohopathi: Sohopathi is an online social platform for peer-to-peer learning which enables any person to learn and teach at the same time. Sohopathi has established a community of 200,000 learners and top quality educators, improving the academic performance of 95 per cent of their learners. 

Supply Line: Supply Line provides digital B2B procurement and invoice financing solutions to local retailers by connecting them with lenders and distributors, through one single platform. Introducing BNPL financing tools to marginal retailers, Supply Line has acquired 1200 active users within 5 months of operation. 

Bangladeshi startups are increasingly becoming a common presence in the regional accelerator programs. Accelerating Asia has played an important role in finding and highlighting high-growth Bangladeshi startups since its inception in 2019. Last year and this year, we have seen Iterative, another Singapore-based accelerator program, selecting several Bangladeshi startups for its program. These programs have helped startups in Dhaka to attract greater attention from regional investors. 

As Dhaka's startup ecosystem grows, we expect to see more companies going to these international programs for access early capital, know-how, and network.

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https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/districts/chuadanga-youth-turns-coconut-shells-handicrafts-338377

Mahfuz Mamun

04 December, 2021, 11:30 am

Last modified: 04 December, 2021, 11:35 am

Chuadanga youth turns coconut shells into handicrafts

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Workers handle coconuts at the warehouse owned by Md Yunus and Zafar Iqbal. The two friends sell coconuts and coconut products worth up to Tk3 crore per year. Photo: TBS

Coconut shells which used to be thrown away after taking out milk and flesh are now being made into attractive handicrafts and have thus become a means of income for many. 

With the idea of making eco-friendly products, Khalid bin Walid, a young entrepreneur from Chuadanga, set up a factory in the municipality for manufacturing handicrafts with abandoned coconut shells.

Now about 250 products – including bird's nests, soap cases, lampshades, salt containers, ornaments, utensils, flower vases, boat, pen holders, lamps, kettles, spoons and cups – are being made with coconut shells.

Each product is sold for Tk100 to Tk800, depending on its size and quality. Products worth around Tk40,000-50,000 are being sold every month.

After meeting demand in local markets, the handicrafts are also being exported to different countries in Europe and Asia as those are completely eco-friendly and beautiful to look at.

Khalid, a chemist at a company in Pabna, set up the factory "Rodo Handicrafts" in the Satgari area of the Chuadanga municipality in 2018. He buys coconut shells for Tk15 per kg from Jashore and Khulna for commercially making handicrafts.

Craftsmen prepare the shells both manually and with machines. Other materials – wood, bamboo, yarn, glue and burnish — are also required.

Factory Manager Sabuj Sabid said traders from different districts come and buy products from the factory. Many orders online.  Demand for these products has grown significantly as they are eco-friendly.

This has also created jobs for unemployed youths. In the beginning, 10 craftsmen and their assistants worked there. A craftsman can make on average four products a day.

Rodo Handicrafts Director Khalid said five employees were laid off to keep the company afloat despite losses during the Covid-19.  Now the factory is making products regularly and its demand is increasing again. With this, good days will return soon.

Chuadanga Bscic Deputy Director Mohammad Shamsuzzaman said various crafts are being made with coconut shells in the cottage industry.  All kinds of support will be given to Rodo Handicrafts as it is a very good initiative.  "We will take measures to market the products that are produced here."

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https://futurestartup.com/2022/01/04/shopup-extends-series-b-funding-round-with-34-million-from-tiger-global-and-others/?utm_content=buffer85aa8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Insight

ShopUp Extends Series B Funding Round with $34 Million from Tiger Global and Others

By Future Startup

|

Jan 4, 2022

ShopUp, the Dhaka-based full-stack B2B commerce startup digitizing neighborhood shops with an ecosystem of solutions from marketplace to logistics to capital, has closed a $34-million Series B extension round led by Tiger Global Management. The extension takes ShopUp’s total series B investment to $109 million. ShopUp raised its $75 million series B funding round led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Prosus Ventures just four months ago. 

First reported by DealStreetAsia, citing filings with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority and ShopUp Chief Financial Officer Vashistha Maheshwari, Tiger Global led the extension round with a cheque of $10 million with participation from Valar Ventures, VEON Ventures, Omidyar, Prosus Ventures, Flourish Ventures, and Lonsdale Capital. 

According to the report, Maheshwari said that the round included a primary capital infusion of $19.69 million into ShopUp. The remaining amount was on account of the sale of shares by some undisclosed existing shareholders. 

