Choosing the Right Venture Lender for Your Startup


Venture debt is a financing tool that can help startups achieve business milestones while being minimally dilutive to founders and early-stage investors. It can be used to extend the runway between equity raises, thus buying time for early-stage startups to hit key benchmarks. When used thoughtfully, venture debt can act as a catalyst for accelerated growth.

Just as you would meticulously evaluate a potential business partner or new hire, conducting due diligence on your venture lender is just as essential to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome. The criteria for choosing a venture lender closely mirror those for choosing a venture equity partner – but with a few important distinctions, which arise from the differences between debt and equity financing.

In this comprehensive guide, we unveil the critical steps for performing due diligence on your venture debt lender, helping you forge a partnership that straps rockets to your growth.

Assessing Added Value

Venture debt is more than just a loan. Scrutinize the value beyond the dollars – delve into the lender’s value add – operational acumen, industry connections, and advisory capabilities. Just as a venture equity partner brings expertise and a strategic network, a venture lender should ideally be able to advise on the technicality of your financial statements – are you over-spending on marketing, or why are you budgeting large overheads for staff expansion. You would also want a venture lender to bring their network and experience to significantly amplify your growth trajectory. Engage in candid conversations about their involvement in portfolio companies and how they’ve contributed to success.

For instance, at Genesis, our portfolio companies are integral to our community. We actively champion them to a diverse array of investors, partners, and clients, both within the virtual realm and offline arenas. (#GenesisStories)

Through Thick and Thin

The road to building a successful startup will be long and filled with potholes. Whether the loan spans one or three years, mutual trust will be very important. Throughout your interactions, ask yourself, “Am I dealing with someone who understands how a start-up grows? Will they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us through the good times and bad?”

So speak to at least three of their Founders; ask about their lender’s behaviour during the COVID pandemic or recent tech funding winter. A venture debt partner who stands by your side through adversity is a valuable ally in ensuring your startup’s resilience and growth.

Mastering Key Terms

Unlike a venture equity firm’s term sheet, the one from your venture lender might throw some unfamiliar terms your way that are worth understanding in advance:

  1. Interest rate: This is the loan interest rate and be sure to know if it’s “fixed” or “floating”, “flat” or “annualized”. This makes a big difference in your repayments and cash flow.
  2. Duration of loan: This is typically one to three years depending on the working capital requirement and the venture lender’s fund life. Generally, longer-term loans are attractive as they allow more time for the capital to work and generate a return.
  3. Interest-only period: Given the cash-burn profile of startups, you can negotiate with your lender to defer paying the principal while servicing only the interest payments for an initial period of 3-6 months. In return, the lender may ask for additional upside, for example, more warrants or higher interest rates etc.
  4. Warrants: Warrants give the lender the right to purchase equity shares at a predetermined price at a future date. This usually amounts up to 20% of the loan principal amount. 
  5. Fees: There are several fees that Founder’s should be aware of e.g. origination fee, legal fee which are typically mandatory and then there are other fees such as “Unused fees”, or “Closing fees”, that are in addition to interest payments.
  6. Prepayment Penalties: In the happy event where your cashflow is more positive than forecasted, you may wish to pay off your debt early. Examine the penalties for early payment and there are may be creative ways to structure these penalties to mutual advantage e.g. a sliding scale expressed as a percentage of the loan as the loan period draws to a close.
  7. Covenants: are “stress tests” that companies must meet e.g. minimum working capital, EBITDA, or revenue etc. Have a candid discussion with your lender regarding the rationale behind each covenant. Usually covenants are not meant to be putative in nature but to ensure that the startup practices financial discipline.

Due Diligence on Due Diligence

Finally, take a moment to find out how the lender conducts its own diligence. Inquire about their due diligence process, including the depth of research, the rigor of analysis, and the criteria they prioritise. A thorough, systematic approach to due diligence indicates a commitment to informed decision-making, which will serve as a strong foundation for your partnership.

TLDR? Here’s our playbook on doing due diligence on your venture lender.

