Deals | YY leads $272m Series D in S’pore Bigo for synergies in overseas quest

Singapore-headquartered Bigo receives a boost in funds amidst heating competition.

Image Credit To Unsplash. Modified by KrASIA
  • Singapore Bigo Inc. raises $272m in series D from China’s YY, both provides video streaming services
  • YY set up Bigo in S’pore in 2016 as part of its international expansion effort
  • It has turned a profit since October 2017, raking in $300m in 2017

 

Nasdaq-listed YY Inc. announced on Tuesday it has invested US$ 272 million in a series D funding round of preferred shares in Singapore-based Bigo Inc, which runs a social video streaming app.

In addition to becoming Bigo’s largest shareholder after the round, this massive investment also gives YY the right to purchase additional Bigo shares a year after closing date at the then fair market price to exceed 50.1% of voting power, giving YY a firmer grip on Bigo.

According to the company’s statement, David Li Xueling, Chairman and acting CEO of YY, also participated in this round using his personal funds.

The startup last completed a closed-door Series C funding led by Ping An Overseas Holdings last March, ending with a valuation of US$400 million.

 

YY’s international clone

Bigo was set up in the city-state of Singapore in March 2016 as part of YY’s international expansion efforts.

It runs Bigo Live, the company’s flagship video streaming app, as well Like, a short video editing and sharing app.

Bigo Live, in a sense, is just the international copy of YY’s China platform, exporting YY’s technology, platform and business model to Singapore as a hub to further expand into more foreign markets.

Like Douyin in China, the app is wildly successful at attracting young users, as of this February, Bigo Live has reached more than 200 million registered users with a monthly active users (MAU) of almost 37 million.

Now its largest stakeholder, YY Inc. looks to tighten its collaboration with Bigo in its quest for the overseas markets. YY said in a recent earnings release that it believes “the significant synergistic relationship between YY Live and Bigo will further contribute momentum to our expansion into the global market.”

Our parent, Chinese biztech media 36Kr has learnt previously that Bigo has turned a profit since last October against a $300 million annual revenue.

 

Heated competition

Despite its overwhelming and spectacular growth in the video live streaming market in Southeast Asia, it is not immune to competition.

For instance, just within a year later in Southeast Asia alone, a new startup incubated at Singapore’s Mediapreneur incubator, BeLive has already risen to the challenge and have raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round. While it offers a live streaming platform like Bigo, it seeks to create a more secure and decent platform suitable for the talented online community. The startup too claimed to have found a new source of revenue through sponsorship.

Bigo, a part of YY Inc’s international expansion plans, will also face stiffer competition with the likes of Twitter’s Periscope and the other social media platforms in the West.

With greater publicity, also comes greater scrutiny.

Bigo’s reputation has been tainted with complaints of streamed sexually explicit content and of cyber bullying, causing it to be nearly banned in Indonesia. This could be partly due to the added incentive that streamers get by enticing users to spend on virtual gifts.

Bigo has since responded, working with Artificial Intelligence (AI) surveillance monitoring system and surveillance officers to manage the situation, promoting a conducive platform.

The company recently announced at the SINO AI Forum held in Singapore it’s opened a R&D center in Singapore and is hiring a 100-strong AI scientists.

Editor: Ben Jiang