Indonesian conglomerate Astra’s VC arm makes early bet on edtech startup Ngelesin

Astra Ventura, the venture capital business of Indonesian conglomerate Astra Internasional, has invested an undisclosed sum in edtech company Ngelesin, marking the firm’s latest deal in its hushed foray into equity investments.

Like many so-called venture capital companies (PMV) registered with Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority (OJK), Astra Ventura’s business predominantly revolves around the offering of loan financing for conventional SMEs. Differently to banks and multi-finance firms, however, these PMVs also provide portfolio companies with non-financial development support such as mentoring, network and market access.

To push these companies into more equity deals, the OJK issued a regulation in 2015 that requires all PMVs to ensure that a minimum of 15% of their investments is in the form of equity participation. The regulator has given a five-year transition period for these companies to comply with the regulation.

According to Astra Ventura president director Jefri Sirait, the firm has made multiple equity investments to date in fields including autotech, waste-tech and transport tech. However, he declined to disclose the names of the investee companies. 

Astra Ventura’s investment in Ngelesin follows the startup’s participation and victory in the Astra Startup Challenge, an annual startup competition organised by the conglomerate.

Founded in 2018, Ngelesin functions as a platform that helps students connect with teachers and enables them to engage in one-on-one private lessons via a video call. Unlike many of its edtech peers, Ngelesin does not only focus its lessons on academic subjects but also offers private lessons on extracurricular subjects like music, language, sport, and children’s education.

“In the pandemic, edtech is beneficial for us, as it can help us maintain our learning process, for our employees, partners and customers. They (Ngelesin) will be a good strategic partner for Astra Ventura and Astra as a whole,” he said.

Following the investment by Astra Ventura, Sirait said his firm will be exploring ways to leverage the Ngelesin platform to provide private courses on financial coaching and leadership for different stakeholders in the Astra ecosystem.

Ngelesin founder and CEO Anthonius said the fresh funds will be used to develop the business further.

For Astra Ventura, which manages a fund of $18 million derived from the balance sheet of its parent company, equity investments still make up only a fraction of its business, which largely focuses on debt financing for SMEs.

However, Sirait said that the firm will continue to be on the lookout for promising companies that are aligned to Astra’s ecosystem spanning automotive, financial services, heavy equipment, mining, construction and energy, agribusiness, infrastructure and logistics, IT and property.

Astra Ventura typically targets seed to Series A companies for equity investment, in exchange for around 10-30% stake, he said. Meanwhile, more mature companies can be backed directly from the balance sheet of Astra, as it has shown through its repeated investments in local decacorn Gojek in the last three years.

Having successfully sealed its first equity deal of 2021, Sirait said his firm is currently in talks with six companies for potential investment.

“Its not easy to find players with good stability in the current situation, but there are some out there. We continue to actively invest in startups that can contribute even in this pandemic,” Sirait said.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.