Category: Economy

IdeaSpace launches 2017 Philippines startup competition

IdeaSpace Foundation, an early-stage technology incubator and accelerator in the Philippines has formally launched its National Startup Competition for 2017 and has begun accepting innovative technology ideas.

IdeaSpace is a non-profit foundation backed by First Pacific, Metro Pacific Investments Corp (MPIC), Metro Pacific Tollways Corp (MPTC), MPIC hospital group, PLDT, Meralco, Smart Communications, Maynilad, Voyager Innovations, and PayMaya Philippines.

On its fifth year, the 2017 IdeaSpace National Startup Competition will be increasing its finalist quota, accepting 15 startups instead of the usual 10, into the final acceleration process.

The acceptance of more startups is part of IdeaSpace’s efforts to expand and accommodate the local startup ecosystem, which it noted has seen robust growth over the past four years.

“We’ve seen very inspiring stories of startup founders joining IdeaSpace over the years, from husband-and-wife tandems to students looking to make their own mark in the world,” said the Executive Director of IdeaSpace, Diane Eustaquio.

“This year, we’re looking to extend our support to more startup founders with burning passion for starting up their own business and helping the country progress with the help of technology and innovation,” she adds.

All 15 startups that make it to the finals next year will receive an equity fee funding of PHP 500,000, which translates to an approximate amount of US$ 10,000.

Besides, the teams will also receive support for housing, transportation, incorporation, office space, communication, software, classes and training, as well as mentorship from executives under First Pacific companies, the total value of which amounts to more than PHP 1 million.

However, IdeaSpace will not have a stake in their early-stage startups.

Newly appointed IdeaSpace president Butch Meily said the foundation has been extending its capacity into a – full ecosystem support. This is to ensure that most of the startups are guided every step of the way.

“We’ve realized over the years that startups need as much support as they can get in every step of the process, from bringing their ideas to life to launching them into the market, and even to making their startups grow further,” Meily explains.

But aside from incubation and acceleration programs, IdeaSpace has also been an avid supporter of startup community events in the country and overseas, such as the annual Geeks on a Beach conference, the Slingshot MNL programme by the Department of Trade & Industry, as well as the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival.

Since launching in 2012, IdeaSpace has incubated and funded a total of 52 startups, some of which have grown and evolved into large businesses and enterprises such as PinoyTravel and TimeFree Innovations.

Interested individuals or groups may submit their unique startup ideas by logging on to Deadline for submission of ideas is on January 12, 2017.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Three VC firms to launch US$375 million Biomedical Translation Fund

The Australian government under Turnbull has ­selected three VC management funds to administer its A$500 million (about US$375 million) Biomedical Translation Fund that is said to be Australia’s largest life sciences fund.

The three investment firms mandated to manage the government capital are – Brandon Capital Partners, OneVentures Management, and BioScience Managers – which have all been tasked to select and finance Australian start-ups in the health and medical research sector.

The capital fund is intended to boost life sciences sectors, specifically medical research projects in the advanced pre-clinal, Phase I and Phase II stages, according to a government statement.

The BTF was first pitched as part of the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda which comprises A$250 million from the government with the remaining capital matched from the private sector.

Each manager was assigned to different portions of the fund but all three will screen investment proposals to the BTF and develop a broad portfolio of investment in Australian science and research.

Brandon Capital Partners has been ­appointed to manage a combined A$230 million fund, comprising A$115 million from the Commonwealth and A$115 million in private capital, which is contributed from Australian biotech giant CSL.

According to Brandon Capital, they will invest its $230 million through Australia’s largest life sciences fund, the new MRCF BTF fund which is occupied by a range of private investors including biotechnology firm CSL and superannuation funds AustralianSuper, Hesta, Statewide and HostPlus.

This would be the first time for the industry to have ­access to the sort of funds that it needed to supercharge it to the next stage. For as companies get into phase-two, instead of selling them, VCs now have the viable option and ­transformative capacity to support them into the next phase.

“On all measures, Australia has one of the world’s leading biomedical research industries, but unfortunately, too often, we see promising discoveries leave our shores early in development, with little value returned to the country,” the managing director of Brandon Capital, Dr. Chris Nave said.

“The size of the MRCF BTF provides the opportunity for these technologies in Australia to be developed to much later stages, and in some cases to even make it through to the market,” he adds.

Under his leadership, the MRCF BTF fund will invest in maturing technologies that have progressed to clinical studies. The VC is also expected to make its first investments in early 2017.

“The government has made a bold decision,” said Dr. Chris Nave. “Rather than spreading the money around and pleasing people, it has chosen to make sure it’s applied in a way that is going to grow the industry by choosing three funds.”

Meanwhile, OneVentures and BioScience Managers are to manage the combined Commonwealth and private capital commitments of A$170 million and A$100 million respectively.

