The investment comes from Makara’s $770 million joint fund with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), which is focused on finding valuable IP in the tech and startup space. TechCrunch understands that Tryb is talking to a range of other investors with a view to closing the round with at least $20 million in additional capital.
Tryb is focused on fintech in Southeast Asia, but, unlike most startups in the region, it operates like an umbrella company by taking stakes in promising businesses and buying up others via acquisitions. The firm started out acting as a VC, but Tryb CEO Markus Gnirck explained to TechCrunch that it decided to actively play in the space and thus it switched modes to become an enabler or collector of businesses.
For a Western comparison, Tryb aspires to be like LendingClub with a focus on digitizing the predominantly analog systems of financial services and banking in Southeast Asia, a region of over 600 million consumers.
“Still the majority of consumers in Southeast Asia are under-banked and under-served,” Gnirck told TechCrunch. “For example, most lending is in cash or informal lending, there’s a strong need to digitize.”
The company’s other major focus is in capital markets, where Gnirck said he sees increasing interest in Southeast Asia from outside of the region.
“There’s strong demand to start buying ASEAN credit, with Japanese, Chinese, American and other investors looking to buy up $50-100 million worth. But they don’t know where to start since it’s all on paper,” he said.
“We want to make the movement of local markets, and particularly credit, more accessible to global markets via Singapore.”
Currently, the Tryb business doesn’t make direct revenue. It holds stakes in a number of businesses — including MC Payment which is in the process of going public in Singapore — but Gnirck said it has two acquisitions that he expects to finalize in the coming months. These companies, which are both in the enterprise space and are established for a number of years, will bring revenue to the group once acquired, he explained.
Gnirck said he is particularly excited at the potential to work with Makara, and its portfolio companies which include broadband provider MyRepublic. He believes the ISP, which is entirely digital, could have synergies with financing and lending services in the future.