The next big thing: 10 Malaysian startups to watch in 2018

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The ASEAN is not only the world’s seventh-largest economy, but it’s also the fastest-growing internet market, and tech companies in the region are racing to scale.

Malaysia is home to several such companies, thanks to support from government agencies, venture capitalists, and accelerators.

A look at Tech in Asia‘s recent funding reveals growing support for players in niche markets, such as flower delivery and student housing. We looked at 10 companies that completed funding rounds in 2017 and 2018, mostly from seed to series B.

1. Carsome

Carsome co-founders Eric Cheng (L) and Teoh Jiun Ee

Total funding amount: $27.4 million

Lead investors: Burda Principal Investments

Latest funding type: Series B

Competitors: iCar AsiaCarro and Carmudi

Launched in 2015, Carsome is a selling platform that also functions like a broker for cars. Anyone who needs to sell a car can get in touch with the company, which will inspect the vehicle for free and assess its value. The platform assures customers that the pricing is totally transparent and free of hidden charges and markups. To prove this, it allows the seller to log in and view live bidding results.

As a bonus, Carsome handles all paperwork, which it promises to complete within five days.

In 2016, the company expanded operations to Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. Carsome faces the challenge of differentiation from its competitors, which have raised larger amount of funding.

2. Iflix

iFlix gets $45m funding in battle against Netflix

Photo credit: Iflix

Total funding amount: $298 million

Lead investors: Hearst CommunicationsJungle Ventures, Malaysia’s Catcha GroupSky, and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company

Latest funding type: Series D

Competitors: HooqViuViki, and Netflix.

Iflix offers video-on-demand (VOD) services in Asia and Africa, where the app is available in 25 countries. The key to achieving this is the app’s availability in 14 languages, including English, Chinese, Burmese, Arabic, and Swahili. Since its founding in 2014, Iflix has managed to ink 230 studio partnerships.

In its latest funding round in 2017, Iflix raised $133 million from 13 investors. While Iflix has found success in partnering with local telecom companies and enabling smartphone downloads, its competitors have emulated this strategy.

This has increased the need for differentiation. In 2017, Iflix joined the live sports streaming business. This year, it announced a free video-streaming service supported by ads.

3. BloomThis

Total funding amount: $800,000

Lead investors: Singapore’s REAPRA and US-based consulting company Venture Builders.

Latest funding type: Seed

Competitors: 50 Gram

Who knew flowers could drive a hot startup? BloomThis is an online shop of “designer flowers and gifts.”

The flowers can be delivered on demand when ordered by 1:00 pm except on Sundays, as the flower supply chain tends to slow down on weekends. BloomThis also offers a weekly subscription service.

In 2017, BloomThis raised seed funding of $600,000 for expansion to Indonesia and Singapore.

4. PurelyB

The PurelyB team

Total funding amount: $800,000

Lead investors: 500 Startups, Brunsfield Ventures

Latest funding type: Equity crowdfunding (pre-series A funding round)

PurelyB is a one-stop portal offering everything women need to know about living healthy lifestyles. It offers articles, recipes, and videos in English and Chinese, and sell health programs complete with meal delivery.

In May 2016, PurelyB launched a marketplace, but it was eventually shut down after eight months after the company made a discovery: users treated it more as a source of product recommendations and went shopping elsewhere.

PurelyB has since narrowed their focus to content, adding a subscription model to the free articles and videos on the website.

In 2017, PurelyB launched an equity crowdfunding campaign, which started with a private round for existing members before being offered to the public. Share price was set a $5.35 (RM23) per unit, and the campaign raised a total of $300,000.

After expansion to Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, PurelyB plans to enter Dubai and Australia.

5. Supahands

Total funding amount: Undisclosed

Lead investors: Intres Capital Partners, Axiata, 500 Startups

Latest funding type: Seed round

Competitors: Datarama and Jakarta’s Oxide.

Supahands offers to perform tedious and repetitive machine learning, data management, and content moderation tasks for companies. It’s positioned in the space between freelancer marketplaces and BPOs.

One key differentiation point for Supahands is the combination of software and human involvement. Another unique point for Supahands is that it also offers tools for project management, work automation, and autorouting.

Formed in 2014, it has provided services to a medical technology company, music-streaming app, and telecom service provider, among others. Its other clients include Grab and iCarAsia.

Over the past three years, Supahands has enjoyed a compound annual growth rate of 400 percent.

It plans to scale its workforce across ASEAN this year and hopes to begin expansion to India or China. This larger workforce would enable the startup to serve companies across the region with different cultures and languages.