Founder’s Playbook: Breaking Taboos One Period At A Time

The startup journey is often a David-versus-Goliath story, where a small upstart entrepreneur takes on bigger and more established players. This journey is inherently challenging, but when you address a pain point that is also shrouded in taboo, you compound those challenges exponentially. 

Today, in our Founder’s PlayBook, we are joined by Tan Peck Ying, the co-Founder of Blood (formerly known as PSLove). Blood raised a SGD2m Series A round in May 2023 from AngelCentral and DSG Consumer Partners. 

Not one to shy away from sensitive issues, Peck Ying has been trailblazing a path, addressing menstrual health for the past nine years. Her journey began with her own experience of severe menstrual cramps that had plagued her since high school. During her tenure at NUS Enterprise, the prospect of transforming a small startup into a game-changing entity excited her, prompting her to leave her corporate job in 2014 to pursue this mission.


Peck Ying’s journey in her own words

I thought I was the only one suffering from menstrual cramps. But when we went out there and started speaking to consumers about MenstruHeat cramp relief patches, the first thing they said was ‘oh wow, there is really such a product! I can really use it.’ And those who used it said ‘it really saved my life.’ They weren’t even looking at the price because it gave them drug-free relief, while they go about their daily routine. It really resonated with the end-users, and that was the beginning of our journey.

Working with My Husband and Co-Founder

I get asked this question a lot – how do I separate my personal and business life with my then-boyfriend and now-husband, Caleb Leow? Caleb joined me as a co-Founder from the start; Caleb is highly entrepreneurial, and his skill set is complementary to mine. Most importantly, he believes in the mission just as strongly as I do.

Source: Blood

We had our fair share of disagreements and arguments over the years. What I’ve come to realize is that before you get into business together, your relationship must already be stable. You cannot build chaos upon chaos.

We have learned how to work together, agree to disagree, and segregate responsibilities clearly. We have also learned how to use each other as sounding boards. We are very clear about who makes what sort of decisions. For instance, I have the final say in all product decisions while he makes decisions around technology. Once a decision is made, the other will support the decision wholeheartedly. Team work!

Championing Change in a Crowded Market

The sanitary pads market is fiercely competitive. But that did not deter us as we focused on our mission not only to offer innovative solutions but also to break the stigma surrounding menstrual health. We want to be the challenger brand that is able to cut through the clutter and show consumers that “hey, we are here for you. We are here to address your needs.”

One defining feature is our commitment to customer engagement. Unlike larger companies, we respond personally to all customer inquiries and DMs (direct messages), fostering a sense of connection and trust. Consumers want to feel like they are having a conversation with a human who understands them. This is why we are confident that we can hold our own in this space.

Rebranding Boldly

In 2018, we rebranded PSLove to Blood. Yes, it is a polarising name but there was a method to our madness. The reason behind this transformation was to convey a stronger message and challenge the menstrual health taboo head-on. And PSLove just didn’t get the job done as it sounds like something close to your heart, something warm and fuzzy. So, we faced the risk of being forgotten. 

We wanted a name that could really cut through the noise and bring our mission forward. Blood powerfully embodies what we’re trying to do — normalize periods. There’s nothing shameful about bleeding; most women bleed once a month, and it’s a normal part of our lives. So we are now proudly Blood.

Source: Blood

Obsessing about Performance

At Blood, our passion for innovation and sustainability extends far beyond just the product and customer journey; it’s ingrained in our entire business ethos. We are obsessed about our products, and we pay close attention to user feedback.

In the case of our new sanitary pads line, we scrutinized every aspect, from the materials used to the size, contouring, and even the adhesive type. Through extensive experimentation with materials like bamboo and cotton, we ultimately found that corn is the ideal choice. Corn not only offers superior absorption performance but also boasts hypoallergenic properties and has environmental benefits.

Embracing Diversity

Fun fact: as much as we are in the period space, our company gender ratio is about equally male and female. We believe in gender neutrality, and yes, we are a product for women and we want to educate women. 

But I think that when we have guys on the team, they bring a different perspective. They tell us what our business partners, VCs, etc., are thinking and provide a neutral and objective viewpoint. When guys come for job interviews, they ask, “Is it okay if I do not know anything about periods?” and for me, that is okay because they provide an objective viewpoint that balances ours. After all, business is gender-neutral.

