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Singapore, Indonesia await start-up investors’ return, as Malaysia eyes regional launch pad status

This year, Southeast Asia’s start-ups are expecting some of that money to return, but it may be looking to make safer bets, business experts warn.

“There’s now a trend to invest in start-ups that show not just innovation but profitability. Those which have proved their resilience will reap the benefits,” said Edward Ismawan, of the Indonesian Association of Venture Capital for Startups (Amvesindo), told This Week in Asia.

“Because of the more challenging investment environment, investors are becoming more selective and investing in companies that are past the ideation stage,” said Lawrence Loh, a professor at the National University of Singapore Business School.

The city state earned a place alongside some of the world’s largest start-up ecosystems like those in Silicon Valley and New York in the global top 10 ranking from innovation policy and research firm Startup Genome last year.

It ranked eighth, leaping 10 places from a year before and overtaking regional peers Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo, landing just behind Beijing.

“There has been a wave of ideas in the tech and digital spaces recently, but there has been a shift to a preference for later-stage funding because these are ideas that are more amenable to commercialisation,” Loh said.

Founded in 2020, Bolttech, a Singapore-based insurance tech unicorn, recently raised US$246m in its series B funding round after a US$50m contribution from an investment firm.

Operating an exchange that allows insurers, distributors and customers to buy and sell insurance products, the company has received a licence to operate in all US states and in October began considering a US$300m initial public offering in the country, sources told Bloomberg.

Interest in sustainable energy start-ups is