Meet the most active venture capital & investment firms in Myanmar

Photo: Juliet Shwe Gaung. The city hall of Yangon.

The one biggest change agent in frontier market Myanmar – which only in recent years came out of a long economic isolation phase – would be the opening up of the telecom sector in 2012 which, in turn, enabled the lagging country to embrace the startup culture at a much faster clip.

Riding on the connectivity and technology-led backbone, the fledgling economy has seen more than a handful of ventures capturing the attention and money of seasoned venture funds.

While big private equity players and global development finance institutions are eyeing the opportunities in the country’s public infrastructure space, venture capital and investment firms too are looking at some early-mover advantages in an economy, where every sector is on a steep growth curve.

On its part, the Myanmar government is also looking at promoting foreign investment in the startup sector by way of amendments in regulations.

Myanmar is witnessing replication of successful business models from neigbouring countries like as listings, classfieds, ticket booking to name a few.

The investment ecosystem has a lot more room for new businesses. However, this could take time as Leslie Loh, founder and CEO of Lithan Academy says “More exposure is needed to compete on the global stage.” Lithan, which is in the education and training space, launched an accelerator programme in 2016.

Global venture capital firms like 500 Startups tested the emerging market with a first investment in early 2016 in Yangon-based Bindez, a search engine and discovery platform led by a former Google executive. However, 500 Startups is not looking at making an investment in the near future in Myanmar, a company spokesperson said, on the sidelines of the Mekong Investor Forum 2016 in Yangon.

DEALSTREETASIA has culled out a list of some of the most active venture capital and investment firms who are looking at a bigger slice of the Myanmar entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Anthem Asia (Myanmar) Limited

Based in Myanmar, Anthem Asia has made equity investment in nine early stage local brands in the fast growing consumer and digital space. Anthem Asia may have invested atleast $2 million in the country so far across a slew of ventures. They intend to move to larger deals in the future but currently their ticket sizes are smaller (six-digit dollars up to a million) reflecting the nature and profile of early ventures. Their founders have experience in private equity and investment banking spaces across Asia. Anthem, set up in 2013, would typically take up to 50 per cent equity on the investments it makes and it also provides mentorship and strategic intervention to portfolio companies.

Founders: Josephine Price, Genevieve Heng, Peter Witton

Number of portfolio companies: 9

Significant investments: Thalon International School, Move, Revo Tech, Rangoon Tea House

Exit record:  No exits till date

Investment stage: Early stage

Sector focus: Emerging market/consumer

BOD Technology Co Ltd

BOD Tech – which typically invests in internet companies – counts among its portfolio e-commerce platform shopmyar.com; online-to-offline platform Yangon Door2Door and travel booking site Flymya.com.

BOD Tech was set up in 2014 and is based in Myanmar. Its founder, Than Tun Win, also known as Mike, has founded eight companies across Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar in petrochemical, distribution and automotive sectors.

BOD Tech aims to change the way companies conduct their businesses.

Founder: Than Tun Win

Number of portfolio companies: 6

Significant investments: Flymya.com, laundry.com.mm, Yangon Door2Door, Star Ticket.

Exit record: No exits till date

Investment stage: early stage

Sector focus: Technology

Frontier Digital Ventures

Backed by Malaysia-based technology investment firm Catcha Group, Frontier Digital Ventures’ focus is on online classified business in emerging markets. Their particular focus is on online classifieds spaces covering the themes of property, automotive and general listings. Frontier Digital Ventures  investments spreads across Pakistan, Africa and Myanmar. Back in 2016, it raised $30 million in IPO by issuing 60 million shares on the Australian Stock Exchange.

In Myanmar, FDV has invested in two classifieds spaces, CarsDB, an automotive vertical and iMyanmar House, an online property platform. CarsDB, which intends to break-even next year, received investment from FDV in December 2014. The management of CarsDB is fully in charge of the founders while FDV would provide “advice and guidance,” said Wai Yan Lin, CEO of CarsDB.

FDV invested in iMyanmar House in October 2014. Its founder, Nay Min Thu, is in the process of starting a new entity, Myanmar Tech Ventures.

Based In: Malaysia

Founded In: 2014

Founders: Shaun Di Gregorio, Patrick Grove, Luke Elliott

Number of portfolio companies: 15

Significant investments: iProperty Group, iCarEncuentra24.com, LankaPropertyWeb.com, AngolaCarro.

Investment stage: Early stage

Sector focus: Classifieds

Globalway Ventures

Globalway Inc-backed Globalway Ventures specialises in internet and cloud computing businesses. They are keen to look at ventures in Japan, Southeast Asia and South Asia, including Myanmar. Currently they are planning to invest about $100 million in the Asian markets over the next 10 years. In Myanmar, Globalway is planning to close an investment in code2LAB, a Singapore-headquartered cloud-based solutions provider.

CEO: Masato Kakamu

Number of portfolio companies: 2

Significant companies: Wizpra, Cocon

Investment stage: Early stage

Sector focus: Technology

Also Read: 

Anthem Asia invests in Burmese restaurant Rangoon Tea House

Myanmar: FDV-backed CarsDB eyes seed funding in 2016, to cover auto accessories & services

code2LAB on track to close $500k invesment from Globalway