Founder of Japanese e-commerce player Beenos launches $60m VC fund targeting ASEAN, India

Taj Mahal.Credit: Flickr/Sandeep Chetan Travel

Japanese e-commerce operator Beenos Inc’s founder, Teruhide Sato, has set up a $60-million venture capital (VC) fund targeting investments in technology ventures in India and Southeast Asia.

According to the details in a Bloomberg report, the new VC fund, Beenext, is Singapore-based and will be targeting ventures in the Internet and mobile technology space in India, according to Sato. Beenos has committed $5 million to the fund, according to statements from spokesperson Nagisa Okano made to Bloomberg.

Currently residing in Singapore, Sato is launching the fund after exiting his CEO role at Beenos in December 2014. Sato founded Beenos’s predecessor, Ltd (page in Japanese) in 1999 and led its initial public offering (IPO) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2004. As of 7 September 2015, Beenos maintains a market capitalisation of $202.99 million.

Sato started his career at SoftBank Group, working on e-commerce payments project. During his leadership of Beenos, it invested in more than 20 technology companies. Among these was Indonesian online retailer PT Tokopedia, where it led a Series C funding round alongside SBI Investment.

The limited partners in the fund include Beenos and also several investors credited as serial entrepreneurs who have built companies in Japan, the US, and Southeast Asia, according to an official release. “Through this investment and strategic partnership, we look to expand our reach in emerging markets and the US, and also maximize our investment returns,” a statement from Beenos said.

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Beenos has been focused on the cross-border e-commerce space and investing in marketplace and online payment businesses in emerging markets. As a seed accelerator, it has invested in over 50 companies in Japan, while its investment arm has made over 85 investments globally.

Explaining the focus of his fund on India, Sato explained: “India is one of my strong investment focuses. It’s a country where entrepreneurs will increasingly lead by using innovative technologies to help solve issues such as power shortages and a lack of solid social infrastructure.”

The decision to base the fund in Singapore is partly motivated by Singapore’s simple and business-friendly tax system, which is favourable to holding companies, according to KPMG research.

This helps to both attract investors to the city-state, as well as strengthen its position as a holding-company location for outbound investment, notably for entering the Asian emerging markets. Singapore is well-positioned to serve as a gateway to the Indian market, due to more than just its geographical proximity and cultural links with the subcontinent.

In 2014, the city-state was India’s largest trade and investment partner in ASEAN, accounting for approximately 28 percent of ASEAN-India trade and Singapore’s eleventh largest trading partner, with total trade amounting to S$25.5 billion in 2013.

India has seen significant venture capital developments, with Blume Ventures, Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital and Helion Venture Partners leading investments in the Indian startup ecosystem. According to CB Insights, from 2009 to 2014, Blume Ventures, Accel Partners and 500 Startups were the most active foreign VCs in India.

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