Friday Letter: Eyeing the next phase for Southeast Asia

Get ready for Indonesia's largest ever VC-backed IPO as e-commerce company Bukalapak is planning its debut in one week, and more SPACs and exit activity in Southeast Asia is likely to follow.

Southeast Asia, like other venture hotspots, was hit hard initially by the pandemic.

But thanks to some recent and upcoming exits, along with a growing interest in e-commerce companies, all eyes are on the region’s venture scene.

This week, I met (in person) with a VC whose firm is active in Southeast Asia. He noted that the Indonesian e-commerce company Bukalapak has increased the size of its IPO to $1.5 billion and is on track to be the largest public offering in the country. It’s set to begin trading on August 6 on the Indonesia Stock Exchange.

Bukalapak is the first unicorn in Indonesia to have an IPO.

The country’s newly merged tech giant GoTo Group is also planning to go public soon, and  is reportedly looking to raise as much as $2 billion. The business was formed from the merger between ride-hailing service Gojek and e-commerce company PT Tokopedia. Like Bukalapak, it too is looking to debut on the Indonesia Stock Exchange before listing on a US stock market.

A number of SPACs are separately targeting start-ups in the region. This trend is riding on the coattails of Grab. The ride-hailing giant backed by SoftBank, announced in April that it would go public through a SPAC merger valued at about $40 billion, one of the largest ever blank-check deals.

In Singapore, online real estate marketplace PropertyGuru is set to go public at a valuation of $1.7 billion in a deal backed by Richard Li and Peter Thiel.

The best way to explain what is going on in Indonesia, and in Southeast Asia more broadly, is maturity. Years ago, Singapore was probably the only country in Southeast Asia that investors from outside the region could identify on a map.

But the region’s venture market has grown exponentially in recent years. Southeast Asia, comprised of 11 different countries, saw more than $2.5 billion invested across 256 deals in 2019 – up almost 6x from the $430 million invested in 2015, according to the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association.

In late 2019, I wrote about venture activity in Southeast Asia as seen through the eyes of Indonesia-focused early-stage investor Intudo Ventures.

With all the exit activity taking place and scheduled to come soon, it’s time to update that story.

Let me know what you think, and feel free to drop me a note at