A constellation of assistance has begun to emerge for startups hit by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
The pandemic has infected nearly 824,000 people and killed nearly 41,000 globally as of Wednesday, according to World Health Organization data. The outbreak has also caused economic disruptions and widespread unemployment across the globe, with some sectors, such as travel and transportation, among the worst hit.
Industry platform Malaysia Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (MVCA) said Thursday that it has launched a support initiative for startups, dubbed the Startup Support Squad.
Under the effort, four venture capital firms – Vynn Capital, Cradle Seed Ventures, Kejora Ventures Malaysia and RHL Ventures – will provide advisory services for business operations, financing and fundraising, MVCA said in a statement.
“The current support that is given to the SMEs and startups in Malaysia is not sufficient in helping our ecosystem through this difficult time,” Victor Chua, chairman of MVCA and managing partner of Vynn Capital, said in the statement.
“Given that SMEs represent over 90 per cent of the business community in the country, we believe that the economy will be very badly affected if we do not take care of the entrepreneurs,” he added.
In addition, in Singapore, Openspace Ventures, 500 Startups and Cocoon Capital launched an initiative called #SupportStartups to facilitate promotional activity among Southeast Asia’s startups.
The site offers links to startups’ promotions and discounts targeting both consumers and businesses in an effort to drive sales amid the slowdown. To be sure, some startups, such as those focused on dental work, may remain a tough sell as consumers seek social distancing.
Another newly launched initiative is the SEAriously Awesome People List, which seeks to provide a database of startup employees that have been laid off recently as well as open job positions in the market. As of Thursday, the list has 197 professionals and 67 open positions. It is supported by Saison Capital, FutureLabs, Jungle Ventures, Alpha JWC, Convergence Ventures, Patamar Capital, Rainmaking, TRIVE Ventures and Tribe Accelerator.
Singapore government agency Enterprise Singapore said Thursday it was beginning a new programme to support SME retailers trying to start selling online by covering around 90 per cent of the cost to join e-commerce platforms up to S$9,000.
“This aims to help retailers change their business model, and diversify their sales channels and revenue streams beyond traditional brick-and-mortar. This is especially relevant amidst the current COVID-19 situation,” Enterprise Singapore said.
The programme will collaborate with e-commerce platforms Amazon, Lazada Singapore, Qoo10 and Shopee to help offline retailers expand their domestic sales, Enterprise Singapore said, adding assistance in going online for overseas sales will be temporarily expanded to 90 per cent of costs from 70 per cent previously.
Meanwhile, venture capital firm TNB Aura has announced a special situations fund that will seek to provide around $2 million to select startups affected by the pandemic. Singapore-headquartered early-stage VC firm Antler plans to invest in up to five global startups tackling the COVID-19 outbreak and deploy up to $500,000 in aggregate.
Offline businesses are a focus of fresh effort from global online food delivery company Delivery Hero, which operates in Asia and Eastern Europe under the brand name foodpanda.
The company said on Thursday it had sped up its “onboarding” process to add 50,000 more restaurants as well as grocery and pharmacy services to its marketplaces over the past three weeks.
The Berlin-based company said it was also increasing the frequency of payments to help support its vendors’ cash flows.
Within Singapore, co-working operator JustCo has also stepped up by offering a 30 per cent rent discount to tenants who began their terms before the end of the first quarter of 2018, and a 15 per cent discount for tenants with terms beginning afterwards.