- Respected ecosystem leader, Jonathan Lee hired as county head of Malaysia
- 2020 Global Accelerator Program announces first six startups to get in
Southeast Asian corporate innovation accelerator RISE recently hired Jonathan Lee as its country head in Malaysia. Lee has more than 20 years’ experience that includes setting up a government-funded venture capital (VC) with a stint running his own startup as well. In his previous role, Lee spent four and a half years at Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) where he was executive director of Ecosystem Development.
Launched in 2016, RISE is headquartered in Thailand with offices in Malaysia and Singapore. According to Lee, RISE’s goal is to move Southeast Asia (SEA) forward through “innovation practices and collaborative efforts” with the “big hairy audacious goal” being to drive 1% GDP growth in the region.
That is a jaw dropping target considering the IMF estimated ASEAN’s GDP at US$3.1 trillion in Oct 2019. US$31 billion represents 1%.
RISE more recently secured US$8 million in seed funding – the funds reportedly to be used to scale its tech-enabled platform and grow beyond Thailand. “My employment is in line with RISE’s expansion into other SEA countries,” Lee (pic, left) tells Digital News Asia.
Lee will be overseeing all RISE activities in Malaysia and support Singapore’s operations while they proceed with hiring there. “A bulk of (my) responsibility covers business development and growth. A lot of it will have to do with bringing in new corporate clients and servicing existing clients, making sure we are consistently helping them innovate but more importantly, building real value for them,” he says.
This also includes making sure their corporate clients get access to the tech solutions offered by startups from around the world. “I also oversee the partnerships established locally with both the public and private sector. To a lesser extent, I double as the brand ambassador for RISE to create more awareness of RISE and what we can offer to the ecosystem,” Lee adds.
RISE works with corporates and governments in the region to boost their innovation, and they do so via their corporate accelerator, intrapreneur university, venture building services and their own experiential conference. The latter, known as the Corporate Innovation Summit, saw 4,000 attendees in 2019 over two days. The 2020 edition will be a virtual experience from 15 to 17 Sept.
RISE’s primary activities include their Global Accelerator Program, which just announced the first six startups that have been accepted into the 2020 cohort. The next group will be announced soon. Startups in the outcome-driven program work intensively in top corporates in the region for 12 weeks. The focus of the program is to deliver real and tangible business results to the corporates, rather than incubating early-stage startups.
However, running an accelerator in the Covid Era, with various travel bans in place, dictates that almost all activities will be online with limited offline activities. “This is off course subject to the travel ban lifting or startups working locally with corporations within their own market, i.e. Thai startups with Thai corporations, Singapore startups with Singapore corporations, etc,” explains Lee.
Startups will have the opportunity to work closely with RISE’s corporate partners or real commercial deals, where they potentially obtain proof of concept, commercial agreements or investments.
This year, RISE is having a multi-track, multi-countries cohort (from Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia) with new digital content with a goal to help startups get partnerships with their corporates, obtain investment and access new regional markets. According to Lee, the program predominantly targets tech companies with solutions that can address our corporate client’s challenges.
“Predominantly, these startups are in the B2B space, usually with the manpower and financial means to scale to new markets in the region. We staged it this way because we want them to be able to hit the ground running when the corporates are ready to collaborate,” he elaborates.
After the GAP program, their alumni startups can also work with RISE to access their network of over 400 corporations as well as VCs and Corporate VCs across SEA to Silicon Valley.
Accelerating throughout SEA
RISE features a management team led by founder Dr Kid Supachai Parchariyanon, who is also chief executive officer. They also have a late 2018 formed VC firm based in Silicon Valley, called Southeast Asia Exponential Ventures (SeaX Ventures), which focuses on deep tech solutions and has a fund of US$15 million. To date, RISE has a network of over 400 corporates and more than 2,000 startups from 40-plus countries.
According to Lee, RISE is working closely with government agencies in their respective markets, including the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG).
Commenting on the partnership, MDEC’s Global Growth Acceleration Division vice president Gopi Ganesalingam says: “The synergy between MDEC and RISE will enable Malaysian startups to fast-track their growth despite the economic challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This partnership is also testament to MDEC’s firm commitment to position Malaysia as a global testbed and springboard to ASEAN for tech startups. Our aim is to drive digital inclusivity across industries and developing our local tech talent through these platforms.”
Alumni from the previous RISE GAP programs include fintech robo-advisor Finnomena, which raised US$10 million in Series B funding this year from Gobi Partners, Openspace Ventures, Krungsri Finnovate and 500 Startups, among others.
Besides opportunities to develop solutions with well-known corporations, startups with the program get the chance to connect with mentors and peers from different fields together with cloud credit support, accommodation support and co-working spaces located in the centre of Bangkok.