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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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https://www.tbsnews.net/interviews/we-hope-see-couple-unicorns-bangladesh-next-few-years-358147

Masum Billah

16 January, 2022, 01:30 pm

Last modified: 16 January, 2022, 04:52 pm

‘We hope to see a couple of Unicorns in Bangladesh in the next few years’

Tina Jabeen, the former CEO of Startup Bangladesh Limited, joined The Business Standard to share her thoughts on Bangladesh’s startup ecosystem and discuss how we can draw more foreign and local investment

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Tina Jabeen. Sketch: TBS

TBS: According to Lightcastle Partners, Bangladeshi startups received around $165 million in funding in 2021. This was the highest funding in a year that Bangladeshi startups received.  How do you evaluate Bangladeshi startups' progress so far? Is there scope to do better?

Tina Jabeen: An investment of around $165 million is extremely encouraging for the ecosystem.  Startup Bangladesh Ltd. – the first and only government backed VC fund in Bangladesh, also invested in seven startups last year. This sends a strong positive message to the startup ecosystem and to the local and international investors, even though the amount invested is not large.

There are only a handful of government-owned VC funds in the world. Startup Bangladesh Ltd. invested within the first eight months of its emergence. So, the government's stance to support funding the startups strengthened the emerging startup ecosystem of Bangladesh. In the future, we aspire to see more investments coming in – locally and globally. 

Our startup ecosystem is considered an "emerging ecosystem" – as such there are tremendous opportunities to grow and scale-up. I  see  2022 as a defining year from an investment perspective = globally and in emerging economies such as Bangladesh. A lot of the investors are looking into Bangladesh as a place for impact investments – in areas such as gender lens investment, SME and climate change.

The tech and climate sectors are going to be very big from this decade onward as companies – local or global – need to be more environmentally and socially responsible to sustain growth. By 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change. Almost 18 million people may have to move because of the rising sea level. Investments need to be made to mitigate these risks and startups can provide tech-based solutions that can be scalable and sustainable. 

TBS: Of the $165 million invested last year, more than 98% was foreign investment. Is there a scope to increase local investment? If so, how?

Tina Jabeen: First, you need some big exits. The recycling of money, where startups invest in new startups, is happening in Bangladesh but on a smaller scale. This is happening in Silicon Valley on a larger scale because of thousands of exits. 

So, once an angel investor becomes very successful, they create another startup and invest in others. For example, Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, is now a partner at Greylock Partners! And he is investing in game-changing startups such as Facebook and Workday.

Bangladesh's ecosystem is less than a decade old and compared to neighbouring ecosystems it is still quite small. India alone had 85+ unicorns in 2021. When a startup's founders make large exits, as was the case in LinkedIn, they recycle the money in more startups and that is how the ecosystem grows from a series of successful exits.

Take a look at the investors in Silicon Valley. It is the institutional investors! If you look at the investor base of successful VC funds such as Kleiner Perkins, there are endowment funds from Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, pension funds and family offices etc. Collectively trillions of dollars have been invested and churned over decades and as a result, we see the Silicon Valley we see today.

Now let's look at India. India is a comparatively mature ecosystem in South Asia. 25+ years ago,  successful technopreneurs from  Silicon Valley invested in India in its most promising technology companies. The founder of Infosys – Narayan Murthy launched a VC fund to incubate and fund startups in India. So you can see that private stakeholders play a key role in building the ecosystem, whereas the government plays the role of an enabler. 

We need patient capital and a strong private-public partnership to continue to build a robust and strong startup ecosystem in Bangladesh. And eventually, we hope to see a number of unicorns and possible exits in the next few years.  It takes time but it will happen.

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TBS: Generally, if we consider sector-wise investment, Fintech covers almost 50% of the total investment. What about health, education or agro? How can we increase investment in necessary sectors like these?

Tina Jabeen: Agriculture is a huge area in Bangladesh. We don't have enough agri-tech startups. We don't have enough startups in health-tech and education either. Some edutech startups, however, are doing a little better thanks to the education ministry engaging with some of the startups. 

Since it is an emerging ecosystem, the government should plug them wherever they fit in. How the ministry of education, ICT and a2i approach the relevant startups for the tasks in their niches could be an example. I think health is an untapped ministry where health-tech startups can play a very big role.

