AirAsia’s digital venture arm, RedBeat Ventures, has announced it is establishing a global venture capital fund, RedBeat Capital, alongside a strategic partnership with 500 Startups, a startup accelerator and venture capital firm based in San Francisco.
RedBeat Capital is designed to support post-seed stage startups, investing in scalable startups seeking to enter or expand their presence in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on travel and lifestyle, logistics, and financial technology.
RedBeat Capital will also invest in digital enablers to support these verticals such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and cybersecurity.
With the backing of AirAsia, RedBeat Capital will have a base in San Francisco, gaining access to 500 Startups deal flow, and some of the world’s most highly sought-after accelerator programme graduates and ideas.
500 Startups’ current portfolio comprises 2,210 companies and over 5,000 founders in 74 countries – including 10 unicorns such as Twilio, SendGrid, Credit Karma, Canva and Grab, as well as 66 other companies valued at over US$100 million. RedBeat Capital will also seek to co-invest in select 500 Startups portfolio companies.
“Talent is both universal and abundant in all corners of the world, especially in Southeast Asia,” said Christine Tsai, CEO of 500 Startups. “Moreover, this region has more internet users than the US, which presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs. To have an industry titan like AirAsia building a bridge with Silicon Valley through its partnership with 500 is exciting for our startups, many of which have ambitions for global scale.”
AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said: “AirAsia and RedBeat Capital are on the lookout for the world’s best and brightest to help us develop a travel technology ecosystem. What better place to start than right here in San Francisco.
“We intend to operationalise this year, working with Christine and her team to identify and invest in startups that are willing to grow and expand, particularly into Southeast Asia where we have the network, data and regional expertise to help accelerate their business.”
Led by RedBeat Ventures CEO and AirAsia Group Deputy CEO (Technology and Digital) Aireen Omar, the venture capital fund will complement and enhance AirAsia’s transformation into a travel technology company.
Omar explained: “Collaborating with digital, tech-enabled startups will help us to innovate and advance our position as a market-leading travel technology company, and we look forward to exploring the integration of new, disruptive ideas into our growing portfolio of digital businesses.”
RedBeat Ventures operates a number of digital-related businesses, including BIGLIFE (AirAsia BIG Loyalty, travel360.com and Vidi), ROKKI, BigPay and RedCargo Logistics, and, through RedBeat Capital, will continue to look for investment opportunities in the high-tech digital space across Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas.