Philippine conglomerate JG Summit to invest $50m in SE Asian startups

Lance Y. Gokongwei, President and CEO, JG Summit Holdings Inc.

JG Summit Holdings Inc, one of the largest listed conglomerates in the Philippines, has launched a $50-million arm to invest in Series A and B rounds of Southeast Asian digital and emerging tech startups, the company said in a statement.

The Gokongwei-led conglomerate said that it established JG Digital Equity Ventures (JG DEV) to deploy capital in early-stage startups and successful portfolio companies raising funding at later stages.

The funding for Series A and B investments can range from $1 million to $10 million, according to a company statement.

The JG DEV team is led by chief executive officer BJ Sebastian, chief operating officer Ian Estrada, chief financial officer Mara Utzurrum, and chief technology officer Caesar Morata. They will be working closely with an Investment Committee composed of key JG Group leaders led by JG Summit Holdings President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei.

“JG DEV is positioned favorably to build and invest in industries connected to the group’s ecosystem, particularly in data, financial services, consumer, new media, logistics, and digital health sectors,” Sebastian said.

Estrada, one of the country’s fintech pioneers, said JG DEV will go beyond the traditional expectations of a typical VC firm. The approach, he said, would be not just to invest but also to build ventures.

“The typical model is you either just invest in a startup or you operate one. In our case we want to do both under the same entity, to give our ventures and investments room to grow independently while maximizing the ecosystem advantages from our existing businesses,” Estrada said.

JG Summit has already invested at least $40 million in technology startups in the past. These include Sea Ltd, the firm behind online marketplace Shopee, as well as digital lender Oriente which operates in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

“Digital is a key pillar to JG’s future. There is no shortage of ideas in the digital space, so we must focus on a few big bets that generate the most value,” Gokongwei said.

The launch of JG DEV comes less than a month after Philippine-listed conglomerate Ayala Corporation announced raising $150 million for a new venture capital fund – the Ayala Corporation Technology Innovation Venture (ACTIVE) Fund – that will invest globally in new technologies.

The fund seeks to support startups pursuing innovations in key technology areas in data and analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, fintech, automation, real estate, retail, transport, energy, water, health and wellness, and food.

ACTIVE Fund is looking at a range of investments in Series A to Series C or early- to the mid-growth stage across four key investment themes – a frictionless future, from automation to augmentation, innovations in real estate, and a world of plenty.

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