Like many businesses, Blood faced daunting challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic as retail was a large segment of their business. While their product was considered essential, they still had to find creative ways for cross-border shipping. Fortunately, they held a healthy inventory locally and were not reliant on their China factory. 

“It was a scary moment for a very small company because we really depend on sales to give us sustainable revenue,” Peck Ying shared. “What we learned was how to work remotely, and that was something we were not used to in the past. Now we are actually working two days from home, and we’ve managed to find a balance between remote and in-person modes of working—everyone benefits from it, and our team loves it. It was a very scary time, but we came out stronger, and I think it’s something that I’m pretty proud of.

The competitive landscape has also shifted significantly since the launch of MenstruHeat. Numerous competitors started entering the market rapidly. Today, consumers have a plethora of choices. “Why should they choose us as a brand? To us, this emphasizes the need for us to remain laser-focused on our mission and to differentiate ourselves. It’s not just about product or price; it’s also about enhancing consumer engagement—how we cultivate the brand loyalty we aspire to achieve,” she added.

Recognizing TikTok’s potential to reach their target audience, teenagers, they harnessed the platform to showcase their products, engage with a younger demographic, and promote menstrual health and wellbeing education.

“Our Go-to-Market approach has shifted from e-commerce to social commerce and TikTok,” Peck Ying notes. “We wanted to go where our consumers are going. And TikTok is the perfect platform for our messaging.”

Looking ahead, Blood has ambitious plans to expand its presence in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, with a mission to become a mass-market challenger brand that resonates with consumers. Blood is not just a business; it’s a movement that empowers women and normalizes conversations around a once-taboo subject.



Aozora Bank invests in Genesis Alternative Ventures fund, signs MOU to
support Japanese start-ups’ expansion into Southeast Asia

Singapore, 4 June 2021 – Genesis Alternative Ventures said today that Aozora Bank has invested in its US$80 million venture debt fund and the two parties have also agreed to support the expansion of Japanese start-ups into Southeast Asia. Genesis and Aozora’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aozora Corporate Investment, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today for a business partnership that will, among others, provide “a more comprehensive support framework to Japanese venture-backed companies looking to expand into Southeast Asia.” The MOU will also see the two parties share information and expertise on venture debt and venture capital in Asia, execute joint marketing strategies targeting customers, introduce investment and financing opportunities for venture capital-backed companies in the region, and co-host events related to the venture capital

For Aozora, the partnership with Genesis follows a recent arrangement with SVB Capital, the investment arm of the US high-tech commercial bank Silicon Valley Bank. Dr Jeremy Loh, Co-Founder and Partner of Genesis Alternative Ventures, said: “We look forward to partnering Aozora to introduce venture debt to start-ups in Southeast Asia and Japan. “We believe that venture debt is ideal for young companies with strong growth trajectory as it will allow them to expand without diluting founders’ equity.” Aozora Bank is a full-service Tokyo-based bank with assets of more than ¥5 trillion and backed by some of the largest investment firms in the world. It launched a Japan venture debt fund in November 2020 for Japanese technology companies

Venture debt, generally deployed by way of senior, secured non-convertible debenture accompanied by equity options, is appropriate for emerging, high-growth businesses that need to extend their cash runway to get to the next stage of growth. These companies may lack the track record to meet traditional criteria for bank loans or their founders may wish to minimize equity dilution

Genesis was founded by Ben J Benjamin, Dr Jeremy Loh and Mr Martin Tang in 2019

About Genesis Alternative Ventures Genesis Alternative Ventures is Southeast Asia’s leading private lender to venture and growth-stage companies funded by tier-one VCs. Genesis is founded by a team of venture lending pioneers who have backed some of Southeast Asia’s best-loved companies. Armed with a strong reputation among entrepreneurs and investors, Genesis is a trusted partner in empowering corporate growth while minimizing shareholders’ equity dilution. Genesis was founded by Ben J Benjamin, Dr Jeremy Loh and Martin Tang in 2019.

