The Asian Development Bank (ADB) established ADB Ventures in early 2020. The Bank’s new venture arm has a mandate to invest risk capital in early-stage technology companies solving big development problems in emerging Asia and the Pacific.
By the end of Q2 2021, ADB Ventures’ inaugural $60 million fund had made five equity investments in impact technology startups, giving the facility early momentum on its mission to catalyze regional progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030.
At the 54th Annual Meeting of the ADB Board of Governors, the Asia Pacific region’s premier forum for the discussion of economic and social development, ADB Ventures was invited to host a special seminar on “Unleashing Venture Capital for a Robust, Green, and Inclusive Recovery”.
Suzanne Gaboury, ADB’s Director General for Private Sector Operations, opened the session by highlighting that many of the technology solutions that can unlock sustainable growth, distribute their benefits more inclusively, and make economies more resilient, already exist but they are not scaling fast enough in emerging Asia and Pacific markets. Mobilizing capital to support a sustainable recovery will require a multi-pronged effort involving various stakeholders, including governments and policymakers, development partners, private sector investors, and innovative entrepreneurs.
Panelists included Deputy Minister Cha Jung-Hoon, Republic of Korea Ministry of SMEs and Startups, Ritu Vera, co-founder and Managing Partner of Ankur Capital, Jojo Flores, co-founder of Plug and Play, Tarun Mehta, co-founder and CEO of Ather Energy, and Christian Sanz, CEO of Skycatch Inc.
Tarun Mehta and Christian Sanz offered examples of technologies that are scaling rapidly in Asia Pacific markets with substantial climate impact. Ather Energy is a two-wheeled electric vehicle company with impressive traction in India. Skycatch Inc., one of ADB Ventures’ first invested companies, offers enterprise-grade technology for capturing and analyzing high-accuracy 3D drone data. By creating ‘digital twins’ of construction and infrastructure projects, it is possible to save cost and time, cut waste, reduce C02 emissions, and improve safety.
Ritu Verma of Ankur Capital shared that venture capitalists’ interests overlap with the SDG agenda when digital businesses drive inclusivity and reach lower-resource populations.
Jojo Flores of Plug and Play, which began a technical assistance partnership with ADB Ventures in June 2021, detailed how Plug and Play matches technology innovations, including in agritech, animal health, and sustainability, with interested corporate and investor partners. Recent efforts to match circular economy startups with Alliance to End Plastic Waste members have led to 75 proof of concept trials and a $35 million investment.
Deputy Minister Cha discussed the public sector’s role. Recognizing the need to mobilize capital for the Republic of Korea’s transition to an SME and startup-led economic structure, the government had catalyzed $26 billion in private sector investment and has made $19 billion in public sector investments. More recently, it had also provided co-financing for ADB Ventures to invest in regional startups.
Gaboury concluded the session by stressing the importance of ADB Ventures’ partnerships, including those with the Government of the Republic of Korea, the Finnish Government, the Climate Technology Fund, and the Nordic Development Fund, which invested in ADB Ventures’ first Equity Fund. ADB Ventures plans to make 12 more investments under the fund and will take positions in as many as 35 other impact tech companies using reimbursable grants. Further, ADB Ventures intends to bring a new $100 million debt fund online in early 2022.
The 54th ADB Annual Meeting was held virtually from 3 to 5 May 2021 under the theme “Collaboration for Resilient and Green Recovery.” Participants included more than 4,500 finance and economic planning ministers, senior government officials, leaders in development finance, investment bankers, NGO leaders, civil society, the youth academia, and the media.
Download the highlights from the Annual Meeting here.