This year is shaping up to be an interesting one for tech media in Asia. Singapore-based E27 is the latest technology-focused blog from the region to raise funding, after it closed a $650,000 bridge round ahead of a planned larger raise before the end of 2015.
Founded in 2006, E27 runs a site that reports tech and startup news from Asia and a complementary events business which includes its flagship two-day Echelon conference — this year sponsored by Braintree. TechCrunch understands from multiple sources that this fresh capital, which comes from existing investors, was raised with the aim of closing a larger round — in the region of $3 million — before the year is out.
E27 co-founder and CEO Mohan Belani confirmed the new funding to TechCrunch, but declined to provide specific details about it and how it will be spent.
“We’re hunkering down and focused on what we believe is right for the ecosystem,” Belani said in an interview. “The entire media industry is going through an interesting evolution, we’re learning what works best for our ecosystem.”
E27 previously raised a $615,000 funding round in 2013, and counts a bevy of VC firms in Southeast Asia among its investors, including 8capita Partners, Ardent Capital, B Dash Ventures, and Pinehurst Advisors.
The timing of this funding — and the targeted later round — comes after E27’s closest rival, Tech In Asia, which graduated Y-Combinator this year, raised $4 million to develop its site into a community hub for Asia’s tech industry. That focus sees Tech In Asia shift from a straight-up tech news blog — in the style of E27, and us here at TechCrunch — to a website that includes user-generated content (UGC) and materials for the community prominently on its homepage.
While that has included some interesting content — particularly the Ask Me Anything features — and TechCrunch understands that it has provided a notable boost in traffic, it hasn’t come without teething problems. We’ve heard many high-profile figures in Asia’s tech ecosystem voice concern that the general quality of content on the site has dropped following the introduction of UGC. That could be a problem if it is an opinion held widely within the very industry that Tech In Asia seeks to serve.
That change in focus could also leave the door open for E27 to capitalize and invest in its reporting chops to differentiate itself from Tech In Asia as a source of news. Indeed, that differentiation could help E27 increase its circulation numbers, which sources close to the company told TechCrunch are significantly below the 2.4 million monthly pageviews that Tech In Asia recently claimed it receives across its websites. (E27 declined to provide these details when asked by TechCrunch.)
At this point though, we will have to wait to see whether the proposed $3 million round will arrive for E27 and, if and when it does, which investors will be involved, as that is likely to shape how the money is spent.
Tech In Asia and E27 aren’t the only tech-focused blogs duking it out in Asia, beyond us at TechCrunch, of course. Digital News Asia, a site founded by old school print journalists, raised $300,000 last year, while Deal Street Asia has invested in growing its reporting team to cover stories across the region beyond merely those in tech. (That includes a recent report that E27 is up to for sale — however that is something that multiple sources close to E27 told us is untrue.)
Slightly further geographically afield, News Corp acquired VC Circle, an India-based media company running a tech news site and events business, in March.
Ironically, the fact that a close rival was able to raise $4 million may help convince investors that E27 is a good investment and that media businesses in Asia have plenty of room to grow, not to mention that there is exit potential.
Either way, Belani isn’t saying anything more for now.
“At this moment, I’m pretty focused on running the company and working with our users to help them better connect with Asia’s tech ecosystem,” he told us.