For media queries, please contact:
Catherine Ong Associates | Catherine Ong Romesh Navaratnarajah
Mobile: (65) 9697 0007 |  Mobile: (65) 9016 0920 | Email:


A great insightful discussion with Ben J Benjamin from Genesis Alternative Ventures on the state of the funding climate in SEA and the role of Venture Debt!

When talking about fundraising the first type of funds entrepreneurs usually talk about is equity financing, let’s call it the typical VC fundraising route. But depending on the stage your startup is in, debt financing might be a good fit.

With a maturing tech-ecosystem, growing companies, bigger needs for working capital, and more profitability (or at least road to profitability) the need for alternatives to equity financing grows as well. Debt financing is a great option to explore.

Listen to the full episode here.


The PDF version of this media release can be downloaded here


AI Fintech Trusting Social raises venture debt from Genesis Alternative Ventures

SINGAPORE, 29 April 2021 – Headquartered in Singapore and operating across Vietnam, Indonesia, India and the Philippines, AI Fintech Trusting Social announced an undisclosed venture debt financing with debt investor, Genesis Alternative Ventures. Trusting Social is backed by Sequoia Capital, Beenext, Tanglin Ventures and 500 Startups.

Trusting Social delivers AI-led products to leading banks and finance companies, enabling them to provide credit to under-served consumers at scale.

Today, Trusting Social’s credit insights cover more than a billion consumers and are used by more than 130 financial institutions across Vietnam, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. Trusting Social is now focused on bringing its broader suite of AI-driven products and services (a full stack of lead generation, credit insights, eKYC, digital onboarding and portfolio management) to market, and to enable 100 million credit lines.

The company has two business models – an Enterprise business that allows financial institutions to access its capabilities on a pay-per-use basis, and a Partnerships business, where it jointly creates and manages consumer credit portfolios with an FI partner, and shares in the net profits.

“We are tapping on venture debt to strengthen our balance sheet, diversify funding sources, and accelerate the company’s growth, especially in our Partnerships business,” said Founder and CEO Nguyen Nguyen, PhD. “Our ambition is to enable financial inclusion on an unprecedented scale, and Genesis will be helping us frame our reporting for this purpose.”

Singapore based Genesis Alternative Ventures recently announced the final close of its US$80 million fund. “The flow of credit is a key driver of economic growth,” said Eddy Ng, Head of Investments and Portfolio at Genesis. “We are excited to be supporting Trusting Social’s growth as they increase their breadth of product offering, helping banks and financial institutions to increase their reach to the under-served consumers.”


An article written by Tech In Asia. Read the full article here

Singapore-based private lender Genesis Alternative Ventures said it has closed its US$80 million debt fund for Southeast Asia, which it claims is the first venture debt fund in the region.

The company didn’t specify, however, if this was the first or final close of the fund.

Anchored by Singapore’s Sassoon family – a clan known for its retail dealings – other investors in Genesis Alternative Ventures Fund I include Japan’s Aozora Bank, Korea Development Bank, and Hong Kong multiasset investment firm Silverhorn Group. Earlier backers include Indonesia’s CIMB Niaga and Seattle-based global investment impact fund Capria Fund.

“Venture debt in Southeast Asia has been thrust into the limelight during the Covid-19 period with entrepreneurs seeking more efficient capital and putting in place additional capital buffers,” said Genesis Alternative Ventures’ co-founder and managing partner, Jeremy Loh.

Read the full article here


The PDF version of this media release can be downloaded here


Genesis Alternative Ventures closes Southeast Asia’s first venture debt fund at US$80 million

  • Total commitments from investors exceed target range
  • Institutional commitments include Aozora Bank, Korea Development Bank, PT Bank CIMB Niaga
  • Genesis deploys US$30 million to tech companies, seeks those with profit-for-purpose mission

Singapore, 15 April 2021 – Singapore-based Genesis Alternative Ventures has closed Southeast Asia’s first venture debt fund at US $80million, exceeding the top end of its target range.

Investors in Genesis Alternative Ventures Fund I, anchored by Singapore’s Sassoon family, include Japan’s Aozora Bank, Korea Development Bank (KDB) and Hong Kong multi-asset investment firm Silverhorn Group. Earlier commitments include Indonesia’s PT Bank CIMB Niaga and Seattle-based global investment impact fund Capria Fund.

