Sycamore Media secures $1.2m in seed funding from REAPRA

Visual of Reapra Group homepage. April 2017

REAPRA Pte. Ltd., a business builder and venture capital (VC) firm, announced today it has invested $1.2 million (S$1.67 million) in Sycamore Media Holdings Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based media startup that focuses on promoting entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia.

Sycamore is the parent company of Inc. Southeast Asia, the sole Southeast Asian licensee of Inc., a global media brand for entrepreneurs and startups.

Inc. is active in the digital, print, video and events spheres, providing support and a gathering space for entrepreneurs in the region.

“REAPRA is a strong partner who understands the region and this investment will enable us to carry out the next phase of our growth,” said Neel Chowdhury, chief executive officer of Sycamore and editor-in-chief of Inc. Southeast Asia.

Based in Asia since 1995, Chowdhury has an extensive background in the media sector, having worked as a broadcast and print journalist, serving stints with CNBC, Fortune – where he covered Southeast Asia –  and for the Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong.

In an interaction with this portal, he said, “We’re targeting entrepreneurs across Southeast Asia and there were basically two ideas we had. First, Southeast Asia as a whole is becoming more linked through capital and labour flows, as well as through the ASEAN Economic Community. And that’s particularly true of the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem. Secondly, the startup boom that you saw in the 1990s in China and Hong Kong in 2004 and then India 4-5 years later has finally arrived in Southeast Asia as of 2013/2014. So we wanted a media product to capture these two trends.”

Sycamore plans to expand its digital platform across Southeast Asia with more online content and launch a print product in May. The company also intends to roll out an events platform, starting with the Philippines this month, which it plans to roll out across the region and recreate in capital cities across the region. 

Chowdhury described the role of Inc Southeast Asia as catering to the entrepreneurial community of the region “at all stages of their lifecycle” in terms of education, information and lifestyle, rather than investor such as venture capitalists.

He noted that the company was considering creating data-based or those that focused on branded content, as part of expanding its offerings to the region’s entrepreneurial community.

According to Chowdhury, there are no plans to paywall their digital content products, with advertising revenue from across their platform expected to generate revenue. However, he noted the possibility of a la carte payment options for long-form digital content.

Chowdhury also told this portal that Sycamore Media was exploring the possibility of language localisation, with a Bahasa Indonesia version of Inc targeting the Indonesian market. The firm already has a content sharing partnership with The Nation in Thailand that allows for certain Inc South East Asia articles to be translated into Thai.

“Our investment in Sycamore is indicative of our company’s vision of supporting entrepreneurship in the region, which will in turn solve many of society’s challenges, boost innovation as well as job creation,” said Jason Dacaret, head of public relations and CHRO at REAPRA. “Sycamore focuses on strengthening the regional entrepreneur ecosystem, which ties in with REAPRA’s goals of building businesses across Southeast Asia.”

In an interview with DEALSTREETASIA, Dacaret explained this came about as they realised there was a need to shift the paradigm from a Western focus to being more Asia-centric.

“Our portfolio is quite wide. We invest in 14 different industries at this point and are looking at 6 more industries to invest. The startup media space is one of our most urgent spaces because we’re looking at entrepreneurs to help build our businesses to onboard. With Inc, it’s not just a focus on tech but also on the entrepreneurs. How that fits in is that the more entrepreneurs are educated about different parts of the ecosystem, we believe that will help us accelerate our growth as more and more people choose entrepreneurship as a potential career, as compared to banking or consulting,” Dacaret said.

REAPRA, set up by Japanese entrepreneur Shuhei Morofuji in Singapore, invests in companies that have a strong local impact with the intention to expand regionally. Given this, the role of Sycamore Media in its portfolio will see it using its media product to drive traffic and influence the ecosystem.

Through research and practice, the company, which describes itself as a conglomerate builder, picks businesses in fields that have not yet been dominated by other players and are poised to grow over the next 10-20 years.

The firm has 14 direct subsidiaries, including two VC firms, and is invested in 40 startups across Southeast Asia in diversified industries including agriculture, healthcare, education, hospitality, digital media, travel, real estate, and aerospace.

Each subsidiary will run and develop individually with the goal of optimising its market valuation at $2 billion within 10 years, while REAPRA will continue to provide vital strategic and operational support. 

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