SEA Tech Thriving During Covid

Covid, Entrepreneurship, Startups, Valuations, Founders, Talent, Deals & Exits!

Horizon Connect recently gathered a panel of VC’s (Binh of 500s Vietnam, Eddy of Intudo Ventures & Peng of Monk’s Hill Ventures) together with MDEC’s Gopi for a discussion on the state of SEA Tech as it thrives even during Covid. Some notes below:

[SEA & Covid]

  • Covid accelerates traditional transformation. With recessions, increasing efficiency is critical to survival and tech is typically involved. A lot of tech helps in social distancing, making it easier to adhere to isolation rules for quarantines (eg. communication in healthcare) and thus magnifies adoption.

  • Pre-Covid, Vietnam was one of the top 3 performing countries in SEA. During Covid, likely the #1 in region.

  • In Indonesia, pre-Covid, conglomerates saw tech as a ‘nice to have’ but Covid has made it a ‘must have’ and this has increased engagement & partnerships with startups across the board.

  • Covid response in SEA is better than the West so SEA is positioned to recover faster.

[Entrepreneurship]

  • In Vietnam, entrepreneurship is a necessity. 97% of enterprises in Vietnam are SME’s, ex. 1.4m FMCG retailers and entrepreneurship is part of the culture.

  • Regionally, tech entrepreneurship is relatively new but growing rapidly. ~15 co’s w. valuations > 25m in 2016, now 70-80 w. more local heroes

[ Startups & Covid ]

  • Of the 2-4 good companies per business model per sector, it is not unreasonable to see 1 or 2 die off because of how they constructed their teams or cap tables

  • “Forest Gump” moment for startups now. For those that survive, they will be victors with all the shrimp.

[ Founders & Talent ]

  • Downturn has been good for the ecosystem with less ‘fake founders’ and stronger teams forming up

  • Talent more accessible as smaller (but well-funded) startups are able to face-off against the larger unicorns in the talent wars

  • Regionally, 41 of 67 founders with companies w. valuation in excess of 100m are returnees. In terms of companies, 90% has a founding team member from abroad

[Valuations]

  • Most valuable SEA company now is a tech company. SEA Group.

  • Valuations are generally lower SEA because risks are higher (regulatory, geo, talent/hiring, less predictable)

  • Valuations had an uptick last 2-3 years but with Covid, valuations have tapered off. 20-30% drops in valuation have been seen post-Covid.

  • Founders are now more mature/disciplined. With Covid, raising for longer runways extending from the 15-24 months to the 18-30 months marks. Consequently dilutions have moved from 20-30% closer to 25-35%

[Deals]

  • [MHV] Seeing twice as many deals this year (vs the last). Looking for real estate play.

  • [500s] 11 deals in the last quarter, 7 were new. Busiest quarter ever. Looking for SME lending at scale.

  • [Intudo] Boots on the ground needed. With Covid, lead deals where regionals couldn’t fly in. Looking for founders with global experience (looking or ) returning to Indonesia.

  • CVC’s are mostly focusing on core business w. moratoriums on new deals. This allows for independent funds to thrive.

[Exits]

  • Exits take time & patience needed to see the larger exits come into play. IPO’s need 100m in revenue to get to Nasdaq and there aren’t that many companies at that level in SEA

  • SPAC’s: Bridgetown Holdings (Thiel, Richard Li) priced a $575m SPAC in Oct focused specifically on acquiring a company in SEA which puts it in a position to acquire a company up to the B range.

  • Seeing some exists in secondaries > 50m in valuation.

  • As a nascent market, Vietnam is still maturing but signals are there for exits to come. Seeing excitement for secondaries + fund secondaries.

About Horizon Connect: https://www.horizonconnect.com/

We are work with various organizations acrosss the Pacific providing key talent & advisory within the tech sector.