Since its establishment in 2009, East Ventures has become the leading sector-agnostic venture capital firm in Southeast Asia. We are a holistic platform that provides multi-stage investment, from Seed to Growth stage, for over 300 tech startups and companies in Southeast Asia. Our investment comes from diverse sectors, ranging from commerce, Software as a Service (SaaS), fintech, to healthcare and climate tech.
We are dedicated to fostering the tech startup ecosystem in the region, continuously providing opportunities for our portfolio companies as well as new startups to achieve success. Here are 15 key facts about East Ventures:
1. Three co-founders, one vision
East Ventures was founded by Willson Cuaca, Taiga Matsuyama, and Batara Eto. All three currently serve as Managing Partners.
Willson, originally from Indonesia, has experience in network infrastructure and internet security. He is a graduate of Bina Nusantara University (Binus) and was the driving force behind several tech products before laying the foundation for East Ventures.
Taiga and Batara reside in Japan. Before co-founding East Ventures, Taiga worked at Accenture, contributed to the launch of Yahoo Japan, and successfully established the Kronos fund. Meanwhile, Batara once served as CTO of the social networking company Mixi.
2. A pioneer in venture capital
In 2024, East Ventures is entering its 15th year. East Ventures was founded in 2009, as one of the first Indonesian-born venture capital firms. At that time, the country’s internet penetration was 13% or 30 million people from 230 million population in 2009. Together with the startups in our ecosystem, East Ventures started to build the digital ecosystem in Indonesia because we knew the country’s low internet penetration could translate into huge potential. As of January 2023, the internet penetration has reached 77% of the total population in Indonesia.
“Our goal is to always be ahead of the wave before it becomes a mega-trend. Indonesia is reaching an 80% internet penetration rate in 2024, we are witnessing the end of the era of consumer digital transition and the emergence of a new one: the upcoming demographic dividend bonus,” said Willson in the East Ventures 2023 recap & 2024 outlook.
3. Strong confidence from LPs through new funds
East Ventures has the capability to launch new funds with confidence. With 11 funds focusing on Southeast Asia specifically: 6 Seed funds, 2 Growth funds, 1 Growth Plus fund, 1 Healthcare fund, and our latest addition, a dedicated US$100 million East Ventures South Korea fund in partnership with SV Investment for the Southeast Asia – South Korea investment corridor.
With the funds that we have amassed, East Ventures has been able to maximize our reach into startups in different stages and across industries in Southeast Asia.
4. Maturing investments
East Ventures has invested in over 300 companies and has more than 40 successful exits. We also doubled down on the best companies in the region and helped these market leaders maintain their dominant position in the market.
East Ventures has contributed to the development of several unicorns (companies with valuations exceeding US$1 billion), such as Tokopedia, Traveloka, Xendit, and Carro. We’ve celebrated successful exits through acquisitions, with notable examples being Kudo acquired by Grab in 2017, Moka acquired by Gojek in 2020, and Tech in Asia (TIA) acquired by SPH Media in January 2024.
Kudo is an e-commerce support startup that operated under the Online to Offline (O2O) business model, and the acquisition was expected to assist Grab in rapidly developing its digital payment services. Moka is a cloud-based mobile Point of Sale (POS) system, and was acquired by Gojek to support the digitalization of MSMEs in Indonesia. Tech in Asia is a media platform with a mission to build and serve Asia’s tech and start-up community, and the acquisition is expected to assist SPH Media as Singapore’s largest news publisher in building the leading business title in Asia Pacific.
5. Cadence & timing
Our primary focus lies in Southeast Asia. This region has a massive productive-age population with a rapidly growing startup ecosystem ready to enter its demographic dividend era, which could unlock a wealth of opportunities for tech startups.
Willson often emphasized that cadence is important. “Like a badminton player who has to keep playing, investors must keep investing to feel the market rhythm and make good decisions. We never stop investing. [Whether] it is a sunny or rainy day; we will still invest in good founders and only stop investing if there are no more good founders to be invested. We have witnessed an improvement in founders’ qualities over time, which can build a successful business more quickly than ever. Time to scale digital business in Southeast Asia has been compressed and accelerated,” he explained.
