The last few months have considerably changed the global economic landscape, and even in previously thriving startup ecosystems such as Southeast Asia, many startups are floundering.
Startups find themselves more vulnerable to the volatility created by COVID-19, simply because they are still in the early stages of development. In recent months, they have had to deal with many factors such as an overall decline in productivity, a breakdown in the supply chain, and the need to work remotely. These setbacks have all limited their capabilities for growth.
They are not alone in their fight for survival, though, as many private organisations have stepped in to help. In Southeast Asia specifically, many venture capitalists(VCs) are doing their part to help tech startups stay afloat with VC led investment support, as well as by creating community initiatives such as “SEAriously Awesome People”. These VCs have banded together to help by providing monetary resources, finding new talent, helping people find new jobs, and offering advisory services to those that need them.
Here are a few standout examples of just how VCs have been helping tech startups in Southeast Asia.
Expara – VirTech Global Accelerator
Singapore-based VC firm Expara has launched an accelerator programme called Expara Virtech Global Accelerator. The goal of the programme is to help entrepreneurs and startups develop products and services useful in addressing many of the global disruptions currently being caused by COVID-19. Their motto is “tech solutions for a post-pandemic world,” and their focus is to develop new products in the fields of disease detection, information, prevention & protection, and mitigation. Thus far, the company has been working to provide talented workers with mentorship and funding to support the continued development of innovative tech solutions.
KK Fund – Meet your Match
Another VC investment firm in Singapore, KK Fund’s usual investments revolve around seed-stage internet and mobile startups across Southeast Asia. In response to COVID-19, they have launched “Meet your Match” — a programme aiming to match various investors and startups within the region, because they “do not believe that we should let the current situation stand in the way of promising startups meeting potential investors.” They initially started in Thailand, allowing the startups and investors to meet virtually. However, after the overwhelmingly positive response, they have worked with multiple partners to expand their reach to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
AngelCentral prides itself on being “one of the fastest-growing communities of angel investors in Southeast Asia”. In an attempt to provide support for the startup community, they have put together a list of various resources on their website. The site displays resources for both startups and investors which include: a list of available grants in the region, surveys to understand which topics people need advice on, webinars and readings about how to best weather this crisis, and chat appointments for those startups who are struggling at this time.
A global early-stage VC firm, Antler, invests in groundbreaking technology companies and has also provided a lifeline for tech startups. They recently announced that they wanted startups to apply for funding if they believed that they could find solutions in one of five different areas related to COVID-19. The top five teams to apply will receive $100,000 USD each and have access to the Antler platform and network. Although the pandemic has resulted in difficult times, the CEO of Antler stated “Great necessity inspires great innovation. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt human life around the world, now is a time when innovators need to come together for the greater good.”
TNB Aura – Special Situations Fund
With a focus on helping tech startups through this crisis, VC firm TNB Aura’s website recently opened applications for those in need of funding. This firm sees an opportunity to “support great companies that may be facing near-term cash flow issues” as a result of COVID-19. With their help, various startups will be able to focus on achieving their targeted milestones, without worrying about the monetary effects of the pandemic.
Predictions so far show that approximately $28 billion USD of startup investment money will “go missing” this year, resulting in more layoffs, and for some companies a final shut-down. However, history has shown us that most good companies do survive periods of economic turmoil. With the support of VCs, there is hope that many of the Southeast Asian tech startups will survive the crisis and use it to make powerful strides towards the continual need to innovate. Whether creating tech solutions for the current crisis or developing innovations that will prevent future health crises – the near future holds many possibilities for tech startups in the region.