SBK Tech raising $25m debut fund focused on emerging South Asia

Sonia Bashir Kabir

Singapore-headquartered SBK Tech is raising up to $25 million for its debut fund focused on Bangladesh and emerging South Asian economies including Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.

The venture fund was founded in 2019 by Microsoft’s former managing director for emerging South Asia, Sonia Bashir Kabir, who spent over four years angel investing in the region before deciding to branch out to form her own fund.

Since 2016, Kabir and two other angel investors have invested $2.6 million of their personal capital in 38 companies. The portfolio has since expanded by over 100 per cent and includes names such Bangladeshi digital payment app Dmoney and e-commerce platform Deligram.

SBK Tech will invest in 15 early-stage startups, writing cheque sizes from $750,000-$1 million with room for follow-on funding. It targets startups in technology with a proven product-market fit across agtech, fintech, healthtech, edutech, SaaS and others.

Kabir shared over the phone from Dhaka that the venture firm is seeking a $5-million first close by the end of December. She acknowledged that COVID-19 had altered her plans with the ongoing travel restrictions forcing her to delay her relocation to Singapore to 2021 or when flights resume.

The newly formed VC however still managed to get a number of limited partner (LP) conversations going with investors from Europe, Singapore, Australia and other parts of the Asia Pacific. Kabir added that these include family offices, corporates and development financial institutions (DFIs) like the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“To be honest I was a bit apprehensive after COVID happened. LP conversations were going pretty well at the beginning of the year and then everything stopped quite suddenly. But I can see that LP interest is just starting to come back and I’m beginning to get a good audience so I’m optimistic about our fundraising efforts,” shared Kabir.

Fundraising has been a challenge for many first-time funds during this pandemic, as LPs around the world look to de-risk their investment positions, favouring funds they had established close contact with during pre-COVID days. That still hasn’t stopped new funds from entering the market though.

VCs like Singapore-based Her Capital and Australia’s Wunala Fund announced debut funds signalling optimism that LPs still have the capacity to deploy in certain regions, theses or asset classes that are under-capitalised and have the potential for high growth.

The emerging South Asia region, which covers Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, has long been under-served in terms of capital, talent and technology. Apart from SBK Tech, Anchorless Bangladesh also invests in early-stage tech startups in the market.

In Asia, venture capital has tended to gravitate to markets with larger population bases such as India and China. Closer to home, Southeast Asia’s most populous nation Indonesia consistently ranks one of the top investment destinations for venture capital. According to DealStreetAsia’s Deal Report Q2 2020, Southeast Asian startups raised $2.8 billion in venture capital with Indonesia comprising 45.8 per cent of overall deal value.

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.