6. HostelHunting

The co-founders of HostelHunting.com

HostelHunting’s co-founders / Photo credit: HostelHunting

Total funding amount: Undisclosed

Lead investors: Hoop PartnersAccord Ventures and KK Fund

Latest funding type: Series A

Competitors: GomfyStudent.com and XchangeHousing

Operating in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, the platform acts like an Airbnb for student accommodation. HostelHunting takes a service fee for each successful booking.

It’s looking to expand the platform’s operations to other markets in Southeast Asia.

7. Wobb

Photo credit: Wobb

Total funding amount: $398,300

Lead investors: Cradle Fund

Latest funding type: Venture – series unknown

Competitors: JobstreetStartupJobsMaukerja, and TribeHired

Wobb is a recruitment app focused on attracting young professionals. The platform highlights companies’ work cultures vy showing photos of office interiors and featuring current employees. This enables job seekers to assess culture fit with potential employers even before sending in an application.

With a database of more than 60,000 job seekers, Wobb relies on an advertising model. The company said in 2017 that revenue had surpassed $469,000.

After signing up, job seekers receive an invitation to meet Wobb’s founder, Derek Toh, over coffee. Toh used to be a director at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Malaysia before founding Wobb in 2014.

Wobb raised $398,300 (RM1,700,741) in a venture round via the crowdfunding platform pitchIN in 2017. As many as 76 participants made equity investments. RM800,000 came from Cradle Fund, a Malaysian government agency that invests in the early stage of startups.

8. Kaodim

Kaodim team photo

The Kaodim team / Photo credit: Kaodim

Total funding amount: $11.6 million

Lead investors: Square Peg Capital

Latest funding type: Series B

Competitors: ServisHeroFlagAHero

The Kaodim platform matches service seekers with pre-screened and qualified providers. The services it offers range from pest control, plumbing, and photography to catering, cleaning, and fitness coaching.

Within four months of launching, over $10M worth of sales had reportedly been gained through the platform, and more than 20,000 customers had been matched with service providers.

Kaodim charges $1 to $6 (RM3 to MR20) to suppliers when they post proposals and respond to requests. Customers need not pay to use the platform.

In 2017, Kaodim raised $7 million in a series B round.

The company claims to have the highest revenue among service-hiring platforms across Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.

9. Jirnexu

Jirnexu team photo

The Jirnexu team / Photo credit: Jirnexu

Total funding amount: $17 million

Lead investors: SIG ChinaSBI GroupCento Ventures, and Celebes Capital.

Latest funding type: Series B

Competitors: iMoneyMoneySmart

Formerly known as Saving Plus, Jirnexu offers financial institutions a full-stack fintech solution. It began with offering financial comparison websites, but it eventually evolved to a streamlined process that allows customers to select and apply for financial products with ease.

Most of the company’s revenue comes from Malaysia. Jirnexu’s revenue grew by 100 percent from 2016 to 2017, and it expects to report the same this year. But while it almost reached profitability in 2017, it’s focusing on growth strategies like launching products, says CEO and founder Yuen Tuck Siew.

Its series B round in May attracted $11 million.

Jirnexu has an edge in that it deals with both back- and front-end work – it provides information to customers, but it also works with financial institutions.

10. iPrice

iprice on laptop

Photo credit: iPrice

Total funding amount: $9.8 million

Lead investors: Line Corporation

Latest funding type: Series B

Another price comparison platform, iPrice gathers information on product availability and pricing from various e-commerce websites, like Lazada and Shopee. It also aggregates products from clothing e-tailers such as Zalora and ASOS.

By doing so, it aims to be a one-stop shopping destination for shoppers all over Southeast Asia.

The startup says it’s on track to reach more than 150 million visitors this year. Apart from Malaysia and Indonesia, iPrice operates in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Its series B round this year raised $4 million.

Apart from building a large consumer base and leveraging Southeast Asians’ growing adoption of ecommerce, iPrice has formed B2B partnerships, such as with Samsung in Indonesia and Mediacorp in Singapore.

Online to Offline

Online to offline
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Small businesses strive to keep pace with digitisation and find new opportunities through online marketplaces.

Technology and digital disruption are compelling companies of all sizes in all industries to adapt and innovate. The world has seen how even multinationals that once enjoyed enviable success can wither or perish if they fail to keep up — from Eastman Kodak to Blockbuster or even technology companies such as Yahoo, Nokia and Motorola.

