Temasek-backed Wavemaker closes $185m fund for South-east Asia start-ups

South-east Asia is seeing rising interest from investors scouting for companies that can capture the surge of online activity amid the pandemic. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Wavemaker Partners, one of Singapore's earliest venture capital firms, closed its fourth fund at US$136 million (S$185 million) to back start-ups in South-east Asia's fast-growing technology industry.

The firm exceeded its initial target of US$120 million, with existing backers Temasek, Pavilion Capital, International Finance Corp and Vulcan Capital participating, the company said in a statement on Tuesday (March 8).

It also drew in institutional investors, university endowment funds, funds of funds, family offices, corporates and high net worth individuals, it said. The fourth fund will bring its total assets under management to US$300 million.

Wavemaker has invested in more than 170 companies since 2012. About 150 of these are working on sustainable technologies, enterprise-related ventures or scientific and engineering challenges. So far, the firm has had 13 exits, including Singapore software startup TradeGecko, according to its website.

Wavemaker's portfolio companies include laser communications start-up Transcelestial, agriculture technology start-up EFishery and business-to-business marketplace GudangAda. Ms Melissa Ho, who previously served as vice-president of investments, has been promoted to lead the firm's investment team.

South-east Asia, a region with about 650 million people, is seeing rising interest from investors scouting for companies that can capture the surge of online activity amid the pandemic. The region's booming Internet economy is set to double to US$363 billion by 2025, research from Google, Temasek and Bain & Co. shows.

South-east Asia's publicly listed consumer tech darlings - including Sea and Grab Holdings - have been floundering in the stock market after a disappointing earnings season. Yet, private market investors like Wavemaker are still optimistic that the emerging region has the potential to birth a swell of companies that might be worth billions in the future.

The firm focuses on areas including early-stage enterprise, deep tech and sustainability. Managing partner Paul Santos said in an e-mail that these sectors are not as popular as consumer tech start-ups and tend to grow more slowly, but they  have "natural paths to creating moats and profitability".

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