Asus, the Taiwanese hardware firm known for its ZenBooks, ZenFones and Zenbo the cute, humanoid robot, is stepping into the VC game with the launch of a $50 million venture capital fund. Managed in partnership with Fenox Venture Capital, it will focus on strategic investments with startups that want to enter Asian markets.
Anis Uzzaman, general partner and CEO of Fenox Venture Capital, says Asus is particularly interested in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, big data, augmented and virtual reality, and other tech that can benefit from a partnership with the company, which is the fourth-largest PC maker in the world based on units shipped in 2015.
“They were pretty precise about their areas of interest,” says Uzzaman. He adds “They are looking for startups that can benefit from collaborating with them. They have invested from their balance sheet before, but they realized that they want to take an aggressive step in this area.”
The fund’s typical check size for companies raising their seed round will be about $250,000 to $1 million, while post-Series A companies will usually receive about $3 million to $5 million.
While the fund will initially focus on bringing Silicon Valley startups into Asia, it will also look for potential investments in other countries. In particular, Asus is interested in Japan, Taiwan and China, where Fenox already has investments. The venture capital firm has branches in eight countries and currently manages corporate funds for 14 firms, including Sega, Bandai Namco and Infocom.
In a press statement, Asus chairman Jonney Shih said "Finding the right global partner was a key step in our search for cutting-edge technologies that will enhance the experience of our customers. Fenox Venture Capital is one of the best partners to assist Asus in our global outreach due to their innate understanding of the Asian business culture and unmatched access to North America, Europe and the broader Asian market.”
Uzzaman says Asus plans to invest mostly in companies that have raised their Series A and are already distributing products in the U.S. or Europe, but need a strategic partner to help them expand into Asia. But they will also keep an eye out for seed-stage companies, including graduates of top accelerator programs like Y Combinator, Techstars or Stanford StartX.
In addition to financial capital, mentorship and manufacturing support, Asus can also serve as a distribution partner, helping startups localize their products while protecting intellectual property.
“This is a way forward for them to tap the top tech in Silicon Valley and bring them back to Asia, because two-thirds of the world’s population lives in this market,” says Uzzaman. “Asus wants an edge in technology through collaboration with startups.”