Finding the 'Secret Sauce'

by Marc Almagro
11 Apr 2017

Jungle Ventures is set to erase the notion that Asian entrepreneurs cannot build innovative, global businesses

“We started in 2012 with $10m raised mostly from friends and tech entrepreneurs in Singapore and US,” says Amit Anand, founder and managing partner of Jungle Ventures, a Singapore-based entrepreneur-backed venture firm that funds and helps start-ups scale across Asia Pacific."

It was the same year that the National Research Foundation of Singapore backed Jungle ventures under the Technology Incubator Scheme, and SPRING Singapore supported several of the venture’s companies under the Business Angel Scheme. 

Today, Jungle Ventures manages over $150m raised primarily from leading global institutions such as Temasek, IFC and family offices in Singapore, US, India and China.

“Our team has since grown to over 15 professionals, with past experiences at global firms such as TPG Capital, IFC and Google,” Anand shares.

“We have also invested in over 30 entrepreneurs from Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, India, and other hotbeds of innovation and entrepreneurial development in the region.”

Jung Ventures seeks to invest in six to eight companies every year, and typically commits from $1m to $5m in every company, and continues to provide more capital as the companies mature. 

Anand has spent more than a decade working out of Singapore helping global tech companies expand in South East Asia, India and other markets in this region. “Having done that for large, often public listed tech companies, I am now using the same skills, experience and networks to benefit disruptive startups from Asia that have the potential of being regional or global category leaders.” 

Jungle Ventures is reinventing how venture capital is done in Asia with its operations as a service model, says Anand. Full-time partners at Jungle Ventures work with portfolio companies on marketing and design, product management, engineering and recruiting.

These Operating Partners include executives with decades of deep operating experience at global startups such as Google and Facebook, as well as leading tech category leaders in Asia, such as Lazada and Komli Media.

“This is the first time a fund in the region has committed significant portion of their management fees to build a team to support its investee companies.” 

Sifting through thousands of possible partnerships is among the most rigorous acitivties that Jungle Ventures does regularly.  The venture capital typically sees about 2,000 to 3,000 deals every year. “We have conversations with at least 400 to 500, spend active time with at least 50 companies, and eventually invest in about four to five  companies every year. 

“Our first level of qualification is usually based on areas of interest, while the next level filtering is focused on uniqueness of the product, traction of the business and strength of the team in terms of their strategic thinking and execution abilities.

Anand points out that they remain invested in these entrepreneurs for seven to 10 years: “It is very important for us to understand if we are excited about not just the business but also the people behind the companies they partner with. 

“I often sleep over an investment decision for days and see if I wake up every morning feeling more excited about the prospects of working closely with the Founder, which often means being their friend first and investor later.  

To increase the probability of a partnership’s success, Jungle Ventures has developed an interesting strategy: Jungle Ventures has an ‘exit first’ philosophy. We like to know how we are going to get out an investment before entering one. This rigorous mindset has led us to four exits in four years, to marquee global buyers such as Twitter, HomeAway, Rakuten, and also a less than 10 per cent loss of capital in an asset class which is typically considered to have high failure rate.”

Anand foresees continuous disruption in the coming years. Entrepreneurship in Singapore is soon to hit a point of no return, he predicts. “Every week we meet so many talented professionals that are keen to leave their jobs in big companies or conglomerates and start something on their own. These professionals usually have several years of experience and insights into different industries, and are often looking to disrupt an existing category or create new ones.”

He claims that Jungle Ventures is quite excited with this trend and that they believe it is the “secret sauce” that will turn Singapore into one of the leading hubs for entrepreneurship. 

The capital ecosystem in Southeast Asia, Anand explains, has largely been behind compared to the opportunity in the market. “We conducted a study last year where we compared and found the top 10 cities in Southeast Asia to be equal, if not better, to the top 10 cities in India, from a technology opportunity perspective. However, Southeast Asia has seen less than one-tenth the amount of capital that India has seen.” 

Jungle Venture hopes to change some of that, and will continue to bring more international and local capital into the venture ecosystem. Earlier this year, they were able to partner with groups such as Accel, Ratan Tata, and IFC – in launching SeedPlus, a seed-stage fund focused on investing in entrepreneurs that are looking to create globally disruptive startups. 

“We have grown 10 times in the last four to five years and this is a reflection of the rise of the entire ecosystem. I won’t be surprised if we grow by that much again, but just in half the time. These are exciting times to be a founder or investor in technology in Southeast Asia,” he adds. 

Jungle Ventures is aware of the good it brings to Asian entrepreneurs. “For a long time, entrepreneurs in Asia have been told that they can’t build innovative, global businesses. We want to change that by partnering with amazing talent and helping them actualize their potential.

“In return, we hope to create as much an impact on peoples lives and economies as the likes of Google, Intel, Uber and several other venture backed companies have created. After all, despite the young age of venture capital industry, a fifth of the current public US companies received venture capital financing.”