Tokyo-based Aozora Bank is a publicly-listed financial institution that operates through 21 domestic and five overseas offices. As at 31 December 2020, it has total assets of about 5.6 trillion yen (US$51 billion). In November 2019, Aozora Bank established a two billion yen (US$18 million) fund to provide venture financing to domestic venture firms.

State-owned KDB is a policy development bank in South Korea with total assets exceeding US$230 billion. By collaborating with Genesis, KDB hopes to facilitate the expansion of Korean technology firms into Southeast Asia.

Overall, financial institutions, fund-of-funds and family offices accounted for about 75% of total commitments from investors across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States. 

Dr Jeremy Loh, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Genesis Alternative Ventures, said: “Venture debt in Southeast Asia has been thrust into the limelight during the Covid period with entrepreneurs seeking more efficient capital and putting in place additional capital buffers. 

“We are thankful for the strong support of our investors who have embraced the venture debt model in Southeast Asia. We are equally delighted with the robust quality of our portfolio companies. A growing number of them are making a positive impact to society and the environment, underscoring Genesis’ profit-for-purpose commitment.”

More than US$30 million of venture debt deployed to SE Asia tech companies

To date, Genesis has deployed over US$30 million to a growing portfolio of 12 venture-backed companies across Southeast Asia. They include Horangi Cyber Security, Indonesia’s flexible space provider GoWork, Lynk Global – an on-demand expert network platform as well as Believe, a B2B FMCG startup.

Another portfolio company, Matterport Inc, an expert in transforming buildings into digital spatial data, has announced in February 2021 that it has entered into a definitive agreement that will result in Matterport becoming a Nasdaq listed company via a SPAC.

Investing in for-profit companies that deliver impact at scale

Genesis is committed to investing in companies with the potential to generate sizeable financial returns while delivering sustainable positive impact.

Genesis counts Flow, Deliveree, Tanihub and Trusting Social among its impactful portfolio investments. The latter leverages AI and big data to enable financial inclusion for the underbanked, while Flow focuses on ethical, digital consumer debt collection in various Southeast Asian countries. Indonesia’s Tanihub gives fairer rates to Indonesian farmers, provides microloans for their crop and grows their businesses. Through its Driver Partner Benefits Program, Deliveree aims to generate better income through lowering the costs of maintaining their vehicles.

Growing importance of venture debt in Southeast Asia

Venture debt, generally deployed by way of senior, secured non-convertible debenture accompanied by equity options, is appropriate for emerging, high growth businesses that need to extend their cash runway to get to the next stage of growth. These companies may lack the track record to meet traditional criteria for bank loans or their founders may wish to minimise equity dilution.

Global data suggests there is significant headroom for venture debt to grow in the region. A recent study by Pitchbook notes that in the US, venture debt has grown at a faster pace than the broader venture capital market and that 2019 and 2020 were record years for tech companies raising debt. By comparison, venture debt makes up an estimated 2% to 4% of overall venture funding in Southeast Asia last year. While trailing US venture debt deployment, venture debt in Southeast Asia continues to gain traction as qualified deal flow continues to grow 31% quarter on quarter on an annualised basis since January 2020.*

*Internal Genesis statistics (2020 – 2021)

Genesis to host forum on venture debt and impact investing in May 2021

Genesis will host an online forum for industry leaders and thought leaders to share their experiences and exchange ideas on the venture ecosystem, specifically as it relates to capital raising, venture debt and impact investing.

The Genesis Forum, (, organised in collaboration with Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Singapore Management University (SMU) and PricewaterhouseCoopers Singapore (PwC Singapore), will take place on 6 May 2021. Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak, who is the Founding Partner and Chairman of Ikhlas Capital and former Chairman of CIMB Group, will deliver the keynote address. Genesis and PwC Singapore are also expected to release a first-ever industry-wide paper on venture debt in Southeast Asia at the forum.

Genesis was founded by Ben J Benjamin, Dr Jeremy Loh and Martin Tang in 2019.

