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Stepping Up: VCs in Southeast Asia roll out initiatives to support startups during COVID-19

Published on April 15, 2020

Original post by KrAsia 

Last year, technology advisory firm North Ridge Partners said in its 2019 Southeast Asia Internet Trends report that Southeast Asia is the world’s most compelling digital hotspot—another technology miracle after China and India. The report, however, also cautioned about many uncertainties as the world was heading into 2020: the trade war, US election year, IPO market. It particularly noted that when the world sneezes, Southeast Asia will catch a cold.

No one could have predicted the scale of COVID-19. The world is reeling from an unprecedented pandemic and the Southeast Asian economy, which recently went through a fundamental digital transformation, is surely feeling the chilling effects.

However, promising efforts from the startup ecosystem are gaining momentum and provide much-needed support for young companies and its employees in this difficult times. Click here to find the list of initiatives tracked by KrASIA.


Ondine Capital pledged up to USD 10 million for a project named Snap Investment Program, in order to fund Southeast Asian startups that are affected by COVID-19. All the decision-making and the investment process will be made remotely. Deals are capped at USD 1.5 million and have to close within a 6-week timeframe. One investment committee member will join the projects from day one.


Several VC firms in the region such as Jungle Ventures, Alpha JWC, Convergence Ventures (now known as AC Ventures following the recent merge with Agaeti) have launched a community initiative to support laid-off staff from startups in the region. A public list of “SEAriously Awesome People” offers affected employees the opportunity to find a new job. The list is shared on different social media channels of the participating VC firms. The organizers hope to “surface awesome talent, help folks find new jobs and help growing startups find top talent asap.”


KK Fund is spearheading a region-wide initiative to match SEA startups with top tier investors in the region, entirely virtually of course. “Meet your Match” will support companies in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. More than 80 investors have committed to participate. Information about how to sign up in respective countries can be found here.


Singapore-based TNB Aura has launched a Special Situations Fund, backing impacted tech firms with nearly USD 2 million each. Co-founder and managing partner Vicknesh R Pillay sees this as an opportunity to support great companies which are facing near-term cash flow problems. Providing an extended runway of 12-18 months, the fund aims to aid startups, so they can focus again on their targeted milestones.


The Malaysia Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (MVCA) has started a joint initiative, together with several regional venture capital firms such as Vynn Capital, Cradle Seed Ventures, Kejora Ventures Malaysia, and RHL Ventures, providing advisory support to startups in Malaysia. The four venture capital firms have committed to offer strategic advice, including on financing and fundraising, for startups and entrepreneurs in need.


Golden Gate Ventures created a site with online resources for startups. The firm held a series of virtual panel sessions that were livestreamed on March 24, with over 250 attendees tuning in. They concluded on a note of optimism: The panellists see people, firms, and governments in Southeast Asia starting to communicate and collaborate more openly than ever.


Singapore-based Expara recently floated the Expara VirTech Global Accelerator. The firm is looking for entrepreneurs and startups who are developing products and services that help fight COVID-19 and future viruses. “We believe there must be many innovative solutions to the wide range of challenges we are now facing,” the company stated. Entrepreneurs can apply for the categories Detection, Information, Prevention and Protection, as well as Mitigation, which covers quality of life and work efficiency during and after the pandemic.


Likewise, Antler, the early-stage venture capital firm, announced that it will invest a total of up to USD 500,000 in startups tackling the virus. Areas of interest for this initiative are Mitigation (masks, contact tracing, surveillance, data infrastructure), Medical equipment (test kits, protective devices, ventilators), Remote health (telehealth, remote patient monitoring, symptom checkers), and Digital tools (remote work, smart delivery, e-learning).


Singaporean angel investor AngelCentral assembled a list of resources on available grants and documentation for the community. The partners Shao-Ning Huang, Der Shing Lim, and Teck Moh Phey are hosting twice-weekly one-hour sessions to help startups with their problems. The company is making clear that the talks are strictly only for founders facing trouble due to the current environment.

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