iKala, a Taiwan-based startup that develops AI to help clients make marketing decisions, plans to launch in Indonesia and Malaysia after raising a $17 million Series B. The round is led by Wistron Digital Technology Holding Company, an investment arm of Wistron, with participation from existing investors Hotung and Pacific Venture Partners.
Founded in 2011 as a live-streaming karaoke platform, iKala operates two main divisions -- one for cloud-based and the other for retail solutions, serving more than 400 business clients and 15,000 advertisers across Asia, including Ogilvy, L’Oreal, Unilever, and Foodpanda. It is also a partner of Facebook and Google.
The Series B takes iKala’s total funding so far to $30.3 million at a valuation of $68 million (NT$2 billion). In addition to expanding into new markets like Indonesia and Malaysia, the company says the new capital will be used to strengthen its position in existing markets, from Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong to Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The funding came two months after iKala launched the division for smart retail solutions like Shoplus, which helps individual sellers turn their Facebook pages into online shops, to tap into the growing social commerce scene in Southeast Asia.
Unlike Taiwan and Japan, customers in the region are turning to sellers on social media before getting used to shopping on traditional e-commerce sites, said Sega Cheng, co-founder and CEO of iKala, explained in a press conference.
iKala has come a long way since inception.
Cheng said the company has been “on a strong growth trajectory over the last couple of years, expanding into new markets and developing cutting-edge technology that has put us in a leading position in the region’s digital transformation and commerce space.”
While the strategic investment signals Wistron’s ambition to expand to Southeast Asia, the leader investor says it looks to combine forces with iKala to help businesses go digital.
“iKala’s AI and software capabilities will be a value-adding element to Wistron’s long-held and leading hardware industry presence,” said Robert Hwang, vice chairman and president of Wistron, an original design manufacturer. “We have heavily invested ourselves in digital transformation and further creation of new business[es] to provide our clients with new opportunities brought by digital transformation.”
Wistron has recently sold two of its Chinese subsidiaries to Luxshare, an electronic component manufacturing company, revealing its plan to return to and invest in Taiwan.
“Taiwan has an excellent reputation for having some of the best high tech talents in both hardware and software around the region,” said Dr. Lee-Feng Chien, iKala’s board member and former managing director of Google Taiwan. “With Wistron as a strategic partner, iKala can become a major driving force for transforming Taiwan into an AI industry and talent hub in Asia.”