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Asian Tinder rival Paktor lands $10M to further global push with Japan and Korea launches

TechCrunch TechCrunch 11/07/2016 Jon Russell

Paktor, a dating app that rivals Tinder in Southeast Asia, is pushing itself in more global markets. The Singapore-based startup just swiped right on $10 million in fresh capital after raising a round of funding to expand into Japan and South Korea as part of a wider global push.

YJ Capital — the corporate venture firm belonging to Yahoo Capital — led the round, which included participation from fellow new investors Global Grand Leisure, Golden Equator Capital and Sebrina Holdings, as well as existing backers Vertex Ventures (which belongs to Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek) MNC Media Group, Majuven, and Convergence Ventures.

Paktor has now raised over $22 million to date, including a $7.4 million Series B round one year ago, which it has used to expand beyond its initial, Tinder-like dating app to cover offline events and services, such as group travel, speed dating and more. It has also expanded its geographies beyond an initial focus on Southeast Asia’s six largest countries: Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The move into Korea and Japan will be aided by YJ Capital, which maintains strong links with Yahoo Japan — the joint entity from SoftBank and Yahoo which is the country’s largest web portal and media company and worth upwards of $8.5 billion. But that’s not Paktor’s only expansion effort.

It hired two former executives at IAC, the firm that owns Match.com, Tinder and others, to oversee its international expansion outside of Asia. Jose Ruano and Miguel Mangas, formerly with IAC’s Meetic in Spain, are CEO and VP of marketing respectively for Paktor International and in charge of globalizing the company. That comes in the form of M&A deals and media partnerships.

So far, Paktor acquired South America-based Kickoff for an undisclosed sum in May. Joseph Phua, Paktor CEO and co-founder who started the company in 2013 with two friends, said that Paktor is close to closing two further acquisitions — one in Europe and another in Asia; he isn’t saying more than that, for now — while it has partnered with media companies in other countries, which essentially take its backend tech and provide a visible brand and distribution platform to extend Paktor’s reach into other markets.

Interestingly, China and India aren’t immediately in those plans.

“We concluded with certainly [that] we don’t know [about India and China] and haven’t concluded with certainty that we don’t want to tackle uncertainty right now,” Phua said somewhat cryptically. [India, for what it is worth, is the base for Tinder’s first international office — and the company said it has potential to be one of its largest markets worldwide.]

All in all, Paktor’s Phua said that when these acquisitions close over the next two months, they will give his company and its (soon-to-be-three) acquired entities a total footprint of 15 million registered users. Speaking to me in October last year, Phua said Paktor had around six million registered users in its core Southeast Asia base, but the company is not providing an update on that figure right now.

Phua did say, however, that Paktor has instituted a range of new engagement features that — he claimed — have boosted average daily user activity from 160 swipes per day to 200, from 30 minutes of activity per day to 40 minutes, and a 200 percent boost in active chats, that’s conversations between of three or more exchanges between users who have matched on the service.

Paktor is also targeting at least $10 million in revenue for this year after it decided to offer a new model for emerging markets, like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. In those places, and other emerging markets, it is breaking down its subscription model into smaller, more affordable options for more cash-conscious users.

“We raised this round because we saw an opportunity outside of our existing markets… [it’s] a strategic round to help us,” Phua told me in a phone interview. “We’re thinking that a year or two years down the road, investors want to know your longterm plan.”

“Our next immediate step to bulk up on operational assets and [push the] revenue. Post 12 months, the next step would be clearer: [a potential] merger [acquisition target] or further consolidation — right now it is anyone’s guess,” he added.

“Right now, we are taking some side bets; we get opportunities because our brand is strong [but] if we take on our side bets, then an exit isn’t [in that] 12-18 month timeframe.”

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