Chow Shing Yuk, a former professional poker player who studied economics at Stanford University, has joined the billionaire ranks, but not because he drew a lucky hand.
Over the past decade, Chow, 44, has steadily built Lalamove into a logistics and delivery giant from a base in Hong Kong, backed by the likes of Neil Shen’s Sequoia China and Lei Zhang’s Hillhouse Capital. On Tuesday, Chow’s company, whose formal name is Lalatech Holdings, filed for an initial public offering in Hong Kong that revealed he owns a 25% stake through a family trust. Based on Chow’s stake and proceeds of earlier share sales, Forbes estimates, his net worth to be $2.2 billion, making him a rare startup billionaire in Hong Kong.
Lalatech’s last private fundraising was a $230 million Series G round in November 2021, during the startup bubble. According to a report by technology website the Information, that round valued Lalatech at a lofty $13 billion. Since then, many startup valuations have fallen amid interest-rate hikes and recession fears. The company’s IPO prospectus revealed that Chow sold 2.17 million shares of Lalatech to Chinese internet giant Tencent, another one of its investors, for $100 million in December, valuing the company at about $7.8 billion. Lalatech did not respond to a request for comment.
The logistics giant’s application to list in Hong Kong comes nearly two years after it reportedly filed confidentially for a U.S. IPO to raise at least $1 billion, according to a Bloomberg News report. Besides Sequoia China and Hillhouse, Lalatech’s other investors include Richard Li’s FWD Group, real estate tycoon Adrian Cheng’s C Capital and Goodwin Gaw’s Gaw Capital Partners.
Chow, who serves as chairman and CEO, cofounded Lalatech in 2013 to digitize freight booking and tracking services, which were traditionally done through call centers. The company’s mobile app connects individuals and businesses with drivers for delivery of goods, including groceries, furniture and even pets. Lalatech operates under the Lalamove brand in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, and as Huolala in mainland China.
Lalatech managed to narrow its net loss by roughly 96% year-on-year to $93 million in 2022, according to a regulatory filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange. During the same period, the company saw its revenue jump 23% to about $1 billion, with its mainland China business contributing more than 90% of its sales.
Lalatech attributed its steady growth to the vast network of merchants and carriers it has built over the past few years. The company served about 11 million average monthly active merchants in more than 400 cities in Asia and Latin America in 2022, and connected with 1 million average monthly active carriers. This network allows Lalatech to generate more income from membership fees and commissions paid by carriers.
Chow, who was born in mainland China and grew up in a dilapidated wooden house in Hong Kong, earned a scholarship to study in the U.S. after scoring straight A’s in the city’s public examinations, according to an interview he gave to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he earned a master’s degree in economics. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Stanford, Chow started his career as a consultant at Bain & Co. in Hong Kong.
Having spent much of his working hours playing Texas Hold ’em poker online, Chow decided to switch paths to professional poker. The unusual career change was proven right as Chow accumulated HK$30 million ($3.8 million) in winnings in the span of eight years.
In 2013, Chow used his first pot of gold to start Lalatech (which was called EasyVan at the time) with cofounders Gary Hui and Matthew Tam after being frustrated by using call centers to book delivery services. In the Chinese University of Hong Kong interview, Chow disclosed his ambition to make Lalatech the pronoun for “delivery” in dictionaries.