How Australia is investing in ASEAN-based start-ups

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The global funding winter has continued into 2024 putting the squeeze on venture capital funding which is causing havoc for start-ups globally but particularly for those in ASEAN.


Southeast Asia start-up and SME scene remains robust

  • Despite this, the Southeast Asia (SEA) tech economy is expected to increase from $72 billion in 2018 to $240 billion in 2025 with huge uplift in e-commerce, ride-hailing, and the general startup environment.
  • This was validated by the Singapore 2023 VC landscape report which showed investors interested in the region’s impact sectors of green, healthcare, and agri-tech sectors


The big stat

Singapore has consolidated its start-up hub status with 64% of all equity deals across ASEAN happening in the little red dot in 2023 compared to 57% in 2022.


Australian investment is looking for the next ASEAN unicorn  

This is coming from a few different angles:

  • Australian VC,Blackbird Ventures, has flagged it’s chasing Australian entrepreneurs in the US. Why not ASEAN?
  • Rod Bristow, CEO of Sydney-based VC Investible, has tapped Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri to anchor a new $US150 million fund to run out of Singapore.
  • Aus4ASEAN Futures Initiative, with a budget of $204 million from 2022 to 2032, will be shelling out grants for work focused on energy transition, the digital economy, health.
  • The Australian government has a national quantum strategy to expand the quantum economy and assist the commercialisation and adoption of the tech.
  • Austrade has indicated that its Export Market Development Grants scheme will look to increase a greater share (than its current 35%) being directed towards Southeast Asia
  • Go-Green Co-innovation Program has started grants focused on SMEs


What can SMEs – particularly those with an Australian connection – do to try and tap into some of these initiatives?

  • If your business has significant stakeholders who are Australian expats, or operations/ customer bases in Australia, make this a focal point in your pitches to these venture funds.
  • Make a compelling case for how your business can scale, especially in the Australian and Asia-Pacific markets. Present data-driven growth strategies and market analysis to support your plans.
  • Look for opportunities to collaborate with other businesses, research institutions, or innovation hubs within the ASEAN region. Partnerships can raise your proposal’s attractiveness to Australian investors by demonstrating regional engagement and potential for cross-border growth.

This is a five-part series looking at the opportunities for businesses across the Australia – Southeast Asia corridor. The insights are powered by Via Group: a communications agency focused on supporting international businesses with their cross-border communications needs across Asia. You can check them out at


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