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Gokongwei commits $50M to Southeast Asian tech ventures

/ 12:57 PM May 10, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The group of tycoon John Gokongwei seeks to future-proof the business empire by creating a new unit devoted to digital ventures and emerging technologies across Southeast Asia.

The new unit, JG Digital Equity Ventures (JG DEV), will focus on industries that intersect with JG Summit Holdings’ ecosystem. The new unit has earmarked $50 million to deploy to early stage startups and also for successful portfolio companies raising funding at later stages across Southeast Asia.

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Before the creation of this new unit, JG group has already made at least $40 million worth of investments in technology startups, which includes SEA Ltd., operator of e-commerce firms Garena and Shopee, and Oriente, a digital lender operating in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

“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,” JG Summit Holdings chief executive Lance Gokongwei said in a press statement on Friday.

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JG DEV intends to invest in startups that will augment or disrupt its core businesses.  These are companies operating within the new media, the consumer sector, retail and financial services verticals. It will also focus on technology platforms that will power future industries, including digital health, data and logistics.

“JG is known to have very strong offline businesses. Our group is behind the pack in this digital journey, so our challenge is to leapfrog from where we are,” said JG DEV chief executive officer Bach Johann Sebastian.

While investing in startups, JG DEV also intends to build digital businesses in-house and enter into joint ventures that play off its Philippine ecosystem, which includes Cebu Pacific, Robinsons Retail, Universal Robina Corp. and Robinsons Land. It is putting together teams of product managers, software engineers, data specialists, investment professionals, and other digital talent who will be working in an environment that favors being scrappy, smart and imaginative.

JG DEV’s current portfolio includes mobile app Cashalo, which allows users to access online and offline financing using their smartphones.

Also in the mix is the startup Growsari, which links up over a million sari-sari stores directly with suppliers.  It also includes, Snapcart, an app that provides analytics services to brands by processing offline data like grocery receipts.

While new to the game, JG DEV expects to work for its advantage its parent firm’s ecosystem and its team’s bias towards execution and operations.

“Given the unique combination of the JG’s extensive ecosystem, massive customer base and its forward-thinking leadership, I’m confident that JG DEV will emerge as a digital leader in Asia,” said Ian Estrada, chief operating officer of JG DEV. /muf

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TAGS: digital ventures, emerging technologies, Gokongwei, JG Digital Equity Ventures, jg summit holdings
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