Startup funding gets off to robust start in 2017

Startup funding gets off to robust start in 2017
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Funding for startups is off to a strong start in the new year.

On Tuesday, three new funds were unveiled - Marvelstone Ventures, East Ventures and InseadAlum Ventures.

Marvelstone Ventures, the venture capital (VC) arm of Singapore-based private-investment group Marvelstone, has S$20 million in funds, The Business Times has learnt.

An "innovation enabler" and venture-building firm, Marvelstone Ventures will invest in Smart City technologies such as blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and fintech (financial technology).

Joel Ko, chief of Marvelstone Ventures, said: "We are open to all kinds of opportunities to work with investors, related partners and institutions in public and private sectors across Asia. I am looking forward to seeing the adoption of high-end innovation in emerging markets before spreading to the developed market."

East Ventures, a Singapore-based VC firm, on Tuesday said that it has raised a US$27.5 million fund for tech startups in South-east Asia. This is the fifth fund by the 2010-founded VC firm, and will target more seed and Series A investment rounds.

East Ventures added that it expects to back about 20 startups this year, as with other years. Its investment philosophy has been to identify tech verticals that are poised to expand in their respective markets, and to back people whom it believes will be "future leaders of the space".

To date, it has made early-stage bets on companies such as Indonesia's online marketplace Tokopedia and travel site Traveloka, Singapore's e-commerce platform Shopback and real estate portal, and Thailand-based payments startup Omise.

The third funding vehicle launched on Tuesday, InseadAlum Ventures, was founded by two Insead alumni.

The Singapore-based investment firm has raised S$1 million to invest in global, seed-stage startups co-founded by at least one former student of Insead.

InseadAlum Ventures will provide each startup with seed funding of between S$50,000 and S$200,000, mentorship, as well as access to Insead alumni and faculty networks.

Its first investment is in UK-based smart thermostat startup Switchee, where it participated in a £480,000 (S$838,906) seed round.

Switchee's product is a smart, connected thermostat that learns a household's energy routine, and turns the heating off when no one is home. It can also help homeowners detect mould growth and improve boiler servicing.

Meanwhile, Legalese, a homegrown startup aimed at automating legal services, has snagged S$600,000 in angel funding.

The round was led by VC firm Walden International, and joined by multiple angel investors.

Legalese said the capital will go into developing its first web application, which will enable users (startups or small and medium-sized enterprises) to generate, manage and execute fund-raising paperwork, including the main contract and all other ancillary and corporate documentation such as resolutions, waivers and notices.

"Instead of paying S$600 per hour for a lawyer to draft a contract, imagine getting the drafting for free. Instead, you might pay S$1 per signature, no matter what the contract was about. That's the kind of business-model disruption that software promises the legal industry."

Besides fund-raising contracts, Legalese plans to develop software for employment contracts, ESOP (employee stock options plan) agreements, shareholders' agreements, NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), and IP rights assignments.

On Tuesday, local e-commerce supply-chain management firm iCommerce Asia reported that it has bagged S$2 million in pre-Series A funding.

It provides businesses with end-to-end e-commerce solutions ranging from logistics and warehouse management to store creation and digital content production, and counts Cotton On Group and Charles & Keith as its clients.

This article was first published on Jan 11, 2017.
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