Singapore’s Bubble Motion wraps up USD 5M funding round from Japan’s largest VC, JAFCO
August 24, 2012 by Terence LEE
Bubble Motion, a Singapore-based startup known for its Bubbly app, best described as ‘Twitter with a voice’, has picked up USD 5M in funding from JAFCO, the largest and most established VC firm in Japan.
CEO Tom Clayton notes that his company, with over 19 million users including hundreds of celebrities around the world, had rejected several offers since it wasn’t looking to raise more money. He was, however, swayed by JAFCO‘s connections and reputation in Japan, which is a key market for Bubble Motion. That made the investment a ‘no brainer’.
The money will go towards scaling its technology platform and expanding its voice-based social messaging service in all of the company’s key markets, which also includes India, Indonesia, and Philippines. It also plans to introduce new products on smartphones and feature phones to add more ways for users to interact with Bubbly.
“We have known Bubble Motion for quite some time and have always been impressed by the caliber of the core team in Singapore,” says Murli Ravi, head of South Asia for JAFCO, “and after we saw their phenomenal growth in Japan as well as the other countries in Asia, we felt like we really wanted to be an investor in the company.”
In the press release announcing the funding news, Bubble Motion also stated that it has hired Justin Mann as its new Chief Architect, replacing Rajesh Lingappa, who left the company in May 2012 to join another Singapore startup RedMart.com as its CTO.
Prior to joining Bubble Motion, Justin was the CEO and co-founder of How to Raise a Superhero, a startup in Beijing that builds educational apps for kids. He is a developer with over 12 years of experience in product development and management.
Bubble Motion has grown rapidly since launching in 2009 (see graph). It has secured partnerships with mobile carriers within the SingTelGroup that includes Bharti Airtel in India, Telkomsel in Indonesia, and Globe in the Philippines. It also has collaborations with other telcos like Vodafone, DiGi, Indosat, and KDDI, a Japanese mobile operator.
Its major competitor is India-based RockeTalk, which has over 17 million users.
The startup’s latest investment is administered through JAFCO Asia, a subsidiary of JAFCO. Established in 1990 and headquartered in Singapore, JAFCO Asia also has offices in Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai. It is managing US$1.2B in capital with a portfolio of 423 companies in 13 countries, of which 319 have profitably exited and 100 have gone public.
JAFCO, its parent company, was established in 1973 as Japan’s first venture capital firm. It currently manages JPY530B (USD 6.76B) in capital throughout Asia, Europe, and United States. Altogether, the firm and its subsidiaries have invested in more than 3,700 companies of which beyond 900 have IPOed.
There has been a recent uptick in interest from Japanese VCs towards investing in Southeast Asia. In 2011, CyberAgent Ventures created a new fund managing around USD8M to invest in startups in Indonesia. In 2009, it set up offices in Vietnam and since then funded 7 Internet companies there.
This year, KDDI Open Innovation Fund, another outward-looking Japanese fund, was formed. It is a collaboration between KDDI and Global Brain, a Japanese VC firm which recently sponsored Echelon 2012, a startup conference in Singapore.
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE