By James A. Loyola
The Gokongwei group of companies is investing $90 million through JG Digital Equity Ventures (JG DEV), its next-generation digital business, to develop digital ventures, invest in emerging technologies, and harness promising talents across Southeast Asia.
In a statement, the Gokongwei group said JG DEV will focus on industries that intersect with JG Summit Holdings’ ecosystem.
“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,” said JG Summit Holdings Chief Executive Lance Gokongwei.
JG DEV will 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.
The JG group has already made at least US$40 million worth of investments in technology startups which includes SEA Limited (operator of wildly successful Garena and Shopee) and Oriente (digital lender operating in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam).
It aims to accelerate its initial success by earmarking an additional US$50 million under JG DEV to invest in Southeast Asia. The fund will be deployed to early stage startups and also for successful portfolio companies raising funding at later stages.
“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 will also build digital businesses in-house and enter into joint ventures that play off its Philippine ecosystem, which includes Cebu Pacific, Robinsons Retail, URC, 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 are the startup Growsari, which links up over a million sari-sari stores directly with suppliers, and Snapcart, another app that provides analytics services to brands by processing offline data like grocery receipts.
While new to the game, JG DEV’s key advantages are its parent firm’s ecosystem and its team’s bias towards execution & 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.