In addition to Indonesia, East Ventures also invests in tech startups from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan, and India.
6. A growing ecosystem
East Ventures’ journey started with the Seed funds, spanning nine years from 2009 to 2018. Following that, we established our first Growth fund in partnership with Sinar Mas and Yahoo Japan in 2018. In 2021, we launched our second growth fund and finally united our Seed and Growth teams into one holistic platform.
Today the East Ventures ecosystem includes four unicorns, a testament to our dedication to fostering a vibrant and expansive startup landscape. Through the tough global funding climate, we continue to support our portfolio companies by being their trusted sounding board, conducting community engagement, connecting them to potential business partners, and exploring additional financing.
As of 2023, East Ventures’ growth portfolio shines with 90% of startups delivering positive contribution margins, while 40% are already profitable and on the path to profitability.
7. Four unicorns
East Ventures were early investors in Indonesia’s e-commerce giant, Tokopedia, and the leading Online Travel Agency (OTA) Traveloka.
When we invested in Tokopedia in 2010, Batara said, “We believe Tokopedia has the vision and execution capabilities to become a leader in Indonesia’s online marketplace business.” In December 2018, Tokopedia’s valuation reached US$7 billion.
Traveloka achieved tremendous success after receiving investment from East Ventures in 2012. The online travel agency initially started as a meta-search engine for flight information. They have now expanded to offer various services, from hotel bookings, tours, and tourist activity tickets to car rentals, and achieved ‘unicorn’ status in 2017. By 2023, Traveloka has operations in five Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Our third and fourth unicorns are Xendit and Carro, both founded in 2015. Xendit is a financial infrastructure and consumer-focused fintech company. East Ventures was an early investor who believed in Xendit since its seed funding and continues to support Xendit in becoming the leading payment gateway unicorn in 2021. As for Carro, we participated in the Singaporean online automotive marketplace’s Series C round, which also joined the unicorn club in 2021.
8. Global recognition as an active investor
East Ventures has been named most active venture capital firm in Indonesia multiple times since 2018. We were named the most consistent top-performing VC fund globally by Preqin, and was the only VC company from Southeast Asia to receive the title.
East Ventures was named as one of the most active VCs by notable institutions, including Pitchbook (3rd Most Active in RoW), CB Insights (4th Top Global Investor in Q4 2022 and 1st Top Asia Investor in Q4 2022), and Tech in Asia (1st Most Active in SEA) by number of deals.
9. Founder-centric thesis
East Ventures holds the 2P investment philosophy for Seed investments: People and Potential market. The qualities we look for in founders are integrity, self-awareness, and paradoxical traits.
We believe that good products are built by good people who address big markets. According to Willson, a startup’s product can change, but the quality of the founder and the market potential do not. For this reason, we don’t prioritize the initial assessment of the product, as many other investors do. Meanwhile, for the growth-stage companies, we also focus on the traction.
10. Promoting gender diversity, equity, and inclusion
East Ventures is committed to gender diversity, equity, and inclusion. In our workplace and community, we’re proud to have a substantial number of women—40% in senior leadership and 33% as investing partners by 2023.
In addition to our three founders, East Ventures’ leadership includes Melisa Irene and Avina Sugiarto as Partners. When Melisa made Partner in 2019, women becoming Vice Principal or Principal in venture capital firms was common and celebrated, but Melisa became the first female partner at East Ventures at only 25 years old. The full East Ventures team consists of 70 team members across Jakarta, Singapore, and Japan, and more than half are women. Also, 25% of our portfolio companies have at least one female founder.
11. Evolving mission
During our 10th-anniversary celebration in 2019, East Ventures crafted our initial mission statement. Our mission was to be a platform for three stakeholders: for founders to transform their dreams into reality, for our team to grow into their best selves, and to make a positive impact on society. As we approach our 15th year, East Ventures has embodied this mission.
