Industry

Gokongwei Group Launches P2.6B Fund To Invest in Digital Startups

JG DEV aims to support the region's next round of unicorns.
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In its bid to ride on the growing startup ecosystem in the region, diversified listed conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc. (JGSHI) has launched its own venture capital (VC) firm, Friday, May 10, with fresh funding worth $50 million or more than P2.6 billion.

JG DEV, which stands for JG Digital Equity Ventures, will mainly invest in startups that are part of the industries its mother company is currently involved in, like retail, airlines, and real estate, JGSHI said in its disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on the same day.

“JG has taken a two-track approach to digital transformation: first, it will be driving efforts to digitalize its existing core businesses. Second, it will be building new digital businesses beyond its core. JG DEV represents the second track,” JGDEV said.

JGSHI counts leading budget airline Cebu Pacific Air and listed consumer food firm Universal Robina Corp. (URC) as some of its subsidiaries.

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As for JGDEV, the VC firm said it’s looking into supporting startups that specialize in innovative financial services, consumer-focused solutions, new media, logistics, and digital health sectors.

The VC firm will mostly participate in Series A or B rounds of funding, or just before startups scale their businesses. That means investment amounts ranging from $1 million (P52 million) to $10 million (P520 million).

This is a departure from the investments already made by JGSHI two years ago. In 2017, JG Summit joined a $550-million investing round by Singapore-based Sea Ltd., which operates online gaming firm Garena and e-commerce platform Shopee. Months later, it revealed a joint venture with China-based fintech firm Oriente to develop digital financial solutions in the Philippines. That partnership already brought forth Oriente Express, the founding company of mobile lending firm Cashalo. The startup was launched in June 2018, with JGSHI giving the company an initial investment of P10 billion or around $200 million.

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According to JGDEV, it has also made investments in Indonesia-based Snapcart and sari-sari store tech enabler Growsari, shelling out more than $40 million worth of funding in total so far.

Much like the previous investments made by JGSHI, JGDEV is keen in supporting not just startups based in the Philippines but those found elsewhere in Southeast Asia as well.

The VC firm’s establishment comes as the startup ecosystem in the region accelerates to a greater level of valuation and gain further worldwide recognition. Last year, research by Bain & Company revealed at least 10 new unicorns, or startups with a valuation of $1 billion, will be produced from the region with investments totaling $70 billion by 2024. Already, Nikkei Asian Review has already called Southeast Asia as the next Silicon Valley.

Esquire Philippines is published by Summit Media, a company owned and managed by the Gokongwei family, who also controls JG Summit Holdings.

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Elyssa Christine Lopez
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Esquire. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz
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