JG Summit Holdings, Inc. continues its charge to become the leading digital conglomerate in the Philippines with the launch of JG Digital Equity Ventures, or JG DEV, the group’s next-generation digital business and venture investment arm focusing on Southeast Asia.
The JG DEV team is led by Chief Executive Officer BJ Sebastian, Chief Operating Officer Ian Estrada, Chief Financial Officer Mara Utzurrum, and Chief Technology Officer Caesar Morata. They will be working closely with an Investment Committee composed of key JG Group leaders led by JG Summit Holdings President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei.
As part of the JG Summit conglomerate, JG DEV is positioned favorably to build and invest in industries connected to the group’s ecosystem, particularly in data, financial services, consumer, new media, logistics, and digital health sectors. “JG is known to have very strong offline businesses. Our group is behind the pack in this digital journey, so our challenge is to leapfrog from where we are,” says CEO BJ Sebastian.
Ian Estrada, one of the country’s fintech pioneers and JG DEV’s COO, explains that JG DEV will go beyond the traditional expectations of a typical VC firm. “Our approach here is that we want to not just invest, but we also want to build ventures ourselves. The typical model is you either just invest in a startup or you operate one. In our case we want to do both under the same entity, to give our ventures and investments room to grow independently while maximizing the ecosystem advantages from our existing businesses.”
With a handful of ventures already in its portfolio, including Cashalo, Growsari, and Snapcart, JG DEV is growing its business by earmarking a $50-million fund to invest in more startups within the region, focusing particularly on Series A and B investments and the acquisition of talent in the digital sector.
“Digital is a key pillar to JG’s future. There is no shortage of ideas in the digital space, so we must focus on a few big bets that generate the most value,” said Mr. Gokongwei.
According to Estrada, a strategy and product management professional with deep expertise in the fintech sector, the funding for Series A and B investments (the first and second rounds of financing given to a new business once seed capital has already been provided) can range from $1 million to $10 million dollars.
There are three unique things, he says, that JG DEV brings to the table when partnering with or investing in startup companies. “First, we open up the Filipino consumer. We have diversified assets and a huge consumer base. Second, we provide strategic funding. As investors, we only have one major investor, which is JG Summit, that means we don’t have the pressure to return capital at a pre-determined point in time to external investors, which is the challenge that VCs typically have. We can continue providing fresh capital just as long as the business model is working.
“Third, you will have the eyes and ears of our investment committee, headed by Lance Gokongwei, president and CEO of one of the most respected companies in the country, on your side actively trying to help you out.” That committee, rounded out by CEO BJ Sebastian; JG Summit Chairman James Go; Brian Go, managing director of JG Digital Capital Pte Ltd in Singapore; and Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, president of Summit Media, will provide acquired startups with invaluable advice and many decades’ worth of combined business experience. “Other VC’s investment committees aren’t like this. Here, it is composed of key members of the JG Summit board,” adds Estrada.
(Banner photo: iStock/ipopba)