CapitaLand to pump up to S$100m into fund for global tech start-ups

CAPITALAND announced on Wednesday the setting up of a venture fund, C31 Ventures, to tap global tech startups as part of its ongoing effort to innovate and build real estate of the future. The Singapore-listed real estate group said it is prepared to eventually invest up to S$100 million as it seeks compelling investment opportunities beyond Singapore.

C31 Ventures targets startup companies that fit into CapitaLand’s focus areas of innovation in energy, operations and maintenance; building and construction; design and building materials; real estate funding as well as customer engagement.

Short-listed startups will be reviewed by an investment committee comprising CapitaLand’s senior management and external advisers, including notable venture capitalists Foo Jixun, managing partner of GGV Capital, and David Su, managing partner of Matrix Partners China. The startups will be assessed based on a combination of criteria 2 ranging from speed to market, product and financial viability, to valuation and operating metrics.

This follows from CapitaLand’s S$15-million investment in the Early Stage Venture Fund III (ESVFIII) by Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) in May 2016 for local tech startups. CapitaLand was selected to co-invest in the ESVFIII by NRF, a department within the Prime Minister’s Office of Singapore. The S$25-million fund for Singapore comprises S$10 million from the NRF and S$15 million from C31 Ventures.

C31 Ventures was announced by Lim Ming Yan, president and group CEO, CapitaLand Ltd, at the company’s “Gateway to Asia” networking event in San Francisco, US, that saw over 50 attendees from startups and venture capital firms in the Bay Area, the nexus of the world’s best high-tech corporations, startup companies and venture capitalists.

The launch of C31 Ventures marked the end of a tech-scout trip by CapitaLand in New York and San Francisco, where the group met startups including those in the Internet of Things, data analytics, and virtual and augmented reality sectors.

CapitaLand’s senior management also met Microsoft executives at the tech giant’s headquarters in Seattle. During the visit, CapitaLand gleaned first-hand insights into Microsoft’s latest technology for the hospitality, retail, workplace and construction sectors that can be applied to its real estate business.

Earlier this month, CapitaLand joined the Microsoft Accelerator programme as an official global network partner to provide mentorship to startups as well as to gain access to new ideas and technology.

Mr Lim said: “C31 Ventures will allow CapitaLand to invest in promising tech startups that are relevant and add value to our business. CapitaLand’s portfolio of real estate assets offers a living lab to startups where they can validate their ideas and prototypes. Given our strong foothold in Asia, CapitaLand will also serve as a conduit for startups to enter the regional market, especially China. We are confident C31 Ventures will greatly sharpen our innovation focus on real estate and customer engagement, bolstering our efforts to develop integrated and interconnected smart buildings as well as create seamless online and offline customer experiences.”

He added: “CapitaLand is future-proofing its business by leveraging technology to innovate and build real estate of tomorrow. As a market leader with scale and depth across the entire real estate value chain, it is incumbent on us to reinvent real estate to work for our customers who are making increasing use of a growing array of online tools in how they live, work and play. We will continue to assess opportunities that will allow us to stay ahead of the curve and seize first-mover advantages.”

GGV Capital’s Mr Foo noted: “Unique to CapitaLand is a real estate portfolio that spans integrated developments, shopping malls, serviced residences, offices and homes, and value chain expertise as a property developer, owner, manager, investor and fund manager. Startups from around the world can leverage the group’s deep domain expertise and validate their innovations across CapitaLand’s real estate portfolio and customer platform. C31 Ventures offers not just funding, but experimentation in real-world settings which involves diverse groups of customers and users as co-creators in this validation process.”

Matrix Partners China’s Mr Su added: “As one of Asia’s largest real estate developers with a presence in over 150 cities in more than 20 countries, as well as China’s largest foreign real estate developer, CapitaLand offers startups unparalleled access to Asia. With a rising middle class, the region is set to become the world’s largest consumer economy. Entry into Asian markets, especially China, is an uphill task for most startups. Through C31 Ventures, overseas tech startups will be given the opportunity to test their innovations directly in Asian markets.”

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