Despite Pandemic, Wavemaker Closes Third Oversubscribed Southeast Asia Fund
Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks. Follow him on Twitter.
Despite the raging coronavirus pandemic, Wavemaker Partners announced Wednesday it has closed its third and largest fund focused on Southeast Asia with $111 million in dry powder, exceeding its initial target of $100 million.
"If not for COVID we may have been oversubscribed a little more, but we're happy with where we ended up," said Eric Manlunas, the firm's founder & managing partner.
Some LPs cut their commitment once the seriousness of the coronavirus became clear, but Manlunas says Wavemaker benefited from a solid track record of previous funds and momentum after starting fundraising before the pandemic.
"The timing was challenging towards the end," he said. "There was certainly a fair amount of worry there when the world almost went upside down three or four months ago."
New investor Concentric Equity Partners will join existing institutional backers including Pavilion Capital, Temasek, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Vulcan Capital in the new fund.
Founded in 2003, Wavemaker is a cross-border venture firm dual headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and has raised some $400 million across multiple vehicles. Its previous $66 million Southeast Asia fund was already the largest early-stage fund focused on enterprise and deep tech start-ups in the region. Since 2012, the firm has invested in over 130 startups, over 100 of which are enterprise-focused and over 40 in deep tech and artificial intelligence. Exits include Indonesian mobile point-of-sale system Moka (acquired by Gojek), cloud communications software company Wavecell (acquired by 8x8) and regional payments solutions provider Red Dot Payment (acquired by PayU/Naspers).
Wavemaker believes the pandemic has helped to further strengthen the thesis that B2B startups represent an undervalued investment opportunity, though Manlunas says the firm has adopted a more cautious approach as it becomes clear that the coronavirus is not going away anytime soon.
"We're prepared to see really a sluggish environment for the next several quarters," Manlunas said. "We've shared with our entrepreneurs that this thing could last through half of next year."
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It's almost 90 degrees outside in Los Angeles as lines of cars pull up to Dodger Stadium, home to a mass vaccination site that opened Friday.
"Please make sure that they're not under the sun in the cart," Edith Mirzaian is telling a volunteer as she directs the person to put ice packs on coolers that hold up to 20 COVID vaccines. Mirzaian is a USC associate professor of clinical pharmacy and an operational lead at one of California's largest vaccination sites.
Dodger Stadium alone — once the nation's largest COVID-19 testing site — is slated to vaccine up to 12,000 people each day, county and city health officials said this week. Officials plan to finish vaccinating some 500,000 health care and assisted care employees by the end of this month before opening appointments up to people 65 and older.
Mirzaian is desperately trying to make sure that the vaccines don't spoil.
"We have to be the guardians of the vaccine," she said.
Earlier this month, hundreds of vaccinations were lost after a refrigerator went out in Northern California, forcing the hospital to rush to give out hundreds of doses. Mirzaian's task tells a larger story of the difficult and often daunting logistical process required to roll out a vaccine that requires cold temperatures.
"You know they can't be warm so just keep an eye out," she gently reminds the volunteer.
The volunteers and staff from USC, the Los Angeles Fire Department and Core Laboratories prepared enough doses to vaccinate around 2,000 residents on Friday and they plan to increase capacity each day after.
Local health officials are holding the vaccination syringes in coolers after they leave the air-conditioned trailers. The coolers are then covered in ice packs and wheeled on carts to clinicians administering shots to health care workers and nursing home staff eligible under the state's vaccination plan.
"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible," said mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the plan.
Health officials around the world are racing against time as the virus mutates and poses greater dangers.
"We have a little bit of borrowed time here right now because these variants are not here in great numbers from what we can tell," said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor in clinical pathology at USC's Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Curbing the spread of the virus is a vital way to prevent mutant strains from developing, she said.
Mirzaian, who arrived at the site before it opened at 8 a.m., said that there were logistical challenges as volunteers scrambled to assemble what will likely be the hub of the region's vaccination efforts.
"It's challenging to make sure that everyone knows what the process is and what we're doing and what to tell the patients who receive the vaccines."
After a few hours, the procedure moved quicker.
Residents have to show identification and proof of employment before they're taken through a list of pre-screening questions and given the vaccine through their car window. They're required to then wait for 15 minutes while clinicians monitor them for side effects.
Mirzaian said the process took each car about an hour. While eligible residents can walk-in for vaccinations, she recommends they make appointments so that enough doses are made available each day.
"As long as people have their appointments, they will get in," she said. "We are ready. We are like an army ready to give vaccines."
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As part of the reorganization, Chief Strategy Officer Jared Grusd, who previously oversaw content, will become a strategic advisor to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.
As a casting director, Lacey Kaelani has a leading view on Hollywood's content pipeline. Based on what she's been seeing on her venture-backed casting platform, Casting Depot, prepare for a deluge of unscripted shows.
"It's all gonna be handheld videos where everything looks like a Zoom call," she said. "Dating shows, talk shows, food competition shows – that's what was cast and is going into production."
The Casting Depot launched its latest beta version on Friday, with a "six-figure" investment from global venture capital firm Antler. Its board includes leaders from companies including CAA, Airtime, iHeartMedia, WorkMarket and IAC.