Industry Insights

Technology for Social Impact Featuring East Ventures and Makan for Hope

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This month, we are bringing you a special edition of The Heli-Pad. As we commemorate Singapore’s 56th birthday amid a challenging regional environment battered by Covid-19, we wish to highlight how Southeast Asia’s startups, entrepreneurs, and investors are embracing their social responsibility and using their networks and innovation tools to solve social problems.

We highlight two impactful initiatives in this regard: (1) Indonesia PASTI BISA (IDPB) Safeguards Oxygen, a fundraising and logistics effort by East Ventures to provide vital oxygen supply to Covid-19 patients in Indonesia, and (2) Makan For Hope, an initiative by the Asia Startup Network where seasoned tech leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs were brought together over roundtable conversations while raising funds for needy families in Singapore.

Spotlight 1: East Ventures mobilizes fundraising and oxygen supply drive in response to Covid-19 crisis in Indonesia

East Ventures is an early and growth stage venture capital firm, focusing on SEA and Japan with five unicorns in its portfolio including Tokopedia, Traveloka, and Mercari.  Founded in 2009 by Willson Cuaca, Batara Eto, and Taiga Matsuyama – VC firm East Ventures has invested in over 190 companies, including our very own Helicap, across Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the US.

Earlier this month, Indonesia surpassed Brazil and India in terms of daily Covid-19 cases and deaths, making it a new global virus epicentre. With the significant spike in pandemic cases, many hospitals have been experiencing an oxygen concentrator shortage, and have been unable to deliver oxygen to patients swiftly, putting the lives of thousands of COVID-19 patients under threat.

In response to the dire situation on the ground, East Ventures launched Indonesia PASTI BISA (IDPB) Safeguards Oxygen, a fund-raising effort with the goal of raising 1 million US dollars (14.5 billion Rupiah) to purchase more than 1000 Oxygen Concentrators with a capacity of 10L/m. These concentrators would be used in various hospitals across Indonesia to help patients who are in critical condition. As of 2 August 2021, the initiative had managed to raise US$ 1,213,354 from 790 donors. The fundraising hit the target within 10 days, four days ahead of schedule.

The donations collected allows IDPB Safeguards Oxygen to donate 1,450 oxygen concentrators to hospitals in Indonesia. As of 2 August, IDPB Safeguards Oxygen had completed the distribution of 190 oxygen concentrators to 32 hospitals in 10 provinces of Indonesia. Additional 500 oxygen concentrators had arrived in Jakarta by 29 July 2021 and are now in process of shipment. Distribution progress and results are transparent and updated live on IDPB’s website at

As a pioneering donation platform providing end-to-end solutions, IDPB Safeguards Oxygen is committed to continue to support Indonesia’s efforts in combating COVID-19. The platform’s donation tracking system is currently being utilized by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health to distribute relief grants. As of 28 July 2021, IDPB Safeguards Oxygen has dispatched 1,600 oxygen concentrators owned by the Ministry of Health.

Q&A with Willson Cuaca, Co-founder and Managing Partner at East Ventures

1) You have managed to raise more than $1 million in record time. How receptive has your network been to this cause? And were the donors primarily regional or global?

This milestone is a result of the cooperation between various parties, from partners to individual and corporate donors. Our donors come from many countries, such as Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Australia, US, etc.

2) Are any of your portfolio companies helping or contributing? Who is managing the distribution process on the ground?

Indonesia PASTI BISA Safeguards Oxygen partners with local technology companies in the East Ventures ecosystem.

These include:

  • Bonza, a big data analytics company, utilizes its data platform to map and predict oxygen demand across Indonesia. Bonza leverages its end-to-end solutions to unify tracking across multiple platforms and provide maximum transparency and reliability across the whole process.
  • Xendit and KoinWorks, trusted and licensed fintech companies, became the payment partners to provide and manage the fundraising platform. The funds will be disbursed directly to order oxygen concentrators for hospitals in need.
  • Waresix, a logistic tech startup, provides warehouses and distributesoxygen concentrators to hospitals in need across Indonesia.
  • Advotics, an Indonesian based SaaS startup specializing in supply chain, tracks ordered oxygen concentrators until it arrives at destination hospitals through QR Code.
  • IDN Media is involved in reporting progress and result of the project weekly as well as providing relevant content. Every donation will be announced on the website.

3) Do you feel that the Covid-19 crisis has awakened our sense of shared social responsibility and that we have a new generation of socially conscious and proactive tech leaders and investors?

During the COVID-19 crisis, every small act of generosity has had an immediate impact. Tech leaders and investors who joined in this movement are friends who come together in these bad times. Their sincere contribution helped ease the burden on the government and society. We are grateful for that.

Spotlight 2: Top founders and investors join ‘Makan for Hope’ to raise money for needy families in Singapore

Asia Startup Network (ASN) began out of a personal and global crisis, starting in April 2019, when Elise Tan found herself being laid off as the Head of Funding due to a company restructure. Several months later, COVID-19 struck the world, driving up the overall unemployment rate in Singapore to reach an annual average of 3.0% – the highest level in a  decade.

Yet, instead of dwelling on her lost employment, Elise began looking beyond her own circumstances and started noticing how large corporations were being drastically affected by the pandemic. Given her experience in the startup scene, she realized that startups – with even less access to funding and resources – would be even more greatly affected. Thus, she got together with a few others and co-founded Mentor For Hope, a fundraising effort that connected over 250 mentors with over 250 founders for mentoring opportunities while raising funds for charity. Given the success of Mentor For Hope, Elise decided that the next step was to start ASN, which aims to help impactful early-stage tech startups in Asia grow swiftly, expand locally, and amplify their positive impact worldwide.