But the reality is that there are a huge number of enterprises that find it difficult to connect their physical offline business to the digital world, given their lack of research and development (R&D),…

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Creating a better investing environment for Malaysia

By Karamjit Singh | Jun 14, 2018
  • Wants to build MVCA into  a regional platform while deepening roots in Malaysia
  • Aims attract more private sector professionals and the money they represent

“I AM getting the easier job as this is the best time to help create a better investing environment for Malaysia,” says Victor Chua (pic), newly elected president of the Malaysian Venture Capital Association or MVCA.

For that he thanks the past leaders of MVCA who all did “fantastic jobs” to lay the foundation for the 31-year old to now inject the vigour and ideas of youth to take the Malaysian venture community to a higher level.

With optimism about the future and confidence in the new direction Malaysians have chosen through the recent general elections, Chua is looking to build MVCA into becoming a regional platform for members while deepening its roots in Malaysia especially through getting more private sector membership into the MVCA.

At present, between 60% to 70% of MVCA’s membership are tied to government-funded VCs and sovereign wealth funds with 30% from corporates. Chua is determined to change this ratio and attract more private sector professionals and the money they represent, into MVCA.

“We want to attract more members from corporates and family offices to join MVCA.” But it’s not just restricted to Malaysian-based members as he wants to drive membership from foreign-based investment professionals as well.

“By being a MVCA member, you get to get closer to the local investing community and at the same time find out more about the local ecosystem and how the public sector works with the private sector,” explains Chua when asked what value non-Malaysia based members could get from MVCA.

Already working on a few initiatives, MVCA will also have some dialogues with industry players to get their views, to better act as the voice of members.

With an eye to building and enhancing the skill set of the next generation of investment professionals, something the Securities Commission of Malaysia and government are supporting, capacity building will be a key initiative for MVCA during Chua’s two-year term, which started last month. “I feel like a minority as there are not that many VC professionals around versus the private equity crowd,” he quips.

That shouldn’t be the case, he feels as “Malaysia has a fantastic environment with promising startups, some of which can scale regionally”. He reels off examples such as e-commerce startup, Hermo which Chua invested in while he was with Gobi Ventures of China; Carsome an online to offline automotive platform with a presence in four countries, which he also invested in while at Gobi and restaurant booking platform, OffPeak, which is also in four countries.

Now running his own fund, Vynn Capital, Chua feels that he is walking the talk through the investment choices he is making. “When I talk about Malaysian investors being regional minded while having strong roots in Malaysia, I feel my investments via Vynn Capital bear this out.”

While his first investment was made in Indonesia, Chua also participated in the March Series B round into Carsome and is currently assessing investments into Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Chua is already looking forward to an anchor event of MVCA’s, the Southeast Asia Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference 2018 (SEAVCPE 2018) to be held on July 31, 2018.

Targeting a 50% headcount increase in participation this year, Chua is bringing in a mix of foreign and local speakers. “We want them to talk about their markets as the focus of the conference is on localisation. The idea is to connect Malaysia to their markets.” The timing is right as Malaysian investors who in the past may have been too focused on the home market are now starting to invest outwards as well, he notes with his own fund but the most recent example.

Among the regional speakers confirmed are Lim Kuo-Yi, managing partner, Monk’s Hill Ventures; Kaspar Hidayat, investment manager, Venturra Capital; Koichi Saito, founder & general partner, KK Fund and Dan I. Siazon, senior vice-president & treasurer, Kickstart Ventures.

Chua’s ambition is to help grow the event into a regional platform for Malaysian entrepreneurs and regional players to come together and share knowledge. “It will be the best platform if you wish to really learn about the Malaysian entrepreneur and funding ecosystems.”

Those interested to attend can email MVCA.

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Financing the future

Tell Khailee Ng that Southeast Asia lacks talent when it comes to deep technology and you’ll get more than an earful.

“Some people say the region doesn’t have the talent for deep tech. We say that’s bull****,” Mr. Ng says in a recent interview with Asia Asset Management (AAM). “You just need to look harder. They are there, and they are ready.”

Mr. Ng is the managing partner of 500 Startups, an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator founded in 2010. He oversees its Southeast Asian operations.

The region is seeing an emerging group of start-ups dabbling in deep tech, which encompasses the whole spectrum from artificial intelligence (AI) to drones and robots and augmented reality. One example is Malaysia’s Glueck, which produces computer vision, AI and deep machine learning algorithms to assess responses to stimuli in real-time environments.