The new mission statement for East Ventures is: To forge a productive and healthy Southeast Asia for today, tomorrow, and more generations to come. “Productive” highlights the core of our work—boosting productivity through digitalization. For Indonesia to tap into its demographic dividend, we must prioritize health and sustainability. This reflects East Ventures’ commitment to seize present opportunities, ensure our long-term prosperity, and leave a positive legacy.
12. Mapping Indonesia’s Digital Competitiveness Index
In the process of identifying opportunities, venture capital firms tap into and expand their network of investors, entrepreneurs, and scholars, research megatrends, and finally form a vision or thesis of where the world is going.
Our commitment to this process is reflected in the annual East Ventures – Digital Competitiveness Index, first launched in 2020, where we systematically map Indonesia’s digital economic growth across provinces and cities. The purpose of this mapping is to help close the digital divide between the areas with high technology early adopters and several other provinces by serving as a guide to the government in developing digital infrastructure and readiness equitable throughout the country.
13. Net-zero commitment
East Ventures has pledged to be a net-zero emissions company by 2050 across our operations and broader ecosystem. We do this through a number of initiatives: calculating and disclosing our GHG inventory in the East Ventures Sustainability Report, carbon offset initiatives such as mangrove planting in several locations in Indonesia, tree planting in Jakarta, developing our own sustainable investment framework, and refining our climate tech focus. We also introduced a free web-based GHG calculator, named ECOVISEA (Emission Calculator & Visualization Southeast Asia), to assist companies in calculating their environmental impact.
These initiatives are aligned with East Ventures’ commitment as Indonesia’s first venture capital firm signed the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) backed by the United Nations (UN) in 2022. By upholding these principles, we strive to develop a more sustainable global financial system and to continue the application of the six Principles for Responsible Investment.
14. Building a healthier Indonesia
During the COVID-19 crisis, East Ventures played a crucial role in fortifying Indonesia’s healthcare system through the Indonesia PASTI Bisa (IDPB) initiative. The IDPB platform harnessed East Ventures’ digital ecosystem to aid government and private sector endeavors in mitigating COVID-19. IDPB introduced three pivotal programs for COVID-19 mitigation: the IDPB Test Kit, IDPB Safeguards PPE, and IDPB Safeguards Oxygen.
East Ventures also supported the development of genomics in Indonesia by contributing to the Biomedical & Genome Science Initiative (BGSi) since August 2022, and with NalaGenetics to provide reagents and consumables worth more than Rp 1 billion. We launcheed a white paper titled “Genomics: Leapfrogging into the Indonesian healthcare future” in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) in February 2023. This also led to the incubation program of MoH’s Digital Transformation Office, “Health Innovation Sprint Accelerator 2023 in collaboration with East Ventures”.
East Ventures is proud to announce our first healthcare-focused fund in October 2023, amounting US$30 million, dedicated to fostering innovative healthcare solutions in Indonesia. Before this, East Ventures has been an active investor in Indonesia and Southeast Asia’s healthcare vertical. Noteworthy investments include Mesh Bio, AMILI, Aevice Health, Etana, Diri Care, and early investments in genomics startups, like NalaGenetics and Nusantics.
15. 15 years of investment as a solid foundation
Despite geopolitical tensions and a global economic downturn causing an extended tech winter through 2022 and 2023, East Ventures remains a steadfast investor, one of the oldest venture capital firms in Indonesia.
“Given our long-standing history, we see that this phenomenon is natural and we can continue to direct and support our portfolio companies, invest in good founders, and create more meaningful impacts in our ecosystem,” said Melisa in an interview with East Ventures Partners on Investing in Southeast Asia’s digital ecosystem in 2023.
With 15 years of experience, East Ventures recognize that the strong fundamentals of Southeast Asia maintain the same paved road that we have been navigating since the beginning. We know what turns to take, and we will continue to race in this perfect storm.