Canva to Coupang, Ninja Van and Razer, Yanolja and Zilingo … How young Asian entrepreneurs are creating the next generation of business

July 1, 2020

Melanie Perkin’s Canva … She founded a unicorn by 30, now she’s taking on the tech giants

Canva is a workplace collaboration platform, and one of the world’s most valuable female-led start-ups.  It enables people to create graphics, presentations, videos, marketing materials and social media content. It has 30 million users across 190 countries, creating 80 designs per second, a total of over 3 billion designs since launch.

Melanie Perkins, its 32-year-old Australian founder, used to describe Canva as a graphic design tool, but “reframed” it as a workplace collaboration platform, and therefore comparable to hyped businesses like Slack and Zoom, transforming perceptions and valuations.

Perkins was a teenage entrepreneur. She launched her first business at 14, designing and selling handmade scarves to sell in her hometown of Perth. 8 years later, she founded her next company, an online system for schools to design their yearbooks called Fusion Books, which is now the largest yearbook publisher in Australia.

In 2013, she launched her third business, Canva, a platform that allows anyone to create professional-quality designs no matter their level of expertise. The platform is available in 100 languages and has a library of over 3 million images, with new inspiration added every day. Within 5 years Canva had 250 employees, and became a $1 billion-valued unicorn.

“Before Canva, creating a professional looking design was a complex process – you had to purchase expensive software, learn how to use it, purchase stock photography, decide on a layout, slice images, design, share ideas between the team by email only to find revisions needed to be made, then send your design to print.”

Individuals and companies pay a flat subscription fee that enables them to set up a brand kit with logos, preferred colours, fonts and assets, and ensure consistency across their designs, access to billions of images and much more, and a print service that gives users the ability to produce professional prints in a variety of formats and sizes, delivered straight to their doorstep.

Perkins says that Canva has seen huge demand during the pandemic, as the world has shifted online, people have adapted businesses and launched new concepts.

“Canva’s accelerated growth during Covid-19 is indicative of the new normal, as more teams realize the need for a more scalable, more collaborative, more affordable and more user-friendly design platform” she says. “Now more than ever, organisations of all sizes are doubling down on building a reliable remote workplace, and are turning to modern productivity platforms like Canva to ensure they remain flexible and scalable.”

Ankiti Bose’s Zilingo … She’s set to become India’s first female unicorn founder – and she’s only in her 20s

27-year-old Ankiti Bose is on course to become India’s first female unicorn founder with her near-$1 billion fashion start-up Zilingo. Bose describes the business as a technology and commerce platform in the fashion industry. The Singapore headquartered startup was founded in 2015 by Bose and her colleague Dhruv Kapoor, and now has operations spanning across Asia and USA. Today, the company employs over 600 staff representing more than 20 different nationalities, and works with close to 50,000 partners across the fashion supply chain. The idea came from when Bose was on holiday in Bangkok and noticed that many of the small and medium-sized shops had no online presence. Zilingo, a play on the word “zillion”.

Carousell … Could this be Southeast Asia’s next $1 billion start-up?

Carousell was founded by Siu Rui, Lucas and Marcus back in August 2012 – giving its small business entrepreneurs the tools to solve problems- whether it’s decluttering or earning side income. “At Carousell, we believe in more than just buying and selling. We believe in the power of possibilities that people bring to the process. Through every buyer, seller and listing, we believe there’s opportunity beyond the transactional. Our mission is to inspire every person in the world to start selling and buying to make more possible for one another, on a global scale. We believe that technology is an enabler to solve meaningful problems at scale. We are crafting the most seamless user experience for people to sell what they don’t need and find what they need” says Rui. CNBC explores how the three 30-somethings are using Artificial Intelligence to fuel the rapid growth of their online marketplace, Carousell

Su Jin Lee’s Yanolja and the rise of the love hotel, South Korea’s latest $1 billion business

In the Korean language, Yanolja means “Hey, let’s play.” To be a successful entrepreneur, they say you’ve got to have passion. That’s something Su Jin Lee had in spades when he started his business. After all, he was going after an industry built on the stuff. Lee is the founder of Yanolja, an online accommodation bookings platform that has reinvigorated South Korea’s once dying love hotel industry and given birth to the country’s latest billion-dollar start-up. Love hotels are a type of short-term, pay-per-hour accommodation famed across the global for their exotic — and indeed erotic — stylings. The Korean entrepreneur started the company in Seoul in 2007 in a bid to modernize what he saw as a misrepresented market. It has since grown it into a multifaceted hospitality business with 32 million downloads and a major millennial following. But what has everyone so hot for love hotels? CNBC heads to Seoul to find out.

Bom Kim’s Coupang … How a Harvard dropout founded South Korea’s most valuable start-up

Bom Kim made history as the founder of Korea’s most valuable start-up and the country’s newest billionaire. Coupang is one of the largest and fastest-growing consumer internet companies in the world. Our innovative technologies and novel approach to mobile commerce and customer service have set a new standard for e-commerce in Korea and beyond. Powered by its proprietary technology infrastructure, Coupang offers the largest end-to-end fulfillment operation in Korea and one of the most revolutionary last-mile delivery services in the world. “We’re on a mission to revolutionize everyday lives for our customers, employees and partners. We solve problems no one has solved before to create a world where people ask, ‘How did we ever live without Coupang?’” CNBC met with the Coupang CEO in Seoul to hear how he went from a Harvard Business School dropout to the founder of Korea’s answer to Amazon.

Chang Wen Lai’s Ninja Van … He quit banking to build Southeast Asia’s next big thing

Chang Wen Lai’s express delivery service, Ninja Van, is tipped to be one of Southeast Asia’s next $1 billion unicorns. Launched in 2014, Ninja Van started operations in Singapore to address the logistics needs of customers by offering them options of tracking their parcels, receiving real-time updates and gaining access to alternative pickup points. Recognising that consumers across SEA want a consistent experience regardless of where they buy from (domestic and/or international) and clients want a singular access point into the region, we decided to expand our network to cover SEA. Our vision is to have a Ninja within reach of any consumer in Southeast Asia. “At Ninja Van, we exist to revolutionise logistics through our technology-enabled delivery systems in Southeast Asia (SEA). Combining our passion for harnessing cutting-edge technology solutions and our in-depth knowledge of e-commerce needs, we ensure that logistics is a hassle-free affair for our business partners and consumers. Just like real Ninjas, we are dependable and deliver on our promises to you” says Chang. CNBC met the 32-year-old CEO in Singapore to hear about his bold bet to go from trading floor to entrepreneur.

Min Liang Tan’s Razer … how a billionaire gamer built a pandemic-proof business

Business is booming for gaming giant Razer. Razer is the world’s leading lifestyle brand for gamers. The triple-headed snake trademark of Razer is one of the most recognized logos in the global gaming and esports communities. With a fan base that spans every continent, the company has designed and built the world’s largest gamer-focused ecosystem of hardware, software and services. Razer’s award-winning hardware includes high-performance gaming peripherals and Blade gaming laptops. Razer’s software platform, with over 70 million users, includes Razer Synapse (an Internet of Things platform), Razer Chroma™ (a proprietary RGB lighting technology system), and Razer Cortex (a game optimizer and launcher). In services, Razer Gold is one of the world’s largest virtual credit services for gamers, and Razer Fintech is one of the largest online-to-offline digital payment networks in SE Asia. Founded in 2005 and dual-headquartered in Irvine and Singapore, Razer has 18 offices worldwide. CNBC spoke to the company’s self-made billionaire co-founder, Min Liang Tan, to hear how he’s pivoting his brand in response — and what it could mean

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