“The important part about investing in Southeast Asian deep tech is to know that the relevant companies in the region may not be only receiving investments locally, but from companies in Europe, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India which may target Southeast Asia,” Mr. Ng says.

He sees Singapore becoming a major deep tech player.

“Their universities have international talent that graduate into the ecosystem ready to take their research into commercialisation,” he says. “The government provides all kinds of support to help make this happen.”

But Mr. Ng is not discounting other countries in the region as some of them offer what 500 Startups is looking for, such as investments in space, energy, infrastructure and agriculture.

“Malaysia and Indonesia both have a groundswell of innovation in agriculture and biotechnology that have always existed but are now getting more attention from us and foreign investors,” he says. “These industries are exciting and we’ve also invested in these.”

But Southeast Asia has its fair share of challenges. Victor Chua, founder of Malaysian venture capital firm Vynn Capital, believes the biggest gaps are in talent, as well as the mentality of financial backers.

“Deep tech companies require large amounts of brain power to be able to create something that is marketable and meaningful,” Mr. Chua tells AAM. “At the same time, the backers need to be able to emphasise really long-term objectives, not just immediate monetary value.”

But Mr. Chua is confident Southeast Asia can deliver.

“We are looking at Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, mainly due to the availability of tech talent,” he says. “On top of that, it is due to the amount of training that these countries have received from global tech giants.”

Mr. Ng believes deep tech start-ups may require help to market themselves to a larger audience.

“These companies may need help telling their story to the world and planning their financial strategy. Their sales cycles and funding needs may be quite different from mobile or internet companies,” he says.

According to Mr. Ng, 500 Startups will work towards creating circles of experts in every field.

“We will offer them a forum to learn about the latest innovations in their own field, and in exchange tap into their expertise,” he says. “This creates a brain trust of leading edge thinkers that will ultimately help more entrepreneurs create the future.”

As for Mr. Chua, he envisages turning to solutions for traditional industries.

“We are looking at companies that have a very strong data play to allow for better understanding of these industries,” he says. “From there, we will look at the correlation of success factors which in turn allows us to project a more accurate future for investing.”

Source: Asia Asset Management

Indonesia’s Travelio secures $4m Series A round led by Vynn Capital

Ardi Wirdana

May 8, 2018

Indonesian travel platform Travelio has secured a Series A financing of $4 million in a round led by Vynn Capital, the startup has announced in a statement.

Also joining the oversubscribed round were Insignia Ventures Partners, Fenox Venture Capital, IndoGen Capital and Stellar Capital.

“The team’s understanding of the emerging trends of the travel and hospitality industry has allowed the company to grow and gain support from existing players. At this stage, we also welcome any property players looking to utilize innovation as a main driver for growth through potential collaborations with us,” said Vynn Capital Managing Partner Victor Chua, who is a former Vice President of Travelio’s previous lead backer, Gobi Partners.

Founded by Hendry Rusli, Christina Suriadjaja and Christie Tjong in 2015, Travelio was launched as a platform where travelers can search through a wide range of accommodation including apartments, villas, houses, and hostels. Users can set their own rates and send personalized offers to property owners.

The Jakarta-based company now has more than 4,000 listings on its platform and hosts a team of more than 80 employees.

With the new set of investors and fresh funds, Travelio says its near term priorities are growth acceleration, talent acquisition, product innovation, and new verticals.

Travelio developed Indonesia’s first VR camera based instant monthly booking platform that brings all the offline tenant experiences transparently online. This has simplified the process of renting a property, such as viewing, appointment management, negotiations, paperwork and payments.

In Indonesia, it competes in an industry currently still dominated by unicorn Traveloka, with other sites like PegiPegi and AiryRooms also fighting for the travel market pie.

Travelio’s raised its pre-series A funding round at $2 million in 2016. It used the proceeds to expand accommodation offerings, product development, widen market reach, and increase new hires.

Read more at: https://www.dealstreetasia.com/stories/97375-97375/

Vynn Capital Ingin Bantu Bisnis Tradisional ke Ekonomi Digital

JAKARTA, presidentpost.id –  Sebuah perusahaan Venture Capital asal Malaysia yang bernama Vynn Capital sedang gencar menyasar startup di Asia Tenggara, Indonesia menjadi salah satu target negara yang akan didanai oleh perusahaan yang bermarkas di Kuala Lumpur tersebut.

Perusahaan tersebut didirikan oleh Victor Chua yang sebelumnya menjadi Vice President di Gobi Ventures dan Darren Chua yang sebelumnya di IE Singapore.