In general, there need to be policies, tax policies for example, or policies in the private companies, that will engage the startups. For example, you need to develop an ERP system, why don't you approach a startup that specialises in ERP?

We should also prioritise the woman founders. Maybe a woman-led startup is not that advanced in her particular area. But if we evaluate them with others in the same metrics, it won't work. We need to prioritise them because they are already fighting various biases in getting here. 

Most importantly, for both startups and SMEs, we should set up a one-stop service, like the one BIDA set up for foreign investors in general. The one-step service that I am talking about should be where a startup can get their trade license, template for incorporation, where they will get instructions on how to make financials etc.

TBS: Is the idea of a startup really clear among our founders? Sometimes it feels like the difference between an SME and startup is not clear. It seems some startups function more like SMEs than focusing on innovation and creating value. Do you feel our start-ups come up with solutions that are innovative enough or are they prone to copying international models that have worked elsewhere?

Tina Jabeen: We have an emerging startup ecosystem. A startup is about bringing in an innovative solution that is scalable, commercially sustainable while also being a gamechanger.

Uber, for example, or Airbnb, is an innovation. But Pathao piggybacked on Uber model with the innovation of introducing the "bike model". Innovation does not have to be from the scratch. If you can introduce an existing solution customized for the target market in an innovative manner, why not?

TBS: The Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission has initiated a move to allow the listing of loss-making startups having high growth potentials on the stock market. How do you evaluate this move?

Tina Jabeen: This is actually a good move. There are many examples of startups going IPO but still in the red. Investors are looking at the long-term potential and market disruption. We need to educate the public market investors on investing in startup IPOs so that they can make informed investment decisions.   

TBS: Are our local regulations foreign investment-friendly? What should be done to attract more foreign investment in startups? What else can the government do to improve the local startup ecosystem?

Tina Jabeen:

You have to give incentives to the investors, both local and foreign, to make it easy for them to bring in the money. Important key government agencies/ministries such as Finance, Commerce, NBR, ICT Ministry etc need to fine-tune the existing policies so they become more startup friendly.

The vat, tax and other service duties should be relaxed. However, the government is an enabler. We have billion-dollar private companies, they can also contribute by engaging the startups in their business processes, such as in procurement, etc.

Also, we have hundreds of thousands of expats all over the world, especially those who work in technology. They can be engaged by contributing knowledge, money and network – there are many ways to give back to the country. This investment may come in two ways- they can be real investors with money, or they can do in-kind investment, which is technology transfer.

In Silicon Valley, there is a large expat tech diaspora. We have informally launched Bangladesh - Adviser in Residence (BD AIR), which would be working with startups in Bangladesh as mentors and investors.

In BD AiR, we have already enlisted expats who are engaged in global technology firms such as Google, Facebook, ThermoFisher etc. in various capacities. These mentors are passionate to be engaged with the startup ecosystem and be a part of the New Bangladesh – The Royal Bengal Tiger. 

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Bangladeshi beauty and personal care e-commerce platform Shajgoj has recently secured BDT 21 crore in seed funding from Sequoia Capital India. The money will be used to acquire more customers, open more outlets and offer more international brands on the platform.

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https://www.dhakatribune.com/business/2022/01/25/bangladeshi-startups-finally-getting-the-investment-they-deserve

Bangladeshi startups finally getting the investment they deserve

ShopUp scored investments from Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Prosus Ventures, while bKash scored investments from Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank Group Corporation through the purchase of 20% of its shares

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Zisan Bin Liaquat

January 25, 2022 7:46 PM

Bangladeshi startups alone bagged $150 million to $200 million investments in 2021, landing almost half of the amount it had received from either venture capital firms or individuals over the past decade, according to industry insiders.

Of those, around 75% were scored mostly by three tech firms — ShopUp, bKash and Pathao — with the country seeing its first-ever unicorn being born through the mobile financial service provider (MFS), while the mobile-based retail service provider ShopUp raised $75 million alone.

ShopUp scored investments from Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Prosus Ventures, while bKash scored investments from Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank Group Corporation through the purchase of 20% of its shares.

