Success stories not hard to find at venture capital funds

August 08, 2023 | 09:55
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With a robust startup ecosystem and a growing pool of innovative entrepreneurs, Southeast Asia has become a hotbed for venture capitalists. Jussi Salovaara, co-founder and managing partner of Singaporean venture capital fund Antler, discussed with VIR’s Le Luu its comprehensive investment strategy to select the most promising startups, as well as their perspective on emerging trends.

What does your investment strategy in Southeast Asia look like, and how do you select promising startups?

Success stories not hard to find at venture capital funds
Jussi Salovaara, co-founder and managing partner of Singaporean venture capital fund Antler

Our strategy revolves around identifying talented and driven individuals across various domains. We look for founders who have a track record of success or are employed in startups or corporate settings. These individuals can be serial entrepreneurs with prior successful ventures, employed in startups, or even working in corporate settings.

The goal is to provide these individuals with the opportunity to collaborate within our global platform, helping them find co-founders, develop scalable business models, and gain access to our network of founders and capital. We are sector-agnostic, focusing on early-stage investments and placing significant emphasis on the calibre of the founders themselves, as business models may evolve and change over time.

Can you share some successful startup cases from your portfolio in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam?

We have witnessed remarkable success stories within our portfolio. One notable example is Rebello, a sustainability-focused marketplace specialising in refurbished electronics. Through their circular economy model, Rebello allows individuals to sell their used iPhones, which are then refurbished and resold.

They have scaled their operations from Singapore to several APEC countries and recently expanded into the highly competitive US and Canadian markets. Currently, they are at the Series B funding stage and have demonstrated exceptional growth and market penetration.

Another noteworthy startup is Airalo, an eSIM platform that provides data connections to travellers worldwide. By leveraging embedded SIM technology, users can easily purchase data connections for their mobile devices in over 200 countries. This convenient and seamless service has gained significant traction, and Airalo has established a strong presence in the market. With Singapore as their base, they have successfully tapped into a global demand for reliable and accessible mobile data solutions.

Additionally, we are excited about a promising early-stage startup from Vietnam called BYUO. They are pioneering the field of biodegradable bio-plastics, offering sustainable alternatives to traditional plastics. BYUO recently secured a seed funding round, generating substantial interest within the industry. Their innovative approach and commitment to environmental solutions make them an inspiring addition to our portfolio.

Currently, we have around 20 Vietnamese startups within our portfolio.

How do you support the startups in your portfolio, particularly startups in Vietnam?

Our assistance for startups in our portfolio is multi-faceted and tailored to their specific needs. We offer coaching and advice to help founders navigate the complexities of scaling their businesses. Moreover, we facilitate connections with potential business development partners and customers, opening doors to valuable collaborations and market opportunities.

We also leverage our extensive network of international investors who are interested in the sector, providing startups with access to additional funding sources.

Furthermore, our portfolio companies benefit from the guidance and expertise of experienced advisors in their respective fields. We believe in providing comprehensive support to our startups, ranging from strategic advice to crucial introductions, ensuring their long-term growth and success.

What startup trends do you find particularly exciting in Southeast Asia, and what are your thoughts on the metaverse and its recent developments?

The most prominent trend that cannot be ignored is the rise of AI and the emergence of different generative AI companies. We anticipate Vietnam, with its abundant tech talent, to produce several successful AI-focused companies. Additionally, climate tech is gaining traction, with numerous tech companies focusing on environmental solutions. We believe these trends will continue to grow in terms of both volume and impact.

From our perspective, the term “metaverse” currently lacks concrete meaning. However, we are more interested in exploring the potential of blockchain technology in building web3 companies. Although there might be limited interest from the broader funding ecosystem currently, we believe there will be a resurgence of web3 companies in the future, leveraging blockchain technology to create lasting and impactful ventures.

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By Le Luu

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