ShopUp’s Series B round had marked the entry of Valar Ventures and Prosus Ventures into Bangladesh and now Tiger Global Management. Previously, ShopUp raised its $22.5 million Series A in October 2020.

ShopUp has gone through a series of evolutions over the years. In 2020, Shopup acquired Indian fashion e-commerce startup Voonik.

There are 4.5 Million neighborhood mom-and-pop shops in Bangladesh, known locally as Mudi Dokaans, that account for 98% of the country's retail sector. This makes Bangladesh one of the most fragmented retail markets in Asia. These businesses face many challenges including unavailability of products, compounded by other challenges such as the lack of transparent pricing and inefficient delivery systems, etc.

Founded in 2017 by Afeef Zaman, Ataur Rahim Chowdhury, and Siffat Sarwar, ShopUp says it has built a full-stack business-to-business commerce platform to address these challenges. The company offers a number of core services to these small businesses including B2B sourcing through a wholesale marketplace, logistics, and working capital through partnerships with banks and other partners and business management solutions.

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https://www.tbsnews.net/features/panorama/fardin-makes-intelligent-humanoid-robots-he-cant-find-investors-help-him-grow

Masum Billah

10 January, 2022, 10:30 am

Last modified: 10 January, 2022, 11:33 am

Fardin makes intelligent humanoid robots. But he can’t find investors to help him grow

How is it like for a Bangladeshi young man to dream big? For Fardin Ahmed, a young robotics engineer, it entails carrying the humanoid intelligent robots he makes from store to store to find a customer

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Photo caption1: Fardin Ahmed became hooked on robotics during his undergraduate studies at East West University. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

How is it like to 'dream' in Bangladesh?

Like the famous 'American dream' - a set of ideals that ensures opportunity for prosperity and success for any hard working American - how is it like for a Bangladeshi young man to dream big?

For Fardin Ahmed, a young robotics engineer, it entails carrying the humanoid intelligent robots he makes from store to store to find a customer.

Unless he makes a sale, his dream project will perhaps end even before it properly takes off.

For now, Fardin has no capital to continue his venture in robotics even though he has already finished a 'complete' project of a humanoid intelligent robot that can solve mathematical challenges, provide customer service by providing information, answering questions and one that can even get offended when you insult it.

At a time when Marvel movie robots are fighting for/against humans, doing all the crazy stuff you can ever imagine, the abilities of Fardin's robots may not sound like a big deal.

But in the nascent robotics industry in Bangladesh, Fardin's robots are one of the first intelligent humanoid robots which are ready to be placed in the service sector.

In response to our queries about the marketability of his robots, Fardin said that "..these robots can be used in restaurants to provide the customers with information about menus and various other customised information you can think of. The restaurant is just an example."

"How many of our offices and government hospitals have information desks? Or why would you get a person to tell you simple information such as the menu, or guide you to a particular doctor when a robot can perform this duty 24/7 non-stop and perfectly well?"

Whereas a humanoid four feet long robot, Nao V5 Standard Edition, can cost you up to Tk1,600,000 (as per some online Bangladeshi sites selling them), Fardin said his 'Farbot' robots would cost less than Tk150,000.

This robot engineer took the first three initials of his name and added it to 'bot' to name his robots as Farbot.

Fardin's journey to success in creating an intelligent robot was as rocky as you can imagine for an underprivileged young man hailing from a remote village in Rajbari with no financial support.

He was hooked on robotics during his undergraduate studies at East West University in the department of computer science.

"I participated in over 100 competitions before my graduation. I never won an award," Fardin said.

But the passion he nurtured was not something the denial of awards or recognition could wane.

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Photo caption2: A lack of recognition (and investors) could not deter this robotics engineer’s dreams. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

Fardin developed his first complete humanoid robots in 2017. But the first robot was a six feet long testing product made of cork sheet. The standard PLA plastic (Polylactide) was way too expensive for a beginner like Fardin. 

Over the next two years, he could not work on any more robots and instead worked on short gigs as he needed money. His second robot was built in 2019 within only eight days' notice from a training programme that was held in Barishal. It was a prototype of his first robot but smaller in size.

In 2019, he began, for the first time, to build a complete five feet long usable product. After the product was finished, it turned out to be an intelligent humanoid robot, although the body was not very strong.

