A plant based meat and seafood alternative by Growthwell Foods, the maiden investment of the Iris Fund venture debt fund. (IMG/@growthwellfoods, Facebook)

A plant based meat and seafood alternative by Growthwell Foods, the maiden investment of the Iris Fund venture debt fund. (IMG/@growthwellfoods, Facebook)

Msia’s first venture debt fund invests in S’porean agritech

Iris Fund, Malaysia’s first privately-led venture-debt fund was launched by Iris Capital Partners yesterday. Through Penjana Kapital Sdn Bhd the fund will invest in high-impact startups in ASEAN and Malaysia, the firm said in a statement.

Managed by Korea’s Hanhwa Asset Management Co, the venture-debt fund was established under the Dana Penjana Nasional (DPN) program under the Malaysian Ministry of Finance. It is also Hanhwa’s first venture debt partnership in Malaysia.

The initial size of the pioneer venture-debt fund is RM160 million (US$40 million), with Malaysia’s Penjana Kapital contributing a portion of the monies, together with “other institutional and high net worth investors”. 

Investment into Singapore agritech Growthwell Group

The Iris Fund chose to make its maiden investment in Growthwell Group Pte. Ltd (Growthwell Foods). 

Established in Singapore in 1989, Growthwell Foods and has 30 years of experience in producing meat-free foods in Singapore and 10 other countries in the APAC region. 

Currently, the Group is utilizing agritech techniques to produce completely plant-based, nutritionally complete meat alternatives.

The company claims it goes “full force” into R&D and food technology, working with food scientists, researchers, nutritionists, and chefs backed by its expertise in understanding the needs of the Southeast Asian food market.

“We are extremely pleased to have global investors like Iris Fund onboard Growthwell as we look to scale up our plant nutrition business beyond Southeast Asia,” commented Growthwell executive director Justin Chou. “We will continue to trailblaze plant nutrition in Asia.”

Growthwell produces vegan plant-based brand HAPPIEE!, egg-free cooking ingredients brand OKK, and plant-based ready meal brand Gomama. 

The company plans to use these investments to expand its manufacturing facility in the northern state of Johor, Malaysia. This expansion is projected to create more job opportunities for Malaysians.

The Iris Fund was part of the $22 million Series A funding round by the company alongside other renowned investors, including Temasek Holdings Limited, Creadev, GGV Capital, and DSG Consumer Partners. 

What are venture debt funds?

Venture debt funds allow for more accessible financing options for early-stage startups with validated business models and clear market growth opportunities, including minimizing shareholding dilution, enhancing financial liquidity, and providing support for fundraising rounds throughout the region. 

This allows companies to maintain more autonomy over their assets while providing access to financing that will allow them to grow significantly over shorter periods of time.

“While the Iris Fund isn’t limited to specific sectors or funding stages, we do look for companies with comprehensive business plans and projections that have clear strategies for long-term growth prospects. 

The Fund is aimed to diversify capital sources for startups and help strengthen the financing opportunities in South East Asia,” said Dato’ Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad, Chairman of the Iris Fund.

 “This inaugural venture represents the Group’s strong belief in the growth of the region. The fund will be the first of many partnerships with Iris Capital Partners as the Group is looking to invest more in Malaysia and Southeast Asia,” said Kimo Kim, Partner at the Iris Fund. 

“This fund aims to offer more accessible financing to startups and SMEs – while allowing founders to control their dilution better”, added Kim.