Uplive parent ASIG poised to expand through acquisition upon completion of SPAC listing despite icy tech climate

The parent company of social platform Uplive plans to brave the tech winter to expand its business by acquiring companies in emerging markets, but will shun the China market due to its “complex” nature.

“Last year the stock market was euphoria,” said chief executive Andy Tian of Asia Innovations Group (ASIG), the tech start-up behind live streaming service Uplive and dating app Lamour. “If last year was fire, then this year was ice.”

Precarious global economies have slowed advertising spending and sent chills up the tech industry’s spine, leading to lay-offs at many giants including Meta Platforms, Amazon and more recently Google, as well as smaller platforms like Lyft and Snap.

“Tech companies are driven by capital,” Tian said. “Thus when the capital market cools down, generally we will see a cool down on tech.”

Uplive parent ASIG poised to expand through acquisition upon completion of SPAC listing despite icy tech climate

Andy Tian, co-founder and CEO of Asia Innovations Group, pictured with an broadcaster on his live-streaming platform Uplive in Beijing on February 7, 2016. Photo: Simon Song

But ASIG believes that despite the crunch, the company is a good pick for investors thanks to its broad footprint in emerging regions and its diverse line-up of products.

“[Investors] are definitely concerned,” said Tian, who grew up in the US and started his career with Google. “They will ask about whether your valuation is reasonable and about future growth. How can you grow your company in this volatile and geopolitically sensitive environment? But that’s something that we find out that we actually have.”

The CEO, who is also the co-founder, said that while the big tech companies have “saturated their user base”, ASIG, with its focus on emerging markets, still has room for continued growth.

The coronavirus pandemic fuelled significant growth for ASIG, as people sought online connections and engagement. In 2020 the company nearly doubled its registered users to 312 million, further increasing that to 480 million across 150 countries by the end of 2021. Its revenue also more than doubled last year.

Flagship product Uplive has become one of the most popular global live social platforms, with 230 million registered users as of June 2021.

In September, the company said that it would go public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Magnum Opus Acquisition, which raised US$200 million in cash through its own initial public offering in May 2021.

Upon the completion of the entire SPAC procedure, which is still pending regulatory approvals and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023, the app developer is hoping to leverage the new funds to acquire more companies and products.

“We see a huge opportunity in the next couple of years to acquire great companies that we have met throughout the years, having a single product or operating in a single region,” Tian said. “We can give them a global platform, and that is a huge opportunity that can only be realised as a public company.”

Eager for more users and further expansion, Sichuan-born Tian and his co-founder, Ouyang Yun, a former Tencent Holdings senior executive, have chosen to stay on the sidelines in their home market, even though it boasts the world’s largest online population of 1.05 billion as of the end of June this year.

“Mainland China is a more complex market, and it has a different kind of ecosystem in terms of regulation and network infrastructure,” Tian said. “We know that very, very well. While things outside China are pretty much the realm of America’s internet. So we have to choose. We chose to become an international company from day one.”

Founded and headquartered in Singapore, ASIG now has 18 offices worldwide, with more than 1000 employees from 23 countries.

“China is our engineering, our supply chain,” Tian said. “But our market is outside.”

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