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Emerging markets media and internet giant Napers has dropped US$40-million on Brazilian app development house Movile.
The company, which has more than 500 employees working in offices across Latin America and in Silicon Valley, builds apps across the various smartphone platforms, specialising on-demand services.
Some of the apps it has built allow people to order food on the fly, find restaurants on the go and watch streaming films.
It also has its own unified app marketing place which allows Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and carriers choose to preload apps that developers have uploaded onto a central site.
The Marketplace leverages Movile’s relationships with carriers and OEMs to bring them together with app developers. This platform will furthermore focus on improving hurdles such as billing relationships with carriers, distribution networks, as well as marketing budgets.
With the Movile Marketplace acting as the middleman, the company claimed when it launched in 2014, small and big developers have the opportunity to have their applications preloaded on stock smartphones. The company notes that it has already previously preloaded applications on Samsung, LG, Sony, Huawei as well as Apple mobile devices.
Over the past week Naspers shares have rocketed to record levels on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), going past R2 000 a share. Much of that value comes from its stake in Chinese internet giant Tencent.
Despite that, the purchase is slightly out of kilter with Naspers’ recent behaviour, particularly when it comes to its investments in emerging market countries outside of China. Over the past few months, the company sold its stake in Greek Pay TV operator NetMed as well as Swiss online retailer Ricardo. In 2014 meanwhile it shut down a number of its South African ecommerce properties, before merging Kalahari with competitor Takealot later in the year.
In January, there were also rumours that it was on the verge of selling its shares in Polish web auction service Allegro.
The last of those turned out not to be the case however.
Buying into a Brazilian app developer does however suggest that it has renewed vigor for the space, especially with the growth of on-demand services in the mobile space. It’s a space that Naspers is very obviously becoming interested in too.
In South Africa however, its plays have largely been limited to add-ons to services such as WeChat. In the coming weeks for instance, it’ll be officially launching PicUp, an on-demand delivery service which also allows members of the public to take on delivery jobs for a small fee.
“We believe this is a billion dollar opportunity,” says Fabricio Bloisi, Movile’s chief executive. “Everyone will start to use the mobile phone to supply what they want within 30 minutes to an hour.”
The investment takes Movile up to US$100-million in raised capital, putting it on a fairly even footing with most of its international competitors in the space.
Bloisi is pretty confident about his company’s ability to make the most of that capital too.
“Movile is focused on local commerce and content,” he told TechCrunch. “We raised this round from Naspers and we expect to double our investments in [online-to-offline services].”
Its approach is, in many ways, as catholic as that of German startup incubator Rocket Internet. It plays in a number of spaces, but all of its products are based on getting products and services to people as fast as possible.
“We want to expand from cinema to other verticals and we want to go to Latin America,” Bloisi says. “The big thing for us is we see the synergy of local commerce. once we sell the user food we can also sell tickets or they can also buy grocery delivery. We have 65% of sales on food through mobile”.