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Kuok scion’s music creator platform BandLab bags US$65m

KUOK Meng Ru, who hails from a billionaire family that made its fortune in traditional sectors like palm oil and sugar, is bent on building his own empire in music.

He’s not alone in his endeavour. The 34-year-old’s platform for music creators raised US$65 million in a funding round led by Vulcan Capital, the multibillion-dollar investment arm of Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G Allen’s Vulcan Inc. It also recently snagged a new backer in Dutch technology investor Prosus Ventures, a unit of publicly-listed Prosus.

BandLab, which Kuok founded in 2015, said this puts the company’s post-money valuation at US$315 million. The startup builds tools that allow people to easily layer, splice and edit a range of music and sounds.

Over 40 million users have registered on BandLab, the company said. Its funding comes amid the rise of the creator economy, which has propelled startups like TikTok-owner ByteDance to the global stage and into sky-high valuations.

BandLab has seen traction on TikTok as well. Users are using the platform to produce original content, from a cover of Ed Sheeran’s hit song “Bad Habits” to a whacky rap remix put to background music from Dora the Explorer.

BandLab said other investors in its Series B round included Kuok family-linked investment firm K3 Ventures, run by Kuok’s relative Meng Xiong, which has backed other tech companies including Grab and ByteDance. (*see amendment note)

Kuok is the son of Kuok Khoon Hong, who co-founded Wilmar International in 1991 and grew it into a leading agribusiness group in the region. The younger Kuok has spoken of how his father’s entrepreneurial spirit has inspired him.

Now, he is working on his own venture that spans the technology, media and music brands space. BandLab is a subsidiary of Caldecott Music Group, whose portfolio includes heritage instrument retailer Swee Lee, and British music and culture news publication NME.

Kuok, a musician himself, said he hopes to inspire more collaboration within BandLab and empower independent artists around the world.