Pathao, through its ride-sharing, food delivery, and e-commerce logistics, also raised around $35 million venture capital till 2021 while investments raised by Paperfly, Praava, Chaldal and Shohoz were $11.8 million, $10 million, $10 million and $25 million respectively. 

In between 2016-2021, startup firms raised a total of around $400 million and starting the very first month of the current year, it has also seen funding flow in from both international and local sources. 

Two local startups, 10 Minute School and Shajgoj have been selected for Sequoia Capital's prestigious accelerator program, from a total of 20 startups from South-East Asia, for this year's Surge Accelerator cohort. 

Upon completion, the startups will be receiving $1-2 million of seed funding as well several company-building workshops, global immersion trips and support from a network of successful investors and co-founders. 

The startups will also get company-building workshops, global immersion trips and support from a network of successful investors and co-founders

The 20 selected startups will receive a total of $60 million in funding. The founders of these companies will also participate in a 16-week virtual program hosted by Surge, beginning from January 27. 

With this sixth cycle of Surge, the program has now featured 112 startups with 246 founders and has evaluated over 10,000 companies in the US, Australia, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Bangladesh and other countries. 

In addition to the seed funding from Sequoia Capital India, the beauty e-commerce platform Shajgoj will also receive funds from the SBK Tech Venture, one of the pioneer tech-focused VC based in Bangladesh. 

Meanwhile, Green Grocery, a startup that has been catering to the need for safe-organic food through its website and Facebook page, has also recently received investment.

Talukder Mohammad Sabbir, founder and managing director of Green Grocery, confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune.

However, the funding amount was not revealed as of yet.

He also informed that a group of young investors, led by M Asif Rahman, founder of ARCom & WPDeveloper, a software services company, have recently invested in Green Grocery.

CEO of Bangladesh Angel Network (BAN) Nirjhor Rahman says it is a very interesting time to get involved with and invest in startups in Bangladesh. 

“Startups are generating and growing revenues, creating strong partnerships with each other and the corporate sector, and garnering pre-seed angel-stage investments much faster and easier than before,” he added. 

However, according to Rahman, some of the lingering challenges include a lack of liquidity, including follow-on funds, a growing need for more product development and management expertise, as well as creating a compelling story and proposition for big-ticket investors, including foreign angels and venture capitalists, “who can literally invest their capital anywhere”.

Speaking about neighbouring markets such as India and Pakistan, he said that there is a flourishing industry of domestic venture capital, particularly in the early stages within the fundraising value chain, often affiliated with local corporates and family offices. 

“Although more and more Bangladeshi corporations and financial institutions are looking at startups for potential investment, they are still cutting relatively small — $250,000-$500,000 — cheques, or just monitoring the companies,” he explained. 

“If we can create more domestic liquidity, and through access to that liquidity more and more startups in Bangladesh can start scaling and get to Series A, B, and C, more foreign investors will start looking at Bangladeshi startups, because their minimum cheques are much larger and range in the millions of dollars,” Rahman further said.

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https://www.dhakatribune.com/business/2022/05/07/3-bangladeshi-startups-secure-investments-from-accelerating-asia

3 Bangladeshi startups secure investments from Accelerating Asia

A total of three startups including MedEasy and Markopolo received investment alongside Shuttle landing follow-on investment

Zisan Bin Liaquat

May 7, 2022 5:30 PM

Three Bangladesh-based startups received investments from Accelerating Asia at the Singapore-based international accelerator venture capital’s (VC) sixth cohort on Thursday.

Targeting pre-series A startups in the region, the VC announced its latest round of investments into 13 startups including two companies from Bangladesh — MedEasy and Markopolo — and another Bangladeshi transportation startup Shuttle, which received follow-on investment.

“Accelerating Asia is one of the most active and important international investors in early-stage ventures in the local ecosystem. We are happy to see continued investment and commitment by the team into both their existing portfolio and new companies,” CEO of Bangladesh Angel Network (BAN) Nirjhor Rahman told Dhaka Tribune.

