Aigens scales digital menus in Asia with $14M round led by Ant
Aigens, a Hong Kong-based startup that provides online ordering and marketing tools for the food and beverage industry, picked up a fresh $14 million Series A funding round led by Ant Group, the fintech behemoth affiliated with Alibaba, the company announced Monday.
The capital infusion by Ant comes at a time when China’s fintech giant is expanding its international footprint through a network. Ant chose to promote adoption of its flagship Alipay mobile wallet rather than drive it, and instead created an open ecosystem outside China. It is effectively a wallet aggregator named Alipay .
As of early November, Alipay had integrated with 15 payment methods, most of which operate in Southeast Asia, allowing merchants that have integrated with Alipay to reach more than one billion users of those partnered payment solutions.
Ant has also established partnerships with other players in digitizing the retail sector in emerging markets. This will allow Ant to continue its strategy of making China a cashless, touchless society. Ant is not a fintech infrastructure player, but instead of targeting end customers, it serves as one.
In August 2021, Ant invested $15 million in Singapore’s Chope, a restaurant reservation and ordering startup. Ant’s merchant solution, D-store, is being used by Chope to increase the digital capabilities it offers to its retail customers. This includes “mini programs”, which are lite applications that run within a “superapp”, an idea that was first promoted by WeChat mini apps ..
As Chope CEO Arrif Ziaudeen wrote in a LinkedIn post about the partnership with Ant: “[Merchants’] mini-apps can be customized to their look & feel, they can run individual promotions, and get all the user data.”
Arrif continued, “We certainly aren’t the last to have this dream. But the strategic partnership gives me the same technology that got millions SMEs in China there. So it’s our job now, with the right partners, to help implement it here in SEA .”
Ant’s investment in Aigens appears to follow a similar logic. Although Hans Paul, cofounder and CEO of Aigens didn’t give much information about how their company and Ant will work together in the future, he believes that “together [with Ant] can provide powerful offerings to the restaurant industry .”
Paul said that Ant’s D Store will only be “one of its offerings” for merchants, and “it’s up the merchants to want in the app .”
The CEO said Aigens has so far served over 4,000 outlets in Asia, including big names like Jollibee Group, Burger King, Starbucks, Shake Shack, Pizza Hut, and hundreds of other retail brands. It has been a difficult journey. Paul pointed out that while China is a homogenous country, there are many countries in Southeast Asia with their own culture and customs. Aigens also understands that the restaurant industry is very “operational heavy” so they initially focused on chains as they were easier to scale up than going after individual family-run businesses.
Founded in 2012, Aigens now has about 120 employees across the Asia Pacific and plans to spend its fresh funding on market expansion, hiring, and R&D. Velocity Ventures and Phillip Private Equity were also investors in the Series A round.
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