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Did the angel investor, Han Ji-pyeong, in the Netflix show “Start-up” inspire you? While the hit K-drama series was fictional, it offered some interesting peeks into the start-up world and venture capital (VC) funding.

If you are keen on a career in VC, our Managing Director, Jeremy Loh, shares his career journey and some tips:

Genesis (G): How did you get started in the world of venture investing?

Jeremy (J): After completing my PhD in engineering and doing academic research at Imperial College, I returned to Singapore in 2004 and joined A*STAR, the R&D agency supported by the Singapore government.

Did you know A*STAR has more patents than Harvard or MIT? Yet few ideas were successfully converted into real businesses. I’ll share my experience to commercialise one of my patents. My team put together a business plan for an infectious disease diagnostic kit and went out to raise funds. That whole process made me realise that I did not understand the entire concept of starting and running a business.

I have a PhD and was backed by a top-class research team. But at the end of the day, if we cannot commercialise and turn that idea into a business, we are only half successful.

So I started looking at how I could gain experience with the business side of things and came up with two options: I could get an MBA, or join the venture capital industry as it straddled both the technological and the financial aspects of venture creation. Through serendipity, I was presented with an opportunity to join Bio*One Capital, a $1billion healthcare fund under EDBI that invested in medical devices, drug discovery development, stem cells etc.

Looking back, I realised that my entry in the venture capital industry was a transition. What I did was to leverage my domain expertise in precision and bio engineering to open doors into the financial industry.

G: I hear that the VC space is fast-paced and cut-throat. How true is this?

J: One thing that I can say for certain is that I have not had a boring day. Every day I am energised by start-ups and their ideas to solve a pain point through the clever application of technology. Today, it can be a medtech that can diagnose infections faster and tomorrow, it can be a fintech to serve the unbanked majority.

As for the culture, I can only speak for Genesis and the co-investors we partner with. We are family-oriented and collaborative – we constantly share deals with each other. This is an industry built on trust and if you want to go far, you have to build meaningful and positive relationships.

G: What do you look for when you hire?

J: Typically, venture capitalists hire MBAs, serial entrepreneurs, or people with corporate finance backgrounds. At Genesis, we believe in someone who wants to make a difference:

We look for an intellectually curious mind: someone who is not afraid to ask, “why not?”.

Someone who reads extensively to feed that curiosity.

Someone who challenges himself/herself to be in the shoes of the consumer or enterprise who would buy that product or service. This is the hardest skill to learn, as compared to getting a certificate in financial or technology. But it can be learnt.

G: Any pre-requisite technical skills?

J: You would need to have either a technical (engineering) or financial background to begin with. At Genesis, we will train you up and provide you with exposure to:

  • deal origination – networking in the startup ecosystem to get access to the best deals to invest capital
  • financial modeling with Microsoft Excel and analysing financial statements
  • Able to communicate confidently as you will have to present the investment opportunity to the leadership team and investment committee.

G: What advice do you have for undergraduates or fresh graduates who aspire to a career in venture capital?

J: One of the best ways is to serve an internship that is at least 6 months long with a venture fund or financial institution. Why six months? This is the minimum period you will need to gain valuable experience in how a deal flows from origination to execution. Not just one deal, but at least two or three different types of deals in different industries.

At Genesis, our internship program puts the interns through the same pace and vigour as though you are a full-time analyst in the firm. You will meet incredible founders and amazing venture capitalists. You will also work with a team that is fun and diligently trying to find that next Unicorn. We believe investing time to train up the next generation of venture investing talent will eventually have a positive impact for the Southeast Asia startup scene.

Our internship programme runs year-around so do drop your application at contact@genesisventures.co. We will contact you once a position becomes available.


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Ben J Benjamin answers some frequently asked questions about venture debt.

1. Who is venture debt for?

Venture debt is ideal for early stage venture-backed companies that are growing rapidly and that need working capital to fund further expansion, undertake new projects, or acquisition. The key benefit is that founders (and other early investors) do not have to give up as much of their ownership in a funding round.

