There’s a new investment kid in Southeast Asia’s startup town after Japan’s GMO Venture Partners announced a 1 billion yen (circa $12 million) fund that will be dedicated to backing promising young companies in the region.

The announcement of the new fund — which Tech In Asia spotted on the VC’s website in Japanese — explains that it will primarily be focused on the advertising, e-commerce, payment processing, and smartphone services spaces in Southeast Asia. The company’s previous fund – GMO VP Fund I — included an investment in Chinese Internet (and now search) giant Qihoo 360, but this time around the deals look like being smaller and aimed at earlier stages.

Already one investment has been announced and Coda Payments, a Singapore-headquartered firm that develops micropayment solutions for Southeast Asia, has landed undisclosed funding.

Given the proportionally low use of credit and debit cards in the region, and the growth of online services and ecommerce, Coda is aimed at allowing customers to make transactions using their mobile phone (pre- or post-paid accounts). The company and investment are interesting and, if this is the shape of things to come from GMO, the arrival of its new fund can only be beneficial for Southeast Asia’s growing startup scene.

Tech In Asia also notes that GMO has taken an interest in the region because it believes that the Internet market there is reminiscent of that of Japan ten years ago. With a population of 600 million people — spread out of over different countries, cultures and languages — there is certainly an addressable market for Web startups, and the VC is not the first to be attracted to that potential.

Fellow Japanese investor CyberAgent Ventures has been active in Southeast Asia, with a base in Vietnam, for some time – having recently invested in kids etailer Bilna in Indonesia, and restaurant review site Foody in Vietnam.

GREE Ventures, the investment arm of Japanese games giant GREE, is also present in the region, with an office in Singapore and staff that regularly pop up at events across the region – such as E27‘s Echelon Ignite in Bangkok last week. GREE’s rival DeNA is also said to be keeping an eye on the investment scene in Southeast Asia.

Then there are Southeast Asia’s own investors. Jungle Ventures recently raised a $10 million ‘super angel’ fund, while Pollenizer and GoldenGate Ventures are two early-stage specialists to arrive this year, coming on to the scene from Australia and the US, respectively.

Headline image via Singkham / Shutterstock