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Startups

Singapore startup backer to set up Indonesia office in 2020

Antler aims to nurture at least 20 local ventures annually

Antler zeroed in on Jakarta because it sees significant untapped potential.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Singapore-based venture builder and early-stage venture capital firm Antler on Tuesday announced that it will set up an office in Indonesia in the first half next year, targeting to nurture at least 20 local startups annually.

"The program will be kicked off in the first half of 2020 in Indonesia, and we will start with 50 founders to test it [the first program] out," Antler co-founder and managing partner Jussi Salovaara told reporters on Tuesday.

Ahead of setting up an office in Indonesia, Antler last year appointed Stefan Jung as its Southeast Asia chief investment officer. Based in Jakarta, Jung previously served as managing partner at Lippo-affiliated VC firm Venturra Capital for four years.

"The reason why we chose Jakarta is simply because of the large and untapped potential. When we began in Singapore, we started looking outside of the city-state. If you look at the successful unicorns in the domestic market and any other regions, they have a presence here," Salovaraa added.

According to Salovaara, Antler is now actively looking to induct a local and seasoned CEO for its Indonesian office.

"We need top people to run Antler to make sure we find the right leader. Our requirements are high. It is very critical to choose a local leader," he added.

Salovaara said Antler has yet to set up Indonesia-focused fund and is still exploring the plans for the same. In an interview with DealStreetAsia in July, Antler chief executive Magnus Grimeland said that the firm will hit the final close of its $30-million Southeast Asia (SEA) fund by the end of this year.

The vehicle size was expanded from the initial $15-20 million as the fund was oversubscribed. Its SEA fund has been backed by family offices, institutional investors, and high-net-worth individuals from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan.

Other than SEA, the firm previously launched $30-million funds each across six geographies: Australia, Europe, UK, Africa, Nordics, and the U.S.

In each of the startups, Antler typically invests around $100,000. The figure is roughly the same across other regions. However, for Indonesia, Antler still assessing the local market conditions.

Antler's SEA fund has invested in 32 startups so far.

Antler does not have any specific sector bias and always looks at the 'quality' of the founder first.

"We look at the individual team. How strong they are to build a team, how good they are in problem-solving. It is all about the founders. Of course, we also look at the market that they are operating in, business models etc," Salovaara added.

He said Antler would welcome founders with myriad backgrounds but will put a priority on former employees of local unicorns and serial entrepreneurs.

Antler is also exploring options to expand in other markets in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Four Indonesian startups including employment verifying checks platform Robin, jobs employment provider Sampingan, personalized cosmetic and beauty platform Base, and healthy baby food provider Bubays have participated in Antler's first and second cohort in January and July in Singapore respectively.

Antler's advisers and mentors across the region include GDP Ventures CEO Martin Hartono, BlueBird Group President Noni Purnono, and Florian Holm, former co-CEO of Lazada Indonesia.

Antler is not the only venture builder in Indonesia. GK-Plug and Play Indonesia, Shinhan Financial Group, and Grab are operating accelerator programs targeting Indonesian startups.

Only on Monday, South Korea's Shinhan Financial Group announced that it has set aside $25 million, through its accelerator Future's Labs, for three markets, Indonesia, Vietnam, and South Korea.

Meanwhile, Grab Ventures Velocity aims to nurture 3 to 5 post-seed Southeast Asia-based startups that could empower farmers by creating a sustainable fresh food supply chain in the ecosystem. The unicorn has set aside $250 million under the Grab Ventures Velocity program.

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