AirAsia, one of Southeast Asia’s leading airlines announced that its digital venture arm, RedBeat Ventures, has establishing a global venture capital fund, RedBeat Capital (RBC), along with a strategic partnership with 500 Startups, a leading startup accelerator and venture capital firm based in San Francisco.
RBC 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 three specific vertical business areas: Financial technology, Logistics and Travel / Lifestyle. In addition, RBC will also invest in digital enablers to support these verticals, including companies involved in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and the Internet of things.
AirAsia’s flies more than 90 million passengers annually, which gives it a huge customer market for ventures that it may invest in. RedBeat Capital will have a base in San Francisco and will gain access to 500 Startups deal flow. RedBeat Capital will also seek to co-invest in select 500 Startups portfolio companies and will also have access to some of the world’s most highly sought-after accelerator program graduates and ideas.
The 500 Startups’ investment portfolio consists of more than 2,200 companies and 5,000 founders in 74 countries. It includes 10 unicorns: Canva, Credit Karma, Grab, Send Grid and Twilio, as well as 66 other companies that are valued at over US$100 million.
Christine Tsai, CEO of 500 Startups said: “Talent is both universal and abundant in all corners of the world, especially in Southeast Asia. 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 Startups is exciting for our startups, many of which have ambitions for global scale.”
AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia Group commented on the new tie-up and 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 operationalize 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.”
Aireen Omar, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Technology and Digital) for AirAsia Group will run RedBeat Ventures and position the venture capital fund to complement and enhance AirAsia’s transformation into a travel technology company.
Omar discussed the new RedBeat and 500 Startups alliance and said: “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 that work with AirAsia in the areas of travel booking and loyalty program, logistics and technology and will look for investment opportunities in the digital high-technology space across Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas.