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SeedPlus is an early-stage fund focused on finding global startups in Southeast Asia

TechCrunch TechCrunch 31/05/2016 Jon Russell

There’s a new early-stage fund in town — town being Southeast Asia. Singapore-based Jungle Ventures, the VC firm that launched a $100 million fund last year, has a new initiative focused on seed stage investments in the region, which is forecast to see major growth in its internet economy.

Jungle Ventures started out as an angel investment firm in 2012, but it moved into Series A and Series B financing with its new fund last year. SeedPlus, as the newest fund is called, takes it back to its early-stage roots with a hands-on approach to working with its portfolio.

SeedPlus will be run by three new recruits that we recently reported to have joined Jungle Ventures: Michael Smith, who was CTO at streaming service HOOQ, ex-Spotify product manager Gabriel Lundberg, and Tiang Lim Foo, formerly of Evernote. Together the trio — who are listed as ‘operating partners’ at Jungle — will invest in companies in Southeast Asia and work closely with them to scale their business.

How closely? SeedPlus is providing office space in Singapore to house its portfolio to enable its partners to work face-to-face with them. In the case of companies based outside of Singapore — which principally means elsewhere in Southeast Asia — it will move them to the city-state and incorporate their businesses there to make Singapore their headquarters.

In an interview with TechCrunch on the sidelines of the Rise event in Hong Kong, Foo said the fund size is not disclosed — nor has it closed yet — but that it is above $20 million right now. The team is looking to make around half of dozen investments per year, he said, with a check size of SG$500,00 to SG$1 million (US$360,000-$725,000) per deal. Roughly, that means the fund is likely to last for three to four years.

“We’ll be slightly larger than your typical seed round but I think that speaks to how involved we want to get. We want to go hands on, work with founders to get products and businesses launched,” Foo said. “In all cases we’ll be the lead investor or first institutional rounds.”

Southeast Asia is awash with early-stage capital, but SeedPlus is specifically looking for companies with the ambition and capabilities to be global.

“The sweet spot will be if you have a product market fit and traction but are just shy of raising a proper Series A,” Foo, who managed Evernote’s presence in Asia prior to the U.S. company downsizing its international footprint, explained.

“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at deep product and technology, so it could blockchain, AI or machine learning, or Saas or security — that speaks to our background and things we understand. We want global stuff, strong technology teams and disruptive technology.”

There’s no guarantee that a SeedPlus backed company would then raise from Jungle Ventures, but Foo suggested that the parent fund would have “first dibs” on promising startups thanks to the close relationship.

SeedPlus is backed by a range of partners. The LPs include Jungle Ventures itself, Singapore’s Infocomm Investments, Accel Partners and RNT Associates, a fund from Indian business magnate Ratan Tata, who is also an LP in Jungle Ventures’ fund. Beyond that collection of LPs, SeedPlus also “strategic” relationships with Google Southeast Asia and PwC Singapore who have pledged to help with resources and assistance for portfolio companies.

To date, SeedPlus has made three undisclosed investments, Foo said, details of which will be revealed soon.

Jungle Ventures is arguably one of the stand-out investors in Southeast Asia, but SeedPlus is an interesting challenge since — to date, at least — there are few examples of companies with global reach emerging from Southeast Asia. The startups that have scaled the most in the region have provided services very specific to Southeast Asia — Grab is an Uber rival, Lazada is an Amazon equivalent, to name but two — but Jungle is investing significant funds, resources and attention to SeedPlus, which suggests that the team sees the potential for Southeast Asian startups to break that mold and be relevant globally. That makes this is a project worth watching.

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