How can Fardin manage the standard PLA plastic after all? It costs a lot of money.

In the meantime, he contacted various industrialists in the country for funding. "One top industrialist asked me if I could instead come to use [come to work] in their gas leakage detection sector, which was humiliating, as it was something that people in our line do at the very early stage of their career.

It was not something I was ready to hear after all these years. I did not say a word. I just ended the conversation and got back home."

Fardin tried many other places only to further struggle in making potential investors understand what his work was all about.

He went to the restaurants in a bid to sell the robot that could give him the seed funding to build one with a perfect body, but the restaurateurs too did not realise the utility of such a product.

"I told them it is an intelligent robot, it could work as an information provider and you could get more crowd by showcasing a talking robot, to begin with. But they asked, "Can your robot cook?."

Struggling for a breakthrough in robotics was not the only crisis in Fardin's life back in late 2020 and early 2021.

It had already been more than five years since he finished his academic education. He did not join the formal job sector as he dreamt of something much bigger than the regular 9-5 paper-pushing desk jobs. He dreamt of making his parents proud, resisting the insistent urge to hold a conventional job and contribute to the family.

But tragedy struck. His father died in 2020, and then his mother also passed away in early 2021. Fardin will never see the smile of his proud parents, however, in the future, he will perhaps make everyone in this country proud.

In June 2021, he got a Tk400,000 award from the government's Idea Project.

Finally, Fardin got to work to build the dream robot he craved to build – a perfectly strong PLA plastic humanoid body, with intelligence included.

His final Farbot was ready and launched on 24 December, 2021, on his birthday.

After he posted the story of his struggle on Facebook, it went viral. People wished him all the best, some wished him a happy birthday.

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/trade/10-minute-school-raises-20m-seed-funding-from-indian-company-1642334978

10 Minute School raises $2.0m seed funding from Indian company

 FE ONLINE REPORT | Published:  January 16, 2022 18:09:38

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Local education technology startup ‘10 Minute School’ has recently raised $2.0 million of seed funding from Sequoia Capital, India.

With the fund, the startup plans to invest in product, technology, and talent acquisition with the aim to promote digital learning further in the country, a statement said on Sunday.

Co-founded by Ayman Sadiq and Abdullah Abyad Raied in 2015, 10 Minute School has been working to democratise education for all in Bangladesh, ensure access to better education beyond geographical limitation and socio-economic barriers. 

The first mobile online learning platform bridges the gap between aspiration and opportunities by offering up affordable, accessible and highly relevant educational contents to 25 million school and college students, university admission test candidates, job-seekers, and people looking for specialised skills training. 

The year 2021 marked a significant year of growth for 10 Minute School, with more than 9 million new learners joining the platforms, 8.0 million learning hours delivered, and another 17,000+ new videos added to its learning ecosystem, the statement said.

 "We have experienced an unprecedented 12 times business growth in our platform in 2021 during the pandemic, and a strong validation from our users who experienced our learning contents,” said Ayman Sadiq, Founder and CEO of the startup.

“Sequoia Capital India’s Surge programme joining us as our first investor is a very humbling experience for the team, and it further validates our vision for democratising access to high quality education for all in Bangladesh,” he said.

The pandemic has given a boost to the online education in Bangladesh, with offline institutions and exams being put on hold since early 2020, the statement said adding that students could continue learning despite the lockdown, the company launched some of its first premium courses and books during this time.  

It also said in the first quarter of 2022, the company plans to launch live coaching classes for students from classes 5-12, test paper courses for HSC and SSC examinees, complete admission and BCS programmes, a whole series of interactive academic books for classes 3-12 and 25 more sought-after upskilling courses. 

This investment makes 10 Minute School (www.10minuteschool.com) the first EdTech company in Bangladesh to secure funding from a scheme named Surge, which is a rapid-scale up program launched by the Sequoia Capital, India.

[email protected]

 

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https://www.tbsnews.net/tech/bangladesh-set-edtech-revolution-360985

Mahfuz Ullah Babu

23 January, 2022, 02:00 pm

Last modified: 23 January, 2022, 04:18 pm

Bangladesh set for an EdTech revolution

The potential of education technology (EdTech) in the country is already attracting international investors

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Bangladesh is poised for a revolution in education technology in the coming years as some start-ups are offering value propositions that address problems related to the affordability of quality education, said industry people.

The potential of education technology (EdTech) in the country is already attracting international investors.

