Southeast Asia’s East Ventures on female VCs, foreign investment, consolidation – ClearTips

Southeast Asia’s East Ventures on female VCs, foreign investment, consolidation – ClearTips

Melissa Irene The path to becoming a partner in one of Southeast Asia’s most respected venture capital firms is an unconventional one.

Irene, who was promoted as a partner at East Ventures in January 2019, said, “I always consider myself very lucky. At the age of 25 she was the first female partner of a Jakarta-based investment firm.

During ClearTips Disrupt’s first online conference, I spoke to Irene about what she politely described as a “lucky” career, her experience as a young, female investor, American and Chinese VC money in Southeast Asia. Crowd, and what is COIDID-19 epidemic means East Ventures . A video recording of the conversation is at the bottom of the article.

Partner at 25

Irene admitted that time played a big role in her rise in the VC world. Indonesia’s Internet infrastructure developed relatively late – around 2010 – compared to more developed markets, but growth was rapid. In 2015, five years after East Ventures backed Tokopedia’s Series A, Irene, now an e-commerce leader in Southeast Asia, joined the firm.

In those days, “I didn’t compete with a lot of investment bankers,” said Irene, who majored in accounting at university and started as an apprentice at East Ventures. “The ability they were looking for, how fast you can drown in the ecosystem.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Southeast Asian investment ecosystem is “quite friendly” towards women. “People enjoy the promotion of women professionals in this industry. In South-East Asia, it is not a rare circumstance to see women as vice principals or principals.

The support goes beyond just examining the gender-diversity box and reflects the real demand for more sympathetic investors in the tech industry.

“Sometimes people like to talk as a business partner and sometimes as a friend. [Empathy] There is something that can be seen as natural from women, ”she said.

However, the investor warned that the number of ” [female] Decision-makers certainly need to improve, “although he supports the local ecosystem”.

Gold rush

In recent years, tech giants from both the US and China have been vying for entry into Southeast Asia, home to around 670 million people and a runaway Internet market. They often start with financing local upstarts, which, looking for investment, will provide directional advice to their foreign corporate investors.

In fact, familiar names have placed bets on the region’s rising stars. Alibaba invested in Tokopedia And its rival is travel portal Traveloka, which is also in the East Ventures portfolio. Tencent, Google, Facebook and PayPal are all investors of Gojek, going to the Indonesian Ride-Healing Titan and Neck with Grab funded by Softbank.

When big checks are offered, startups should stay level-headed and think about what’s best for them, Irene advised. “Everyone has money. Companies need to decide which side they should be on, which companies they want to put on board and which companies are able to give them strategic advice. “

It is not uncommon to see investors and founders colliding on priorities. Some investors want a quick exit, while the entrepreneurial mindset is to build a business in the long run. “That’s why alignment is important,” the investor said.

Future of technology in SEA

Unicorn and “super apps” like Grab And Gojek is emerging in Southeast Asia, with concerns that disambiguation may increase competition. East Ventures has given a unique insight into the competitive dynamics of the region as an early-stage investor who has seen some of its startups such as Tocopedia and Travelo grow as Kinnars.

Irena believed that there is maturity in the Internet ecosystem of South-East Asia, in fact there are plenty of opportunities for startups in “upcoming regions”.

“If you look at unicorns, you see a lot of smaller and smaller companies supporting them,” she said. The point is that veterans cannot accomplish everything by themselves, and some of the more niche tasks may be given special focus, especially by younger players.

On the other hand, the investor believed that consolidation is possible – and should be so – in areas that could benefit from scale and network effects.

“People consider Indonesia a country. We are not We are the largest archipelago, which means that different provinces have very different structures. For example, setting up a bank branch in a small island is expensive… it means a collective effort to provide consumers with a wide variety of offerings and needs to come to a larger ecosystem. “

Lastly, there is the inevitable question of COVID-19. Like many investors, Irene saw a silver layer during dark times.

“Before COVID, it was very difficult to assess the quality of companies. They all had a lot of money and the infrastructure was really good… Now we can suddenly tell who makes good decisions, who makes it at what pace, and what is the result of those decisions. The way entrepreneurs respond to COVID can tell us a lot about their enterprises. “

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