Gobi Partners exploring Pakistan-focused fund, says founding partner Tsao

Gobi Partners co-founder and managing partner Thomas Tsao at DEALSTREETASIA's Asia PE-VC Summit 2016 in Singapore.

Chinese venture capital firm Gobi Partners is exploring a Pakistan-focused fund, its founding partner Thomas G Tsao said.

Tsao declined to reveal the size and timeline for the fund but said he was impressed by the talent and potential of Pakistan’s entrepreneurs and ecosystem.

Tsao, who was in Karachi for the 021Disrupt startup-investor conference, earlier announced leading a $1.5-million Series A funding round for Pakistani online travel agency Sastaticket.pk. The deal makes Gobi the first Chinese venture capital firm to invest in the country.

Pakistan has one of the fastest growing Internet markets in Asia, with over 1 million people going online via their mobile phones every month. The country’s e-commerce market is also expected to surpass $1 billion in revenue by 2020, according to Google.

Pakistan’s predominantly Muslim population also aligns with Gobi Partners’ interest in TaqwaTech. TaqwaTech refers to tech startups led by Muslim entrepreneurs or those that serve Muslim consumers, businesses and communities.

Tsao said: “Where is there a market that is bigger than 1.4 billion Chinese people? It’s 1.8 billion Muslims. And if you ask me what’s a bigger opportunity than TaqwaTech? It’s women. There are 3.5 billion women, who you could argue have also been under-served.”

So far, Gobi Partners has launched two $10-million market-focused funds – one for the Philippines and one for Indonesia. Both funds focus on early-stage companies, covering sectors such as e-commerce, travel, logistics and healthtech.

Pakistan finding its way on to investors’ radar

Venture capital firm Sarmayacar recently announced that it had secured the first close of a $30-million Pakistan-focused fund targeting seed to early-stage startups in the country. This is the largest venture fund focused on Pakistan to date.

In May, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group announced the acquisition of Pakistani online retailer Daraz. In March, Ant Financial invested $184.5 million for a 45 per cent stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB) to develop its mobile payment and digital financial services. TMB is a subsidiary of Telenor Group and a leading lender in Pakistan.

Tsao said Gobi is open to setting up more market-focused funds. However, he declined to say which markets the venture firm is currently eyeing, apart from Pakistan.

Also Read:

Gobi leads $1.5m Series A for Pakistan’s online travel agency Sastaticket

Pakistan-focused VC firm Sarmayacar secures first close of $30m early-stage fund 

Gobi says Muslim market, women-led startups offer exciting opportunities

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.