As 2020 comes to a close, the team here at Saison Capital has had a very eventful year to look back at. With a few interesting passion projects, a significant increase to the core team, new deals following new trajectories in the wake of COVID-19, we have had our eyes and ears open. Here’s a snapshot of what we did – from Kosuke Mori, Chris & Chia.
The Saison Capital Team
As a new fund, our team grew significantly this year, and 2020 has been a busy yet fruitful year for us.
We had 2 amazing associates join us:
- Long Do: Before Saison Capital, he did a short stint at the Federal Reserve in the US, and Arbor Ventures, a fintech-focused VC in Singapore. With an undergraduate and Masters from Stanford, having lived, studied, and worked in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Oxford, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore & Vietnam, his diverse and global background gives Long Do a unique understanding of fintech from a global perspective of a policymaker, banker, and venture capitalist.
- Mainak Ghosh: An ex-operator as co-founder of Sopotra (a P2P shipping portal), ex-Goldman investment strategist and data scientist at Engineers Gate. Based in India, Mainak provides us with on-the-ground insights into the Indian market. With his computer and data science background, he deep dives into financial analysis of startups in our dealflow.
Fun facts about our team:
- The team are all operators: all Saison Capital team members have founded at least one organization/company
- Our team speaks a total of 7 languages: English, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Bengali, Hindi, German, Malay, French
- Our team’s GMAT average (including interns): 750
Materials we’ve built
Here’s a list of investment theses we wrote this year:
- Embedded Finance: An introduction to Embedded Finance
- Fintech Infrastructure: Fintech Infrastructure — Investment Frameworks & Business Categorization
- Supply Chain Financing: Distribution Supply Chain Financing in India
- VC in SEA: Disrupting Venture Capital in Southeast Asia
- Travel industry: Bull case for the Travel Industry and the long-term opportunities
- LP investments: LP Strategies: Ownership, Fund Size, and Emerging GPs
Other useful articles and resources we wrote this year:
- VC Interviewing Process: Interviewing for VC Associates at Saison Capital
- VC Skillsets: What you need as a VC: Benchmarking skills across Venture Capital jobs & titles
- SPV investments: SPV Calculator: Net IRR calculator
- Grants & Subsidies: Grants & Subsidies List for Singapore Startups
- Recruitment in SEA: For SEA diaspora, advancing to a New SEA Non-Technical Startup Role
If you would like to share your thoughts and ideas on any of the articles and theses we’ve written, feel free to reach out to us via email or LinkedIn.
In 2020, we launched our Scout Program: a fully remote 12-month stint whereby scouts help Saison Capital with deal sourcing, learn how a VC fund works, and what it takes to make it in this space.
The program is built upon two main pillars: Structured VC Education and Community Building.
– Learn via our proprietary Saison Capital Scout Curriculum led by our Saison Capital team.
– Go through the VC process from deal sourcing to mental models geared towards helping you source deals, build network, and manage deal flow.
– Get to know Saison Capital and Credit Saison, our teams, and our partners.
– Network with successful entrepreneurs, VCs, experts.
This year, the 10 scouts we onboarded have sourced startups from 18 different countries for us. Here are some of who they are and what they have to say about the program:
“The hallmark of Saison Capital’s scout program is its informative and in-depth VC curriculum. I especially like the fact that it is very interactive and real-life experiences are brought in to explain concepts. Beyond the curriculum, I thoroughly enjoyed the sharing sessions conducted by fellow scouts. The program does a great job in bringing together experienced people with insights into a variety of industries and providing the space for sharing and discussion. Happy to be a part of this great community.”
~ YC Co-founder of two Fintech Startups
“The team at Saison Capital definitely knows their stuff and their onboarding education is excellent. I learnt a lot of investment knowledge into the FinTech space through them. Definitely a great investment team to work with!”
~ SEA VC Fund Partner and Founder
“What defines the value of the Saison Capital program is the top-notch quality of the team and the scouts they’ve gathered together. The amount of time and energy the Saison team pours into their materials and thought pieces is amazing, and leads to wide-ranging discussions that surface real market insights. I’d highly recommend the program for any specially motivated business leader interested in the venture world.”
~ Alin Bui [Founding CEO, Anduin Transactions]
“Saison capital’s scout program not only provides good and practical knowledge on the principles of venture capital but also provides up-to-date insights about the technology industry, especially with regards to embedded fintech business models. Moreover, the program is a great platform to build and expand international networks in the tech and startup space.”