My colleague, Eddy Ng, shares how to structure your debt for success here: Deal Structure for Venture Debt Success

2. What about interest rates?

In terms of payment, founders must consider the following two components:

  • Interest: usually a flat rate of about five to eight per cent
  • Warrants: comprises about 15 to 25 percent of the loan quantum.

3. What are the typical payment terms?

The loan usually has to be repaid within 36 months, fully amortised. The warrant is separate from the loan. Depending on the company’s lifecycle or nature of business, the warrant period can be anywhere between five to 10 years. The venture lender would be free to exercise the warrant during this period.

4. Can I buy back my warrants?

In most cases, the buyers of warrants are usually the founders and/or their existing investors. While the stakes are not huge – warrants generally represent a maximum of two percent of the company – it is a good opportunity for such parties to increase their stakes before a liquidity event (such as an M&A, IPO, or trade sale, for example).

5. My start-up is constantly approached by venture funds. Why should I consider venture debt, even though the interest rate is not much higher than banks?

When raising funds, the key issue that entrepreneurs and investors alike face is dilution.

Just imagine if you could raise 20 to 30 percent of the entire series in less dilutive debt. (There is minimal dilution as the warrants may be exercised at some future date when the company is successful, as pointed out above in #4.)

Instead of taking that 20 to 30 percent dilution at the early stages of the company’s growth, it makes sense to use venture debt to minimise dilution, especially if you have the conviction that the business will increase in value over the long term.

6. As an entrepreneur, I can go to my existing equity investors and raise the convertible notes. Why should I consider venture debt?

Many founders ask this question. A convertible note is generally converted into equity when the business performs well. So, it is not less dilution – it is just delayed dilution. And that dilution is 1:1; in the final analysis, it feels like full equity dilution.

7. Venture debt funds add little value to entrepreneurs.

There is a misconception that venture debt funds exit from the start-ups as soon as the loan is repaid. However, the reality is that venture debt funds do have skin in the game. As warrant holders, we are very much interested in the long-term success of the company. In fact, several of our portfolio companies have returned to us for additional debt because they enjoy the benefits of our experience and value-add.

8. I like the idea of minimizing dilution. Can I use 100% debt to fund my business growth?

As with any company, a balanced capital approach is important when building your books. Just as we would say there is a space for debt on the balance sheet for early, high-growth tech companies, it would be unrealistic to suggest that debt should take up the lion’s share in the growth journey.

Venture debt is just one of the many options available for businesses. There are many tools for fund-raising, so pick the most appropriate one in the context of your existing capital structure, shareholding, and business plans.

9. When is the right time for start-ups to use venture debt?

Timing is everything. A company that is too young (with poor cashflows, or without a strong balance sheet) will find it difficult to raise venture debt. A company that already has a capitalisation table with good investors onboard, and has either a strong balance sheet or strong cashflows, will find it easier to raise venture debt from a well-known lender.

It is also worth considering raising venture debt in conjunction with an equity raise. This allows the company to access additional cash to extend the runway to help achieve a larger milestone and a higher valuation at the next round of financing.

10. Any advice for founders when approaching venture debt providers?

We appreciate founders who are honest and forthright from the start. The journey to build a successful business will take three-, five-, or 10-years, so mutual trust is very important.

So, start a conversation with a venture debt provider, even before you need to raise debt. Take time to understand how venture debt works, and the key terms that come with it. Help us understand your industry, business model, and plans. This will accelerate the process when you are ready for venture debt.

Finally, choose your venture debt partner with care. Many founders focus their venture debt conversations on price and loan quantum. They should also consider choosing a venture lender who can be a long-term funding partner, and ask important questions such as, “Am I dealing with a venture lender who understands how a start-up grows and can the lender add value?”, “What is their track record of working with companies that hit hard times?”, and “Will they take a long-term perspective?”.
If you have any additional questions, please do reach out to Ben.