With the investment into the new firms, which are part of the VC firm’s sixth cohort, Accelerating Asia now has 52 startups in its portfolio that have raised a combined total of over $42 million, with the latest made across eight verticals including Property Technology (PropTech), marketplace, fintech, logistics, services, e-commerce and health tech.

“Our VC accelerator model ensures high potential founders have greater access to needed capital financing, mentoring, and skill sets to enhance their growth trajectory and quickly become leaders in their respective verticals while also lowering the overall risk for our investors at an early stage,” Accelerating Asia General Partner Amra Naidoo told media.

According to the VC, the companies clock an average gross merchandise value of $100,000 every month and an average monthly recurring revenue of over $25,000.

The local startups that received the investments also reported growth gaining attention.

MedEasy, a local online pharmacy and digital health platform that provides video consultations of doctors and home delivery of medicines reported a 16 times revenue growth in 2021 and 22 times revenue growth in the Q1 of 2022 compared to the Q1 of 2021. MedEasy has 75,000 users and more than 100 doctors registered on the platform and claims to have served more than 20,000 medicine orders.

Markopolo.ai, another recipient, which is a MarTech SaaS platform built for the cookieless era that automates campaign creation and management in social and search Ad platforms, was the winner of She Loves Tech Bangladesh and has reportedly grown monthly revenue by 30% in month one of the Accelerating Asia program.

Shuttle received a follow-on funding from Accelerating Asia as it previously raised $750,000 in its seed round which was led by Accelerating Asia. The mass-transit startup started its operations by making daily commutes affordable and convenient for women and has recently focused on expanding its business by moving to a B2B model as well.

CEO and Co-founder of Shuttle Reyasat Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune: “Shuttle has been growing 25% every month since the lockdown was lifted in August last year.”

“So, when you look at the history of all three companies, they all raised money from local investors including angels, and then investors like Accelerating Asia have come in. When that happens, obviously, there's appreciation in the value of the company as it's a big validator to look for investors- that when they invest in early-stage ventures, they can raise follow-on capital, including from international investors,” BAN CEO Nirjhor Rahman pointed out. 

The CEO of Shuttle opined the same echoing BAN’s top brass.

Industry insiders said that as Dhaka's startup ecosystem grows, more companies will go to these international programs for access to early capital, know-how, and network with only a handful of local investors.

On top of that, programs like Accelerating Asia have helped startups in Dhaka to attract greater attention from regional investors with Bangladeshi startups having a regular presence. Last year's cohort saw three Bangladeshi startups receive investment from the program, and the previous cohort saw four. 

Last year, Bangladeshi startup iFarmer received additional funding from Accelerating Asia. 

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https://www.dhakatribune.com/business/2022/05/11/tallykhata-selected-for-this-years-visa-accelerator-program

TallyKhata selected for this year’s Visa accelerator program

The accelerator programme is part of Visa’s broader set of platforms and activities for the startup community in the Asia Pacific

 

May 11, 2022 2:46 PM

Visa, the world leader in digital payments, has selected digital payments start-up Tallykhata from Bangladesh for the 2022 cohort of its Visa accelerator programme in the Asia Pacific. 

Joining a select group of five elite startups from across the region, TallyKhata is a leading digital payments platform with wallet and credit capabilities for small and micro-businesses in Bangladesh, reads a press release. 

It will support financial inclusion by developing new ways for small businesses to access credit lines and working capital.

Over the next six months, the startups will work closely with Visa on creating defined commercial opportunities they can bring to Visa’s extensive network of banks, merchants, government and venture partners. 

TallyKhata aims to partner with leading banks in Bangladesh to issue a Visa virtual card for small business working capital to micro-merchants through the programme. 

The Visa virtual card serves as a line of credit (short-term working capital loan) used by the MSME for direct payment to a list of approved suppliers / FMCG companies.

“We are super excited about being part of the Visa accelerator program 2022. We are developing innovative credit products for small businesses in collaboration with Visa and the local banks. Leveraging Visa rails and TallyKhata transaction data and credit scoring, we will enable quick and easy access to digital credit for the 11 million small businesses in Bangladesh,” said Dr Shahadat Khan, founder and CEO, TallyKhata

“The dynamic business landscape of Bangladesh calls for exciting and innovative solutions like TallyKhata. We are excited to collaborate with them and extend Visa’s experience in the payments industry to help them design solutions that meet the needs of businesses in Bangladesh. Together, we aim to help scale the economy and accelerate the digitisation of the value chain,” said Soumya Basu, country manager - Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, Visa. 

“Through the Accelerator Programme, Visa supports the startup community by giving them a leg up in one of their key challenges, which is expanding their footprint beyond their home market and into the region. Globally, nearly 30% more fintech issued Visa credentials in the last year, and they nearly doubled their payments volume. By combining Visa’s capabilities and the reach of our global network with the ingenuity of the startups, together we can create new innovative experiences at scale and bring more individuals and businesses into the digital economy.”

Visa introduced the accelerator programme in the Asia Pacific in December 2020. Designed for startups that have launched successful solutions in their home markets and are looking toward their next stage of growth, the programme is ideal for growth-stage fintech that is Series A and above, have a long-term commitment to Asia Pacific growth and existing operations in the region. 

The accelerator programme is part of Visa’s broader set of platforms and activities for the startup community in the Asia Pacific.

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Accelerating Asia is one of the most active and important international investors in early-stage ventures in the local ecosystem. Accelerating Asia now has 52 startups in its portfolio, which have raised a combined total of over $42 million, including startups in eight verticals such as Property Technology (PropTech), marketplace, fintech, logistics, services, e-commerce, and health tech.

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https://www.tbsnews.net/features/panorama/misfit-technologies-singaporean-startup-rooted-firmly-bangladesh-424426?fbclid=IwAR30gYh3LE4o4MwnedCXjUqYIoe4wZeL7r4Ml1-Av-Q8HYEnCQU99-WPsXI

Nasif Tanjim

22 May, 2022, 09:50 am

Last modified: 22 May, 2022, 02:42 pm

Misfit Technologies: A Singaporean startup rooted firmly in Bangladesh

Misfits provide technology platforms and on-demand solutions. They have been serving clients in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. Over the last few years, Misfits Tech has been offering solutions to leading telcos, FMCGs, financial institutions, e-commerce, and startups

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It was mid-2017. Two Bangladeshis, Fahad Ifaz and Munimul Islam, were living and working in Myanmar. Munimul was there managing the Carmudi venture of Rocket Internet in Myanmar as well as in the Bangladeshi market. Fahad was working on some Care Australia and USAID projects. They were old acquaintances as they played football together during their university days.

They had made some acquaintances in Myanmar and they would come and ask him, "You have tech talents in Bangladesh, we need a few tech developers or solutions, could you connect me with someone." And that is when the idea of starting a tech solution startup struck Fahad. They teamed up with another of their old football buddies Jamil Mohiuddin Akbar and Jamil's coworker Shuvo Rahman. 

Munimul had experience in telecom and startups; Fahad had development sector experience; Jamil was working in Maya and Shuvo, right after graduating from BUET in Computer Engineering, had just joined Maya. These ragtag band of misfits founded a startup befittingly called Misfit Technologies. 

Misfit Tech refers to itself as a design innovation and technology company providing solutions and platforms for multiple industries. From the early days of struggling for funds to becoming a Singapore based company that has eyes set on becoming a global powerhouse, Misfits tech has come a long way.

The early days

The biggest challenge of the early days was that they had work but could not grow for lack of capital and resources. "Initially, we invested out of our own pockets. I invested all my savings into the business," said Munimul.

But after some angel investors showed their trust in them and invested in Misfits, things started to change. They received investments from the likes of Mahboob Rahman Ruhel, a renowned businessman who owns organisations like Star Cineplex, Peninsula Hotels, among others. And in a few months their team grew to 40 and they have never looked back since.

What do they do

Misfits provide technology platforms and on-demand solutions. They have been serving clients in Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. Over the last few years, Misfits Tech has been offering solutions to leading telcos, FMCGs, financial institutions, e-commerce, and startups. 

The services they offer are On-Demand Solutions: Tailor made solutions as per the client's requirement. They also provide offshore technical development, support and maintenance teams on either dedicated or project basis. They provide a wide range of other services like Website Development Service, Mobile Apps Development and Gamifications Services, Chat Application and Chatbot Development, UI/UX Design, Wireframing and Design for Web and Mobile, Database Management and Data Migration Service, and Quality Assurance. 

They work with a lot of cutting-edge technologies. Their team has worked with Blockchain, IBM Watson, Facial Recognition, IoT, Big Data, AI and Machine Learning.

Around 57 people work in their office located in Banani. They have a team of 30 in India, around 30 in Myanmar and 15-16 in Thailand. They also have teams in Singapore and Indonesia. The once ragtag band of Misfits is now a family of 120 and growing.

A Singaporean company with a Bangladeshi soul

Misfits Tech is headquartered in Singapore.

When asked even though their roots lie in Bangladesh, why is Misfits a Singapore based company, Munimul had this to say, "Firstly, if you think about countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, in terms of digital penetration and technological advancement they are far ahead of Bangladesh. So, you learn a lot while you make tech for them. 

Secondly, their payment structure is very good. We do all our billings from Singapore. When I registered Misfits with the authority, I made it into a Singaporean company. Although the tech comes from Bangladesh, the company acts as a Singaporean business entity. 

And it makes things very transparent. It is much easier to do business in Singapore. The clients also prefer that. The Singaporean laws and accounting are very transparent and much more straightforward.

Thirdly, getting business overseas is much easier than getting business in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh when we go for any request for proposal (RFP) we are still considered a local company and they would probably still treat us as a local company." 

When they participate in any tender outside Bangladesh they are treated as a foreign company or a Singaporean entity. 

"We bid with the likes of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) or Tech Mahindra or Wipro or IMI or Freshchat; these are our foreign competitors. This is the type of competition we face when we go and bid outside, but we still win," says Munimul with a hint of pride. 

When they go for a tender outside of Bangladesh in countries like Singapore, Thailand or Indonesia Misfits are treated with the same respect shown to any giant corporation. But in Bangladesh, they are treated as a small vendor. 

"There is also a tendency to prefer foreign companies just for the sake of it. So, when we go and bid, they don't treat us the same as foreign companies. So, getting business in Bangladesh is still quite challenging. So that is why my core focus was always outside of Bangladesh and it has worked out splendidly for us. It's not just the ease of getting and doing business but also about the respect you get," said Munimul. 

A look at their portfolio reveals that most of Misfits' clients are international. About 70% of their clients are from overseas. 

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"I work with Telenor. I give them solutions in multiple countries. The moment I go and pitch to their local counterpart I am considered a local vendor. So then getting the business for me becomes very challenging. 

They will not pay me in USD or SDG, but if they take the same solution from Wipro or Tech Mahindra, they are willing to incur a higher cost and pay up in a foreign currency. But I am competing and winning against these very same companies outside of Bangladesh," laments Munimul.

According to the Misfits CEO, it is probably a mindset gap we have in Bangladesh. He believes It is a challenge local startups need to overcome and is hopeful that one day we indeed will. But that does not mean Misfits doesn't have clients in Bangladesh; Au contraire, they have big clients in Bangladesh like BAT, Unilever, etc. 

The future of Misfits 

The nature of their business meant Misfits were not that affected by Covid-19. The countries they mostly operate in had high digital demand and the technological adaptation was much higher compared to most other countries so the wheels kept moving. Their main issue was they could not expand themselves to new markets.

Munimul explained, "Let's say we build a product and it is a KYC (know your customer) product. If we build this software for one company in one country for a particular industry, the back end software is universal and you can take it and make it work in any country and sell it there. But the idea was we would enter more markets in south and southeast Asia. But during the Covid period, we couldn't open up in as many markets as we wanted to." 

In the short-term Misfits hopes to get a strong foothold in the Asia Pacific region and play with new and upcoming technologies.

Munimul said, "The short-term plan for the next five years is that we want to be a major regional player in both south and southeast Asia. And also focus a little bit on the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) side of things. If we can cover the Asia Pacific region, we will have a foothold in 10-11 countries where we have our team, clients and base." 

Since 5G is being launched in so many countries there will be a lot of new technologies that will evolve, thanks to 5G. Technologies like AR, VR and the meta concept that Microsoft and Facebook are working on are also coming up. These are the technologies they want to work with. They still do a lot of R&D projects. 

