They started with cash-on-delivery and then got comfortable enough to start paying online. They began to leave reviews and learned about the experience of others. They started to trust the online marketplaces, which held enormous influence over eCommerce in SEA.
In recent years, we observed the emergence of the seller and the brand. Consumers start to interact with sellers and other buyers over social media. They care about who they are buying from - the persona of the seller and what the brands stand for now are important considerations. They seek out distinctive experiences. They gravitate towards products that let them stand out from the crowd.
Investing in eCommerce enablement has been a key theme for MHV. Back in 2014, we believed in the inevitable rise of eCommerce in SEA and the overwhelming challenges posed by deficiencies in infrastructure that can support this rise. Our first investment as a VC firm was in logistics when investments in eCommerce sites were the flavor du jour. This reflected our belief that the best investment risk-reward profile was to be had in the eCommerce enablement layers. Not sexy or headline-grabbing, but important and a good way to capture value in the fast-growing eCommerce space.
This new, second wave of eCommerce necessitates a new tech stack to meet the new behaviors. Sellers interact with buyers directly over multiple channels, whether via Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Line, eCommerce sites, or marketplaces. They receive orders, track payments and handle logistics in different formats over different platforms. Many are small merchants with very little resources - think one-person shops, and think folks working out of their living rooms, often moonlighting and handling these fast-growing businesses as side hustles.
Our recent investments in Hypefast and Rainforest in early 2021 is one manifestation of this theme. These are aggregators of emerging brands on various marketplaces. They acquire these brands and consolidate them on a single coherent tech and services stack to hyper-charge the businesses. An overwhelming majority of these brands are founded by small sellers that began as side hustles.
We are happy to announce our recent investment that forms a key building block in this evolution: Upmesh, a live selling platform for social commerce merchants. Live selling is a rising phenomenon where sellers interact with their buyers over live streaming. The experience is highly personal and combines entertainment with shopping. Over time, sellers form deep, ardent relationships with their customers. Upmesh provides a single platform that enables these sellers to manage their live selling over multiple platforms, handling operations such as order taking, invoicing, payments, shipping, returns, etc seamlessly, Live selling is fast-paced and relentless; Upmesh allows these sellers to focus on what they most enjoy doing, i.e. interacting with their buyers while Upmesh takes care of the rest.
We are excited to be working with Ziyang, Shawn, Nhat, and Jan to deliver the best-in-class platform for live sellers in Southeast Asia. The founders are repeat entrepreneurs who understand what it means to hustle hard. They have a high level of empathy for small sellers and have an immense understanding of the nuances in live-selling in Southeast Asia. We have high conviction that the Upmesh platform will define what is the fastest growing and consequential sector in eCommerce. The challenges are immense but the evolution towards eCommerce 2.0 marches on.