Southeast Asia's start-up scene shows increased investment potential, says venture capital firm

Southeast Asia’s start-up scene is presenting increased investment potential as the pandemic has shifted dynamics for the long-term, one of the region’s leading venture capital firms said.

Despite its “devastating” impact, the downturn has provided “a lot of opportunity” for new start-ups in the region, Roderick Purwana, managing partner at Indonesia-based East Ventures, told CNBC Monday, noting that he has seen many new businesses formed during this period.

In particular, new businesses related to digital adoption, including education technology, health technology and financial technology, have been a real success story, he said.

With any crisis, it brings also opportunity. We’ve seen that not just in this part of the world.
Roderick Purwana
managing partner, East Ventures

“With any crisis, it brings also opportunity. We’ve seen that not just in this part of the world,” Purwana told “Street Signs Asia.”

“We’ve seen some of the largest or most successful start-ups or tech companies are founded during this time,” he said citing previous historic downturns such as the dot-com bust and 2008 Financial Crisis. “I think this one (will be) no different.”

Purwana’s comments come as Southeast Asia’s start-ups have been gaining ground on the global stage.

On Monday, Indonesian ride-hailing giant Gojek announced that it had merged with e-commerce player Tokopedia to form GoTo Group. The deal is seen as a preemptive move as the company prepares to go public at an estimated valuation of $35 billion to $40 billion.

Ahead of the announcement, Purwana said that valuations have become “a little bit frothy” due to recent hype around the region. Still, he said they remain “reasonable” overall, adding that it is “definitely a positive” to see homegrown names now entering the public markets.

That includes public listings via special purpose acquisition companies (SPAC), which have grown in popularity across the region as across the globe. Last month, fellow regional ride-hailing giant Grab announced it would go public on the Nasdaq in a nearly $40 billion SPAC merger.

“We’re seeing SPACs as an opportunity for some of these tech companies to tap the U.S. public markets,” he said. “There will probably be some correction on the noise. But in the long run, I think it’s there to stay.”