TNB Aura closes $22.7M fund to bring PE-style investing to Southeast Asia’s startups

TNB Aura, a recent arrival to Southeast Asia’s VC scene, announced today that it has closed a maiden fund at SG$31.1million, or around US$22.65 million, to bring a more private equity-like approach to investing in startups in the region.

The fund was launched in 2016 and it is a joint effort between Australia-based venture fund Aura and Singapore’s TNB Ventures, which has a history of corporate innovation work. It reached a final close today, having hit an early close in January. It is a part of the Enterprise Singapore ‘Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering’ scheme which, as you’d expect, means there is a focus on hardware, IO, AI and other future-looking tech like ‘industry 4.0.’

The fund is targeting Series A and B deals and it has the firepower to do 15-20 deals over likely the next two to three years, co-founder and managing partner Vicknesh R Pillay told TechCrunch in an interview. There’s around $500,000-$4 million per company, with the ideal scenario being an initial $1 million check with more saved for follow-on rounds. Already it has backed four companies including TradeGecko, which raised $10 million in a round that saw TNB Aura invest alongside Aura, and AI marketing platform Ematic.

The fund has a team of 10, including six partners and an operating staff of four. It pitches itself a little differently to most other VCs in the region given that manufacturing and engineering bent. That, Pillay said, means it is focused on “hardware plus software” startups.

“We are very strong fundamentals guys,” Pillay added. We ask what is the valuation and decide what we can get from a deal. It’s almost like PE-style investing in the VC world.”

A selection of the TNB Aura team [left to right]: Samuel Chong (investment manager), Calvin Ng, Vicknesh R Pillay, Charles Wong (partners), Liu Zhihao (investment manager)

Another differentiator, Pillay believes, is the firm’s history in the corporate innovation space. That leads it to be pretty well suited to working in the B2B and enterprise spaces thanks to its existing networks, he said.

“We particularly like B2B saas companies and we believe we can assist them through of our innovation platforms,” Pillay explained.

Outside of Singapore — which is a heavy focus thanks to the relationship with Enterprise Singapore — TNB Aura is focused on Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, four of the largest markets that form a large chunk of Southeast Asia’s cumulative 650 million population. With an internet population of over 330 million — higher than the entire U.S. population — the region is set to grow strongly as internet access increases. A recent report from Google and Temasek tipped the region’s digital economy will triple to reach $240 billion by 20205.

The report also found that VC funding in Southeast Asia is developing at a fast clip. Excluding unicorns, which distort the data somewhat, startups raised $2.6 billion in the first half of this year, beating the $2.4 billion tally for the whole of 2017.

There are plenty of other Series A-B funds in the region, including Jungle Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, Openspace Ventures, Monks Hill Ventures, Qualgro and more.

TradeGecko Snags $6.5M Series A To Help Businesses Wrangle Inventory

TradeGecko TradeGecko, a software-as-a-service startup that lets business owners manage inventory and orders without resorting to spreadsheets or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, has raised a $6.5 million series A round. Read More

Inventory Management Platform TradeGecko Launches Online Ordering, Starts Taking Beta Users For Its Mobile App And WooCommerce Integration

TradeGecko Logo

TradeGecko, the cloud-based sales management platform that we profiled in December, is busy building its product portfolio. The startup, which offers small businesses streamlined alternatives to traditional sales and inventory management tools, just launched its Online Ordering tool. TradeGecko’s first mobile app is set for a September debut and WooCommerce integration is also coming soon.

Founder and CMO Carl Thompson started TradeGecko with the idea of saving merchants from the spreadsheet hell he encountered while running his own streetwear clothing label. TradeGecko’s new Online Ordering tool continues that ethos by giving wholesale businesses a more efficient ordering process.

“Traditionally, the wholesale business would supply their retail customers with a physical order sheet via fax, or an electronic version via email. Creating these order sheets and managing data from completed orders is a time consuming nightmare vulnerable to errors,” Thompson explained to me in an email.

The clean and simple interface of TradeGecko Online Ordering is designed to replicate the standard order sheet used by retailers.

“Being able to see account details, order history and available stock creates transparency between you and your customers,” says Thompson. “This boosts customer confidence, trust and results in increased sales.”

Once buyers enter an order, it is pushed into TradeGecko as pending orders for users to accept and fulfill. Thompson says that the simplified process helps eliminate double handling errors. The company hopes to add an online payment feature to TradeGecko Online Ordering soon.

The startup’s first mobile app, which is currently taking on beta customers and scheduled for an early September launch, will allow traveling sales representatives to create orders and view up-to-date customer and product data.

“We take a holistic approach to business software and see TradeGecko at the center of a much bigger business ecosystem,” says Thompson.

Before founding TradeGecko, the startup’s team began developing a mobile sales app that worked on top of Netsuite and Salesforce. After joining Singapore-based incubator program JFDI and working with mentors like Lumatic CEO Scott Rafer and Scrive board member Boris Nordenstrom, they realized that business model was unrealistic. TradeGecko’s upcoming app lets the team come full circle by launching a mobile sales solution on top of their own platform, says Thompson.

Along with its mobile app, TradeGecko is also taking beta customers for its upcoming with WooCommerce, the fast-growing e-commerce platform for WordPress that has scored over 1.2 million downloads. Integrating WooCommerce-powered stores with TradeGecko will enable vendors to use a single platform to manage multiple sales channels (such as e-commerce, retail and wholesale), saving them from having to manually update inventory across multiple systems.

Learn more about TradeGecko’s upcoming integrations and app here.