Kepada presidentpost.id, Victor menjelaskan keinginannya untuk membantu bisnis tradisional ke ekonomi digital. “Kami mencari perusahaan yang punya potensi menjadi besar, tidak harus unicorn seperti Go-Jek tetapi harus yang bagus dan yang menurut kami bisa membawa dampak yang besar kepada ekonomi. Baik itu menciptakan lapangan pekerjaan maupun membawa kesempatan kepada bisnis lain.”

Victor menambahkan bahwa yang membedakan Vynn Capital dengan yang lain adalah fokus perusahaan kepada bisnis tradisional dan membawanya ke era ekonomi baru atau digital. “Kami juga mencari industri yang siap mengadopsi teknologi kami, dan di saat yang bersamaan para startup bisa menambah skill dan wawasan baru dengan investor kami yang tentunya sudah berpengalaman di bidang tersebut,” jelasnya

(Baca juga:Vynn Capital Ajak Investor Gabung, Tawarkan Cara Efisien Mengenal Pasar di Negara Lain)

Sinergi

Kata sinergi menjadi salah satu keunggulan Vynn Capital dimana mereka berusaha menciptakan sinergi diantara para startup dan dalam waktu yang sama juga menciptakan sinergi antara startup dan investor.

“Sehingga terjadi ketertarikan di antara keduanya, dimana startup dapat belajar dari investor dan investor juga dapat belajar dari startup mengenai bagaimana menjalankan bisnis dengan cara yang baru,” ungkapnya.

5 industri yang disasar oleh Vynn Capital adalah travel, properti, FMCG, female economics(kosmetikperawatan kulit dan yang berhubungan dengan woman life cycle) dan yang terakhir logistik atau enabler (fintech).

“Kami ingin para startup dari berbagai industri bisa berkolaborasi saling mendukung satu sama lain, kami juga ingin investor melakukan hal yang sama (dari berbagai spesialis industri namun bertukar pengalaman),” ujar Victor.

Saat ini Vynn Capital memiliki tiga Advisor yaitu perintis industri periklanan di Malaysia Tan Sri Vincent Lee, Chairman Jababeka Group di Indonesia S.D. Darmono dan CEO Pacifik Asia Travel Association (PATA) Thailand Dr Mario Hardy.(TPP)

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Vynn Capital Ajak Investor Gabung, Tawarkan Cara Efisien Mengenal Pasar di Negara Lain

JAKARTA, presidentpost.id – Vynn Capital merupakan sebuah perusahaan Venture Capital asal Malaysia didirikan oleh Victor Chua yang sebelumnya menjadi Vice President di Gobi Ventures dan Darren Chua yang sebelumnya di IE Singapore.

Saat ini Vynn Capital sedang gencar menyasar startup di Asia Tenggara, dan Indonesia menjadi salah satu target negara yang akan didanai oleh perusahaan yang bermarkas di Kuala Lumpur tersebut.

Kepada presidentpost.id, Victor menjelaskan bahwa dengan bergabung bersama Vynn Capital sebagai LP (Limited Partnership), maka investor bisa mempelajari pola pasar konsumen di negara tetangga melalui startup yang ada di negara tersebut.

“Kami berperan seperti platform R&D, dimana orang hospitality bisa belajar kepada orang sektor makanan melalui kami. Karena kami investasi di startup yang bisa berkolaborasi dengan berbagai industri. Karenanya investor bisa belajar lintas industri bahkan lintas pasar di beda negara,” tegas Victor.

(Baca juga:Vynn Capital Ingin Bantu Bisnis Tradisional ke Ekonomi Digital)

“Ini adalah metode R&D yang lebih murah dan efisien daripada memiliki perusahaan yang besar investasi $100 juta di negara baru yang belum dikenal. Cara kami untuk mengenal pasar di negara baru adalah dengan investasi melalui startup di negara tersebut, sehingga resiko investor lebih kecil.”

Menurut Victor investor memiliki kesempatan untuk dapat menjelajahi pasar di Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand bahkan Myanmar.

Mengenai kolaborasi yang baik, Victor analogikan perusahaannya sebagai ‘Robin’ sedangkan para startup sebagai ‘Batman’, karena Victor bergantung kepada startup untuk menciptakan value. “Tugas kami adalah sebagai pendukung dari apa yang mereka kerjakan, sehingga mereka bisa sukses.”

