Despite Covid-19 resulting in scarcer startup funding, local tech unicorn Carousell has announced a lucrative US$80 million ($108.8 million) funding deal from a consortium led by South Korean ICT company Naver. Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund and NH Investment & Securities are the other investors in the consortium. 

"Carousell has built a tremendous platform enabling people in the region to transact more effectively and efficiently. We believe its efforts to focus on the products and the community will be further consolidating its market leader position. We highly look forward to working closely with Carousell,” said Jung An Lee, Head of Investments at Naver. 

NAVER is the company behind South Korea’s largest search portal, LINE, a messenger app with over 300 million users globally. In 2018, NAVER was ranked as the 9th most innovative company by Forbes and ranked 6th on the Future 50 company list by Fortune magazine. 

The deal sees Carousell reach over US$900 million in valuation, with the US$1 billion mark in sight following acquisitions in 2019 to accelerate leadership in Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. This follows a significant acceleration in e-commerce volume following Covid-19, which saw shoppers increasingly moving online and increased sales of pre-loved items. Credit Suisse acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Carousell for the transaction, while Dechert was legal advisor to Naver. 

“Naver’s investment in Carousell is a vote of confidence and reinforces the relevance of our mission. We are excited to work closely with Naver, a leader in mobile services and has industry-leading credentials in advanced technologies, as we continue our focus on using technology to make selling and buying even simpler, effective and more inspiring,” says Quek Siu Rui, CEO and co-founder of Carousell.

For the past six months, Carousell has been stepping up CSR efforts to help regional economies grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic. It has inked partnerships with government agencies like Enterprise Singapore, the Hong Kong Productivity Council and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation to support the digitalisation of micro-enterprises and SMEs. Additionally, it has offered US$2 million worth of free ads to non-profit organisations to help them continue their work during the pandemic.