In October, Grab announced a $200 million investment to expand its fintech offerings. No longer just a ride-hailing service, Grab is now one of Southeast Asia’s largest non-bank financial firms, offering payments, micro-loans, and other services. Today it handles more than one billion financial transactions each year.
Grab is not alone. Companies from fellow Southeast Asian ride-hailing service GoJek to international tech giants like Alibaba and Amazon have been moving in on fintech.
What’s the secret to fintech’s appeal? It’s not just the vast numbers of unbanked people in the world, who represent a ready-made user base for innovative financial products. Nor is it only the vulnerability of the business models of existing payments networks like Visa and Mastercard, whose cumbersome transaction fees increase prices and, possibly, slow down innovation.
The main appeal of fintech is the opportunity to collect and analyze customer data. Fintech is where the money is (literally), and how consumers spend their money also points companies to potential profit pools. By data mining through fintech, they can understand customers’ wants and needs better than ever before. They can use those insights launch new products or hone their existing ones. And they can sell their data to third parties, opening up entirely new revenue streams.
Here’s why the merging of tech into the finance world presents one of the most exciting opportunities in today’s startup landscape.
Indonesia’s startups are gaining serious traction from international investors, positioning the country’s ecosystem to lift off as a dominant destination in Southeast Asia. But that success is not guaranteed. Indonesia’s government, investors and founders have to make strategic moves in order to bring the country to the level of Singapore or Silicon Valley.
The capital funneling into Indonesian startups is unprecedented. The country pulled in more than $3 billion of venture capital in the first half of last year, netting about 20 percent of all VC funding in Southeast Asia, according to a survey by Google and consultancy A.T. Kearney. Even more impressive than the weight of money flowing into startups is the growth in investments; as recently as 2012, Indonesia garnered just $44 million in capital. Indonesian unicorns also stand out amid the region’s giants, with Tokopedia, Go-Jek and Traveloka cinching three spots among the top 5 most funded startups in Southeast Asia, according to Tech in Asia.
The original motivation behind social media platforms was to address a basic human need: we’re social creatures and we long for connection, community, belonging. Social media’s simple goal was to create a new way for people to communicate, share, and form relationships. That simplicity faded as the world’s populations joined those networks, with all their complicated nuances and differences in tow.
For all the development and progress achieved by Facebook, the social media platform is now contending with major negative repercussions around the world. As social networks like Facebook and Instagram plowed new paths for networking and connecting, they simultaneously – likely unwittingly – seeded new ways to amplify disinformation, hatred, and exclusion on their applications.
Headlines today focus on the negative, but overall, social applications have delivered incredible benefits to users, opening up a whole world of communication we never dreamed possible. Society is now developing a better understanding of how our social media accounts impact our lives in the physical world, and startups have a new chance to disrupt the market and move beyond some of the mistakes that major social media platforms are dealing with today.
A sneak peek into the background profile of our portfolio companies’ founders.
Paul Hadjy is the CEO and Co-founder of Horangi, a full-stack cybersecurity platform. Paul manages the efforts behind creating cutting edge, cyber security solutions while ensuring that users in the C-suite down to technical operators are all armed with the right, actionable data to make critical cyber decisions.
Horangi CEO and co-founder Paul Hadjy is always connected. Whether sitting in a meeting or returning the emails that crop up overnight, the 33-year-old entrepreneur aims to keep his two-year-old cyber security company focused on clients. And as such, he finds himself forging new relationships and sustaining established ones with his team, client entrepreneurs and investors.
Ninja Van was born from co-founder and CEO Lai Chang Wen’s frustration: he couldn’t find a bespoke but affordable shirt, so he created automated custom retail brand Marcella. Later when he couldn’t guarantee timely, seamless delivery for his products, he began to explore last-mile logistics. After Lai resigned from a derivatives trader post at Barclays to pursue his new project, his friends Shaun Chong and Boxian Tan joined as co-founders. Tan doesn’t believe founding a startup with friends is usually a smart strategy, but the close core team yielded extraordinary results for Ninja Van.
In anticipation for Slush Singapore & Monk's Hill Ventures’ report on Southeast Asian tech, startup and funding ecosystem, we are holding events in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta!
Join us for the launch of The State of Southeast Asian Tech report and panel discussions discussing respective countries' tech startups and ecosystems. What could be a better way to mark the countdown to Slush Singapore!
Last year AI companies attracted more than $10.8 billion in funding from venture capitalists like me. AI has the ability to enable smarter decision-making. It allows entrepreneurs and innovators to create products of great value to the customer. So why don’t I don’t focus on investing in AI? During the AI boom of the 1980s, the field also enjoyed a great deal of hype and rapid investment. Rather than considering the value of individual startups’ ideas, investors were looking for interesting technologies to fund. This is why most of the first generation of AI companies have already disappeared. Companies like Symbolics, Intellicorp, and Gensym — AI companies founded in the ’80s — have all transformed or gone defunct. And here we are again, nearly 40 years later, facing the same issues. Though the technology is more sophisticated today, one fundamental truth remains: AI does not intrinsically create consumer value. This is why I don’t invest in AI or “deep tech.” Instead, I invest in deep value.
A sneak peek into the background profile of our portfolio companies’ founders. First up on this series is Casper Sermsuksan, Co-founder & CEO of Kulina, a food technology platform that works with cooks and restaurants to deliver curated lunch meals using a last-mile delivery algorithm, and the only Indonesian startup at Google Launchpad Accelerator in 2018.
Jon is an Operating Advisor at Monk’s Hill Ventures. and has founded a number of companies in the US and Asia. Currently, he is the head of strategic partnership for the Next Billion Users group at Google. Previously, Jon held positions as Chief Product Officer at KODAKIT and RedMart. He first entered the Asian market as the founder of Perx in Singapore.
