Carousell, a three-year-old mobile marketplace that enables social commerce, could emerge as the next big e-commerce player in Southeast Asia. That’s because, according to multiple sources in the investor and e-commerce communities in Southeast Asia, the Singapore-based company is currently trying to raise a whopping $50 million Series B to expand its footprint across Asia.
Carousell did not reply to multiple requests for comment or confirmation of its fundraising plans.
Founded in May 2012, Carousell’s app is a peer-to-peer commerce marketplace, much like a Craigslist for mobile. Users post items that are for sale, those interested in buying them then initiate a conversation to finalize a price, payment (which happens outside of the app, for now) and a place to meet/mailing options to deliver to goods. The company’s tagline — “Snap to Sell, Chat to Buy” — emphasizes the focus on social commerce made easy. (Developing its tech — and potentially adding an in-app payment system — could also be on the cards for such a big round, but that’s us speculating as this has not been confirmed by sources.)
Timing would certainly suggest that Carousell is out in the field raising new capital. It’s been more than a year since it closed a $6 million Series A led by Sequoia in November 2014. It previously took an $800,000 seed investment led by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten.
At the time of that Series A, we reported that “eventually, Carousell’s founders hope to take it further into the Asia-Pacific region” and that’s exactly what this round — which we understand that the company has been talking to investors about for around a month — is aimed at doing.
The Carousell service is currently available in Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan, where it can be access via iOS and Android apps as well as its website. The exact scope of the startup’s planned expansion isn’t clear, but more markets in Southeast Asia — such as Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines — are likely to be priorities, in addition to reaching other parts of the wider Asian continent.
While Carousell has spawned a dedicated following and gone beyond early adopters — as the existence of parody Tumblr “Carouhell,” which documents some of the stranger stories from the service, shows — its mission is challenging. Most e-commerce happens on larger, well-backed sites like Rocket Internet’s Lazada and Zalora, SoftBank-backed Tokopedia in Indonesia, and social networks like people’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Building out the Carousell marketplace/platform is an addition challenge beyond encouraging people to sell their goods via a P2P system.
That said, the genre seems to have plenty of potential in Asia — and Southeast Asia, in particular — where many people are thrifty and private sales of unwanted or no longer used items are commonplace offline. In the emerging peer-to-peer commerce space, there are few sites with the calibre of investors or size of funding of Carousel. Another $50 million in the kitty would certainly help to move things forward.