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Martin Tang is the reading champion in Genesis – he is an avid reader and believes that reading of the experiences of people that have gone before is one of the best ways to learn.

If you aspire to a career in financial services, especially in the venture capital space, Martin recommends the following books to help you hit the ground running.

 

  1. The King of Capital: The remarkable rise, fall and rise again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone by David Carey and John E. Morris

Blackstone is one of the world’s largest asset managers. Like everyone else, their founders struggled initially. What is interesting is how they transformed themselves into disciplined investors and challenged the financial establishment. I enjoyed the deep dive into some of their signature deals.

 

  1. What it takes: Lessons in the pursuit of excellence by Steve Schwarzman (co-founder of Blackstone)

As you can tell, I am a big fan of Blackstone! Steve Schwarzman is the grand daddy of the investment industry. He took US$400,000 and co-founded Blackstone – a firm which manages US$684 billion (as of Q2 2021). He generously shares his expertise and insights on what it takes to achieve excellence. I am always re-reading this book because I find new wisdom every time.

 

  1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

This is an excellent book – backed by tons of deep data and research and is well-written. It is full of insights about why some companies go from good to great, while others fail for the same reasons. What intrigued me is the “curse of competence” that hinders companies from achieving greatness. I will not spoil it for you; read the book and find out!

 

  1. Laughing at Wall Street: How I beat the pros at investing (by reading tabloids, shopping at the mall and connecting on Facebook) by Chris Camillo

Investment success is not mystical. It comes from being very observant of your surroundings and identifying trends. This book is full of engaging anecdotes and common-sense explanations.

 

  1. David & Goliath: Underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a classic Malcom Gladwell book where he sheds light on how we think about disadvantages and obstacles. We all know the story of how a shepherd boy, David, felled the mighty Goliath with a sling and a stone. The author challenges us to re-think about the “Goliaths” in our lives and what successes can arise out of adversity.

 

  1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Another classic by Malcom Gladwell. Backed by data, he traces the reasons for the success of some overachievers. What do Bill Gates and top football professionals have in common? Are they really that much more different from us normal folks? This book changed the way I looked at success.

We hope this list will help you become a more successful version of yourself.


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Over the past two years, we have seen how the global pandemic adversely affected companies across a wide range of sectors from the implementation of lockdowns and travel restrictions, to an increase in the visibility and transparency of supply chains. Despite being a difficult year for numerous businesses, many startups, especially in the Southeast Asia region have powered through.

While the global pandemic will eventually recede, the impact of business decisions made during these pressing times will go a long way. Startups that raise capital and have a spare dime for rainy days like these will have an edge.

Cash Burn J-Curve

One of the most persistent challenges for startups is to sufficiently capitalize the business from the inception of the company until profitability. US startups have had the good fortune of leveraging on venture debt for several decades. Despite a very challenging Covid year in 2020, startups in the US received debt financing valued at more than $25 billion[1], the third consecutive year for the market to surpass $20 billion in venture loans.

Most startups traditionally utilize equity as their source of capital and go on to raise billions of dollars to fund the J-curve growth of their business. The J-curve is commonly used to illustrate the tendency of a startup company to produce negative net income initially, and then deliver accelerated positive results as the company matures. The negative net income area above the “J” represents the total cash needed to achieve profitability and the typical startup company will take at least six years before becoming profitable.

 

Fig. 1 – J Curve

Source: https://pitchbook.com/news/reports/q1-2021-pitchbook-analyst-note-venture-debt-a-maturing-market-in-vc

Blend of Venture Equity and Debt Capital Markets

As venture debt has emerged in Southeast Asia, an increasing number of companies have deployed debt financing to complement equity rounds. To date, there are about 80 – 100 Southeast Asia companies that have already benefited from venture debt.

Genesis Alternative Ventures is a Singapore-based venture debt fund that invests debt capital into promising early-growth startups that are expanding their business presence across Southeast Asia. We will feature 2 Genesis portfolio companies – Horangi Cyber Security and GoWork and share their venture debt journeys.