On OneVentures Management side, the company said its fund would be open for business in January and would be looking to make initial investments in the first half of the year, investing $10m-$20m in each individual company.

The investment criteria for OneVentures’ fund is that a company’s innovation has reached clinical proof of concept, with phase-one or equivalent trial results; have a clear commercial, regulatory and reimbursement pathway; and clear value inflection and exit points on deal entry. It is looking for companies commercializing med­ical devices, drugs in clinical development or diagnostics.

On the other hand, Jeremy Curnock Cook, the managing director of BioScience Managers said, “What is required is not just more money but an investment approach that ensures that companies can access the right people and expertise to give their biomedical innovation the best chance to succeed in a highly competitive world market.”

“We really need to ensure that the next generation of companies like Cochlear, Resmed and CSL can grow and flourish from Australia and ­become international champions, and this investment capital will certainly go a long way to ensuring that,” he adds.

Mr. Curnock Cook also noted that it was important to remember that the money was not a handout, highlighting that the federal government was rightly expecting to achieve a good financial return on its investment on behalf of ­taxpayers.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

China Merchants VC leads funding round in tech media platform

36Kr, a Beijing-based technology media platform and startup services provider had received around RMB100 million (about US$14 million) strategic investment in a new funding round led by China Merchants Venture Management Co., Ltd.

Investing as a strategic investor, China Merchants Venture hopes to cooperate with 36Kr in order to support the advancement of entrepreneurs and boost innovation in China.

“This investment is an important initiative for us. 36Kr has a unique advantage in venture capital and entrepreneur services,” said Lv Kejian, the general manager of China Merchants Venture.

This investment follows a Series D financing led by Ant Financial in the company last October. While Kr Space, 36Kr’s co-working space spinoff, received a combined RMB 200 million (about US$ 30 million) from Prometheus Capital and IDG Capital Partners.

Launched in 2010, 36Kr started off as a technology blog. But to date, the company currently operates four business units, which includes media, venture fundraising services, financial services and co-working space.

After this fundraising round, the company plans to separate and operate each of its business units independently, seeking further funding to grow each unit, as it did with its co-working space division – Kr Space.

The company also has ambitions to pursue an initial public offering domestically for its media and co-working space in the next few years.

With over 82,000 start-ups aggregated on its platform, 36Kr claims to have helped 2,000 start-ups raise venture funding. Its co-working space unit currently has 28 locations in China and plans to open dozens more.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Malaysian Cradle Adds 6 New Partners And USD 3.26 Million To Fund Local Tech Startups

Today marks another achievement for Malaysia’s early stage startup investor – Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd. as the funding company reveals its 7th batch of co-investment partners – adding six more venture capitals to the list that will join Cradle’s equity co-investment program.

Among the six new equity co-investment partners include RHL Ventures, TinkBig Venture, Biz Angel Network, EIX Group, Segnel Ventures, and PlaTCom Ventures. This latest inclusion will bring the number of Cradle’s equity co-investment partners from 25 to 31 as well as an investment of up to MYR 14.5 million (about US$3.26 million) to fund local tech startups.

The equity co-investment program where Cradle matches the contribution made by a partner has started in 2014 with existing co-investment partners including Fatfish Ventures Sdn Bhd, OSK Ventures International Bhd, CoENT Ventures Partners Ltd, Crystal Horse Investment Pte Ltd, Captii Ventures Pte Ltd, Kathrein Ventures Sdn Bhd, and KK Fund.

Additionally, the government-run organization has also signed a grant co-investment partnership with a Singapore-based seed fund provider, Golden Gate Ventures (GGV) back in June 2014. It has raised a total of MYR 161.2 million (about US$36.25 million) from the previous six cycles. Now, with its 6 new partners, the co-investment funds have been raised to MYR 190.2 million (about US$42.75 million).

“We wish to have a diversity of investors in our co-investment circle from venture capitalists and institutional investors to ECF platforms whose investors consist of sophisticated angels who are no stranger to funding early stage businesses,” said Cradle Group CEO, Nazrin Hassan.

Having these new partners, thus, would give the funding company an opportunity to tap into their partners’ insights and experience investing in startups which Cradle may not have. This, in turn, would bring advantage to the Malaysian startups that aim to become global players.

Cradle Logo

Cradle Logo

To date, more than 700 tech startups have benefited from Cradle, as the agency has the highest commercialisation rate among government grants in the nation. As for the co-investment scheme, there are 4 companies that were funded through the program which includes BeMalas, the only app one literally need for anything; MauKerja, a job-hunting platform; Sync Media, a mobile solution that aims to break down the barriers of communication between teachers and parents, and SupplyCart.

