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The future of Impact Investing in Southeast Asia – Pain points and solutions from the lens of next generation leaders on the ground

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Southeast Asia continues to be a hidden gem for impact investors. It is primed for growth with a total population of more than 660 million people. GDP has consistently grown at a rate of more than 5% per year, to just under $10 trillion in 2019. This explosive, long-term growth has attracted traditional investors as well as impact investors to the region.

Previous SOCAP content covered how to combat the ill effects of rapid economic growth on the environment, including how to address rapid deforestation, recycling of plastics and revitalization of agriculture in Southeast Asia. Both the institutional definition of impact and scope for business have continued to expand to cover topics from health and wellness to diversity and equity opportunities.

Most importantly, aspiring social entrepreneurs from Southeast Asia are bursting with energy and practical, scalable ideas. The median age in Southeast Asia is 30. As young, energetic local entrepreneurs come of age, they are eager to solve longstanding structural issues such as access to healthcare and financial services.

Mainstream investors have started to shift toward businesses that address environmental and social needs, such as distributed networks for under-served populations. Local corporate, venture and impact investors are increasingly allocating capital to social enterprises of the future. This creates a uniquely dynamic investment landscape for social enterprises on a path to scale.

Several examples:

  • mClinica is a health-tech startup focused on drug distribution to low income households. It raised $20m in May 2020 to meet growing healthcare needs across Southeast Asia due to Covid-19. mClinica’s investors include a US quant trading fund, an Indonesian telecom, and a Southeast Asia impact fund among others.
  • PayFazz is a fintech startup building a network of distributed banking agents to reach rural areas. Its investors are all VC funds in Southeast Asia or the US and was awarded 2019 VC Deal of the Year. Did impact investors miss PayFazz completely?

Both deals demonstrate the vastly different impact investing landscape in Southeast Asia as compared to America and Europe – Southeast Asia does not yet have a clearly defined impact investment landscape. Social enterprises find it hard to connect with impact investors. Impact investors face stiff competition from VC and CVC funds “encroaching” into their space. Concurrently, Southeast Asian governments are starting to ease regulations on social enterprises.

With SOCAP 2020 going virtual, we have the perfect opportunity to hear from the next generation of emerging social entrepreneurs and impact investors based in Southeast Asia. What does the future of Impact Investing in Southeast Asia look like? How do mission oriented companies in the region stay true to their purpose with scale?

Confirmed Panelists

Moderator

Evan Foo – Evan is a co-founder of NYU’s Impact Investment Fund, which makes seed stage investments in for-profit businesses with a purpose. He was born and raised in Singapore and spent many years in Southeast Asia as a VC and startup founder. Evan is currently an M&A and Sustainability advisor with PwC Advisory LLC in New York.

Unconfirmed Panelists

Panelists (3 of the 6 will be present)

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