5 industri yang disasar oleh Vynn Capital adalah travel, properti, FMCG, female economics(kosmetikperawatan kulit dan yang berhubungan dengan woman life cycle) dan yang terakhir logistik atau enabler (fintech).

“Kami ingin para startup dari berbagai industri bisa berkolaborasi saling mendukung satu sama lain, kami juga ingin investor melakukan hal yang sama (dari berbagai spesialis industri namun bertukar pengalaman),” ujar Victor.

Saat ini Vynn Capital memiliki tiga Advisor yaitu perintis industri periklanan di Malaysia Tan Sri Vincent Lee, Chairman Jababeka Group di Indonesia S.D. Darmono dan CEO Pacifik Asia Travel Association (PATA) Thailand Dr Mario Hardy.(TPP)

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Vynn Capital Aims to Help Digitalize Traditional Businesses

JAKARTA, presidentpost.id – Malaysian Venture Capital company Vynn Capital has been intensively targeting the startups in Southeast Asia and Indonesia becomes one of the target countries that will be funded by the company headquartered in Kuala Lumpur.

The company was founded by Victor Chua, who previously was the Vice President of Gobi Ventures, and Darren Chua who was previously working for IE Singapore.

To the presidentpost.id, Victor said he wants to help digitalize the traditional businesses. “We are looking for a company with a great potential, not necessarily a unicorn like Go-Jek but it has to be a good one and that we think it will have a big impact to the economy; in creating jobs and opportunities to other businesses.”

Victor added that what differentiates Vynn Capital from others is the company’s focus on the traditional businesses to brings them to the new economy or digital era. “We are also looking for industries that are ready to adopt our technology, and at the same time they can improve their skills and insights with our investors who certainly have experiences in the field.”

Synergy

The word synergy becomes one of Vynn Capital’s advantages as it seeks to create synergy among the startups as well as between the startups and the investors.

“So, there will be an interest between the two parties, where the startups can learn from investors and the investors can also learn from the startups on how to run a business in a new way,” Victor said.

Vynn Capital has been targeting 5 industries namely travel, property, FMCG, female economics (cosmetics, skincare and women life cycle related products) and logistics or enabler (fintech).

“We want startups from different industries to collaborate mutually and be supportive to each other. We also want investors to do the same (specialists of various industries but willing to exchange experiences),” said Victor.

Currently Vynn Capital has three advisors, pioneer in the advertising industry in Malaysia Tan Sri Vincent Lee, Chairman of Jababeka Group in Indonesia S.D. Darmono and CEO of Pacific Travel Association (PATA) in Thailand Dr. Mario Hardy. (TPP)

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Looking to revitalise Malaysia’s start-up ecosystem

This article first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on March 12, 2018 – March 18, 2018.
We envision a future where technology start-ups seamlessly collaborate with the larger incumbents as a complementary force rather than being viewed as a threat. We want to bridge this gap, bringing old money into the new economy. > Victor. Photo by Haris Hassan/The Edge

Less than a year after being the only Malaysian to be featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia: Finance & Venture Capital list, Victor Chua has decided to strike out on his own and launch venture capital firm Vynn Capital. Together with partner Darren Chua, he hopes to create more home-grown opportunities and boost the local start-up ecosystem.

“In Malaysia, there are not that many venture capital firms. A lot of venture capitalists (VCs) actually come from outside the country. We want to change this and revitalise the start-up ecosystem. We want to create more synergy, contribute more talent opportunities and get more foreign companies interested in what Malaysia has to offer while providing good financial returns to our investors,” says Victor.

Rather than take the typical route where venture capital firms invest in larger, more established start-ups with a track record to mitigate risks and allow higher exit potential, Vynn Capital will do the opposite, says Victor. The firm will invest in the seed and

Series A stages to fill the gap in early-stage investing.

“There are a lot of early-stage deals that are not invested in. This is our opportunity to go in because a lot of corporates and families think that this stage is risky. So, if they invest in our fund, they can spread the risk with the other partners,” says Victor.

He adds that the Kuala Lumpur-based firm is targeting a debut fund of US$40 million and will be deploying capital in a company involved in the property and travel space in the first quarter of this year. Its advisers include Malaysian advertising mogul Tan Sri Vincent Lee, founder and chairman of Indonesian industrial estate developer PT Jababeka Tbk

Setyono Djuandi Darmono and Thailand-based Dr Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), a not-for-profit travel and tourism body in Asia-Pacific.

Vynn Capital is looking to work with corporates and families that want to generate real results for their bottom lines, apart from financial returns. “Families used to be very conservative. They tended to focus only on the return on investment and internal rate of return,” says Victor.