For this cycle with the latest six partners, Cradle announced that RHL Ventures and TinkBig will contribute the same investment amount of US$1.12 million, Biz Angel Network and EIX Group investing US$449,505 each, and Segnel Ventures US$112,367 while PlaTCom Ventures contribution were undisclosed, according to Cradle at an event in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

The investment scene this year in Malaysia has been quite slow as compared to last year. It is apparent that the regional investment has subsided due to the geopolitical risk which has in turn affected not only the currency value but investments in Malaysian startups. Through this move, Cradle has moved and encourage venture capital investments in Malaysian startups to help spur the ecosystem.

On the other hand, Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd has also announced that its 2017 allocation from this year’s MYR 30 million will be reduced to MYR 22 million. This reduction has been announced in light of the healthy development of ecosystems for technology startups, which are increasingly able to tap into equity crowdfunding, as well as peer-to-peer financial and advisory facilities and services.

“The introduction of alternative platforms for startups to raise fund through Equity Crowdfunding (ECF) platforms and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) financing came at the right time. This has helped to reduce the impact of the slowdown,” he added.

As a whole, this collaboration will likely bring various benefits to the Malaysian startup ecosystems. Subsequently, there is still a reason to invest in Malaysia as not only does the nation has a pro-business government but simply put, the Malaysian entrepreneurs’ hunger for success is no less than their Singaporean peers. Moreover, there are fewer investors eyeing the country which opens up more opportunities for venture capitals.

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By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Seedcom-Backed Cau Dat Farm Brings Smart Technology Into Vietnam Agricultural Production

Looking past food delivery startups or applications that do grocery shopping for the urban tech-savvy population. Internet of Things (IoT) is now also moving on to tackle the supply side, widely transforming the agricultural scene.

From solutions for small-scale farming households to large farms, the use of technology has helped farmers and agriculturalists minimize their farming effort while maintaining the optimal growth conditions of the plants.

In Vietnam, Cau Dat Farm is one of the farms using IoT in its agricultural system. The farm in Dalat currently has an underrunning IoT solution deploying a gateway to collect data such as light, humidity etc. through a system of sensors, weather stations, and robots, as to enable the management of farm operations via the cloud.

To accomplish this, the farm tech has formed a partnership with Intel in terms of importing its expertise and hardware from the inception of businesses, as well as incorporating other international hardware supplies and knowledge from agribusiness experts.

Also, understanding the operations and business strategy of Cau Dat Farm, it seems that the Vietnamese farmstead is establishing a connection between farmers through transferring the technology to other enablers.

This is because operators believe that Cao Dat Farm alone cannot cover the country’s demand for food. Hence, the key to the strategy instead is to manage the entire network through ensuring the quality, and transparency of the products made by its partners.

“Cau Dat Farm will be a platform for other agribusiness players to join, and all will produce quality goods,” Pham Ngoc Anh Tung, the director of Cau Dat Farm said.

Tung, which had a technology background in automation, was assured that joining Dinh Anh Huan’s Seedcom – one of the biggest success stories in Vietnam is positive that the application of IoT in agriculture will be robust.

Yes. Indeed it is.

Sellers in street market selling fresh organic fruits and vegetables

Sellers in street market selling fresh organic fruits and vegetables

As aside from Cau Dat Farm, smart farming has been apparent in Vietnam with its primary movers being Captii Ventures-backed MimosaTEK, which provides real-time solutions to optimize farm operation and Tech mogul FPT Corporation, which has also partnered with Japanese IT equipment and service firm Fujitsu in a smart agriculture project in Hanoi.

But what sets Cau Dat Farm apart from its competitors is that the company is also looking to work with local telecommunication platforms which have already developed their IoT platforms. In this sense, Cau Dat Farm will build a standardized database for agriculture, which is not yet available in Vietnam.

“Once these agriculture data becomes big enough, we will be able to solve the questions of forecasting crops, diseases, and productivity. It will also help connect the value chain together, including farmers, agribusiness companies, retailers, experts, and users.” Pham Ngoc Anh Tung, director of Cau Dat Farm adds.

This is because IoT (Internet of Things) can ensure transparency of food production without amplifying the costs, at a time when the country is highly concerned about food safety. Especially with the rampant cases of food safety violations – a recent case being the mass poisoning of 34 Japanese students who visited a Five-star Hotel in Ho Chi Minh city last month.

Considering the final effect, smart farming has a bright future in Vietnam as compared to traditional forms of cultivation. As despite the growing investment in clean products with high technology that might be more time-consuming as well as taxing in price.

But the products of technology – ready-to-eat tomatoes and lettuce, grown without soil that can be consumed unwashed are filling the gap for Vietnamese that are worried about food safety. They are going organic and looking for a healthy and reasonably priced choice – which make this profitable in the long run.

For more information, please visit

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

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