When I got to Singapore in 2011 and was starting Perx, the ecosystem looked a lot different than it does today. I am committed to the region for the long-term, so I really want to see the ecosystem expand and mature here. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time working with incubators, speaking at tech events, and mentoring startups to help grow the ecosystem. As I mentored companies, built my own or helped build others, I noticed that I was hearing the same issues and was offering the same advice, so I started to create a playbook to building a startup. I’m hoping that learning from my mistakes will help save you from making some of them yourselves and get you to your next milestone faster.
As innovators, we often aim high when seeking out a mentor, hoping that proximity to a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk-type character will help us to reach our own ambitious goals. Most entrepreneurs have more than one mentor, and those advisors go on to serve different roles throughout a company’s growth. Rather than limiting themselves by seeking to emulate a single inspirational figure, startup founders should first outline the characteristics they hope to embody as a leader, and then seek out the right person or people to help them acquire those traits. Above all, a mentor should reflect their mentee’s aspirations as the mentee undertakes the transition from a fresh founder to organizational leader. When searching for a mentor, entrepreneurs should find mentors who can assist in a variety of ways; often, this means a team of mentors rather than a single individual.
RJ is an Investment Analyst at Monk’s Hill Ventures, and was previously a consultant at Balmater Consulting Company, where he led a small team to advise family-owned SME's in Indonesia. Prior to that, he was a financial analyst at Fortman Cline Capital Markets in Manila focusing on local sell-side deals in the region.
The first 100 days in any new job can be daunting. Acclimatizing yourself to new faces, new methodologies, new job functions, and new industries is hard for everyone. Below are some of my personal tips working in a Southeast Asian venture capital fund to help you beat the learning curve faster.
Yee Hoong is an Investment Analyst at Monk’s Hill Ventures, and was most recently founder of Custom Tribe, an online algorithmic custom shirt startup. Prior to that he was an associate with a life sciences VC/PE, and a management consultant working with clients in FMCG and Financial Institutions.
Every now and then in conversations with founders and friends, the question “would you do a startup again” will most certainly creep up. Reflecting on the decision leaving vc to build Custom Tribe a few years back, I now often advise many to-be founders to think long and hard about it. Here are three things I think are unique to Southeast Asia, from collection of conversations with fellow SEA-born (ex) founders.
Lucy Luo is an Associate on our investment team in Singapore. One of her favourite things to discuss with founders is about people and fostering talent.
I wrote this blog because it’s a common topic of conversation with friends and founders, and I’m personally thinking through this for myself. Would love to hear other people’s experiences on it - especially if you’re a founder or startup employee (past, present or planning to).
VCs evaluate a lot of startups. This gives us a good look into how they operate, what they care about, and the type of people they want to hire. VCs also meet a lot of people, including those who are looking for their next job. This puts us in a pretty logical spot to matchmake candidates and startup jobs. It’s always interesting to hear what each side thinks they’re getting, and then in hindsight what they actually end up with.
June Chen is an Associate at Monk’s Hill Ventures, and was previously an associate in the investment banking industry primarily advising large corporate clients on IPOs, local and cross-border M&A transactions in Southeast Asia.
I received a lot of queries (along with raised eyebrows) from founders I talked to about why we decided not to invest in their startups. For many instances, the answers were simple enough: it was a hardware business (which we don’t typically invest in), or it’s out of our geographical focus. However, when it comes to explaining why a startup that ticks all the boxes but might be ‘too early’ for us, I often find myself digging deep into its business model and its founders to come up with a reasonable answer. For the benefits of the general public, this article seeks to shed light on our thought process in determining whether a startup is VC fundable and whether it is ripe for a Series A round.
A sneak peek into the background of people who work at Monk's Hill Ventures. Next up is Yee Hoong, our Investment Analyst.
Wondering if there's a simple formula for exponential growth? Here's a brief explanation as described by Bayram Annakov, CEO of App in the Air, in his article.
The formula is:
k > (1-retention), where k is the fraction of new users attracted by existing users.
The system incorporates 2 feedback loops:
1. Reinforcing loop: more active users >> more new users >> more active users.
(New Users = Active Users * k)
2. Balancing loop: more active users >> higher churn rate
(Churned Users = Active users * (1-retention), since churn rate is reverse of retention)
Technology has had a profound impact on every aspect of our life, and education is no exception. With the commoditization of information and the rise of AI, our methods of education are obsolete. Though at the root of the problem, technology can help accelerate the progress in education. Innovation in edtech should help drive better learning outcomes, stay relevant, and make education more accessible.
This interview with Managing Partner Peng T. Ong first appeared on GreatOwls.com.
Interview by Olga Sych
You created three highly successful, but very different companies ranging from gaming to content management. What led you to create each of them?
I look for what I call ridiculous states of the world that don’t make any sense and then try to fix those states. The first one was looking through classified ads with your finger on newspapers. That didn’t make sense, so I thought, ‘Why doesn't a computer do it?’ The second one was how to manage hundreds of gigabytes of content with thousands of employees contributing to the content on a website. I thought there must be a better way to do it with automation. The third one was about how digital security is so archaic in our space and the world we live in, so I tried to fix that.
What is one of the most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
To choose to be an entrepreneur.
Today, data is an important competitive advantage for companies. Companies use it to understand their customers, decide on a business strategy, and optimize their business.
As an operating advisor at Monk’s Hill Ventures, I talk to startup founders on how they can do that. These startups range from early-stage companies, to more mature companies in the pre- or post-IPO stage. Some companies already have established data science teams and are keen to scale that out, while others are figuring out how to hire their first data scientists or even decide what kind of data they should be collecting. Nevertheless, there are a few common themes that keep coming up, and I hope to address some of them here.