UnaBiz raises $25m in Series B round to set itself as ‘unified LPWAN’ solution provider
Singapore-based IoT service provider UnaBiz has raised a further $25 million as part of a Series B funding round led by Tokyo-based investment company SPARX Group. The round was oversubscribed, the company said, with participation also from Taiwanese venture and private equity firm CDIB Capital Group, Singapore-based investment company G K Goh Holdings, and oil and gas company Thai Oil.
The funds will go on expansion in Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East, the company said, via a strategy of both organic and new merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity. UnaBiz, a regional Sigfox operator and IoT development house, wants to establish itself as a go-to production engine for the broader low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) market, beyond just Sigfox, to cover LoRaWAN, notably, and cellular technologies as well.
It raised over $10 million in 2018 in a Series A funding round led by mobile operator KDDI, via its SORACOM low-power IoT division and investment fund. The company has a presence in Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan, as key regions in the Asian IoT market. The company holds Sigfox licences in both Singapore and Taiwan. It has a supply arrangement with Sigfox operator Kyocera, plus its key investment deal with KDDI in Japan.
The company, calling itself the ‘first massive IoT provider’ in marketing channels, claims one of the largest smart metering projects in the Asia Pacific region, having connected 850,000 gas meter readers for NICIGAS, Japan’s largest liquid petroleum gas entity. The project was a collaboration with Kyocera, as the operator, and SORACOM, as the solution provider.
UnaBiz had a hand recently, as the solution provider, in a notable deal with Australian keg rental provider Konvoy Group, via local Sigfox operators Thinxtra, worth around 20,000 connections. The firm’s ambition to be an IoT development house for the broader IoT market is based on the idea that the global LPWAN market is fragmented, and that it is well-positioned, in Taiwan in particular, to leverage an efficient production hub for the rest of the world.
It opened an office in Tokyo in June to strengthen its position in the region and “develop IoT solutions for… the rest of the world”. Speaking with Enterprise IoT Insights in May, Henri Bong, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, floated the unlikely notion in May that Sigfox and LoRaWAN, the rival kings of low-power IoT connectivity, might just call a truce – and even team up.
Sigfox has struggled through the Covid-19 era, notably in the UK and South Africa. It has sought to reorganise its affairs with the departure of founder Ludovic Le Moan, mostly putting for-sale signs in the windows of its last Sigfox-owned networks, in the US and France. UnaBiz sees a future in a “unified LPWAN world”, it says, which unites a global patchwork of low-power IoT tech, including LoRaWAN among non-cellular standards.
The company has helped to organise and cheer-lead more than two dozen Sigfox operators across the world into a formal ‘0G United Nations’ (0GUN), running with the Zero-G (0G) branding Sigfox has adopted to capture its position as a backup tech for all the other cellular-Gs, and borrowing from the vibrant ecosystem model established by the LoRa Alliance.
But its vision is to run LPWAN solutions as a kind of massive IoT pulse in the broader IoT movement, to carry the great burden of low-power sensor traffic for sundry tracking and monitoring applications, with cellular-based 4G-LTE and 5G layered in over the top for sparkier machine communications. The message from Henri Bong about the new $25 million funding is that it will cement the company’s position as a provider of “unified” IoT solutions.
He said: “Our vision is to accelerate corporate digital transformation with optimised end-to-end solutions which include hardware, software and connectivity. We look forward to growing our team in each area and working with vertical experts to champion a unified LPWA network world. The IoT industry has become too fragmented and it is our mission to simplify and eradicate frictions to enable massive IoT, from 0G to 5G.”
Philippe Chiu, co-founder and chief technology officer at UnaBiz, added a line about the importance of the new funds to drive the company’s mission to solve the extant global challenge environmental sustainability — as defined in the UN’s sustainable development goals, and about to be brought to a head at COP26 in Glasgow later this month — with technology.
He said: “We see a transition in the demands of the IoT market from competitive drivers to carbon reduction commitments. On top of adopting sustainability reporting, responsible consumption and production practices, the new funds will be channelled to develop specific expertise and services that will help our customers reach their energy goals. On top of energy-optimised sensors, pattern detection based on AI is key in our new offerings.”