Misfits' long-term goal would be to be a global company. "We want to compete with the big companies on the global stage," said their CEO.

Munimul has not lived in Bangladesh for some time now but he still follows the local startup scene closely. He thinks now is a good time to launch a startup. To him a startup can be anything, it does not have to be a tech firm. Any good business idea which can make money and grow very fast, which can be scaled up rapidly is a startup according to him.

"If anybody wants to do it, they should just do it. Doesn't matter what your background is, what qualifications you have, who or what you know, even whether you have the money or not."

The reason is a huge amount of investment has been coming into Bangladesh from angel investors and venture capitalists (VC), and the government is also funding ventures through the ICT ministry. There are VCs like BD angels and Anchorless who focus solely on the Bangladeshi market. Therefore, getting the necessary funds should not be too difficult if the concept is good.

Munimul remarked hopefully, "There is so much interest in the Bangladesh market now. Shopup, Chaldal, Pathao, Shohoz and many others have done very well [in terms of raising capital]. Taking a look at the trend there is a lot of international focus on the Bangladesh market as well. 

So now is a great time for anybody with an entrepreneurial mindset to start a business. Yes, there will be challenges but I believe they will be able to figure out a way to overcome these challenges."

"If you want to be a good leader, my advice to you would be to stop thinking about challenges. Just go out there and try. You might fail at the beginning but if you keep trying you will succeed eventually," he concluded. 

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https://www.dhakatribune.com/business/2022/05/29/agritech-startup-ifarmer-raises-21-million

Agritech startup iFarmer raises $2.1 million

Largest agritech funding in Bangladesh led by IDLC Ventures and joined by Millville Opportunities

photo-2-ifarmer-fund-raise.jpeg

 

May 29, 2022 3:51 PM

iFarmer, a full-stack agriculture platform providing agri-based services to farmers, has recently raised $2.1 million (more than Tk18 crore) in a new financing round, maintaining its accelerated growth. 

IDLC Venture Capital Fund, the VC arm of IDLC Finance, one of the largest non-banking financial institutions in Bangladesh, led the financing round, reads a press release. 

Millville Opportunities, a hedge fund firm based in New York, participated in the round. Startup Bangladesh Limited, the flagship venture capital fund of the ICT Ministry under the Bangladesh Government, also participated in the financing round. 

Bangladesh has about 16.5 million farmers, and almost 80% are smallholders. The biggest challenges for farmers in Bangladesh are securing finance and good quality agricultural inputs such as seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, etc, and then finding buyers to sell their produce. 

iFarmer, which started its operations in 2019, is the largest agri-tech company in the country, offering solutions to these problems at scale. iFarmer facilitates retail and institutional funders to finance the farmers and enables access to high-quality agri-inputs through a partnership with companies and retailers. 

This, in turn, creates better market access for the farmers by aggregating products from the farmers and selling those to institutional buyers, retailers and the wholesale markets.

"We are currently operating in 19 districts in Bangladesh - serving close to 63,000+ farmers, up from about 6,000 farmers in 2020", says Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of iFarmer Fahad Ifaz.

iFarmer works with nearly 2,900 agri-input retailers to supply agriculture inputs, enabling the farmers to buy quality agro-inputs at an affordable price from nearby retailers. iFarmer currently supplies 8000+ tons of agri produce directly procured from the farmers and then sells to institutional buyers, wholesale markets, and retailers. 

iFarmer has grown on every front, including the revenue, which increased by 7.7 times in 2022. The revenue is driven by the supply of agri produce to the market, sales of agri-inputs to the retailers, and commission from financing.

"When we started supplying farm produce in June 2020, our monthly volume was around 50+ tons. Now it's almost 8000+ tons. Every day, we aggregate produce from farmers and supply it to the market," said Co-Founder and COO of iFarmer Jamil M Akbar.

CEO of iFarmer Fahad Ifaz has worked for almost 10 years for agricultural and rural development across South Asia with organizations like the World Bank, CARE, and Swisscontact. Meanwhile, Jamil Akbar has a background in technology and project management for large scale IT companies serving global clients. With a team of 120 members, iFarmer has more than 63,000 farmers, and more than 2,900 agricultural retailers and is operating in 19 districts. 

