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iPrice raises $4M for its e-commerce aggregator service in Southeast Asia

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iPrice, an 18-month-old e-commerce aggregation service that’s active in seven countries in Southeast Asia, has closed a $4 million Series A funding round.

The investment was led by existing backers Asia Venture Group (AVG) and Venturra Capital, with participation from Gobi Partners, DMP, Econa and Starstrike Ventures. Malaysia-based iPrice previously raised $1.2 million one year ago, in addition to a $550,000 seed round that kicked the business off when it launched in early 2015.

The fundamental idea of the service is to be a one-stop destination to make sense of online shopping in Southeast Asia, a region that contains some large e-commerce players — Alibaba acquired a controlling stake in $2 billion-valued Lazada earlier this year, for example — but no single dominant entity. That’s unlike, say the U.S. and parts of Western Europe, where Amazon is the go-to, or China, where the likes of Alibaba and JD.com have built formidable empires. iPrice now has more than 100 staff and it works with retail partners to help them gain visibility, traffic and sales.

While iPrice started out on the path of aggregator, CEO David Chmelar told TechCrunch that it has also adapted its business as it has collected data from both retailers and buyers with potential for new options in the future.

“We started with product discovery, learned it worked well and started expanding it,” Chmelar, formerly with Boston Consulting, said in an interview. “We realized that what we now own is not the front end, but a huge sorted and cleaned out database that is unique to Southeast Asia.

“We see ourselves as a meta search platform, someone who will look for the best use of that dataset for both consumers and sellers,” he added.

Along those lines, iPrice added price comparison for goods this past September, and Chmelar said there are plans to use its data to introduce other features and services, including affiliate revenue plans to help smaller media companies and independent bloggers. Amazon is not yet present in Southeast Asia, where internet access is growing among the base of 600 million consumers, so such affiliate revenue is tricky at this point due to the fragmented nature of e-commerce in the region. (That said, Amazon is working to launch in Singapore, its first market in Southeast Asia, in Q1 of next year.)

On the financial side of things, Chmelar said there’s potential for the company to reach break even and profitability thanks to this round, although he didn’t share a time frame for when that might happen.

“Our ambition is to become the primary gateway to online retail in Southeast Asia,” he added. “Much remains to be done to make online retail easier for consumers, from Kuala Lumpur to Manila, and iPrice is paving this path.”