The tech industry weathered an intense “perfect storm” of crises these past two years. The global economy is in a complex state characterized by uncertainty, making caution our guiding principle. We find ourselves in a landscape where valuations are far from their peak, the global economy remains sluggish, inflationary pressures persist, and the threat of a potential global recession looms large.
However, we have anticipated that the Southeast Asia digital economy is well-positioned to excel in the next economic recovery cycle. At the beginning of 2023, we believe the best drivers can still race even in a perfect storm. East Ventures continues to race in this perfect storm by steadfastly directing and supporting our portfolio companies, remaining investing in good founders, and creating more meaningful impacts for the ecosystem. Highly adaptable drivers and teamwork are key.
East Ventures consistently supports and advises our founders intensively through some initiatives and platforms, which also allows them to share and gain insights to help them navigate their businesses in challenging times. Our Growth portfolio shines with 90% of startups delivering positive contribution margins, while 40% are already profitable and on the path to profitability
East Ventures also gained strong support from our Limited Partners (LPs) in fundraising, a resounding vote of their confidence in our investment strategy. We successfully sealed three new funds last year.
In May 2023, East Ventures secured US$250 million through the successful launch of the first and final close of the Growth Plus fund. The fund aims to provide our high-potential growth portfolio companies with the resources to scale.
Five months later, we identified opportunities in building an investment corridor between the Southeast Asian and Korean venture ecosystem and announced the “East Ventures South Korea fund in partnership with SV Investment” totaling US$100 million. The fund is expected to have a first close in the first semester of 2024.
Most recently, we announced our first US$30 million Healthcare fund dedicated to driving innovative healthcare solutions in Indonesia. East Ventures Healthcare fund will play a pivotal role in fostering and catalyzing healthcare innovation in Indonesia – proof of our long-term commitment to the healthcare sector.
Collectively totaling US$380 million in multiple funds raised, these funds underscore our robust commitment to three main things: diverse sectors, regional collaborations, and forging a productive and healthy Southeast Asia for today, tomorrow, and more generations to come.
The racing is yet to stop. As an active player, East Ventures keeps investing in high-quality founders and maintains a prudent approach. In 2023, East Ventures sealed 63 deals, welcoming 29 new portfolio companies while disbursing nearly US$80 million to our Seed and Growth portfolio companies. These strategic investments span various sectors, including e-commerce enablers, biotech, Software as a Service (SaaS), electric vehicles, climate tech, and more.
Infographic 1 – East Ventures’ 2023 milestones snapshot
Consolidating the digital ecosystem and beyond
We continue to strengthen our presence within the digital ecosystem in Indonesia, the Southeast Asian region, and across broader sectors.
Our commitment to advancing Indonesia’s digital competitiveness has been reflected through various initiatives undertaken since our inception. Last year, we launched the East Ventures – Digital Competitiveness Index 2023, the 4th edition since 2020. This report covers digital competitiveness across 38 provinces and 157 cities/districts in Indonesia, with a median score of 38.5. This marks a notable increase from previous years: 35.2 (2022) and 32.1 (2021). It’s evident that digital adoption has grown more equal across all provinces.
Additionally, we remain optimistic about the resilience of the Southeast Asian economy. With a combined GDP of US$4 trillion, a population of 650 million, over 70 million small and medium-sized businesses, and a potential for a US$20 billion economic boost, the region presents enticing investment opportunities across countries. For instance, Indonesia and Thailand excel in automotive manufacturing. Their collaboration—Indonesia providing electric batteries and Thailand manufacturing automotive parts—can create a unified strategy, drawing significant investments to build a regional electric vehicle ecosystem.
Realizing the importance of an integrated ASEAN, East Ventures took part in promoting collaboration through the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) 2023, which focuses on driving the region’s transformation through innovation and inclusivity across priority programs, such as Digital Transformation, Sustainable Development, Health Resilience, Trade and Investment Facilitation, and Food Security. We engage proactively in two priority programs: Trade and Investment Facilitation and Sustainable Development.
These programs are strengthened with legacy projects to ensure their enduring impact in the future. The Trade and Investment Facilitation programs aim to address the disparity in intra-regional trade by reducing Non-Tariff Barriers, balancing trade with partners, and exploring upgrades to Free Trade Agreements. Therefore, the ASEAN Business Entity (ABE) legacy project is formed to strengthen intra-ASEAN investment by offering advantages dedicated to promoting key reforms in trade and investment within ASEAN.
Aligned with our commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, we participate in the Carbon Centre of Excellence (CCOE) in empowering ASEAN businesses to navigate carbon markets effectively by facilitating a common framework for the net-zero goal and sharing knowledge on nature-based solutions and carbon trading across markets.
