S-E Asia tech deals total US$6b in H1; more unicorns may emerge soon: report

S-E Asia tech deals total US$6b in H1; more unicorns may emerge soon: report

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SOUTH-EAST Asia saw a record number of technology-related deals as well as increasing geography and sector diversification in such investments during the first half of 2019, according to a report by venture capital (VC) firm Cento Ventures on Friday.

Some US$5.99 billion in capital was pumped into the region’s tech firms during January to June, about 28 per cent lower than the US$8.31 billion invested in the year-ago period, but nearly two-thirds more than the US$3.6 billion invested in H2 2018.

However, the full-year investment amount for 2019 is expected to match the level in 2018, as the region’s largest tech startups such as Grab, Gojek, Traveloka and Tokopedia continue to attract sizeable funding rounds, Cento Ventures said.

Besides, a burgeoning cohort of newcomers valued above US$100 million is set to attract significant capital, the firm added.

Although the majority of capital will likely continue to be associated with a few familiar names, there is also a growing crop of other late-stage companies that are raising larger funding rounds, putting them above the US$100 million valuation.

These include regional firms such as logistics provider Ninja Van and deals platform Fave, Singapore’s AI (artificial intelligence) startup Taiger and online marketplace operator Carousell, Thailand’s fashion startup Pomelo and Indonesia’s fintech RupiahPlus.

As a result, a new set of unicorns – startups valued at over US$1 billion – may well emerge soon, as these late-stage firms mature in the coming year and possibly follow the fundraising trajectory of the current South-east unicorns, Cento Ventures said.

There were 332 tech deals done during the first half of this year, almost double the 177 in H1 2018, driven by early-stage investment activity and marking an all-time high for the region.

Small deals – below US$500,000 – experienced a spike in the first half of 2019, after staying largely flat in 2016-2018. This surge in early-stage investment activity was partly boosted by deals done by a number of new accelerators and incubators, such as Antler, SKALA and Accelerating Asia.

"While we continue to see 'mega deals', tech investment in South-east Asia appears to be more diversified this year," Cento Ventures said.

Geographically, there seemed to be greater diversification in capital deployed, particularly towards Vietnam, although Indonesia and Singapore continued to capture the majority of the activity.

Investments into Vietnam made up 17 per cent of the region's total inflows in the first half, a jump from the 5 per cent that the country accounted for in 2018. This comes as the country produces more late-stage companies such as Tiki, VNPay and Vntrip.

Meanwhile, Indonesia lost a large share of capital invested due to the absence of mega deals. It captured 48 per cent of the total amount invested in H1 2019, down from 77 per cent in the whole of last year.

Singapore accounted for 25 per cent in the latest period, up from 13 per cent in 2018. Investment amounts into Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines were consistent with previous years.

A wider range of sectors also attracted interest in January to June. Solid growth was observed in investments into fintech, healthcare and logistics startups. While fintech has been popular since 2017, the logistics and healthcare sectors have emerged as some of the most funded sectors.

Separately, fintech investments in Singapore were found to have nearly quadrupled from a year ago to US$453 million in the first half this year, placing the city-state as the third-largest fintech market by funds in the Asia-Pacific. This was based on Accenture’s analysis of data from CB insights.