Grab investor Beacon VC seeks to back global venture capital funds

Thanapong Na Ranong, MD, Beacon VC

Beacon VC, the corporate venture capital arm of Thailand’s KASIKORNBANK (KBank), plans to invest in one or two global funds this year, according to its managing director Thanapong Na Ranong.

Launched in 2017 with an initial kitty of $30 million, the CVC unit had its corpus ramped up to $135 million in 2018.

The firm has backed two regional funds — Vertex Ventures’ third Southeast Asian Fund and another by Dymon Asia Ventures. Na Ranong told DEALSTREETASIA investing in global funds could help Beacon VC source investments beyond the region, such as in Europe, Israel or the US.

Beacon VC has deployed half of its corpus so far, Na Ranong said. To date, the CVC unit has made six direct investments, with typical investments ranging from $1 million to $3 million.

Last year, Beacon VC made its biggest investment by cutting a $50-million cheque for Singapore-based ride-hailing major Grab in a deal that also marked the unicorn’s entry into the Thai payments market. The VC firm also co-led a $45 million Series C round for Singapore-based digital cross-border payment company InstaReM.

“Our investment thesis is to support KBank’s business with our investments. If we invest in local startups, they have to have synergies that could support KBank’s business. We look at both fintech and non-fintech companies. Fintech is to support our banking business and our customers. Our non-fintech investments are to support the consumer internet sector by using data to better understand consumer behaviour and needs.

“We also invest in overseas startups who look to have a presence in Thailand like InstaReM. The reason we invest into other funds is that we look to tap the expertise of these regional investors to help us make investments outside of Thailand and to have them scout for startups that we’d like to work with,” said Na Ranong, who was previously the head of InVent, the VC arm of Thai mobile operator AIS.

Beacon VC was not the only regional CVC fund to receive a capital boost last year. Siam Commercial Bank’s Digital Ventures also upped its corpus to $100 million, double its initial fund size of $50 million. Krungsri’s VC arm Krungsri Finnovate is also doubling its fund size to $60 million to cut bigger cheques.

Na Ranong said Beacon VC does not really compete for deals with other banks’ CVCs for deals as different banks have distinctive investment strategies.

“For example, one of the bank CVCs might focus more on overseas investment outside Thailand or into new tech which may only be applicable in the next few years. What we look for is current technology that could support our existing operations and our customers today.

“In general, we didn’t face any challenge in deal sourcing except for fintech deals, not because of competition among investors but rather the availability of really good startups. There is more flexibility outside of Thailand, whereas, within the Thai market, there are two main reasons – the constraints of the Thai regulation which is now very limited and also our markets are lacking experienced founders. However, as mentioned, fintech is not only our focus, we do also invest in non-fintech sectors,” he said.

Commenting on the local startup ecosystem and Thai corporates setting up CVCs to accelerate their digital transformation, Na Ranong holds the view that the local startups and the corporates are starting to complement each other.

“In the Thai ecosystem, B2B startups have more potential than B2C. In the past, corporates were not as aware of the startups that were mushrooming. There were some successful B2C startups then, but now, it has changed where the corporates have stepped up and set up their own innovation teams and CVC teams to work with the startups.

“The corporates have realised that to compete with industry players, they have to step up their innovation to stay ahead of the curve. Nowadays, it is very difficult for startups to stand alone as they wouldn’t able to compete with the corporates in this consumer market, so instead, they willing to manage a good relationship and work with the corporates by complementing instead of competing with them,” he said.

Moving forward, Na Ranong added that blockchain and artificial intelligence will continue to be favoured by investors.

“I think blockchain could help the banking industry become more efficient and transparent and more efficient. But I think the implementation of blockchain technology is still in its early stage in Thailand,” he added.

Also Read:

Thailand: Beacon VC invests in digital lifestyle platform Ookbee

Grab secures $50m funding from KASIKORNBANK, marks entry of payments biz in Thailand

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.