GREE Ventures logoGREE Ventures recently made their first Southeast Asian investment into the largest price comparison website in Indonesia, PriceArea.com. While GREE may not be a foreign name to the region, GREE Ventures is a newer initiative looking to create a positive impact in the region’s startup ecosystem.

e27 recently had an interview with Kuan Hsu, a Principal with GREE Ventures and based in Singapore. Kuan is charged with the responsibilities of sourcing suitable investment deals in the Southeast Asian region for the venture capital firm. According to Kuan, GREE Ventures has assets under management (AUM) totaling US$25 million dedicated to the Asian region. Kuan explained that this fund looks for investment opportunities in Japan and Southeast Asia. While India and China may be attractive markets in Asia, Kuan mentioned that those are not a primary focus of the fund at this moment.

Kuan highlights that the majority of the US$25 million is dedicated to investment opportunities in Southeast Asia. Using Singapore as a base to explore the region, GREE Ventures’ first Southeast Asian point of entry is Indonesia’s PriceArea.com because of the country’s naturally attractive large market. GREE Ventures investment areas of interest lies currently in, but not limited to, e-commerce and mobile. When asked about gaming companies in specific, Kuan clarified that this falls under the interest of GREE International, which manages the GREE social gaming platform.

Explaining more about how GREE Ventures makes their investment decisions, Kuan stresses the importance of having a product that is ready to go regional. “We prefer teams that are not only successful in their own geography, but also are able to expand outside of that country. There are certain similarities within Southeast Asia when it comes to, for example e-commerce,” said Kuan, “There may be opportnuities for synergies or cross-pollination of ideas and best practices.”

In short, GREE Ventures is looking for teams that are already successful in their country, with the potential to establish a Pan-Southeast Asian footprint. GREE Ventures will not only help those teams grow faster, but also further into core Asian markets such as Japan.

Kuan Hsu, Principal at GREE Ventures

Kuan Hsu, Principal at GREE Ventures

Singapore startups and the need to grow Pan-Asia

The talk about GREE Ventures’ investment hunt lead to Kuan and his team’s perception of startups in Singapore and why they have yet to find the right investment here. While Kuan had very high praise for the startups and innovations in Singapore, he is also cautious when looking at market opportunities these startups create for themselves. According to Kuan, startups who build solely for the Singapore market may find their product or service challenged by the lack of infrastructure and ecosystem in other countries, when looking to expand.

Kuan puts things into perspective, “Even if you are successful in Singapore, is that enough in terms of dollars and cents? How do you expand outside of Singapore and how do you localize for those markets? Is your team able to do that successfully?” A good team in Singapore should be able to figure out how to adapt and apply their product or service in other Southeast Asian countries, even with the lack of the full suite of infrastructure and ecocsytem that they now enjoy in Singapore.

GREE Ventures and their recent PriceArea.com investment

Sharing more about the recent investment in PriceArea.com’s Series B funding, and the challenges that startups face in the country with the world’s fourth largest population, Kuan shared how the PriceArea team is looking to dominate the fragmented market.

Understanding that user behaviour varies across cities, Kuan sees the need to first be successful in Jakarta. “Obviously, the first step is to dominate the Jakarta market. Grow to the potential that the Jakarta market has to offer. At the same time, start planting flags in other part of the country. So you may probably see more location contextual searches coming up,” hints Kuan.

The GREE Ventures’ unique selling point

With various venture capital firms to choose from, why then should startups look to be invested by GREE Ventures? Kuan clearly outlines the value that the GREE Ventures team can bring to startups that they invest in. Given GREE’s heritage in the mobile space, and GREE Ventures’ investment and experience in the Internet space, startups can count on the extensive knowledge and network the team has built up, especially from a matured Japanese market. These experiences and knowledge can help startups in Southeast Asia tackle the challenges of going regional.

Startups can also benefit from the extensive global network, platform and support system that GREE has, especially when reaching out to new clients. GREE has offices in Tokyo, San Francisco, London, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Amsterdam, Dubai, Sao Paolo, and Vancouver.

GREE Ventures is still on the hunt for their next investment opportunities. While Kuan hints that there are couple of possible investment deals in the pipeline, he also mentioned that they are extremely busy looking for more opportunities. Think your startup fits GREE Ventures’ bill? You might be that investment they are looking for.

Featured Image Credits: LSS Academy