The most important thing for a woman entrepreneur is the first investor, says Roshni Mahtani

Roshni Mahtani

Roshni Mahtani is the founder of Singapore-based theAsianparent, a Southeast Asian community platform for parents.

Mahtani, who has over 15 years of media and marketing experience across the US and Asia Pacific regions, founded Tickled Media in 2009. theAsianparent is the company’s flagship brand and helps parents have healthy pregnancies and raise healthy children and families.

The company claims that it has over 30 million users per month on its website and app and is available in 11 languages in 13 countries.

In 2020, theAsianparent.com closed a Series C round led by Thailand’s SCB 10X, which was joined by Fosun International, JD.com, Vertex Ventures, ATM Capital, Redbadge Pacific, Mirae Asset Financial Group, and NAVER Corporation.

Roshni Mahtani was among the 12 women (co-)founders interviewed for our latest report Women in Startups: The SE Asia Edition. She shared her experience as a woman entrepreneur in Southeast Asia. Edited excerpts:

How long did it take you to raise your first round of investment? And how has the journey been?

I fundraised really late. I started the company first as a side hustle. It was just a side job I was doing, and I was doing it quite well. I got a lot of VC interest, specifically from those who were parents, because they would be users of my website. They would write in and say: hey, are you interested in talking to us? So I think the first fundraise was not that difficult because we were already an established business (and) we were already making money.

How did this side hustle turn into a full-time endeavour?

It was my first early-stage investor relationship. I think he invested in the business only after a couple of years of the business being around. I had already decided by then that I was going to make this a full-time job. I think he [my investor] opened up my world to startup investments and startup expectations.

I think the most important thing for a woman entrepreneur or any startup entrepreneur is the first investor. Your first seed investor is possibly even more important than your series A, or Series B investor. In the early days, that’s when you’re the most fragile, right? And the business model can be looked at, and cut and sliced, and diced in so many different ways. And I think that you want the people who are in your inner circle, who also have skin in the game, to be giving you the right advice.

Did you make any changes to your business during the pandemic?

So COVID-19 was actually quite good for our business. When this [pandemic] started out, we were a bit scared, because we didn’t know if this was going to affect our business. But I think we’ve had three things going for us.

The first one is, parenting as a vertical is a resilient industry, you will cut costs as a mother, as a woman, or as a man; you will reduce costs in every other aspect but you will not cut the cost of what your child needs. You want the best for your child.

The second thing is that, we’re in the digital business. 2020 was the year of the digital. And we were able to capitalise on that, so that was really good for us.

The third thing is, we started to produce our own products — so we have 40, or 50, different SKUs, and then our own brand of products. Our product philosophy is to go mass market, so we’re not premium. When a lot of people were looking for more cost-effective and cost-efficient product alternatives, we came out as a very good option.

To read more such interviews and access data like the share of capital that flowed to women-led startups in SE Asia, refer to our Research & Analytics report.

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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.