In a series of blogs we’re speaking to Singapore’s leading VC funds to find out about their thoughts on the current state of the Southeast Asian startup and venture ecosystem and what they currently are looking for in companies.
Next in the blog series is Tiang Lim Foo from SeedPlus. Welcome to Tiang!
how is the Southeast Asian tech startup and VC ecosystem looking in 2017?
Looking great. Directionally we have come a long way quickly as an ecosystem – the quality of founders are rising, the market is getting more mature and accepting of technology. It will be interesting to see how the SEA (previously known as Garena) IPO pans out.
the funding boom appears to have slowed. What’s your view?
I think it’s a period of rationalisation, and that has a lot to do with the ecosystem maturing. Whilst founders are getting smarter and the quality of startups is rising, the investment community is also learning collectively what works and what doesn’t. Fundamentally venture is about creating long term value, and we tend to look beyond cycles and try to understand the long-term business fundamentals of a company.
are you looking for global tech disruptors, or rather potential winners in Southeast Asia?
The investment philosophy of SeedPlus is to partner with globally disruptive startups that emerge from the region. That global potential needs to be enabled by technology and / or a scalable business model.
what are the strengths / weakness of the startups in the region?
I don’t necessarily see things in that light: each startup is unique and bring different perspectives in solving problems. Obviously there are teams that have very varied experience, and business models and products at all levels of maturity. That said, I do meet more and more first time founders here. As a fund, we tend to spend a lot of time and effort in educating the entrepreneurial community in startup basics.
have we moved on to new technology – A.I., machine learning, IoT, AR/VR and automation now? What kind of companies are catching your eye?
A.I. and machine learning has enabled amazing use-cases in the real world already, and there are clearly more examples we haven’t yet even been able to imagine. We invested in Mimetic.ai, the creators of Evie, an intelligent AI scheduling agent. It’s interesting to consider that Evie is an entirely different category of software that’s way smarter than anything that has come before, doesn’t come with an 800 page manual and has a zero learning curve. You just interact with it naturally. I expect to see more of this.
how does the VC industry in Singapore differ from other significant startup ecosystems? Is there competition amongst funds?
There are some competitive dynamics but by and large it’s a collegial environment. I strongly believe in being a team player, and that includes working with other funds to help founders and startups succeed. If the ecosystem does well, we all do well together.
what’s missing (or weak) in terms of infrastructure in the tech startup ecosystem?
Startup friendly lawyers 😉
top tip for founders pitching to you?
As a founder, you need to explain your unique insights about your target market and the industry you’re in. And why your solution to the specific problem needs to happen now.
prediction for the Southeast Asia ecosystem for the next 5 years. Singapore to become a leading global tech hub?
One defining characteristic of the ecosystem in Southeast Asia is its connectivity to other hubs in the region. We can reasonably assume that will only grow in the next 5 years. I think Singapore will increasingly become relevant as the startup hub for Southeast Asia and indeed globally for more international tech companies setting up in the region.
by sarah yen, 28 July 2017