Pinoy-led venture capital firm bags awards for major deals

Published October 24, 2021, 7:00 PM

by James A. Loyola

Wavemaker Partners, Southeast Asia’s leading venture capital (VC) firm for enterprise and deep tech, has won two awards at the 29th Annual Singapore Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (SVCA) Awards for deals worth more than $80 million.

The firm bagged awards for “VC Exit of the Year” and “VC Deal of the Year.” This is the first time that a VC received both awards in the same year.

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Wavemaker won VC Exit of the Year with TradeGecko, a retail inventory and order management software company that was acquired by a dominant US player in 2020 for $80 million.

It got the VC Deal of the Year award with Growsari, a B2B platform for mom-and-pop stores that is one of the best-funded Series B startups (US$30 million) based in the Philippines to date.

Joining a list of marquee awardees, including publicly-listed Southeast Asian tech behemoth Sea Ltd (formerly Garena) and Singapore’s newest unicorn logistics startup Ninja Van, Growsari is the first Philippine startup to bag the award from the SVCA.

“We’re thrilled to have won both ‘VC Exit of the Year’ with TradeGecko and the ‘VC Deal of the Year’ with Growsari. These companies are proof positive that fortune favors the bold,” said Wavemaker Managing Partner Paul Santos, who collected the awards for the VC firm.

Wavemaker Partners: (L-R) General Partner Eric Manlunas, Managing Partner Paul Santos, and General Partner Gavin Lee

He noted that, “Singapore was just emerging as an innovation hub in 2012, but that didn’t stop TradeGecko’s founders from starting a global order and inventory management software-as-a-service company.’

“The Philippines wasn’t a popular market for tech investors in 2016, but that didn’t stop Growsari’s founders from launching a first-of-its-kind B2B marketplace. We are hopeful that their journeys will inspire the next generation of Southeast Asian tech entrepreneurs,” Santos added.

A Filipino, Santos led the establishment of Wavemaker in Southeast Asia in 2012. The firm has US$180 million in assets under management across three funds in the region, and has seen 10 exits valued at close to $700 million.

“We are very honored to be recognized as the ‘VC Deal of the Year’ for 2021. The Growsari team is energized and will continue to press on in our mission to help more retail stores and MSMEs with the convenience of ordering and selling consumer goods and financial services on our platform,” said Growsari Co-Founder and CEO ER Rollan.

In making the VC Exit of the Year award, the judges considered TradeGecko’s pioneer status in Southeast Asia’s enterprise software industry and how its $80-million exit in 2020—one of the biggest seen in Singapore since the Covid-19 pandemic—has rewarded Wavemaker with well over 10x returns and the return of its entire Fund 1.

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In the VC Deal of the Year, the judges acknowledged Growsari’s role in empowering the tens of thousands of iconic sari-sari stores in the Philippines by eliminating middlemen and extending credit to them from selected partners.

With almost all of these stores run by women, Growsari has positively impacted lives by enabling people to stay home and also provide for their families.

Apart from Wavemaker, Growsari has raised a total of $30 million in funding to date from prominent investors, including Temasek Holdings’ private equity unit Pavilion Capital, Tencent, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), ICCP SBI Venture Partners and Saison Capital, as well as the Philippines’ Gokongwei Group’s Robinsons Retail Holdings and JG Digital Equity Ventures.

“In both instances, Wavemaker recognized the opportunities very early on, seeded the ideas as the first institutional investor, and provided significant help to refine the strategies. They also provided valuable counsel to the founders and opened their networks locally and overseas to attract follow-on financing to further propel their growth,” said Doris Yee, Executive Director of the SVCA.

 
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