The fresh funds will be used to strengthen the scaleup’s foothold in Japan, South-East Asia, and the EMEA region, it said, “via local offices and M&A operations”, and to sustain the “growth trajectory” of its new UnaConnect cloud data platform, offering to “bridge the glaring gap between fragmented IoT data collection technologies and enterprise systems”.
In a statement, it made reference to its regional provenance, as a Singapore operation with a stake in Taiwan, as the engine room for its wins with NICIGAS and Konvoy Group, as well as to its installation of 3,000 Sigfox sensors at Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore, via a supply deal with Singapore-based infrastructure company Surbana Jurong.
“Leveraging Taiwan’s world-class solutions design, industrialisation, and supply chain ecosystem, and Singapore’s innovation platform, the company [has] made remarkable strides in three major industries: water and gas metering, asset tracking, and facilities management. Consequently, UnaBiz has been servicing Japan’s largest remote gas meter reading infrastructure, the largest autonomous tracked beer kegs fleet in Australia and New Zealand, and one of the most ambitious integrated facility management projects for an educational institution in Singapore.”
SPARX Group, which manages around $15 billion worth of assets and is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, led the latest Series B round through its $700 million Mirai Creation Fund in the US, which has backed from the likes of Toyota Motor Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. Both Global Brain and ENGIE Ventures were involved in UnaBiz’s previous Series A; the former via KDDI’s Open Innovation Fund.
CDIB Capital Growth Partners, a fund managed by merchant banking group CDIB Capital Group, and TOP Ventures, the investment arm of Thai Oil Public Company (TOP), Thailand’s largest oil and gas company, are new to UnaBiz. TOP Ventures is looking to bring “existing massive-IoT solutions developed by UnaBiz to the Thai market”, the statement said. G. K. Goh Holdings, also involved in the round, is also new. Quotes were provided from all investors.
Shuhei Abe, president and chief executive at SPARX Group, said: “UnaBiz has made tremendous progress in the past year. We are impressed by its rapid and sustained growth, especially how it delivered one of the largest and fastest smart gas metering projects in the region, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to partnering with this talented and dynamic team to meet the growing needs of a burgeoning IoT landscape.”
Tatsuya Matsumoto, director at Global Brain, said: “UnaBiz has worked closely with KDDI subsidiary SORACOM since its Series A funding. The duo’s collaboration has spurred in the smart metering space. With the new Japan office, we are certain that the team can expand its data services to new verticals and scale these new solutions to the global market.”
Thomas Baudlot, chief executive for ENGIE’s energy solutions business in APAC, said: “ENGIE has been working closely with UnaBiz to support the digitisation of its services. UnaBiz’s commitment to developing sustainable products and services for its partners is completely aligned with ENGIE’s ambition in accelerating the move towards carbon neutrality. We are excited to journey on to deploy at scale energy-efficient solutions in the region.”
Goh Yew Lin, managing director at G. K. Goh Holdings, said: “UnaBiz’s customised massive IoT solutions have been deployed at scale by major clients in the Asia-Pacific region. Even during the pandemic, the team successfully won contracts in new industry verticals and expanded its geographical footprint. We are pleased to join new and existing shareholders to support UnaBiz’s next phase of growth as it scales its business across the Asia-Pacific and beyond.”
William Ho, president of CDIB Capital Group, said: “UnaBiz has achieved compelling growth in the [Asia] region over the last 18 months despite the pandemic. The team has proven that its tech and vertical-agnostic approach to the market is the right one. We are pleased to share our deep industry expertise, and extensive local knowledge and network to help them capitalise on cross-market opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Luck Saraya, managing director of TOP Ventures, said: “We want to invest in emerging technologies and business models that are promising and would enhance and extend our existing energy business. UnaBiz fits into all three key areas of our focus: industrial technology, sustainability technology, and energy technology. We look forward to working with the team to co-create custom solutions for the industry at large.”