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Zaapi grabs $4.5M to empower Southeast Asia’s SMEs via mobile-first e-commerce


Talking about e-commerce in the Southeast Asia, mobile penetration rates are among the highest in the world – currently at 132% outplacing North America and Western Europe and this trend is poised to accelerate. At the same time, small businesses may account for up to 99% of total commercial establishments in the region.

Zaapi, a mobile app that enables small businesses to launch their e-commerce presence within seconds, has recently raised $4 million seed investment in the current round of funding. 

Prominent venture capital investors, including GFC, Flourish Ventures, and Partech, led the investment. Other institutional investors in the round include 1982 Ventures, Kaya Founders, Iterative, XA Network, and Sketchnote Partners/Invertidos. 

Flash Ventures, an early backer in Zaapi with ties to GFC, invested $500,000 in pre-seed funding in March 2021, allowing the company to launch in Thailand in August 2021. 

The most recent round will allow Zaapi to triple down on their efforts to build and scale the best-in-class product regionally. Wilfried Buiron, an experienced e-commerce founder who previously built and run a direct-to-consumer brand, launched Zaapi in 2021 with a mission to build the digital commerce infrastructure for Southeast Asia’s micro- and small-to-medium sized enterprises (MSMEs).

“Zaapi is being built at an inflection point in the adoption of e-commerce by Southeast Asian MSMEs, which is driven by two macro trends: Southeast Asia’s skyrocketing mobile internet penetration, and the digital disruption to traditional business brought about by the pandemic,” said Wilfried Buiron, Founder of Zaapi.

Easy-to-use interface for SMEs

Today, Zaapi provides MSMEs with an easy-to-use interface that lets business owners quickly create an online store from their mobile devices. This e-commerce use case will remain the company’s core focus in the near term as Zaapi sees many as-yet-unexplored opportunities for growth such as social commerce and marketing tool integrations. 

Over time however, it is Zaapi’s vision to move towards digitising other core functions of the MSME, ultimately providing them with a one-stop-shop digital solution to manage their business.

“We are delighted to welcome GFC, Flourish, and Partech as new investors in the company. The funding will enable us to build the region’s best-in-class product for MSMEs and supercharge our growth,” said Buiron. “The pandemic has turned digital adoption into a necessity for the region’s 100m+ MSMEs and we will strive to become their partner of choice on that journey.”

E-commerce & MSMEs in Southeast Asia

E-commerce GMV in Southeast Asia is predicted to triple from $100b+ in 2020 to $300b+ in 2025, which underscores the tremendous opportunity in the space. Furthermore, with MSMEs accounting for half of Southeast Asian GDP and only ~20% using digital tools today, the region is poised to witness the rapid digitization of a segment predicted to be worth $2t by 2025.

Leading investors

“Zaapi’s vision of empowering MSMEs to expand online and grow their revenues significantly has transformative potential for these businesses and we’re tremendously excited to see that vision come to life”, said Lorenzo Franzi, Partner at GFC. “We have consistently been impressed by Wilfried and his team’s ability to execute and look forward to seeing them accelerate growth and support the success of a new generation of entrepreneurs across these high potential markets.”

“Our investment in Zaapi supports our investment thesis to empower small merchants to benefit from the fast growing digital economy. Zaapi is addressing the needs of a very large target market in Southeast Asia that continues to expand exponentially,” said Smita Aggarwal, Global Investments Advisor at Flourish Ventures. “We are excited to see Zaapi build a localised solution for the region that serves the long tail of small merchants and helps them flourish.”

“MSME’s are the heartbeat of Southeast Asia’s economies. As a small business entrepreneur himself, Wilfried has assembled a team that truly understands the very specific needs of these businesses to help onboard them onto their digital journey, in order to enable them to grow and become increasingly agile and resilient” said Nicolas El Baze, General Partner at Partech, a VC firm which has investment in Bolt, Cazoo, ManoMano and so many more.

At the same time, Wilfried Buiron, Founder and CEO of Zaapi, was born in Hong Kong to French parents, a multilingual third culture entrepreneur keen to contribute to Asia’s development story. He has studied at five universities across the world and joined Tsinghua University’s Schwarzman Scholars program as a Masa Son Fellow selected by Softbank Founder, Masayoshi Son, after graduation. 

He also has a diverse range of experience in six different companies from strategy consulting to business development and technology, working at McKinsey & Company, JD.COM’s AI Innovation Studio, two Chinese startups and two European boutique consultancies.

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