Myanmar digital startup NEX has won second round funding of US$150,000 from Singapore’s Blibros Group, the privately-held investment arm of Sweden’s Böcker family. Yes, this is the family of Magnus Böcker, CEO of the Singapore Exchange and former CEO of Nasdaq OMX Nordic. NEX got its initial angel investment of $50,000 last year from Singapore investor Ned Phillips, formerly of E*Trade and Chi-East.
I met NEX’s founder and CEO, Ye Myat Min, who’s all of 23, a few months ago when I was in Yangon. NEX had 15 employees then; now there’s 20. The new investment will enable the company to build on Fyre, its Web-based software introduced in May that enables small businesses to quickly set up an online storefront. One of the first customers was TAC, the country’s first authorized re-seller of Apple products. ”Most small shops want an app, but they can’t afford to get their own. Instead, they can pay us $25 a month,” Ye Myat told me.
The company is also about to release the Nexy Keyboard, the country’s first iOS 8 keyboard in Myanmar that allows typists to use Roman fonts (“Burglish”) to produce words in Myanmar (Burmese) script. It recently released Hush, a location-based mobile app where users can post anonymous messages on social networks with just a mobile phone number.
Kabyar, an app for mobile phones that enables users to instantly share Burmese poems and quotes, was released about a year ago. The focus now is on mobile but, all told, NEX has worked on more than 30 Web and mobile projects for such customers as Proximity Designs, Ooredoo and Today Publishing House since opening for business in March 2013.
Although Ye Myat is so young, he already has considerable contacts and work experience. I could see why investors have confidence in his ideas. He grew up in Myanmar but graduated from Singapore’s three-year Republic Polytechnic. He dropped out of Singapore Management University to work in Singapore’s Web world.
The plan isn’t just to seek clients in Myanmar. Ye Myat can foresee many potential clients in Singapore and then beyond. If a company orders a mobile app made in Singapore, it could cost US$10,000 while in Myanmar an app starts from $3,000, he told me. Building a website in Singapore costs around US$4000-$6,000, while it’s only $1,500-$2000 in Myanmar. And the people creating it might be the same ones that were building apps or websites in Singapore a few years ago. He explained that a great many of the digital workhorses in Singapore are Burmese, Chinese, Filipinos, Malaysians and Indians that, like him, attended a polytechnic or university on Singaporean government scholarships. In exchange, they are required to work in Singapore a set number of years and can eventually qualify for permanent residency in Singapore.