I am super excited to announce I am joining Saison Capital as a Principal to help build out their early-stage investment team and portfolio.
Saison Capital, the corporate venture arm of Credit Saison, invests in funds and startups globally in any vertical, with a specific interest in SEA + India, and as strategic investors for startups that could have a fintech element beside its core business. Credit Saison previously invested in Grab (helping to build Grab Financial), Matchmove and Shopback, and were fund investors into East Ventures, Beenext, Strive, etc, as well as run two large tech-driven NBFCs in India and Indonesia, using debt to unlock a startup’s financing power.
[By the way: Saison Capital is hiring an Associate [0–4 years] (and Interns) that wants to relocate to Singapore— preferably someone with an interest and background in fintech and/or Indonesia.]
Firstly — a recap:
My journey so far has been on the management/ops side of an Alibaba-acquired startup, single-digit early-employee for a rocketship startup now in 8 countries and counting, and now on the buy-side for funds and startups globally.
The ~2 years I’ve spent at Antler have been some of the most fun I had. I had the privilege of being both an operator and investor as an early employee of Antler (5th and now a whopping 130 people are Antlerites in 8 offices), being part of the build-up to the global phenomenon that it is now, helping to launch some of its overseas offices globally, and working with hundreds of great founders within the Antler ecosystem, investing into startups, and building up Antler internally. This was a journey that brought me from Singapore to Stockholm, Amsterdam, London and San Francisco. The co-founding team, Magnus, Jussi, Stefan, et al, and the various partners/directors/associates/offices across Europe, and globally, that I have worked with have been nothing short of inspiring.
With Saison Capital as a Limited Partner/ Investor into Antler, it is awesome to be able to continue supporting Antler’s progress as a Limited Partner, despite the move, and looking forward to Antler continually reaching new heights.
Before Antler, my first job out of university was helping Rocket Internet build Daraz, an e-commerce clone (similar to Lazada) in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, that was acquired by Alibaba. The team was amazing —we launched the largest e-commerce sale in Sri Lanka, expanded from a small office storage room to multiple warehouses in a year, and got to work with great driven people who wouldn’t think twice about being parachuted into some of the most difficult markets to get things done. Some of my most surreal moments included feeling the ‘What am I doing here’-ness of being a Singaporean fresh graduate from Cambridge, standing on the rooftop of a Karachi warehouse at sunset, looking at the tallest skyscraper in Pakistan being built.
Secondly — these next steps:
I will be looking to support early-stage Pre-Seed to Series B founders and funds/venture builders across the globe, but mainly focusing on the emerging markets of India and Southeast Asia, with an average cheque size of USD 1m.
In our first meeting, I was drawn to the fact that Mori was fundamentally driven by a desire to bring the world closer together, and to bridge communities. Mori was an ex-founder that started a fintech company in the US after doing his MBA at Stanford, an unusual background for any Japanese person.
Chris helped to build out Grab Financial in the Philippines after being an investor for a number of funds, before returning to an investor role. Having known Chris for a couple of years, he was somebody I came to for personal and career advice. It was in the context of him freely teaching me about one of his investment thesis that I knew that this was someone I could work for.
As someone who is a firm believer in the philosophy of finding great people to work for, and building your career on helping them succeed, I was drawn to the vision of what they were building, and being able to contribute to that journey.
Working with other ex-operators and founders will be a key part of helping early-stage founders in tangible, actionable ways.
This is in large part, a continuation of my existing angel activity, with my personal portfolio investments spanning multiple emerging markets, including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt.
Thirdly — What we will be up to:
Chris is one of the few VCs that I feel truly understand the way that venture capital is being disrupted globally, but also in SEA, something I have written before and am very passionate about. With his operational background, he views a venture capital fund as fundamentally a business and has a vision of how to provide unfair advantages for ourselves and the founders we support.
I don’t want to go into details about this now but I’m excited to be able to build-up these capabilities with him, with the firepower of Credit Saison’s vast resources and institutional knowledge.
One cornerstone of this strategy is a firm, no-bullshit, belief in the importance of thesis investing. I do not think thesis investing works for every vertical, stage, geography and person, but it works for us. VCs will talk about this and have a lot of great knowledge about trends in the market, but we believe this goes further — When working with very early-stage founders, and sitting in their shoes to talk about what they should be spending their time about, I feel that, as a VC, this means being able to answer the question ‘What business models would make you excited enough to quit being a VC?’ and being able to provide direction on how that would actually be done. Thesis investing goes a long way to providing the structure for that, and to be able to back founders with conviction quickly, and even through the inevitable tough times. At the earliest of times, with the startup scene moving as quickly as it, having a team of thesis-driven ex-operators might just be what you need.
I am looking forward to continuing to play a small role in the startup scene here.
Lastly — The Ask:
- Are you a fintech investor or founder in SEA? I would love to connect with you and learn more about the industry.
Although Saison Capital will be investing in a wide number of verticals, we have a special industry edge when it comes to fintech.
As a historically marketplace/consumer investor, there is a lot I am looking to learn about the fintech space, and I would love to buy you a coffee to get your thoughts on the industry and talk about how the Saison Capital team is thinking about it.
2. Saison Capital is hiring for full-time associate and internship roles — Do you know anyone that might be a good fit for emerging markets venture investing, particularly in fintech? This person can expect to learn how to build investment theses, source and vet companies and think about venture capital strategically as a business.
Please do reach out at email@example.com.
This person will be working closely and mostly with me so hope you like indie music (not an actual requirement). We think diversity is strength and want to build a diverse team to explore emerging markets. Visa sponsorship available. Remote interns are acceptable in extra-ordinary circumstances.
3. I am picking up Bahasa again and looking for language buddies (preferably those who are in finance due to industry-specific terms). Not many people know that I spent two years of schooling in Malaysia so it’s great to have one of those obscure parts of your life come back to prove useful again.
4. Q: Are you still going to Harvard for your MBA?
A: Yes. I’m just deferring it again. HBS is great.
Saison Capital/Credit Saison at a glance:
Companies backed: Grab, Shopback, Koinworks, etc.
Funds backed: East Ventures, Antler, Beenext, Quona Capital, etc.
Focus: Emerging markets (especially SEA + India) — existing investments cover SEA, India, LATAM, etc.
Mandate: All verticals (preferring fintech), all geographies (preferring India + SEA)