ASN would allow Elise to run initiatives in a more sustainable fashion by building a network of individuals who are keen on serving the startup ecosystem and on giving back to society. Through this network, Elise joined forces with Andrew Tan in July 2021 to organize Makan for Hope Festival 2021, which saw an even greater number of participants and funds raised.

These initiatives reminded Elise of her own past: when relatives and friends would come forward to help her family during a difficult time in her childhood. “Building Asia Startup Network has led me to realize that I too, could come forward and find ways to help others within my community, with whatever skills, experiences and influence I had built over time”, she said. “This experience had led me on a journey of self-discovery and of re-learning what is important to me.”

“Startups usually have less access to resources, network and cash, and they’re inevitably more impacted than their larger peers during this crisis,” Elise pointed out. “If someone could lend a hand to these startups – be it to open doors to customers and investors or provide advice on how to pivot their business – they might just stand a better chance to overcome this challenging period.”

Several members of the Helicap team contributed to the Makan For Hope Festival 2021 by program-managing, hosting, or speaking at the roundtable discussions. Helicap’s sessions included:

  • ‘Pivoting from Investment Banks to FinTech’ with Helicap CEO David Z Wang as guest speaker
  • ‘Female Founders in Tech’ with Zopim Co-Founder Qing Ru Lim and Senior Minister of State Sim Ann, moderated by Helicap Executive Director Davis Ng
  • ‘The Evolution of Fintech’ with Saison Capital Partner Chris Sirisereepaph, moderated by Helicap Director Zhiwei Tan
  • ‘How Can We Encourage and Empower More People to Start Up’ with Hustle Fund Managing Partner Shiyan Koh, moderated by Helicap Executive Director Davis Ng
  • ‘The Why, When and Which Type of Financing Your Startup Needs’ with Innoven Capital Director Ben Cheah, moderated by Helicap CIO Quentin Vanoekel
  • ‘Will Climate Action, Sustainability, and ESG Focus Open Up a Trillion Dollar Greentech Opportunity’ with PropertyGuru Co-founder Steve Melhuish, moderated by Helicap CTO Jitendra S Jaitawat
  • ‘My Journey From Bootstrapping to Funding’ with Dedoco CEO Daphne Ng, moderated by Helicap VP Zhang Quan Gan
  • ‘Untapped Potential of the Unbanked and Underbanked in SEA’ with Helicap CEO David Z Wang as guest speaker

Also, Helicap Digital Marketing Intern Michelle Mirchandani supported the MFH initiative with behind-the-scenes work including marketing and project management.

To increase female participation and representation in the tech and startup community, Davis Ng, Executive Director at Helicap, had the opportunity to moderate a roundtable session with Senior Zopim Co-Founder Qing Ru Lim and Minister of State Sim Ann and leading female entrepreneurs to discuss gender inclusion and support for females. Many important ideas were raised, including match-funding for women-led startups from the government, tax incentives for female-led businesses, perpetual funds for female startups, and a mandatory ESG component in annual reports.

Q&A with Elise Tan, Founder of Asia Startup Network

Elise Tan with Helicap CEO, David Z Wang

1) What are the key successes that emerged from the MFH initiative?

  • Created a truly community-based and ground-up initiative involving nearly 500 people
  • Organized 30 virtual and intimate roundtable discussions from scratch, with 63% of the events being fully booked
  • Raised close to $120,000 for Fei Yue Community Services within 1.5 months, on low capital requirement, owing to the clever use of technology applications, implementation of a process-driven approach, and the effective management and motivation of volunteers from all walks of life
  • Estimated Cost base (including intangible costs) around 10-20%
  • Nearly 160 individuals such as hosts, partners, and the public donated funds
  • Rallied close to 100 partners to spread the word about the initiative
  • Marketed and created relevant content that drove over 15,000 impressions within 1.5 months
  • Created a platform where 63% of the participants made 4 or more new connections within the industry within one month

2) How important are partnerships and networks in designing such programs?

Partnerships and networks are crucial to the success of community projects/ programs like the MFH Festival, because they:

  • Reduce the time needed to set up the program. Given that these networks already contained communities of like-minded individuals, they could be easily activated for community programs. The existing reach of our partners also further amplified the potential reach and acquisition for such programs.
  • Allow for resources to be pooled while tapping into idle resources. Certain partners, for example a corporate VC, would benefit from co-organising events with MFH instead of doing it on their own, saving time and allowing them to tap into new audiences. Also, Helicap had a zoom account that was not actively used, which was lent to Makan For Hope Festival. Partnership and networks also created win-win situations that help with their own brand building, CSR, marketing etc.
  • Bridge the gap in expertise and knowledge. Strategic partners would give the community programs access to a wider range of expertise to quickly execute certain aspects of the program, while accelerating the decision-making process. For example, 10:10 Media helped MFH to create a free corporate video and in turn, receive free publicity with its target audience.

Without tapping into partners’ networks, the planning and execution of community programs would have required a much longer run-time, for instance to run publicity events/ campaigns to acquire interested participants.

3) How do you measure the impact of ASN’s initiatives?

Social initiatives will always require a different measurement yardstick. Some of our KPIs include:

  • Participants/hosts/partners/donors from nearly 500 organizations.
  • Nearly 160 donors
  • Average number of sessions per participant
  • 1,500 beneficiaries benefitted from the donations raised
  • 19,000 unique impressions on LinkedIn alone (from 1 June – 31 July)
  • 63% of events are sold out

– End of Special Edition –

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