Singapore-based Teja Ventures, which claims to be the first venture capital (VC) firm in Southeast Asia that has adopted a Gender Lens Investing strategy, has closed its debut fund at around $10 million, its founding partner Virginia Tan confirmed to DealStreetAsia.
The vehicle, launched in December 2018, was mainly funded by Asian family offices and high net worth individuals, said Tan without naming any of the limited partners.
Generally speaking, the Gender Lens Investing strategy is aimed at bridging the financing gap for businesses that are targeted at, or led by, women, without compromising the investors’ financial returns.
“Almost 70% of the startups in our debut fund’s portfolio have female founders and CEOs; however, our strategy was not to become a female-founder-focused fund. Instead, we decided to adopt a slightly broader gender lens methodology,” said Tan. “Our approach was to invest in early-stage consumer technology companies for the ‘She Economy’.”
Teja Ventures focuses on Southeast Asia, with several of its portfolio firms based in Indonesia. It also has some exposure to China and India. The first fund focused on sectors such as food technology, digital, health & wellness, retail technology, and fintech.
Teja Ventures is particularly bullish on the food sector.
In February 2021, DealStreetAsia had reported that the Indonesian plant-based meat startup Green Rebel — founded by Max Mandias and Helga Angelina — had secured up to $2 million in a seed funding round led by Teja Ventures and global alternative protein investor Unovis Asset Management. Green Rebel focuses on Asian flavoured alternative proteins
Some of the other portfolio firms of Teja’s debut fund include: Float Foods, which is Asia’s first plant-based whole egg substitute; Lifepack, a pharmaceutical company that is digitalising chronic disease management in Indonesia; and Siklus, an Indonesian FMCG platform that delivers refills of household products, thus reducing plastic packaging.
In a previous interview with DealStreetAsia, Tan had said that the firm plans to close the debut fund by end-2020, and that COVID has hampered the fundraising process.
While COVID has made fundraising challenging for VC firms, on the flip side, it has helped businesses in many ways. “COVID has helped to strengthen and demonstrate our business case, especially when we see sectors like digital retail, mental health, social commerce, edtech, and healthy eating take off in big way, with women as clear economic drivers in the digital economy.”
Following the close of the first fund, Teja Ventures now plans to launch two new vehicles in 2022.
In early-2022, the VC plans to launch a fund focusing on consumer technology businesses. “Going forward we will be mainly focused on consumer technology companies in Southeast Asia,” said Tan.
“We are also working on a fund solely focused on female founders, which will have a more global strategy,” she added. The size of this fund is set to be $10 million, and it will be an industry- and geography-agnostic fund, and will be in partnership with She Loves Tech,” said Tan.
She Loves Tech is the world’s largest startup competition for women and technology, which was co-founded by Tan.
Teja Ventures is also working with founders who want to serve the female economy even if their consumer base is not predominantly female. “We believe that incorporating a gender lens is a commercial driver for a successful company in the internet economy. It should not be viewed as just another impact criteria,” opined Tan.
The VC firm typically invests up to $500,000 at the seed stage. “We love working with early-stage founders, and like to be strategic partners to entrepreneurs, working with them on product, talent acquisition, and fundraising, and applying our cross-border expertise, in particular our knowledge of the internet economy in China, to help them scale,” Tan added.
Moreover, “following Bukalapak’s listing on the IDX in 2021, we also see capital market exit potential in the region,” she said.