Ant Financial, part of the Alibaba Group and formerly known as Alipay, will invest heavily in the future of Southeast Asia and India with the creation of a $1 billion fund dedicated to later-stage startup funding.
Founded in October 2014 by Jack Ma, Ant Financial has gone from strength to strength – including 2015’s funding round where it raised over $4.5bn with investors such as Primavera Capital Group, China Life and China Investment Corp (CIC).
The company’s Series C funding round netted it a staggering $14bn to continue its global expansion. Since then the firm has continually increased its total worth: it is currently the most successful unicorn in the world with a value of $150 billion.
As of April 2016 it was estimated that 58% of China’s online payments processed via Alipay with around 450m annual active users. By 2019 that figure had leapt to 1.2bn active users across the world. Ant Financial is now looking to increase that figure to 2bn over the next decade – a move which will be significantly boosted by the creation of its Southeast Asia-and-India-focused $1bn fund.
Ant Financial Vice President Ji Gang took to a stage at Global Young Entrepreneurs Conference 2019 this June and told its rapt crowd that his company is actively “looking to raise a fund” with a focus on providing startups with later-stage funding.
With the Southeast Asian startup scene booming it’s easy to see why Ant Financial wants to get involved. In Singapore alone VC funding has increased from $80m in 2010 to $1.2bn in 2017. Its total number of startups almost doubled in size between 2003 and 2016, from 22,000 to over 43,000.
With stiff competition from Tencent Holdings, the owners of WeChat and a general slowdown in the Chinese market, which has seen the number of newly established unicorns plummeting by 30% compared to last year, the importance of expanding Ant Financial’s reach has never been more vital.
Last year’s planned takeover of MoneyGram International was scuppered by the US government over national security concerns. Speculation has been rife as to what the Chinese firm would do next with its giant reserves.
Ant Finance has not officially commented on the fund as yet. But according to insiders it’s only a matter of time until it publicly announces the project, and potentially changes the face of the South East Asian and Indian startup scene.