RHL Ventures launches $24m fund to back Malaysian startups, SMEs

Partners of RHL Ventures: (L-R) Teng Chen Shun, Jo Jo Kong, Rachel Lau, Tengku Ahmad Ridhwanuddin, Raja Hamzah Abidin.

Malaysia-based venture capital and multi-family private investment firm RHL Ventures has launched a RM100 million ($24.2 million) fund to support the growth of local startups as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The fund is anchored by SME Corp. Malaysia, a government agency under the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development, signaling one of the first few public-private collaborations under the Mahathir-led government.

RHL Ventures managing partner Rachel Lau told DEALSTREETASIA that the fund will be cutting check sizes between RM1 million ($240,000) and RM5 million ($1.2 million).

According to RHL Ventures, the fund will focus on backing Malaysian startups and early-stage SMEs with significant operations in Malaysia.

Although the VC firm has largely channelled its previous investments into tech startups, the focus of this new fund will be broader and more sector-agnostic.

Lau said, the firm will be looking at several criteria for each investment that it makes: “Are the markets big enough? Is the product strong enough? How are the founders – cost driven, transparent, smart, driven, visionary? Does it disrupt the markets and is it acceptable? How are we able to help scale the products?

“Ever since we started RHL Ventures, we have been inspired by how small businesses – even those with the humblest of beginnings – can make transformational impact in their industries and the greater economy. What RHL Ventures aims to do with this fund is to invest in new businesses that are looking to bring new ideas and disruption in the current ways of doing business,” she said.

To date, RHL Ventures has invested in several local businesses including healthcare SaaS startup HealthMetrics and e-commerce platform Signature Market and interior design marketplace Atap.co. Lau had previously said the VC firm is finalising a couple of exits but declined to elaborate.

“In Malaysia, SMEs comprise over 98 per cent of total business establishments and contribute more than 37 per cent to the national GDP – they form a central pillar of Malaysia’s economy. To ensure a higher contribution of SMEs to the national economy, there is a need for more concerted efforts to be affected by stakeholders within the SME ecosystem,” said SME Corp. Malaysia CEO Noor Azmi Mat Said.

Founded in 2016, RHL Ventures is currently led by Lau, Raja Hamzah Abidin and Jo Jo Kong, with an investment focus on ASEAN-linked startups as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises.

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