Grab Team Ringing the Bell at Nasdaq today.

Southeast Asia Tech is on Fire. Grab’s Listing is Proof.

Lightspeed
Dec 2, 2021 · 5 min read

At Lightspeed, we are big believers in Southeast Asia as a vastly uncharted region, yet a major hub of tech innovation and investment. We now have an office in Singapore, which enables us to combine an understanding of the region with global domain expertise from Lightspeed’s investor base across India, China, Europe and the US. We invest across stages (from seed to growth) and sectors ranging from fintech to SME and the creator economy partnering with companies like Grab, Pintu, Endowus, Ula and NasAcademy.

Our conviction in Grab only further cemented our belief in the broader economic growth and digital economy transformation underway in the region and Grab’s merger with Altimeter Growth Group — and its plans for a $40 billion listing on Nasdaq — are yet more confirmation of that thesis. When the deal completes this week, it will be the largest US listing for a Southeast Asian company to date.

It’s another amazing win for founder Anthony Tan and his team at Grab, but not a surprise. They’ve always been willing to do things a little differently (see their culture document The Grab Way), and on a grander scale.

Though Grab is a household name across SE Asia, it’s less well known on this side of the Pacific. Imagine Uber + Doordash + PayPal, all available within a single ‘super app,’ with more services to come. Grab’s bundling of online-to-offline (O2O) services has been wildly successful, capturing the loyalty of more than 25 million monthly transacting users in 8 countries and over 400 cities, from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City.

It was clear even in the early days of expansion that Grab was playing a different game than Uber and others who were attempting to expand into Southeast Asia from other geographies.

Grab understood that its superapp strategy of expanding access to critical everyday services and creating income opportunities for Southeast Asians would be the key to success.

For example, consumers get access to an integrated set of highly relevant everyday services — from on-demand mobility to delivery services, e-wallets and more — all through a single app.

Driver-partners are able to maximize their earnings power, through Grab’s shared fleet strategy, where drivers can take on both ride hailing and food delivery work.

Merchants-partners choose the Grab platform to maximize their earnings, as Grab doesn’t just give them access to a wider consumer base, but also providing training, ad solutions, insights and tools to help them make the most of the platform.

Overall, the Grab superapp is a highly synergistic ecosystem designed to drive value for consumers and income opportunities for driver- and merchant-partners, while also lowering platform costs of service over time. As Grab grows the number of consumers and partners on the platform, it’s able to more effectively leverage existing assets to launch new services, cross-sell to existing users, and drive cost efficiencies across its different offerings.

Grab also understood that context mattered, and executed strategies to take advantage of the varying geographies it was playing in. For example, as competitors tried to ignore government regulation and rules, rehashing what worked in other geos like the US, Grab actively worked in partnership with regional governments, ensuring better cooperation and an enduring advantage.

One such example is ePenjana, an official Malaysian government initiative to disburse millions of Covid relief funds to eligible citizens using digital e-wallets. Grab was the only non-government linked e-wallet selected by the government in 2020 as part of the ePenjana program.

Grab was also flexible in their go to market approach, working with existing taxi drivers in some geos or increasing supply by offering more price point appropriate products like GrabBike, while rivals were still building out their black car services.

The company also allowed for cash payments, understanding that at that time cash was the predominant mechanism for payments for their customer base in most cities, and eventually built out an expansive digital payments platform to power a rising digital economy, expanding into other key product areas such as retail wealth management and micro-loans to become a true super app for the region and enabling cashless payments across its ecosystem. These subtle but important strategic choices continuously gave Grab an accumulating advantage that led to their dominance in the region.

When we invested in Grab in their growth round a few years ago, it was our first investment in SE Asia, and the beginning of Lightspeed’s growing commitment to the region.

Since then, we have been doubling down in the region, and going deeper into markets beyond Singapore & Indonesia, such as Philippines & Vietnam while continuing to expand the team and hiring locally from these markets.

Grab’s continued success at spurring entrepreneurship and innovation in SE Asia has set a high bar for what is possible and we are confident about many such iconic companies to come — If you’re someone building in the region, we would love to hear from you!

We’re honored to have played a small role in Grab’s journey to date, and we look forward to supporting the team on its next phase as a public company.

— The Lightspeed Southeast Asia Team

Lightspeed Venture Partners

Lightspeed is a multi-stage VC firm focused on accelerating…

Lightspeed Venture Partners

Lightspeed is a multi-stage VC firm focused on accelerating disruptive innovations and trends in the consumer, enterprise, and health sectors. In the past two decades, Lightspeed has backed 400+ companies and currently manages $10.5B across the global Lightspeed platform.

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Lightspeed Venture Partners

Lightspeed is a multi-stage VC firm focused on accelerating disruptive innovations and trends in the consumer, enterprise, and health sectors. In the past two decades, Lightspeed has backed 400+ companies and currently manages $10.5B across the global Lightspeed platform.