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Tencent-Backer Prosus Invests In Kuok Meng Ru’s BandLab As Music Platform Accelerates Expansion

BandLab—cofounded by Kuok Meng Ru, son of palm oil billionaire Kuok Khoon Hong—has received an investment from Dutch private equity firm Prosus Ventures as the digital platform for music creators accelerates expansion plans.

With the investment from Prosus, Singapore-based BandLab had raised a total of $65 million from its Series B funding round from investors led by Vulcan Capital—the multi-billion-dollar investment arm of Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen—surpassing the initial $53 million in funds raised in December and the maximum $60 million targeted for the round.

“Prosus has a record of highly successful investments in some of the world’s most groundbreaking companies,” Kuok Meng Ru, CEO of BandLab, said. “We’re thrilled they see the merits of our vision.” Netherlands-listed Prosus is an investor in Asian tech giants such as India’s Byjus and China’s Tencent, according its website.

The investment round, which values BandLab at $315 million, was also supported by Kuok Meng Ru’s Caldecott Music Group and K3 Ventures, a venture capital firm founded by Kuok Meng Xiong, a grandson of Malaysia’s richest person Robert Kuok. K3 Ventures was an early backer of Southeast Asian superapp Grab and tech giant ByteDance.

Bandlab will use part of the fresh capital to fund the acquisition of ReverbNation, a digital platform that helps music artists distribute their music and collaborate with each other, that it acquired in November. The company is also using the proceeds to fund the hiring of an additional 59 new talents this year, nearly doubling its full-time employees to almost 130, Kuok said. The new hires will include software engineers and product developers as the platform aims to introduce features such as artificial intelligence-driven music creation.

“We’re seeing a lot of opportunities around the region and in other regions around the world,” Kuok said in a recent interview with Forbes Asia. BandLab counts Brazil, India, the Philippines and the U.S. among its biggest markets, he said.

Launched in 2015, BandLab aims to provide a mobile-first platform for creating music. Used by more than 40 million music producers and musicians globally, BandLab’s user base has more doubled in the past two years as people turned to music and other forms of online entertainment as cities around the world enforced lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“BandLab has built a next-generation platform that is democratizing music creation for creators globally,” said Sachin Bhanot, head of Southeast Asia investments for Prosus Ventures. “The company has experienced impressive growth while generating solid user engagement. We are thrilled to support the company’s dedication to using innovative technologies, like AI, to put the power in the hands of creators.”

With an estimated total addressable market of over 1 billion people globally, Kuok believes the growth is sustainable. “We’re definitely just scratching the surface.”

Apart from BandLab’s music creation tools, Kuok—through Caldecott Music—also owns music publications NME and Uncut, and musical instruments retailer Swee Lee. BandLab bought a 49% stake in Rolling Stone magazine in 2016 but later sold it to Penske Media, which took control of the iconic publication in late 2017.