Iris Capital launches maiden debt fund for start-ups, SMEs

By ANIS HAZIM / TMR FILE PIC

IRIS Capital Partners Sdn Bhd has launched Malaysia’s first privately led venture debt fund, the Iris Fund, to finance high-impact start-ups from Malaysia and the Asean region. 

The firm is one of eight venture capital fund managers selected under the Dana Penjana Nasional programme through Penjana Kapital Sdn Bhd owned by the Finance Ministry. 

The size of the fund will be RM160 million which was contributed from Penjana Kapital and a host of institutional and high net worth investors. 

In a statement yesterday, Iris Capital stated that the debt funds will allow more accessible financing options for early-stage start-ups with validated business models and clear market growth opportunities. 

“This includes minimising shareholding dilution, enhancing financial liquidity and providing support for fundraising rounds throughout the region,” stated Iris Capital. 

The debt fund will allow companies to maintain more autonomy over their assets while providing access to financing that will grow significantly over shorter periods of time. 

Iris Fund chairman Datuk Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad (picture) said the debt fund is not 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 start-ups and help strengthen the financing opportunities in South- East Asia,” Wan Kamaruzaman said. 

The debt fund will be co-managed by South Korea-based asset management firm, Hanwha Asset Management Co, making this the group’s maiden venture debt partnership in Malaysia. 

Iris Fund partner Kimo Kim said the inaugural venture represents the group’s strong belief in the growth prospects 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 South-East Asia,” said Kim. 

Kim added that the fund aims to offer more accessible financing to start-ups, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), while allowing founders to control their dilution better. 

Iris Fund’s maiden investment, Growth- well Group Pte Ltd (Growthwell Foods), which provide an alternative meat and seafood protein for food and beverage in Singapore and ten other countries in the Asia Pacific region, plans to use the investments to expand its manufacturing facility in Johor Baru that is projected to create more job opportunities for Malaysians. 

Iris Fund was also part of the US$22 million (RM93.06 million) Series A funding round by Growthwell alongside other renowned investors, including Temasek Holdings Ltd, Creadev, GGV Capital and DSG Consumer Partners. 

Its ED Justin Chou said the company is extremely pleased to have global investors like Iris Fund on board as it looks to scale up its plant nutrition business beyond Southeast Asia. 

Notably, the debt fund aims to help propel Malaysian and South-East Asian start-ups and SMEs to greater heights, as well as aid in the growth of Malaysia’s economy through companies that are creating job opportunities in Malaysia.