Are you looking to accelerate your startup’s growth across Southeast Asia? Let’s have a chat with Aditi, Grab Ventures’ Head of Partnerships & Programs, on how what Grab Ventures is helping startups scale in the region.
What is Grab Ventures?
Aditi: “Grab Ventures is Grab’s venture building and venture investments arm. Our vision is to nurture the next generation of tech unicorns in Southeast Asia. We do two things towards this vision. First — we incubate new ventures, either fully in-house or in partnership with other startups. We refer to these new businesses as ventures as they are further out from Grab’s core business verticals like ride-hailing and online payments.
Examples are GrabWheels, our personal mobility venture, and GrabFresh, our grocery delivery venture, which is built in partnership with HappyFresh. In this case, while HappyFresh brings select core capabilities, for example, in-store shoppers, Grab brings in market access, delivery capabilities to launch and scale the service across multiple countries for Grab users.
Then there’s the second way in which we engage with external startups — through our investments and programs function. That’s what I work on.
Grab Ventures is a strategic investor and hence, we engage startups with capabilities that have strong synergies with Grab. Our scale-up program called Grab Ventures Velocity, recently graduated its first batch of 5 startups where we piloted their services to our Grab user base in Singapore and Indonesia.
How can a startup get started with GV?
A: “Reaching out to us is very simple. Any startup can visit our website and submit their pitch to us through our contact form. So far, we have received well over 500 inbound inquiries of startups interested to engage with Grab Ventures or even with broader Grab business and verticals.
That’s the easiest way to reach us — tell us what you do, send us your pitch and how and why you want to work with Grab Ventures. Our team screens this on a daily basis, and we make sure to let the startups know if we’re interested to engage with them or not.
A lot of the startups we work with also come to us through referrals. Venture capitalists (VCs), investment bankers, accelerators and incubators, government agencies all refer startups to us that they think could derive value if they’d work with Grab. We also get startup referrals frequently through our own Grabbers.
On the other side, our team members also get a lot of cold requests via Linkedin, or introductions at startup or investor events within the startup ecosystem like Innovfest or DealStreetAsia.
No matter the channel, all inbound inquiries are put through the same screening process by our team.”
What do you look out for when evaluating an inquiry?
A: “Firstly, we check if there’s a fit with Grab in terms of business priorities. Broadly, we look at new capabilities or disruptive tech surrounding, but not limited to, transport, payments, food, logistics, groceries and O2O platforms.
Inquiries that come our way which are not relevant to Grab Ventures but something other Grab teams are addressing are passed on to them. Other teams here might refer to our verticals such as GrabExpress or GrabFood.
Second, we assess if the startup is solving a real user problem, i.e. there exists a gap in the market offering and the startup is addressing it effectively.
If the first two are true, we then dive deeper into areas such as business model, operating model, product, economics and team capability. We are quite particular about the stage of startups we engage. As of now, Grab Ventures is best able to support the startups at commercialisation (scale-up or growth) stage, so we don’t tend to engage early-stage startups or those without an MVP. So, startups that are already piloting, preferably, commercializing their tech are welcome to reach out and work with us.
Most importantly, we assess whether the startup vision and even culture are able to fit well with Grab’s own. We work quite closely with these startups, hence, the core team must be one we can work well with on an ongoing basis. We are different from VCs in that we don’t just invest capital and then ‘disengage’.”
What can a startup expect when partnering with Grab Ventures?
A: “Our model can be fairly bespoke depending on the nature of engagement with Grab Ventures. It is most defined and structured for Grab Ventures Velocity program around proof-of-concept (PoC), capability building and mentorship tracks.
In the PoC track, we allow these startups access to test out their product/services with our user base for a pilot period.
Towards mentorship, we have senior Grab or external leaders who can offer advice and coaching to these startup founders. For example, if a startup is looking for advice on talent hiring and management, we will pair them up with our Head of People; Ong Chin Yin, to be their 1:1 mentor. We also conduct capability building workshops for these founders periodically with master experts on specific functional areas.
Through Grab Ventures, these startups not only have access to Grab’s internal resources but also our network of public and private partners in the form of business introductions, consultation workshops etc.
Our main goal here is to nurture and scale-up — it’s a win-win partnership where if the startup grows with us, we are able to offer a wider variety of quality services to our users, furthering our Superapp vision.”