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During his honeymoon in 2017, Amrit Lakhiani told his wife what he wanted to do when he retired—farming. Back then, he was focussed on running his family’s real-estate business. It was his wife who suggested a different timeline. “Why hold things off until retirement? Go and try it now, and see if something works out,” she advised him.

Fast forward five years, Lakhiani has taken up farming as a full-time profession with his startup Beleaf. Founded in 2019, the Indonesia-based agritech firm operates on a farming-as-a-service farming-as-a-service farming-as-a-service Farming-as-a-service is a farm management solutions that enable farmers to make data-driven decisions in growing their crops to boost productivity and efficiency. model. In October, it closed a US$2 million US$2 million Alpha JWC Ventures Indonesian ‘Farming-as-a-Service’ Startup Beleaf Raises USD 2 mn in Seed Funding led by Alpha JWC Ventures Read more seed round led by Jakarta-headquartered venture-capital (VC) firm Alpha JWC Ventures. Alpha is one of the most active VCs in Southeast Asia.

Here’s a startup that has managed to raise money despite a gloomy climate marked by rising interest rates, geopolitical instability, and en-masse layoffs by the global tech giants Amazon and Meta to even Southeast Asia’s Sea and GoTo. As it seems, there is still an abundance of capital in the market—just not for everyone.

“Investors like us are still actively looking for high-quality startups to invest in, especially with the abundance of capital that has been raised by VCs and private equities (PEs) recently,” said Eko Kurniadi, a partner at Alpha JWC Ventures. In the past 12 months, investors in the region have raised over US$4 billion, he added.

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But late-stage startups are facing the music from investors who would rather be safe than sorry. Investors The Ken spoke to alluded that they are avoiding such investments except in startups with solid fundamentals.

At the same time, investors in a flight-to-safety mode are increasingly eyeing early-stage startups. Early-stage startups look more viable due to their better risk-reward profiles, Kurniadi explained. By joining companies in their early stage, an investor can shape the conception of the company’s foundational business and significantly increase its chance of success, Kurniadi added. And, in turn, their own.

But financiers still have to price in the risks when betting on an early-stage firm, especially when investing in today’s uncertain macroeconomic environment. Founders like Lakhiani have experienced first-hand how these market contradictions—where capital is aplenty and so are the risks—played out in their favour when fundraising.

But it wasn’t always all hunky-dory for Beleaf.

AUTHOR

Yunindita Prasidya

Based in Bali, Dita writes about Indonesia’s growing digital economy, including how technology is shaping the lives of young Indonesians and impacting traditional industries. She was previously a reporter at The Jakarta Post.

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