Sequoia Capital In Singapore After A Year, Has Yet To Invest In A Local Startup

Sequoia Capital In Singapore After A Year, Has Yet To Invest In A Local Startup


posted yesterday

When Sequoia Capital India landed in Singapore quietly in 2012, the buzz around town was that a big-name US fund being in the country was going to really jolt the market and provide serious cred to the startups here.

The Indian team running operations here, however, appears to have spent the last year of its time in the island state helping startups in its India portfolio expand into Singapore, rather than directly investing in startups here.However, the company just moved into a fancy new co-working space called The Co, and is its anchor tenant, so it could be a sign that it’s trying to get closer to local startups. Previously, it operated out of a service office in High Street.

Singapore is a popular choice as a base for foreign companies looking to expand into Southeast Asia, because it’s a mature market with plenty of infrastructure available. But as a tiny country, it’s not often the main addressable user base, and startups originating from Singapore are also taught to have expansion plans charted. Early last year, Sequoia Capital India MD, Shailendra Jit Singh, expressed interest in having the fund’s companies expand into the region. Sequoia Cap in the US also appeared to have been eyeing activity in Singapore for a while—it had its first offsite meeting in the country in 2011, and was in discussion with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about its presence here.

The Prime Minister’s Office oversees its R&D arm, the National Research Foundation (NRF), which has been busy backing local venture capital firms here over the past few years. Its Technology Incubation Scheme is a program that distributes seed funding to startups picked by 11 NRF-appointed VCs. The NRF matches investment values in the proportion of 85 percent to 15 percent—the larger portion dished out by the government. This allows the VCs here to provide bigger sums of seed capital to startups, with much of the risk absorbed by the NRF.

Former NRF projects head, Yinglan Tan, was also pulled over to Sequoia Capital India’s team in July last year, where he is now a venture partner based in Singapore.

When I ran into Tan in Manila a couple of months ago, he was evasive about Sequoia’s activities in Singapore, but was happy to try to set up meetings with their existing portfolio companies in Singapore—all Indian-based startups, except for Airbnb and Evernote. Some of these companies that are being incubated in Singapore by Sequoia Cap include Via, Druva, Mu Sigma, Idea Device and Practo.

Two months on, those meetings have yet to happen, but word on the street is that Tan has been meeting with some Singapore-based startups that are looking to raise Series A or B rounds, and are looking to expand beyond the island. One that I know of provides Wi-Fi infrastructure.

As for its current startups here, Via is pretty sizable. It operates a flight booking portal similar to Expedia and Zuji, and has about 1,200 employees, the bulk of which are in India, with some in Indonesia and another team in the Philippines. It also lists hotels, and has about 45,000 listings, with plans to add more.

Druva started in Pune, India and is now operationally HQed in Sunnyvale, according to Jaspreet Singh, its CEO and founder. The company provides a backup system for mobile devices in the enterprise.

Mu Sigma is a Bangalore-based data analytics company. Last month, it struck up a deal with MasterCard that valued the company at $1 billion, according to The Economic Times in India.

Idea Device is also a Bangalore startup, and makes a runbook automation system. Runbook automation is a set of technologies that helps take out some of the manual system administration tasks for IT departments.

As for the two US-based firms, Airbnb opened its Singapore office late in November last year, and Evernote has been in the country for a little over a year.

Sequoia Cap US declined to comment further on its plans for Singapore.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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