To achieve that goal, East Ventures accomplished some new and continued initiatives in 2023. We launched the second Sustainability Report, which highlighted our proactive measures toward climate action. Together with Temasek Foundation, we launched the first Climate Impact Innovations Challenge (CIIC), Indonesia’s largest climate-tech pitching competition. The program received over 330 applications from Southeast Asia and beyond, and four champion companies were chosen from four unique tracks: Renewable Energy, Food & Agriculture, Mobility, and Ocean.
We actively engage in impactful initiatives, by fostering forest conservation and nature tourism in Komodo National Park, such as 5,000 mangrove planting, revitalizing tourist facilities, and Bersih Bersih Bajo – a beach clean-up initiative in collaboration with Rekosistem, a waste management startup, local government, and communities.
Another fun initiative is the F2DT BAG 22 project, a high-mobile backpack specifically designed to cater to founders who often embark on 2-day trips. This project empowers multi-stakeholders: enhancing our internal team’s capabilities, collaborating with local SMEs, and partnering with local communities, to amplify our environmental impact. From 250 F2DT BAG 22 sold, we planted 1,250 mangrove trees at Semarang Mangrove Center, Central Java, Indonesia.
In November 2023, we contributed to the “Tree Planting Joint Movement” (“Gerakan Tanam Pohon Bersama”), a collaborative project between the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the President of the Republic of Indonesia. Through this movement, we have donated 200 mahogany trees to help reduce air pollution in Jakarta.
Infographic 2 – Create more collaborative initiatives in our ecosystem and beyond
In the healthcare sector, East Ventures undertook several initiatives, such as launching a white paper, “Genomics: Leapfrogging into the Indonesian healthcare future”, which was a collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) of The Republic of Indonesia. 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 continues to support the Biomedical & Genome Science Initiative (BGSi), which first commenced last year. In 2023, we donated reagents and consumables worth IDR 1,022,395,458 for use in sequencing processes in BGSi.
Cloudy but brighter skies, cautious paths
The past few years have been rough, like staring into a cloudy sky with no sunshine in sight. However, there are hints that things might clear up soon. The Fed might loosen its grip on interest rates this year, giving the United States (US) economy a chance to breathe easier. This, in turn, could be a shot in the arm for the tech industry. Think of it like peeking through a crack in the clouds and seeing a patch of blue sky – it is not a guarantee of a sunny day, but it sure is promising.
However, like seasoned racers, our cautious instinct remains acutely aware of the obstacles ahead. Geopolitical tensions spread across certain regions continue to pose significant market volatility. Moreover, with essential elections in America and Indonesia approaching, the way forward still requires vigilance and unwavering focus.
As a skilled driver, East Ventures sustains our focus and self-awareness amidst the current situation. “Entering 2024 comes with uncertainties. Geopolitical tension in some countries and the instability of the global economy have led to substantial volatility. However, we see positive signs. We are staying aware, closely monitoring, and focused on our objectives regardless of external fluctuations,” said Roderick Purwana, Managing Partner at East Ventures.
This year, East Ventures is entering its 15th year. We started to build the digital ecosystem in Indonesia in 2009 when no one noticed how low the internet penetration in Indonesia could translate into huge potential. With a massive population of over 270 million and mostly are productive ages, Indonesia’s digital economy has grown fast with mobile phone penetration close to 80%. The country has become an economic driver in ASEAN and Southeast Asia.
Our strategy is firm and remains the same: to identify and invest in the best founders and opportunities regardless of good or bad times. Additionally, while we see numerous investment prospects in diverse sectors, encompassing climate (including energy transition and climate-related projects), healthcare, and supply chains, we are constantly making strides through sector-agnostic investments.
“East Ventures has demonstrated consistency and perseverance throughout our journey, through multiple funding cycles and global crises. We constantly remind ourselves to compete with our previous achievements and stay alert for the less obvious opportunities. Our goal is to always be ahead of the wave before it becomes a mega-trend.
As Indonesia is reaching an 80% internet penetration rate, we are witnessing the end of an era of consumer digital transition and the emergence of a new one: the upcoming demographic dividend bonus.
In the next 10 years, Indonesia will enter an early demographic dividend era, leading up to the peak of the demographic dividend about 20 years from now. By then, almost 206 million people will be in their productive age, theoretically able to support their dependents. The majority of the workforce in the next 10 to 20 years will be digital natives, led by Generation Z and supported by a mature Millennial generation. A significant portion of the productive population is coming of age. These circumstances present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Indonesia into a high-income country and catalyze the emergence of new business opportunities.
Whether the upcoming generation will be able to realize the ‘2045 Golden Indonesia’ vision or become a demographic liability depends on our readiness to prepare and act now,” Willson Cuaca, Founding Partner at East Ventures, concluded.
We previously published an article about our Partners’ insights and East Ventures’ strides in 2023, titled: ‘Investing in Southeast Asia’s digital ecosystem: Interview with East Ventures’ Partners.’