By Chloe Aiello
Data is a key asset for AirAsia, and now the budget airline has started a venture capital fund to better leverage it.
Aireen Omar, deputy group CEO of Technology and Digital at AirAsia, told Cheddar that the company is turning to the startup community to source ideas about using data to "build a whole ecosystem for our travel customers."
AirAsia's venture arm, RedBeat Ventures, announced on Monday it is establishing a $60 million venture capital fund, TechCrunch reported, called RedBeat Capital and a partnership with San Francisco-based startup accelerator 500 Startups. Through the partnership, RedBeat will have access to 500 Startups' deal flow in hopes of investing in graduates that focus on travel, lifestyle, logistics, and financial technology in Southeast Asia.
The founding of Redbeat Capital is just one part of an ambitious plan to transform AirAsia from an airline into a "travel technology" company.
"We see a whole ecosystem we can be disruptive about. We see that there are other industries and verticals where we want to invest in relation to fintech to travel and lifestyle technology, in relation to supply chain and also in relation to digital enablers like IoT and cybersecurity," Omar said.
AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said in a statement that the company intends to start identifying and investing in startups by the end of the year.
Connecting early stage startups with a big company, like AirAsia, is the "bread and butter," of 500 Startups, said Christine Tsai, its CEO and co-founder. Aside from helping to connect startups with a company that could potentially act as an acquirer, partner, or customer for its startups down the line, Tsai said the partnership will help 500 Startups realize a "very contrarian" vision that talent and entrepreneurship can come from places outside of Silicon Valley.
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