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Gobi Partners and MAVCAP launch a $14.5M seed fund for Southeast Asian startups

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Gobi Partners has partnered with Malaysia Venture Capital Management Berhard (MAVCAP), which claims to be the country’s largest venture capital firm, to launch a $14.5 million fund dedicated to seed-stage companies in Southeast Asian.

Called the Gobi MAVCAP ASEAN SuperSeed Fund (or just SuperSeed Fund for short), it has already invested in five companies: e-commerce site operator Nuren Group; restaurant discovery engine Offpeak; on-demand service platform RecomN; tour site Triip.me; and YouthsToday, an advocacy group and event organizer.

This is the second time Gobi has collaborated with MAVCAP. In September, the two launched a $50 million fund for Series A investments in Southeast Asia and China.

SuperSeed Fund is managed by Gobi co-founder and managing partner Thomas G. Tsao; Gobi’s Singapore-based partner Kay-Mok Ku; and MAVCAP CEO Jamaludin Bujang.

Founded in 2002 to focus on startups in China, Gobi entered Southeast Asia eight years later with its first Singapore fund, Ku tells TechCrunch.

“That makes us not only an early player in the market, but also one of the first Chinese venture capital firms to expand to Southeast Asia. Since then, we’ve seen dramatic growth in the region,” he said. “When we first entered, startups generally couldn’t receive institutional funding unless they were already profitable.”

While followup funding was especially difficult for startups to secure, this has gradually changed as family offices turn into full LPs, especially in Indonesia, Ku adds. More venture capital firms are also setting up shop in Southeast Asia. This means that Southeast Asia now boasts its own unicorns, including Indonesia e-commerce sites Tokopedia and Matahari Mall and Singapore-based ride hailing app Grab.

“However, the region is still ripe, as many firms in Asia remain heavily focused on China and India, making Southeast Asia a gem for early-stage investors as it has yet to reach the hype levels China and India’s startup scenes are currently experiencing,” Ku said.

The SuperSeed Fund will focus on four areas: e-commerce; financial technology that will enable more consumers to pay for online purchases; mobile (Southeast Asia has one of the fastest-growing smartphone penetration rates in the world); and startups targeted to Muslim consumers, since Indonesia and Malaysia are both Muslim-majority countries.

Startups in the countries of Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia get a lot of investor attention because they have large populations and government support for new companies, but Ku believes Thailand is also very promising.

“It is the region’s second-largest economy and individual purchasing power is double that of Indonesia. It is also an important cultural, tourism, and transportation hub for the region and to connect China and India,” he said, adding that Vietnam and the Philippines are also attractive because of their youthful populations.

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