"The IDLC Venture Capital Fund I aim to finance promising new businesses which are solving fundamental problems for Bangladesh. We are excited that iFarmer is unlocking the true potential of the agriculture sector through technology at scale. It is using innovation to enable farmers all across Bangladesh, and we believe they are solving the most crucial problems in the industry's supply chain", said Mustafizur Khan, Partner, IDLC VC 1.

Managing Partner of Millville Opportunities Alejandro Montealegre said: "iFarmer has proven that it can significantly improve the lives of farmers while bringing efficiency to the agri supply chain. We are excited to back iFarmer as they are working to transform the agriculture sector that is critical to the economy of Bangladesh."

The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand to more districts in Bangladesh, expand its supply chain infrastructure to supply agri inputs, and also aggregate farm produce. iFarmer has also been conducting pilots on agriculture insurance and developing sensor and remote sensing-based advisory services such as soil analysis, fertilizer recommendation, and weather advisory.

 

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/national/seven-bangladeshi-make-the-forbes-30-under-30-list-1653557751

Seven Bangladeshi make the ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ list

 FE ONLINE REPORT | Published:  May 26, 2022 15:35:51 | Updated:  May 27, 2022 08:36:47

1653557751.jpg

Seven Bangladeshi youths have been named in the ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ Asia list of 2022.

They have made their way into the prestigious list for their outstanding contributions to mainly three sectors - Enterprise Technology, Social Impact and Industry and Manufacturing and Energy.

Over 4,000 nominees–a record number for the Asia list–from 22 countries and territories applied for the honourary recognition. The second list of 300 and the final list were prepared by Forbes’ reporters and judges including renowned venture capitalists and business leaders in the Asia Pacific region.

Seven Bangladeshis on the list:

Shuvo Rahman, founder, Alice Labs (Category: Industry, Manufacturing & Energy)

Shah Rafayat Chowdhury and Mohammad Taqi Yasir, cofounders, Footsteps Bangladesh (Category: Social Impact)

Reyasat Chowdhury and Jawwad Jahangir, cofounders, Shuttle (Category: Social Impact)

Zafir Shafiee Chowdhury and Mir Shahrukh Islam, cofounders, Bondstein Technologies (Category: Industry, Manufacturing & Energy)

Like every year, since its inception in 2011, the ‘30 under 30’ list has featured some of the most talented faces from diverse fields of work.

While innovation, forward-thinking vision, determination and positive mindset make the list comprehensive, startup leads all the way with 90 out of the final 300 coming from South-East Asia, the startup hub of the Asia Pacific region.

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https://www.tbsnews.net/economy/post-offices-should-be-utilised-e-commerce-delivery-points-tipu-munshi-429386

TBS Report

29 May, 2022, 10:35 pm

Last modified: 29 May, 2022, 10:37 pm

Post offices should be utilised as e-commerce delivery points: Tipu Munshi

Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar said they are installing e-commerce booths at all the post offices 

 

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has said post offices should be utilised as e-commerce product delivery points so that entrepreneurs in the promising sector can have a rapid boom and the post offices across the country can revive. 

"The post offices remain almost inoperative as people no longer write letters. We should utilise the offices in a new way – delivering e-commerce products," he said while addressing the inaugural programme of a digital fair by the "Digital Commerce Village" project at a convention centre in the capital on Sunday.  

The commerce ministry and the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) are jointly implementing the project. 

"The government is working to reach local products to different countries through digital platforms. I believe the Digital Commerce Village will contribute to the effort. People in rural areas will benefit from it," Tipu Munshi said. 

Participating at the event, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the demand for post offices will increase keeping pace with the growing digital commerce.

"The Postal Department has 40,000 staffers and they will be utilised properly. We are now modernising the department and installing e-commerce booths at all the post offices."

The 'Digital Commerce Village project has been working to boost local products. "We have already trained up 200 loom producers in Manikganj on digital commerce," said Md Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of the e-CAB.  A website – www.digitalpolli.com – was already launched under the project, he added. 

Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, among others, was present at the event. 

 

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