“Today, however, the second and third generations are thinking long term — what else can they do beyond what their grandparents and parents have done? That is why they are thinking about technology and innovation to strengthen their business operations. But it doesn’t make sense for them to do it on their own. Why would they spend so much time investing petty cash in companies that require handholding?

“They should focus on the bigger deals on their plates. That is why we encourage corporates and families to outsource this to us. We take away their headaches and align everything together.”

The core focus of the venture capital firm is to help traditional businesses create new engines of growth by bridging the knowledge and resource gap between large established companies and families with the ingenuity and hustle of start-ups, says Victor. “We envision a future where technology start-ups seamlessly collaborate with the larger incumbents as a complementary force rather than being viewed as a threat. We want to bridge this gap, bringing old money into the new economy.”

Vynn Capital’s investments will focus on five core industries — travel, property, food and fast-moving consumer goods, female economics, and logistics and enablers (which include financial technology). Victor describes female economics as companies and businesses that cater for the life cycle of women, which includes cosmetics, marriage, baby products and even children’s education.

He says the firm’s main thesis is built on two main elements — looking for companies involved in the entire value chain of these industries and those whose businesses are able to expand across related sectors.

Seeking out companies in a value chain is an important element due to the increase in the middle-income population in the region, which is leading to increased consumer spending and demand, he says. This, in turn, impacts the previously mentioned sectors the most, not just the consumer-facing businesses.

Even those involved in business-to-business (B2B) models need to be more efficient to keep up with the growing demand. Vynn Capital will also focus on businesses that are looking to enhance their operations in the value chain.

The second element — business convergence — plays on the synergy theme that the firm is hoping to create, says Victor. “It is a convergence in terms of markets, industries and business exposure. We are seeing a lot more players today expanding into related sectors, creating a synergistic value between the industries we are looking at.

“For example, the convergence between property and travel. If a property company is not able to sell residential properties due to a soft market, it could work with a travel company to do something like the Airbnb business. Travel companies could also work with food and logistics firms. That is the synergy strategy we are working on.”

The Southeast Asian edge

Despite sharing the same surname, Victor and his partner are not related. Singapore-based Darren has years of experience in strategic management and private equity investment, having worked at International Enterprise Singapore, a statutory board under the city state’s Ministry of Trade and Industry that facilitates the overseas growth of Singapore-based companies and promotes international trade.

“Darren is a friend I met on my VC journey. Two years ago, he was helping the South Korean government to hold a start-up competition called K-Startup, an effort to get global start-ups to set up in South Korea. In addition to recruiting start-ups from all over Southeast Asia, he was looking for judges as well. So, I participated as the only Southeast Asian judge,” says Victor.

“We became good friends and were trying to explore something we could do together. When the opportunity came, we decided to launch the fund together. We also have other partners, but we cannot announce them yet. We need to make sure that we are as careful and as efficient as we can be before announcing anything.”

Although Vynn Capital is looking to invest across Southeast Asia, it has decided to be based in Malaysia as it is considered a gateway to Asean, says Victor. The five countries the firm is looking at is Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is maintaining interest in second-tier markets such as Myanmar and the Philippines.

Victor says Myanmar is an exciting market as Darren actually has experience investing there. This is an advantage to the firm as not many Malaysian investors are savvy enough about that market.

“Our knowledge about Myanmar should be sufficient for us to invest in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Yes, everyone is talking about Indonesia — a huge country with a population of 270 million. But there are inherent obstacles. For starters, it is a country of 17,000 islands. The subregion, on the other hand, is just one piece of land with a population comparable with Indonesia,” says Victor.

In the Greater Mekong Subregion, Thailand is the most advanced while Vietnam is showing good potential, considering the push for innovation by its government. Myanmar is showing upside potential, with increased spending and democratisation of technology.

“The cost of a SIM card went from US$1,000 to a few dollars in a span of a few years. That shows how great the reform is in the country. And there are still gaps to be filled. For example, it does not have a strong core banking system, so users still need to carry cash to transfer money from Yoma Bank to CB Bank. However, most banks already have digital banking systems,” says Victor.

“The best thing about Myanmar is that the players are open to innovation. Even the families are eager to participate — a lot of the successors who studied abroad want to bring change to the country by leveraging technology. Vynn Capital has the regional expertise, so we will be able to create value for corporates, families and start-ups there.”

