Articles • 04 August 2020
Fundnel kicked off our strategic partnership with Wavemaker Labs with a fireside chat with Buck Jordan, Managing Partner. Read on for more on what this means for Fundnel’s network of global investors.
Funding and building tomorrow’s disruptive technologies, Wavemaker Labs takes them to market alongside their passionate and innovative founders. Their model of incubating solutions to solve corporate challenges through their venture build and accelerator model has proven successful State-side, with LOIs secured for their portfolio companies by the time they go-to-market.
We’re excited to announce a strategic partnership with Wavemaker Labs to expand our private investment offering to our network of accredited investors, allowing them to access curated transatlantic co-investment opportunities in companies within Wavemaker Labs’ portfolio via Fundnel.
Kristin Lim, our Director of Investments had a recent chat with Buck Jordan, Managing Partner at Wavemaker Labs to talk about their key industries of focus, their upcoming plans in Singapore, and how Fundnel’s investors can leverage this strategic partnership to diversify their portfolio in the world’s most forward-thinking companies, focusing on Big Data, AI, Robotics, and Automation solutions.
The text below has been edited for clarity.
Kristin: As you mentioned in your presentation, many people in Asia are familiar with Wavemaker Partners. I think Wavemaker Labs is a little bit new to them. So tell us more about Wavemaker Labs. How does Labs fit into the Wavemaker family and the wider offering to startups?
Buck: Wavemaker is the most entrepreneurial group in the world and we do all share some economics across the different platforms, but we're all heavily incentivized in our own bucket.
The Wavemaker fund in Singapore is largely focused on enterprise deep tech and that is squarely in the zone of where Wavemaker Labs is building — at the intersection of automation and food, and also agriculture. We're just like the much earlier version of any fund out there.
We start from zero. We don't take pitches. We take problems from corporations.
A lot of people, especially in this part of the world, are very familiar with investing into big data, AI, but robotics and automation kind of gets left behind a little bit. Can you help us demystify robotics and automation and why that is a key thrust of Wavemaker Labs?
The future is driven by AI, robotics, data and machine learning. We focus on robotics and automation because it is a capital-intensive industry that has become very affordable in recent years. What was once a hardware problem is increasingly becoming a software problem. And so, I think that as time goes on, as technology continues to make these technologies even cheaper, you're going to see robotics enter our everyday lives all over the place.
With the Wavemaker Labs model, you're typically getting a really big LOI from a corporate partner and secured revenue before you go out to fundraise. What does that initial conversation with the corporate look like? What does it take to get them to consider doing a pilot?
It is hard. But building robotics is a specialised skillset that not many people have. For example, how is a major quick serve restaurant going to build a robotic system that is highly advanced with a combination of AI, computer, vision, and robotics? It's not going to happen (within the organisation where they lack the capabilities), and they're watching this technology happening.
We come in to provide the expertise and funds to solve their problems, as long as the company commits to buy it when the product meets their requirements. They're also going to have ownership in our company. We made sure that everyone's incentive is aligned and that they're happy with the product we're building, and they win when we win.
Take Miso Robotics for instance, we’ve raised $18 million so far — that's a lot of money for any corporation to put up. But now the market can win by having them as a customer and that corporation can have their problem solved.
You also talked about trying to scale entrepreneurship and that's really the goal of Wavemaker Labs. How do you think about scaling entrepreneurship / hiring?
We focus on finding CEOs who have the founder mentality. We often like it when they invest in the company, and we make sure that it's attractive for them to invest. Lastly, we also usually incentivise them with equity.
What are some of the challenges faced with the US-based companies you're building as they try to fundraise in Asia and expand into the Asian market? Why is Wavemaker Labs interested in expanding to Asia?
We are trying to combat 2 problems:
Technology Lag: San Francisco is the R&D centre of the globe when it comes to entrepreneurship and new technology. However, companies stay in US for too long and by the time they try to expand into new markets, there’s already a similar solution in that market
“Build it once, use it twice”: We are interested to find out if it is possible to create two companies in different geographies that are identical and have them share a technological base to enable cost-effectiveness. It is something that we are excited to try.
What are the future plans for Wavemaker Labs in Singapore?
We're hoping to start next year, where we're going to be building companies from scratch with corporations based in Singapore primarily around food and agriculture. We're talking to a few corporates in Singapore who would be our initial core partners that would be well aligned with the objectives of Singapore as a nation.
Tune in to the video above and explore more insights from the audience Q&A segment, covering topics from low labour costs vs automation, the Wavemaker Labs difference between Singapore and California, and the business models and industrial solutions Wavemaker Labs thrives in.
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