VCs have switched their focus to south-east Asia

Venture capital firms have switched their focus from a crowded China to south-east Asia, but in Jakarta they often find that they have been beaten to the brightest prospects. A local firm, Alpha JWC Ventures, has backed a series of Indonesia’s unicorns from the beginning, ahead of the large Silicon Valley houses or their Chinese rivals such as Tencent and Alibaba. In the case of Funding Societies, for example, a peer-to-peer lending platform for small businesses, Sequoia was ready to invest on the day its two founders graduated from Harvard Business School three years ago. But even there, Alpha JWC had got there first, writing a cheque for a little more than $1 million for an initial seed round. Recently SoftBank invested $25 million in the fintech firm… Alpha JWC’s first fund of a mere $50 million was spread across 23 firms… Several of these start-ups have gone on to attract follow-on funding from global investors. The investment firm has now raised a second $100 million fund, which was launched last year… From the outside, Indonesia appears far behind other markets. It has far fewer start-ups than any of its peers — India has 20 times as many. And while most investors in the latter are foreign, there are more than 50 times as many there than in Indonesia. Last year the total value of Indonesian venture deals was only about $5 billion…

Henny Sender

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