SME Corp Malaysia makes debut as VC in US$24 mil fund with RHL Ventures

  • Signals one of the first public and private collaboration under the new administration
  • Fund will be broader and more sector-agnostic, no sin companies to be considered

(L to R) RHL Ventures partners, Teng Chen Shun, Jo Jo Kong, Rachel Lau, Tengku Ahmad Ridhwanuddin and Raja Hamzah Abidin

In a first for Malaysia’s venture capital sector, SME Corp Malaysia, the key agency promoting and driving the SME sector, has decided to up its game and get directly involved in the growth of SMEs via equity investment as a venture capital company.

Together with private investment firm RHL Ventures, SME Corp Malaysia has announced a US$24.3 million (RM100 million) fund designed to support the growth of local small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The first tranche of funding, from SME Corp, on a 1 to 1 matching basis with RHL has been executed. The amount is believed to be in the RM45 million range.  

This fund signals one of the first public and private collaboration under the new administration. From the fund, RHL Ventures will focus on backing Malaysian startups and early-stage SMEs with significant operations in Malaysia. According to Raja Hamzah of RHL Ventures, the fund will make investments ranging from RM500,000  up to RM10 million (with follow-on funding). "We're here to tackle the gap in growth funding, in Malaysia," he adds.

While a large portion of its previous investments had been channelled to grow innovative startups within the tech space, the focus of the firm’s latest fund will be broader and more sector-agnostic. “Ever since we started RHL Ventures, we have been inspired by how small businesses – even those with the humblest of beginnings – can make transformational impact in their industries and the greater economy,” said Rachel Lau, Managing Partner of RHL Ventures.

“The Government has typically led investments that support local businesses during their early stages, so we are glad that the current administration is ramping up its support to instil more innovation within the local business sector.”

What RHL Ventures aims to do with this fund is to invest in new businesses that are looking to bring new ideas and disruption in the current ways of doing business.” RHL Ventures’ latest fund also aims to highlight how partnerships between the Government and the private sector will be crucial to the growth of Malaysian SMEs, namely for sustainable development in light of the digital economy and creation of more avenues for regional expansion.

“In Malaysia, SMEs comprise over 98% of total business establishments and contribute more than 37% to the national GDP – they form a central pillar of Malaysia’s economy,” said Noor Azmi Mat Said, CEO of SME Corp Malaysia. “To ensure a higher contribution of SMEs to the national economy, there is a need for more concerted efforts to be affected by stakeholders within the SME ecosystem; an example which private sector players such as RHL Ventures is helping to lead.”

Through its latest fund, RHL Ventures is underscoring its commitment to empower local businesses that possess the vision to make a significant impact in Malaysia and the greater region. To date, RHL has invested in innovative businesses within Malaysia’s burgeoning tech start-up space; including healthcare software-as-a-service (SaaS) company HealthMetrics and healthy snacks e-commerce platform Signature Market among others.

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