Southeast Asian consumer startups focus of new fund First Move


CEBU, Philippines — Two former executives of the fintech firm Fave, Audra Pakalnyte and Joel Neoh, have launched a new early-stage venture capital fund that will invest in consumer-focused startups in Southeast Asia.

The fund, First Move, provides pre-seed funding of up to $100,000 and mentorship to early-stage startups seeking to introduce consumer-focused innovations in the region, according to an announcement.

First Move is already collaborating with other venture capital firms in the region, with 500 Global among its first backers. It has a current portfolio of seven companies, including the Indonesian food and beverage company Giggly Coco, the Malaysia-based perfume brand Scentses & Co. and the Singapore-based health and beauty brand Evolut Commerce.

The fund has also established the Consumer Tech Angel Syndicate, a group of experienced consumer-space founders and executives from Southeast Asia that will co-invest in First Move deals and provide hands-on support to startups.

“As founders ourselves, at First Move we go beyond capital injection. We believe in providing guidance, mentorship and access to a vast network of industry connections, which is crucial in early stages to get on the right path,” Pakalnyte said.

On its website, First Move says it invests in fintech and e-commerce, health and well-being, human and machine productivity, Web3 and decentralization, green tech and sustainability, and agricultural and rural digitalization.

Neoh stepped down from his role as founder and CEO of Malaysia-based fintech platform Fave in early March, about two years after Fave was acquired by Temasek-backed Indian unicorn Pine Labs in a $45 million deal.

Fave operates a payment app that offers QR payments and loyalty programs on both the Fave app and other major banks and digital wallets, including DBS, PayLah!, UOB TMRW, Google Pay and Touch ‘n Go.

In June, Neoh was named managing director at Hong Kong-based Prenetics Global to head its consumer health business, CircleDNA.

Pakalnyte held various positions at Fave before leaving as head of its “buy now, pay later” division in May. She joined Fave in 2015.

The launch of First Move comes as Southeast Asia-based venture capital firms closed 31 funds and raised $4.14 billion in total proceeds in 2022, according to a report released by DealStreetAsia’s Data Vantage in February.

A closer look at the fundraising data reveals that most funds were closed in the first half of the year, benefiting from carryover deals and lingering effects from 2021’s liquidity glut.