Lower risk in early-stage investing

Victor was previously vice-president at another venture capital firm, Gobi Partners, where he managed two Southeast Asia-focused early-stage funds. Some of his notable investments include Malaysia’s car-buying platform Carsome, Vietnam’s travel platform Triip.me and Indonesia’s short-term home rental platform Travelio. One of his investee companies — beauty product e-commerce platform Hermo — was even acquired by Tokyo-listed istyle, giving Gobi Partners an internal rate of return of 91% in just 1½ years.

Victor says investing in early-stage start-ups is not as risky as it used to be, due to the abundance of other venture capital firms looking for Stage B and Stage C investments. “Since there are so many of them, there may not be enough deals to go around. That means we do not have to worry about the next round of funding. We can always channel it to the VCs looking for mature deals as a natural progression. At the same time, should our partners think the companies are suitable for their traditional business, they can choose to acquire them.”

Victor says the region will need a lot more work to become a strong ecosystem that can match those in the US, China and Japan. Malaysia still presents a good opportunity to deploy VC funds, especially as the country is one of the most mature markets in the region.

“I think the reason countries such as China, South Korea and Japan choose to invest in Malaysia is that we are so used to diversity and are operationally savvy. That is why when we are looking for investee companies, we have to make sure they can expand to this country,” says Victor.

Source: The Edge

Traditionally innovative: How Vynn Capital plan to bridge between startups and big corporations

Newly launched Vynn Capital is raising a US$40 million fund for startups in Southeast Asia. Here is how they plan to do things differently.

In February, TechCrunch reported that former Gobi Partners vice president Victor Chua is planning a US$40 million maiden fund for his new venture capital (VC) firm Vynn Capital.

Co-founded with IE Singapore’s Darren Chua, the Kuala Lumpur-based firm is aiming for Southeast Asian (SEA) markets such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

The fund aims to invest in 15 to 30 companies, with figures that varied between US$300,000 and US$500,000 for seed stage and around US$1 million for Series A stage.

In explaining the firm’s investment philosophy to e27, Victor Chua puts a great emphasis in the importance of collaboration between startups and corporations.

This has become an urgency as Chua notes a growing pressure for big corporations and family offices to be more involved in VC investment in the recent years.

“[We aim] to create a synergy between incumbents and newcomers who want to do things differently, in a more innovative way. We try to create what we called ‘traditionally innovative’ businesses,” he says.

In a way, Chua even sees the firm’s portfolio companies as a form of R&D centre for its LPs. For example, a family office that works in the hospitality sector might want to implement a new technology, but has neither the experience nor expertise to develop it. Then they can work together with the portfolio companies.

“That really helps to distinguish ourselves as compared to the rest of the competitors,” Chua says.

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Vynn Capital Managing Partner Victor Chua (right) with Partner Darren Chua

Facing Southeast Asia

Chua is definitely not a new face in the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem. His previous venture capital firm Gobi Partners has more than 25 portfolio companies in the SEA region alone.

He had also been named in last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list for the Finance & Venture Capital category.

The most notable thing about the market, according to Chua, is the dynamic, and how it required businesses to adapt accordingly.

“In this region we need to be prepared to be flexible and agile, and even be able to adapt to different kind of stages that we have come to,” he says.

“For investors and startups, you need to be able to have the long-term conviction. You need to be able to look at the long-term trend, to do something about it. And that is what we stand for,” he continues.

The collaborative approach will also be used in reaching out to one of the VC firm’s targeted segment — businesses that are targeting women as their core audience.

During his time at Gobi Partners, firm’s leading success stories included the acquisitionof their portfolio company Hermo to Japanese cosmetics e-commerce company istyle in May 2017.

Despite its huge potential, investing in female-focused businesses can be challenging due to the fierce competition. To tackle this issue, Chua once again stresses the firm’s collaborative approach.

“The female-focused segment has been operating in silo basis. If you look at many companies [operating in SEA today], they are offering just fashion [products], or just e-commerce [services]. Like, in Indonesia, they have Sociolla and I used to do Hermo in my Gobi days,” Chua says.

“We understand that for female-focused businesses, it is something very difficult … and sometimes it can scare off companies,” he adds.

This is also why, in searching for potential investment, Chua stresses the importance for startups to be willing to “get their hands dirty” and collaborate with different parties.

“Because we encourage our portfolio companies to collaborate with one another; we also encourage them to work closely with our LPs as well,” he says.

The year 2018 will be a monumental one for the firm.

In addition to closing its first fund, Vynn Capital also expects to foster partnerships with both the private and public sectors.

Reported by E27