~ Poompong (Nan) Tancharoenphol [Country Head, Zilingo Thailand]
“The Saison Capital Scouts Program was an exceptional experience. It allowed me to build my knowledge of VC, taught what it takes to be an investor, and expanded my network of like-minded people also in the program, both here and abroad.”
~ Lead Product Manager at a Tier 1 Consulting Firm
If you are interested in joining our next batch of scouts, apply here: program webpage.
Despite COVID-19, activity in the startup ecosystem has been very resilient through 2020. This year, we backed and invested in a number of companies that are changing the global landscape:
- Bukukas: an Indonesian finance management platform for SMEs (read more on why we invested in them here)
- Ula: an Indonesian B2B marketplace bringing the power of e-commerce to small store owners across South East Asia
- Tazapay: a platform that enables trust in cross border business transactions
- Stashfin: a digital lending venture disrupting traditional lending in India
- Segari: an Indonesian fresh produce direct to consumer platform
- Better Tomorrow (LP investment): a US-based early stage venture fund, focused on building the future of fintech by leading pre-seed and seed rounds of fintech startups
- Undisclosed #1
- Undisclosed #2
- Undisclosed #3
- Undisclosed #4
What we learnt about the VC scene during COVID:
Graph of Saison Capital’s deal flow (excluding Scout introductions) [Cumulative Sample size n = x000s]
What we learnt about the above graph:
- The number of companies that were fundraising during COVID did not grow significantly. However, anecdotally we knew a lot of folks who were putting off their fundraising to Q4 2020/Q1 2021. We repeated this narrative during COVID, and some of that data is already coming in to validate that narrative at the time of writing [November]. What we think might have happened is that the number of companies that had to raise and the number of founders that could put off raising balanced each other out somewhat.
PR on Saison Cap
We were featured in the media throughout the year. Here are some highlights:
- Chris Sirisereepaph, partner at Saison Capital was featured on Yourstory where he talks through the process of finding and evaluating a potential startup. These insights are specially tailored to companies trying to make it through COVID-19.
- Chia Jeng Yang, principal at Saison Capital was featured in StartupSG, talking extensively about how new companies can leverage existing networks to chart their trajectory through the pandemic.
- Saison Capital was mentioned in a Straits Times article for its significant contributions to the Mentor for Hope initiative, to link skilled employees to startups during the pandemic.
- The Straits Times, TechinAsia and Digital News Asia mentioned the company as one of the firms geared towards combating the impacts of the pandemic in a strategic way through the SEAcosystem.com initiative.
- Deal Street Asia mentioned Saison Capital as a fund rallying to help others during COVID.
Some of our investments into portfolio companies have also been covered:
- e27 covered our investment into BukuKas’ $9M pre-Series A round
- Entrackr shared about our involvement in Repute’s seed round
- Indonesian wholesale marketplace Ula’s $10.5M seed round was covered by e27
- Our investment alongside Quona Capital and EV Growth into KoinWorks was covered by e27
- Deal Street Asia covered Tazapay’s $3.2M raise, where we led the round alongside Sequoia Capital India’s Surge
Community projects we built/ helped build
SEAcosystem.com is an initiative spearheaded by Saison Capital’s principal Chia Jeng Yang; FutureLabs Ventures analyst Simin Liu, freelance communications consultant and Rachael De Foe. Due to challenging financial conditions during COVID-19, some startups were forced to lay off staff. SEAcosystem.com aims to help these employees find new jobs while connecting companies with top talent.
For this purpose, a public database of affected employees was compiled and publicised through many VC firms across the region. This initiative has been picked up by the news outlets such as The Straits Times and TechinAsia.
Mentor for Hope
Acknowledging the fact that COVID-19 has made it difficult for some early-stage founders and entrepreneurs to stay afloat, Mentor for Hope was set up in April 2020. It is an Asia-focused initiative that aims to help founders receive mentoring across areas such as go-to-market and fundraising.
To support our local ecosystem, Saison Capital has contributed to the pool of 250 mentors that have pledged one hour a week to help provide founders from 300 different startups with quality advice to succeed in this space.
It was clearly an eventful year for us here at Saison Capital, with multiple investments into exciting startups, initiatives that were pioneered by our team members, and growth in our core team: Long Do and Mainak Ghosh who have brought with them very unique skillsets to facilitate deal processes at our company.
If you are interested in learning more about Saison Capital and how you can engage with us, you can:
- Get plugged into our network and learn more about VC by joining our scout program
- Ping us if you’re a potential founder/VC who would like to dive into some of these investment theses together.
- Reach out to us if you are looking to build great companies – we are always happy to look at how we can add value to founders from a financial and non-financial perspective