Rising Giants Newsletter - N.20 Bora Kem, Partner, Mekong Strategic Partners, Investor, Smart Axiata Digital Innovation

Max & Dom chatting with the boldest and most inspiring entrepreneurs and investors in Cambodia 🇰🇭. Turn on 💡, tune in 📻, keep up 🚀

Welcome to the Rising Giant's Podcast Newsletter by Max Thornton and Dominic Kalousek.

If you enjoy our content, please subscribe to our post-interview newsletter as we share our most recent podcast episode, Southeast Asia startup and venture capital news, venture deals, entrepreneur resources, and job opportunities in the region!

We are always looking for suggestions on how to improve our newsletter to provide the most relevant and valuable content. If you have suggestions on what you would like to see, please leave a comment below!

▶️ This Weeks Episode Recap

In this week's episode, we are joined by a very special guest, Bora Kem. He is one of the key names in the investment community in Cambodia, currently directing the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF), a $5m fund dedicated to investing in early-stage technology ventures in the country with a total of 10 portfolio companies. Bora has led SADIF in investing in some of the most innovative companies in the country over the last 5 years, including super app Nham24, fintech players Bahnji and Morakot, as well as logistics firms Joonak and DRVR.

Bora grew up in the USA, receiving an MBA from Kellogg School of Management, and working for many investment groups including Putnam Investments, Rocket Internet, and Equilibrium Capital before returning to Cambodia full-time in 2016.

We get into:

  • 🧐 Red & green flags to spot when evaluating whether to invest in early-stage founders

  • 📝 Who the new breed of investors are in Cambodia VC; young CEO's that understand innovation is an essential part of any business plan

  • 🛠️ The importance of taking 'thinking weeks' to decompress and realign your motivation amidst turbulent times

🧠 Want to learn more about Mekong Strategic Partners?

  • Check out Mekong Strategic Partners current portfolio and investment focus here.


🎧 Find us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Play, and Anchor!


📝 Venture Capital Deal Flow Highlights in Southeast Asia

Indonesian EWA startup Wagely announced it has raised $5.6M in strategic funding, led by Integra Partners (formerly known as Dymon Asia Ventures). Founded in 2020 by alumni of two of Southeast Asia’s largest tech companies, Wagely expects to reach more than 250,000 users this year. The company’s ultimate goal is “to build a holistic financial wellness platform for lower- and middle-income workers” that includes other financial services, including savings, insurance and smart spending products.

BukuWarung, a fintech focused on Indonesia’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), announced it has raised an oversubscribed $60M Series A round. Founded in 2019, BukuWarung’s target market is the more than 60 million MSMEs in Indonesia, according to data from the Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs. These businesses contribute about 61% of the country’s gross domestic product and employ 97% of its workforce. he company says its growth in users and payment volumes has been capital efficient, and that more than 90% of its funds raised have not been spent. It plans to add more MSME-focused financial services, including lending, savings and insurance, to its platform.

Naluri, a Malaysian digital health service provider, has closed a Series A funding round where it raised $5M from cornerstone investor Integra Partners of Singapore and additional investors. Naluri offers human-led and AI-augmented digital health coaching for people with chronic diseases such as renal disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, as well as mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

Singapore-based startup Carro announced on Tuesday that it has raised $360M in a Series C funding round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2. The startup operates an online marketplace where users can buy, sell and lease used and new cars. We also sell financing options, insurance and maintenance services for these vehicles. The new money will be used to strengthen its position in the market and expand the products and services sold in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It is also used to speed up the development of company artificial intelligence technologies used to facilitate transactions on the site.

What to watch for in Bangladesh: The iDEA of the ICT Division will provide Tk 430 million (~$5M USD) to Startup Bangladesh Ltd for the development of seed and growth-stage startups. Through this company, startups have the opportunity to get investment in the seed stage up to a maximum of Tk 10 million (~$120K USD) and in the growth stage up to a maximum of Tk 50 million (~$590K) per round sharing a maximum of 49 per cent equity.


📰 Frontier Market Start-Up and Venture Capital News in Southeast Asia

🇰🇭 Cambodian startups hope to solve some of the big picture problems with new tech.

🇹🇭 Thai local Angle Investor tells startups to illustrate “real potential”

🇮🇩 Indonesia startups stand out in ASEAN by leaning on bonus pay.

🇻🇳 How Vietnam's Mekong Capital avoids pandemic impact.

🇧🇩 In Bangladesh, Visa is launching multiple programs to support fintechs and startups.

🇳🇵 These 7 Nepali startups give you unique fashion items.

🇵🇭 To jumpstart the Philippine economy post-COVID, the DOST-PCIEERD is pouring in P43 million (~$900K USD) as research and development grant for 14 startup companies.


📚 Knowledge Base: Entrepreneur and Investor Learning Resources

UPCOMING CAMBODIA EVENT: On June 24th at 8pm (Bangkok) the co-founder of Der Prey, Lor Vuthy will share us the insights about the development of eco-tourism in Cambodia with his experiences since 2013. Participants can learn more about eco-tourism as an industry and connect with other entrepreneurs that work or interest in this field. Register for the event here.

Additional Resources To Check Out:

🔍 Check out Techo Start Up Center for insight into Cambodia’s startup ecosystem.

🎥 Why every brand should have a blog.

🔨 How to maintain you’re business’s momentum after the first 90 days.

🔥 Crypto TalkVenture Capital makes a record $17 billion bet on crypto world.


👨🏼‍💻 Frontier Market Job Opportunities


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🧐 What is Rising Giants?

The Rising Giants Podcast was created in November 2020 by Max Thornton and Dominic Kalousek after realizing that there were a limited number of resources available for insight into the local startup and investor ecosystem in Southeast Asia.  

Our mission is to talk to entrepreneurs and investors in the world’s most rapidly evolving frontier markets to help understand what it takes to have bold ideas and build the business disruptors of tomorrow. Through our personal exploration of these landscapes, we dive deep in our interviews with inspirational individuals learning about their career journeys, ideas, and insights into the markets of developing startup ecosystems, and expanding on why they see their business and the region as a "rising giant”.