Inc. Southeast Asia, a version of the almost 40-year-old business publication Inc., launched in early 2016 to cover the regional entrepreneurial beat. Now the company behind the website, Singapore-based Sycamore Media, has raised US$1.2 million from local venture builder REAPRA, it announced today.
Sycamore has licensed Inc. for Southeast Asia and plans to publish a print magazine as well, much like its US-based counterpart. The company will also branch out to events, kicking off with one in Manila at the end of April.
“The last year has been devoted to building more traffic, hiring more people largely for the digital stories, and gestating our initiatives for this year,” CEO and editor-in-chief Neel Chowdhury tells Tech in Asia.
These initiatives involve continuing to build up traffic to the website, launching the print version around May, and exploring video content. The company is also building “software-driven products” it plans to debut around June but Neel doesn’t share more details for now.
In several aspects, Inc.’s Southeast Asia edition is a direct rival of Tech in Asia.
Inc., founded in the US in 1979, has an online and print magazine component, an events platform, and an annual list of the fastest-growing US companies known as Inc. 500. Licensed publications operate in India and in Europe too.
Neel is a veteran journalist with bylines in outlets including Fortune Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. He co-founded Sycamore with Kiron K. Bose, an investment banker with Goldman Sachs.
The company plans to publish a print magazine and an events platform.
The team was motivated by two key trends it saw in Southeast Asia: one was that the region was becoming more connected, with more capital flowing in and economic integration bringing the ASEAN countries closer together. “This was particularly true of the #startup ecosystem that was burgeoning at that time, so you had more and more companies that perhaps began in one part of Southeast Asia and expanded in other parts of it,” Neel says.
They saw an opportunity for a media outlet that would cover Southeast Asia as a whole instead of concentrating on each market separately. It also noticed that a lot of larger media companies in the region produce a lot of content but have a hard time making money out of it.
“They are caught up in a bandwidth race – the explosion in bandwidth in the region has compelled some of those larger media companies to produce more and more content and to get onto platforms beyond their original ones,” Neel says.
Neel is tight-lipped on how this challenge will be addressed save that it has to do with the upcoming digital products the company is working on.
Licensing the Inc. brand was an ideal way to build the right media product for the region, engaging the ecosystem while keeping costs manageable, Neel muses. “We came to the conclusion early on that it would be more cost-effective to do that because we can repurpose our content. Inc. is unique in that respect because it produces universal lessons – what you learn as an entrepreneur in California to some degree is similar to Kuala Lumpur, for example,” he says.
“One of the most important industries we have is the startup media space,” says REAPRA’s Jason Dacaret. Inc.’s resonance with entrepreneurs in the region was key to attracting the company builder’s attention. “In order for us to have access to entrepreneurs in the region, we need them to be as educated as possible.”
“We’re focused on the idea of entrepreneurship, which means helping people start a company, grow it, and go from good to great,” Neel says, outlining Inc.’s mission statement. “It’s not always an easy journey, in fact it’s often a painful journey, but it’s a story we want to tell and I think REAPRA is also committed to that idea.”
Inc. Southeast Asia has about 750,000 unique visitors and around 1.4 million page views. No revenue numbers are disclosed, but Neel says it’s been growing rapidly as the site is still in its early stages.