Southeast Asia Exit Landscape Part II

Recently, we published our third paper on the Southeast Asia Exit Landscape alongside our partners at INSEAD. Over the past decade, we have witnessed the Southeast Asian ecosystem mature, and have been documenting its growth since our first regional landscape report (the Bamboo report) dating back to 2015.

An estimated US$52B of Venture Capital has been invested into Southeast Asia in the last 10 years. The potential of the ecosystem is clear, and its resilience has only persisted. In 2020, the total investment stood at US$8.2B — a narrow contraction from 2019 compared to other regions. The start of 2021 has already broken all fundraising records for technology startups.

Questions remain about potential liquidity events, however, with a rapidly growing need for later stage, emerging growth markets. This report analyses four growth levers for the exit landscape across Southeast Asia.

Results of the data analyzed and expert analyses led to the following key findings

  1. 2020 slowed down the pace of exits but Golden Gate Ventures foresees continued strong forecast for Southeast Asian exits between 2021 and 2024.

1. Continued strong forecast

A recent EY report noted optimism for the region’s near future and a robust M&A appetite, as “more than half (56%) of Southeast Asian executives say they are looking to actively pursue M&A in the next 12 months — the highest since 2012 and beating the 11-year average of 44%.” This is despite the slowdown in exits in 2019 (115) and 2020 (107) from 2018 (124), as startups stayed venture-backed for longer in the heat of COVID-19.

Coupled with increased interest from late stage investors (private equity), secondary buyers and SPACs, as well as the public market’s favour for technology companies, the infusion bodes well for startups.

We forecast the number of exits between 2020–2022 to total to 468 (vs 412 previous Exit Landscape report), with the majority driven by M&A activity (80%) in comparison to IPOs (5%) and Secondary sales (15%).

2. Venture Growth Pipeline

There were significant coming-of-age milestones that the tech startup ecosystem in the region has achieved. From 2017 through 2019, late stage deals (valued >US$60M) have progressively increased by an average of 1.6x Y-o-Y. Fueled by a steady variety of growth capital (corporate investors, venture capital and private equity funds), startups have been able to raise larger rounds faster ~22% (see graph). It now takes less than 21 months on average to raise series B and C rounds. More global investors (e.g. Valar and Hedosophia) are positioning themselves to fund these more mature opportunities — by making investors locally and setting up local offices in Southeast Asia, as The Ken has reported.

3. The Rise of SPACs

The astronomical rise of SPACs in the U.S has expanded the proverbial IPO window for Southeast Asia and amplified investor interest in the region’s technology startups — which could follow the same route in listing. The New York Stock Exchange has listed 111 SPACs in 2021 so far, including several focused on Southeast Asia. Between 2020 and 2021, capital raised by Southeast Asia focused SPACs more than doubled from US$1.52B to US$3.55B. Grab is the most high-profile announced SPAC merger with a value of US$40B, and it is in good company with other quiet but big players from Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore.

As interest from public markets intensifies, the rise of SPACs is not without risks for Southeast Asia. An unsuccessful SPAC merger will leave its imprint on sentiment and could hamper future interest or momentum.

4. Leveraging Public Markets

Big tech companies that dominate their verticals today became tech behemoths by acquiring hundreds of companies over time. As Southeast Asian unicorns get publicly listed with the stock markets providing a generous pool of liquidity, they will follow a similar pattern. Regional tech giants like Grab, Gojek and Trax have already made 22 acquisitions and will continue to do so in new sectors to add revenue streams and outflank rivals.

Claudia Zeisberger, Professor of Entrepreneurship & Family Enterprise at INSEAD on state of the ecosystem

“The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Southeast Asia remained resilient during the pandemic with startups continuing to launch & scale. The exit landscape continues to look promising with the arrival of more late-stage PE players as well as secondary buyers and a favorable IPO market for technology companies. With the first cohort of institutional venture funds (vintage 2010–2012) reaching maturity, the LPs are interested to see whether the region can turn promising valuations into returns and meet investor expectations.”

Delano Musafer, Head of Asia-Pacific Capital Markets NYSE

“[The NYSE is] incredibly bullish on Southeast Asia. The ingredients are all there. A large market, strong and growing mobile and internet penetration, and a young, tech-savvy and increasingly affluent population have contributed to the growth of several fantastic companies (especially in the tech space).”

Mr. Mohamed Nasser Ismail, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Equity Capital Markets SGX

“Over the past year, we have welcomed numerous technology listings in the deep tech, e-commerce, data and payment sectors. These companies have demonstrated resilience and the ability to tap the public markets despite the ongoing pandemic. The robust global institutional participation at IPO and post-listing performance and liquidity reflect the burgeoning investor appetite for this sector.

Looking ahead, we are confident that our upcoming SPAC framework will further meet the needs of the market — this will be an additional listing option that offers price certainty and speed to market for next-generation high-growth companies across diverse sectors including technology. We will continue to work closely with the ecosystem to anchor Southeast Asia as a global technology and capital raising hub.”

We want to thank all of our partners and contributors to this report. It has been a collective effort to bring this report together.

Find our full report here.

Partner at Golden Gate Ventures, husband, proud father of 2 and fanatic cyclist and runner. More about me @ www.michaellints.com