Richest families in Southeast Asia look for the next unicorn

Some of Southeast Asia's old-money tycoons are boosting investment in technology startups, looking to ride a wave of surging valuations as they seek to counter the fallout of the pandemic on businesses ranging from retail to hospitality and manufacturing.

Dhanin Chearavanont speaks during the Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong on Sept. 11, 2019. Foto: Bloomberg photo by Anthony Kwan

Holding companies, family investing arms and other vehicles of moguls from Thailand's Dhanin Chearavanont to the Philippines' Lance Gokongwei are either plowing millions of dollars directly into promising companies or setting up venture capital funds. Partnering with Silicon Valley venture capital firms is also gaining popularity.

With the flurry of investments, these traditional brick-and-mortar business empires are also transitioning to a new world of e-commerce and digitization, paving the way for fresh revenue streams after being crippled by months of lockdowns and travel restrictions. The pivot has gained even more urgency under a new crop of leaders -- in some cases younger, third-generation heirs...

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