BRI Ventures, the venture capital arm of Indonesia’s largest state-owned lender Bank BRI, has launched a new venture fund named Sembrani Nusantara. It aims to raise Rp 300 billion for its first close, focusing on backing local tech startups in education, agro-maritime, retail, transportation, and healthcare sectors (EARTH)—complementing BRI Ventures’ existing portfolios which mostly run in the fintech sector. They will focus on seed round and Series A funding.
Sembrani Nusantara has become the pioneer for incorporating a venture fund in Indonesia and is fully licensed by the Financial Services Authority (OJK). It presents a significant milestone since most venture capital operating in the country are incorporated overseas. The fund welcomes institutional backers from investment fund managers, private companies, and state-owned enterprises to help the country’s future billion-dollar startups.
The name Sembrani is based on local folklore, the majestic ride of Batara Wisnu, which signifies Indonesia’s equivalent of ‘unicorn’. While Nusantara, an Indonesian term for the archipelago, emphasizes how the venture fund focuses on investing in Indonesia’s digital economy.
Upholding the “value overvaluation” philosophy brought by BRI Ventures, Sembrani Nusantara distinguishes itself by taking a hyper-localized stance, investing in startups that can build the local economy and is qualified with sustainable growth and healthy margins.
“This is fitting because the fund’s thesis will take an Indonesia-only posture,” CEO of BRI Ventures, Nicko Widjaja, said in a statement. “Also, we can see that the industry is shifting dramatically. Until recently, the priority for local startups has been to grow at all costs. Now, the name of the game is to survive and reach sustainable growth. The concept of the ‘unicorn’ itself is a word adopted straight from Silicon Valley. It’s a concept that we think is beginning to lose its alignment with Indonesia’s digital ecosystem. We feel that we need our symbol to inspire local startups to rise from the ground and fly high. This is what the Sembrani represents.”
BRI Ventures was launched in April 2019, with Nicko starting his position as the CEO in July 2019, with $250 million in assets under management. Some of its portfolios include Investree, Modalku, and LinkAja. Meanwhile, Bank BRI is the country’s largest lender in terms of assets and profitability, with a solid footprint in micro, small, and medium enterprises.