Global VC Lightspeed Venture Partners officially launched its operations in Southeast Asia, the firm announced on Thursday. Headquartered in Singapore, Lightspeed Southeast Asia is led by Akshay Bhushan, who was previously based in Bangalore.
Lightspeed made its first foray into Southeast Asia in 2018, investing in Grab. To date, the firm has backed five tech startups including social commerce platform Chilibeli, marketplace app Ula, NextBillion.Ai, and the logistics company Shipper.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen Southeast Asia emerging as a leading entrepreneurial hub across the world,” Akshay Bhushan told KrASIA. “There is a lot of potential here, especially in Singapore and Indonesia, where we see a number of first-generation tech companies like Gojek, Grab, Tokopedia, and so forth.”
He thinks that these companies nurtured a lot of high-quality talents, and many of them started to come out and build new startups. “The region also has strong digital adoption, therefore, we’re very excited to double down our investment and open an office here,” said Bhushan.
In April this year, Lightspeed raised over USD 4 billion for three new funds—Fund XIII, Select Fund IV, and Opportunity Fund, to support entrepreneurs around the world. Bhushan said the firm doesn’t have a specific allocation for Southeast Asia now. “Its actually a nice thing when you don’t have a specific budget because the limiting factor for us is more in terms of finding the right companies to invest in,” he said.
In general, Lightspeed backs startups from seed to Series B, with check sizes ranging from USD 500,000 to USD 25 million, Bhushan added. Nonetheless, he doesn’t rule out the possibilities to invest in growth-stage companies as part of Lightspeed’s global funds.
Focus on SMEs, edtech, and fintech
In terms of sector, the firm is interested in exploring more opportunities in small and medium business digitization, considering that most Southeast Asian markets are predominantly driven by SME economies.
“Edtech is another area we’re definitely interested in as there is a major behavior change from consumers around education now,” he said. “We have experience investing in edtech decacorn Byju’s in India so we’re looking at entrepreneurs building tech solutions in this region as well.”
Another segment he’s excited about is fintech, given its huge opportunity due to low financial service penetration in many Southeast Asian markets. The firm is currently focusing on Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Bridge to the global market
Lightspeed Venture Partners and its affiliates currently manage more than USD 10 billion with investment professionals and advisors based in Silicon Valley, China, India, Israel, Europe, and Southeast Asia. The firm has invested in over 300 companies globally including Snapchat’s parent company Snap, Oyo Rooms, and Pinduoduo. Bhushan is confident that Lightspeed’s presence in Southeast Asia can help boost the VC and startup landscape in the region.
“There are not a lot of investors helping companies to scale globally,” said Bhushan. “We’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs worldwide, helping them in scaling businesses to multiple billion dollars in enterprise value. We want to bring that institutional knowledge and successful playbook to Southeast Asia.”
He mentions conversational AI startup Yellow Messenger in India. “When it was expanding to Southeast Asia, we helped the team to hire regional talents, facilitate hundreds of customer introductions, and so forth,” said Bhushan. “That’s one example of how we supporting companies made a foray into a new region, and we aim to do the same in Southeast Asia as we hope to see more companies here going global.”
Bhushan believes that Southeast Asian entrepreneurs are in a unique position as many of them build companies that target different countries in the region, which prepare them to enter the international market. “If we look at Grab and Gojek, they develop flexibility and agility that enable them to expand to regional markets. I think Southeast Asian companies are able to expand globally a lot faster because they’ve just gone through that learning process and having done regionally,” Bushan said.
Meanwhile, for foreign companies entering Southeast Asia, localization is a key as the region is consisting of different unique markets, he believes. Therefore, Lightspeed Southeast Asia team includes talent from around the region with a robust mix of operating and investing experience in regional unicorns and multinational firms.
“Our team is lean, only consisting of four people but each has international experience with local nuance. We have to localize the strategy when we invest in Southeast Asia as we can’t apply one model to every market in here,” Bhushan concluded.