Startups in the Philippines

Filipino-led Wavemaker Partners bags two venture capital awards in Singapore

Filipino-led Wavemaker Partners bags two venture capital awards in Singapore

Wavemaker Southeast Asia’s managing partner Paul Santos (center) and general partners Eric Manlunas (left) and Gavin Lee (right)

Photo from Wavemaker

Wavemaker wins 'VC Exit of the Year' with TradeGecko, and 'VC Deal of the Year' with Growsari

Venture capital firm Wavemaker Partners won two awards at the 29th Annual Singapore Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (SVCA) Awards last October 20.

Wavemaker won “VC Exit of the Year” with TradeGecko, which was acquired for US$80 million in 2020; and “VC Deal of the Year” with Growsari, a Filipino startup that provides a B2B (business-to-business) platform for mom-and-pop stores. 

This is the first time that a VC firm has won both awards in the same year. 

“We’re thrilled to have won both ‘VC Exit of the Year’ with TradeGecko and the ‘VC Deal of the Year’ with Growsari. These companies are proof positive that fortune favors the bold. Singapore was just emerging as an innovation hub in 2012, but that didn’t stop TradeGecko’s founders from starting a global order and inventory management software-as-a-service company. 

The Philippines wasn’t a popular market for tech investors in 2016, but that didn’t stop Growsari’s founders from launching a first-of-its-kind B2B marketplace. We are hopeful that their journeys will inspire the next generation of Southeast Asian tech entrepreneurs,” said Wavemaker managing partner Paul Santos, who collected the awards for the VC firm. 

A Filipino, Santos led the establishment of Wavemaker in Southeast Asia in 2012. The firm has US$180 million in assets under management across three funds in the region, and has seen 10 exits valued at close to US$700 million.

Growsari is the first Filipino startup to have won “Deal of the Year” joining the likes of publicly-listed Southeast Asian tech giant Sea Ltd (formerly Garena) and Singapore unicorn logistics startup Ninja Van. 

“We are very honored to be recognized as the ‘VC Deal of the Year’ for 2021. The Growsari team is energized and will continue to press on in our mission to help more retail stores and MSMEs with the convenience of ordering and selling consumer goods and financial services on our platform. Thank you, Wavemaker, for being with us from the beginning, all our investors, and the SVCA for this award,” said Growsari co-founder and CEO ER Rollan, who’s also part of the Endeavor entrepreneur network. 

For the award, the judges acknowledged Growsari’s role in empowering the tens of thousands of sari-sari stores in the Philippines by eliminating middlemen and extending credit to them from selected partners. With almost all of these stores run by women, Growsari has positively impacted lives by enabling people to stay home and also provide for their families.

Apart from Wavemaker, Growsari has also raised a total of US$30 million in funding to date from prominent investors, including Temasek Holdings’ private equity unit Pavilion Capital, Tencent, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), ICCP SBI Venture Partners and Saison Capital, as well as the Philippines’ Gokongwei Group’s Robinsons Retail Holdings and JG Digital Equity Ventures. Growsari is also considered to be one of the best-funded Series B startups based in the Philippines to date. 

In making the VC Exit of the Year award, the judges considered TradeGecko’s pioneer status in Southeast Asia’s enterprise software industry and how its US$80-million exit in 2020 – said to be one of the biggest seen in Singapore during COVID-19 pandemic – has rewarded Wavemaker with well over 10 times the returns. 

The SVCA is a 180-plus member organization comprising top venture capital and private equity firms, limited partners, family offices, and other stakeholders in the private capital ecosystem. The annual SVCA Awards celebrate the achievements of outstanding VC and private equity firms for their contribution to value creation and empowering entrepreneurship through their portfolio investments. 

“In both instances, Wavemaker recognized the opportunities very early on, seeded the ideas as the first institutional investor, and provided significant help to refine the strategies. They also provided valuable counsel to the founders and opened their networks locally and overseas to attract follow-on financing to further propel their growth,” said Doris Yee, executive director of the SVCA.

Like in previous years, the SVCA assembled a group of world-class senior VC and PE executives to serve as the judging panel for 2021: 

  • Chiam Fong Sin, COO, Pavilion Capital International Pte Ltd 
  • Chue En Yaw, Managing Director, Head of Private Equity Funds, Azalea Investment Management Pte Ltd 
  • Chris Loh, Partner, Axiom Asia Private Capital Pte Ltd
  • Marcus Lam, Executive Chairman, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Singapore

This year marks the second time that Wavemaker won VC Exit of the Year. The first was in 2016, when Singaporean skincare and cosmetics online store Luxola, now known as Sephora Digital, was sold to Sephora, owned by fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH). 

Wavemaker was also part of the first institutional round led by Qualgro Partners for 2019 VC Exit of the Year winner, cloud communications platform Wavecell. Wavecell was acquired by US-based 8×8 for US$125 million. –

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