There’s dearth of quality seed deals in Singapore, says STRIVE

Nikhil Kapur, Principal, GREE Ventures

There’s a dearth of quality seed deals in Singapore, as founders depart for greener pastures like the Silicon Valley while entrepreneurs from other parts of Southeast Asia come to close the region’s talent gap. This landscape shift has begun to push seed investors like STRIVE (earlier known as GREE Ventures) further abroad to find Asia’s next billion-dollar company.

Nikhil Kapur, partner at STRIVE, which closed its 12 billion Japanese yen (above $100 million) third fund in end-2019, said it has barely seen any strong seed startups in Singapore of late, particularly in the B2B, SaaS and product-led sectors it invests in.

“To be frank, Singapore is not really where we are spending a lot of time at this point,” said Kapur, adding how the tech talent belonging to the first wave of SaaS startups in the country, which include TradeGecko, Pie and Deskera, are increasingly shifting abroad. Singapore’s heavy emphasis on deep-tech over the last few years has also sucked the ecosystem dry of any potential upstarts in B2B and SaaS sectors.

The B2B market makes tremendous sense at a time like today, with consumer-facing apps like Uber, Grab and Gojek losing lustre among investors for their short-sighted ways of doing business. It’s a sector that’s far less crowded and far less competitive.

But even so, strong leads are hard to come by. Until this market matures, STRIVE believes it’s more likely to find better quality B2B, SaaS startups in India, a market it also deploys capital in. Several Indian companies are leading the way in this respect and these include prominent names such as Freshworks, Zoho, Kissflow, which have lured capital in millions over the recent years.

The presence of downstream SaaS investors like Tiger Global also paint a more positive picture for the Indian market. Kapur notes that such investors in the later Series A, B and C rounds are still absent in Southeast Asia – an indication that it’s still very much early days in this market.

Edited excerpts from an interview with Kapur, and STRIVE’s investment manager Ajith Issac:

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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.