Antler, the global early-stage venture capital firm based in Singapore, has on Wednesday announced its largest pre-seed investment round to date, committing $5.1 million to 37 startups across Southeast Asia.

This round also marks the highest number of pre-seed deals completed in a single round in the region, demonstrating Antler’s commitment to backing the next generation of SEA tech entrepreneurs, Antler said in a statement.

According to the statement, the diverse portfolio of startups spans 19 sectors ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and business to business (B2B) software as a service (SaaS) to fintech and healthcare to address specific regional challenges.

The investment also marks Antler’s initial commitment and footprint in Malaysia as part of its strategic partnership with sovereign wealth fund Khazanah.

“As a multi-stage investor, we recognize the immense potential of early-stage startups in Southeast Asia. In this dynamic and challenging climate, we are especially drawn to pre-seed investments, particularly in verticalized AI and industry 4.0 startups that address deep-seated pain points and revolutionize how models and data translate into tangible products,

“At this pivotal moment, we are laser-focused on helping founders establish a robust foundation for sustainable business models and fostering long-term innovation within the broader global tech ecosystem,” said Jussi Salovaara, Co-founder and Managing Partner Asia, of Antler.

According to the statement, Antler’s position as the earliest backer of startups uniquely enables them to identify and drive emerging tech trends.

Antler’s investments in this round underscore conviction in the following trends:

● Shift to verticalized AI
A second wave of AI startups is expected to emerge in 2024 as AI matures and solutions are tailored to specific industries.
Anther notes a greater shift towards building durable businesses in verticalized AI, notably in media, customer lifecycle management, and LLM integration.
It is noted 34 percent of startups in this round are in verticalized AI.
These include CapGo, a platform to deploy AI agents for fast and autonomous data acquisition to ZOLO, an AI-powered assistant for food suppliers to streamline order management.

● Rise of Industry 4.0 in SEA
While Industry 3.0 was initially driven by the manufacturing sector, Industry 4.0 technologies now have the transformative potential to drive all industry verticals.
Its core principles of interconnectedness, data-driven decision-making, and automation are increasingly being applied to traditionally non-digital sectors, including construction, transportation, and healthcare.
It is noted that 34 percent of the startups invested are in Industry 4.0.
These include COEX, a platform designed to maximize capital and operational efficiency in the construction industry to Seafoody, an AI-enabled seafood supply chain operator.

● SEA startups building hyperlocal solutions with global scalability
With the global digital economy expected to reach $17.5 trillion by 2025, a new wave of startups is emerging that are developing products that cater to hyperlocal needs in Southeast Asia while maintaining the potential for global expansion.
Antler currently see opportunities in e-commerce, fintech, productivity, and travel, capitalizing on the region’s diverse and rapidly growing market landscape, developing solutions that address specific local pain points, and incorporating scalable technologies for a global audience.
Examples include BorderDollar, which provides accessible cross-border trade finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and Finna, an end-to-end platform for solopreneurs, simplifying the workflow from managing customers and creating proposals to processing payments.

“With greater awareness and adoption of predictive AI, Southeast Asia startups now have the opportunity to embrace a new paradigm of hyper localization and global ambition,

“This approach demands founders to rethink the possibilities of products that cater to the diverse local markets at mass while harboring the potential for seamless scalability across global platforms,” said Winnie Khoo, Partner of Antler.

With a record number of over 5,000 applications in this round, Antler has consistently backed over 1,000 startups worldwide, since its launch in 2018. The firm’s goal is to back more than 6,000 by 2030.

Antler strengthens team with key hires to drive strategic investments in Southeast Asia