Iris Capital Partners Sdn. Bhd. has launched a privately led venture debt fund, the Iris Fund, which aims to finance high-impact startups from Malaysia and the ASEAN region. The firm is one of eight VC fund managers selected under the Dana Penjana Nasional (DPN) program through Penjana Kapital Sdn Bhd, which is owned by the Finance Ministry.
The pioneer fund is co-managed by Hanwha Asset Management Co., making this the group’s maiden venture debt partnership in Malaysia. The size of the fund is said to be RM160 million and capital was contributed from Penjana Kapital and a host of institutional and high net worth investors.
Venture debt funds are said to allow for more accessible financing options for early-stage startups with validated business models and clear market growth opportunities, including minimizing shareholding dilution, enhancing financial liquidity, and providing support for fundraising rounds throughout the region. This allows companies to maintain more autonomy over their assets while providing access to financing that will allow them to grow significantly over shorter periods of time.
“While the Iris Fund isn’t limited to specific sectors or funding stages, we do look for companies with comprehensive business plans and projections that have clear strategies for long-term growth prospects. The Fund is aimed to diversify capital sources for startups and help strengthen the financing opportunities in South East Asia,” said Dato’ Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad, Chairman of the Iris Fund.
“This inaugural venture represents the Group’s strong belief in the growth of the region. The fund will be the first of many partnerships with Iris Capital Partners as the Group is looking to invest more in Malaysia and Southeast Asia,” said Kimo Kim, Partner at the Iris Fund. “This fund aims to offer more accessible financing to startups and SMEs while allowing founders to control their dilution better.”
The Iris Fund’s maiden investment, Growthwell Group Pte. Ltd (Growthwell Foods), is an alternative meat and seafood protein provider for F&B businesses in Singapore and 10 other countries in the APAC region. The Iris Fund was part of the $22 million Series A funding round by the company alongside other renowned investors, including Temasek Holdings Limited, Creadev, GGV Capital, and DSG Consumer Partners. Growthwell, who is behind the vegan plant-based brand HAPPIEE!, egg-free cooking ingredients brand OKK, and plant-based ready meal brand Gomama, plans to use these investments to expand their manufacturing facility in Johor Bahru that is projected to create more job opportunities for Malaysians. “We are extremely pleased to have global investors like Iris Fund onboard Growthwell as we look to scale up our plant nutrition business beyond Southeast Asia,” commented Growthwell executive director Justin Chou. “We will continue to trailblaze plant nutrition in Asia.”
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