In China, more than half of the students have opted for the complete academic solutions offered by EdTech start-ups, which is over one-third in India.

It is still around 1% and there is every single reason for significant growth in Bangladesh, said Ayman Sadiq, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of 10 Minute School, the largest online education platform in the country which has recently raised $2 million in foreign funding.

Unlike most peer countries, the use of technology in education was more an additional adoption by enthusiasts in Bangladesh, than a factor to completely rely on until Covid-19 outbreaks.

The government's Shikkhok Batayon, a video platform for public school teachers to share their academic content, has been doing its job for the teachers and students since 2013.

Also, education content creators such as Ayman Sadiq and Munzereen Shahid had their wide reach among internet-using learners over the recent years. Thanks to free online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook that helped the educators avert the platform costs.

After the country opted for a long closure of classrooms in March 2020, teachers and students went online for classes and exams that saved academic years for several millions of students.

In the meantime, some EdTech start-ups reenergised their ventures to address even bigger problems in the country's education system – the quality of education and its accessibility.

"The best part of what we are doing is, students, especially SSC, HSC candidates and university admission seekers, will need not to rush to expensive urban areas for quality education," said Shahir Chowdhury, co-founder and CEO at Shikho.

His start-up is offering complete academic solutions such as academic content, interactive online classes for class 6-12 students under national textbooks curriculum, alongside programmes for competitive exam preparations and skills development.

"An entry-level smartphone with a decent internet connection enables you to opt for everything you need to thrive academically, regardless of where you are from," he said.

The EdTech start-up founded in April 2019 has received $1.3 million from US venture capital investors Anchorless Bangladesh and Learn Capital to make the total investment $1.6 million.

It is investing in its technology and content alongside expanding its team of 280 where Shahir, a former non-resident Bangladeshi banker, is leading the overall business, and his partner Zeeshan Zakaria, an overseas educator, is leading academic activities. 

In November 2021, the firm acquired a popular professional courses platform Bohubrihi, the founder of which is leading Shikho's skill development programmes.

Also, it bought "Mainly Coding" this month, a platform that focuses on the practical aspects of learning how to code.

"We just need to communicate the advantage of our online quality education in Bengali with the masses," Shahir told The Business Standard.

The 10 Minute School, co-founded by Ayman Sadiq in 2015, onboarding 9 million new learners in 2021 alone, received $2 million from a top venture capital investor, Sequoia Capital's rapid scale-up programme Surge, this month.

The start-up is heavily investing in its platform, contents and brains not only to retain its market leadership but also to thrive towards the upcoming education technology revolution Bangladesh is set to see in the next couple of years, Ayman Sadiq told TBS.

Securing 12 times business growth in 2021, 10 Minute School got 3.2 million app users, while the total number of its online learners is more than three times bigger.

He prefers to call it a revolution as the majority of the users are rural learners.

Shikho's paid user-base has been growing at a monthly average rate of 140pc since it began offering the courses in November.

Co-founders of both 10 Minute School and Shikho said they are charging 75%-80% less for their academic courses than the traditional tuition by coaching centres and tutors has been costing.

Tk20,000-25,000 a year is enough for an online student of SSC, HSC for everything they need.

The 10 Minute School is serving students from classes 1-12 alongside its test preparation and skill development courses. 

The platform got 5% of its users to subscribe for paid content and classes and the rate would be enough to help its financial sustainability if the expected revolution takes place, Sadiq said. 

Bangladesh has done tremendously well in primary education and girls' enrolment that helped it beat regional peers achieving millennium development goals, now it needs to achieve the SDG-4, access to quality education, Shahir said.

EdTech will be the revolution as it needs more investment in technology, getting only the best teachers and content creators for hundreds of thousands of students bypassing the conventional crying need for a better teacher-student ratio across the country, he said.

Bangladesh having 43 million students amid a gap in access to quality education is clearly one of the top five grounds for an education technology revolution, said Sadiq.

The market for academic solutions by the EdTech industry is estimated to grow to a billion dollars by 2025 from its current base of a few million dollars, said Sadiq.

He expects, by this time, one or more EdTech start-ups will grow to unicorn status – a billion-dollar company – after already a one emerging from fintech and probably one or more from e-commerce and logistics sectors.

Ostad, Esho Shikhi, Shikhbe Shobai, Sohopathi, Thrive, Upskill, EduHive are some other local education start-ups having their various focus areas.

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