– The End –


In a tech ecosystem affected by an uncertain environment, could venture debt be a white knight to save startups in Southeast Asia?

Venture debt, a type of financing typically used by early-stage companies and startups, first gained prominence in Southeast Asia around 2015. In the US, however, it has long been a fixture on the market, with 35-year old industry pioneer Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) backing around 50% of venture-capital-backed companies with IPOs in 2017.

Venture debt brings significant benefit as a complementary form of financing as capital that is almost equivalent to equity without dilution. For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), debt capital can also bring an optimum cost of capital.

– Jeremy Loh, Co-founder and managing partner at Genesis Alternative Ventures

General financing parameters in venture debt have not changed much, despite recent variability in demand and market conditions in wake of COVID-19, according to Loh. Genesis Alternative Ventures typically funds between USD 1 to USD 5 million dollars, while Innoven Capital typically carries out a 20% funding round with loan durations typically among two to three years long, similar to pre-COVID financing structures.

Both venture debt providers emphasized that their general funding structure and terms remain sensitive to the company’s purpose. In addition, bespoke conditions may be offered to tailor to each company’s circumstances.

Yet, despite the arguably increasing popularity of venture debt in Southeast Asia, it is yet too early to conclude that this will become a mainstream form of financing for startups, even with COVID-19 as an accelerator of change, and promising venture debt providers like Innoven Capital and Genesis Alternative Ventures in play

Read the full article here:


When start-ups accept money from venture capitalists, the founders are often asked to give up a significant portion of their ownership in return for additional equity financing. Venture debt funding is an alternative way for start-ups to raise funds, minus the equity dilution.

When you have to sell equity in your company to raise money to buy, for example, depreciating assets, it is an expensive exercise.

-Ben Benjamin, Co-founder and partner of Genesis Alternative Ventures

The venture debt business model also benefits the venture fund as it brings about at least two streams of income. The first is the interest payable on the loan from the borrower, and the other is warrants. But why would a start-up turn to a venture-debt fund instead of a bank for a loan?

Banks have more stringent requirements and criteria when approving loans to companies. The banks typically want some semblance of earnings before they are willing to lend. The very nature of start-ups is often prioritising growth over profitability, which unchecks this box right away. This is where Genesis comes in.

Read the full article from The Edge Singapore here.



Entrepreneur Peggy Choi On The Struggles She Faced Building Knowledge Sharing Platform, Lynk Global

Peggy Choi learnt what resilience was at 14, when she had major spinal surgery and was hospitalised for two months. Fast-forward, now she’s jumped into the world of entrepreneurship, faced-off gender stereotypes and proved countless investors wrong with the creation of her startup, Lynk Global—a knowledge sharing platform used across the globe.

Full Generationt Asia article (3 March 2021)


Matterport to Go Public Via Alec Gores SPAC in $2.9 Billion Deal

Matterport Inc., a maker of software for virtual walk-throughs of properties, agreed to go public through a merger with a blank-check company backed by billionaire Alec Gores.

Full Bloomberg article (8 February 2021)


Lynk, a “knowledge-as-a-service” platform with more than 840,000 experts, raises $24 million

Lynk, a “knowledge-as-a-service” platform that connects clients with over 840,000 experts in a wide range of fields, announced today it has raised $24 million led by Brewer Lane Ventures and MassMutual Ventures, with participation from Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.

Full Tech Crunch article (27 January 2020)


Global Real Estate Brands Adopt Matterport Capture Services to Accelerate Property Sales and Tenancy

Matterport today announced Matterport Capture Services™, a fully managed solution for enterprise customers to book 3D virtual tours with Matterport Capture Technicians™ skilled in using the Matterport Pro 2 camera. 

Full Matterport article (1 July 2020)


Horangi Cyber Security Named In Gartner 2020 Market Guide for Compliance Automation Tools in DevOps

Horangi Cyber Security is a CREST-accredited SaaS company based in Singapore. Horangi Cyber Security, its product Warden, has been listed as a Representative Vendor in the Compliance Automation Tools in DevOps Vendors in Market Guide for Compliance Automation Tools in DevOps.

Full Horangi Cyber Security article (1 July 2020)