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Startup activity starts strong in February

CXA raises US$25m, with Eduardo Saverin joining board; Paktor buys three firms; iFashion seeks IPO

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iFashion Group this week acquired Megafash, which sells lifestyle products online and in physical stores (above).

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Mr Saverin, whose venture capital firm B Capital Group co-led CXA's B Series round with EDBI, says CXA is an exciting addition to his firm's portfolio.

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Paktor chief Joseph Phua says the acquired companies complement Paktor's platform, and he hopes to work with them to shape the global dating industry.

Singapore

STARTUP activity has got off to a strong start this month.

Workplace-wellness marketplace ConneXionsAsia (CXA) has snagged US$25 million in Series-B funding, while social-dating platform Paktor and fashion aggregator iFashion have made several significant acquisitions.

CXA helps employers apply analytics to develop personalised wellness and insurance programmes for their employees, thus spurring more efficient use of employee-benefit dollars. The startup will use the latest capital to expand beyond Singapore and Hong Kong into 10 Asian markets including China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

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Facebook co-founder and venture capitalist Eduardo Saverin's venture-capital firm B Capital Group and EDBI (the dedicated corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board) co-led this Series-B round; other new investors in the startup include Philips and RGA, a unit of Reinsurance Group of America Incorporated.

Mr Saverin will join the CXA board. He said: "CXA is an exciting addition to our portfolio. Its unique business model cuts across three out of four of our focus industries, including health and wellness, financial services and consumer services."

CXA's platform lets employers bring their insurance and wellness vendors into a one-stop marketplace, where employees choose the most relevant mix of such services that suit their needs. Companies that purchase insurance through CXA brokerages get to own the platform for free, and can tap services such as digitised claims and payments, as well as data analytics.

CXA's founder and chief executive officer Rosaline Koo said: "We're bringing evidence-based wellness into the workplace to improve employee health in order to control rising employer healthcare costs. Our goal is to shift the focus of insurance from treatment to prevention, and to empower employees to take personal responsibility for their health."

Early investors such as NSI Ventures and Bioveda Capital, which took part in CXA's US$8-million Series-A funding round in 2015, also partook in this Series-B round.

Meanwhile, homegrown social-dating platform Paktor has acquired three global companies that collectively manage four dating apps. They are US-based Down (which runs dating apps DOWN and Sweet), Taiwan-based Goodnight (which runs voice-dating app Goodnight) and Brazil's Kickoff (which runs Latin American dating-app Kickoff).

The three companies, in addition to Madrid-headquartered social-dating company Groopify, will join a new division under Paktor known as Paktor Labs. The new division aims to accelerate the development of next-generation dating and social apps.

With these acquisitions, Paktor reportedly adds an additional seven million users to its existing pool, taking its total to 20 million users. Key talent from all four companies will join the Paktor group.

Paktor chief Joseph Phua said the acquired companies are "natural complements" to Paktor's dating platform and offer good lessons for Paktor, based on their growth journeys and where they were founded. He added: "We look forward to ... working together to shape the evolving global dating industry."

Paktor, founded in 2013, has raised more than US$53 million from investors such as Temasek's Vertex Ventures.

iFashion Group, a Singapore-based roll-up play that targets fashion and lifestyle startups that are three to five years old and looking to grow, announced this week its acquisition of lifestyle-marketplace brand Megafash for S$3.15 million in a cash-and-shares deal.

Founded in 2014, Megafash sells lifestyle products ranging from apparel to stationery through its e-commerce platform and in brick-and-mortar stores. It is said to have a strong following in Indonesia and Thailand.

iFashion chief Jeremy Khoo said the Megafash buyout will strengthen iFashion's assets and talent pool. He said: "We're rapidly moving towards our goal of becoming South-east Asia's leading fashion retailer."

The startup, now backed by venture capitalists and corporate investors such as Fatfish Internet Group, Sovereign Capital and Rimu, is reportedly seeking an initial public offering on the Australian Securities Exchange in April or May this year.

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