Example 1. Horangi

Founded in 2016, Horangi is a cybersecurity company that provides security support for enterprises in Asia against cyberattacks through its suite of products and professional advisory services.

Venture debt became a useful, less-dilutive tool for Horangi as it enhanced its cloud security products, increased its talent pool and acquired customers through sales and marketing activities as part of their growth and expansion plans. “As a startup with a short operating history, it is almost impossible to get normal bank loans, which is where venture debt fills in the gap.” Horangi was also looking for partners who could add substantial value to their business and “partnering with strategic investors like Genesis will help propel our next growth stage,” said Paul Hadjy, CEO and Co-founder, Horangi.

“As Horangi scales its business, choosing a venture lender who is committed and understands the business is critical. It’s not only about access to capital, but also the flexibility and the invaluable network that Genesis brings along.” – Dr. Jeremy Loh, Managing Partner of Genesis Alternative Ventures.

Example 2: GoWork

Founded in 2016, GoWork is a leading premier co-working space operator in Indonesia.

“Co-working is not a category anymore, it’s just how people work. It’s a matter of time when every office building or mall in Jakarta will need a space.” For GoWork to double down on its focus on Jarkarta and reach over 100,000 sqm by 2020, the company took on venture debt to fund its working capital. “We wanted to have diversification in our capital structure without incurring dilution,” said Vanessa Hendriadi, CEO & Co-founder, GoWork.

Not only does venture debt help with working capital needs, but entrepreneurs are also seeking “more efficient capital and putting in place additional capital buffers”. – Martin Tang, Co-founder of Genesis Alternative Ventures.

Venture Debt Moving Forward

Venture debt offers an additional channel of financing for entrepreneurs who want to leverage debt financing to balance the cost of capital. Venture debt is set to play a bigger role as more startups are growing amid a global pandemic and are looking for ways to raise additional capital without significant dilution to their equity stakes.

To find out more about venture debt, access the Southeast Asia Venture Debt Industry Report 2021 co-authored by Genesis Alternative Ventures and PwC Singapore here.

[1] https://pitchbook.com/news/reports/q1-2021-pitchbook-analyst-note-venture-debt-a-maturing-market-in-vc


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The collaboration will extend Pace as an alternative payment option to over 20 international brands in the region, including consumer brands such as Michael Kors, TUMI, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Steve Madden, as well as Nike in Thailand and Pedro in Malaysia.

“We are very impressed with the incredible growth that Pace is experiencing. As one of the newer entrants, Pace has quickly captured the fintech market in the region,” said Jeremy Loh, managing partner of Genesis Alternative Ventures, in a statement.

Read the full article here: 

  1. https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/garage/buy-now-pay-later-startup-pace-raises-debt-financing-led-by-genesis-secures-regional
  2. https://e27.co/turochas-fuads-bnpl-startup-pace-receives-debt-financing-claims-200-growth-in-merchant-partners-20210615/

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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.



 

In Southeast Asia, venture debt is fast emerging as an alternative and complementary source of financing for high-growth technology companies that traditionally only raised equity as a source of capital.

At its core, venture debt is entrepreneur-friendly as it helps founders and cash-hungry startups avoid over-diluting shareholder equity at early stages of a company’s growth. Used appropriately, venture debt can also extend the cash runway between fundraising rounds, sometimes helping companies achieve performance targets set by equity investors (or avoid dreaded valuation down-rounds). Another benefit of venture debt is that, in appropriate instances, it is able to support companies facing unexpected market turbulence or short-term capital traps.

While already an established alternative financing source in the US, Europe, Israel and India, venture debt has only recently emerged in Southeast Asia as a mainstream financing option for high growth tech companies. In 2015, the Singapore Government identified venture debt financing as a key driver to boost the local start-up ecosystem. Singapore launched a S$500 million venture debt programme to encourage qualified lenders to provide venture debt to technology start-ups. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in venture debt activity in the region.

For more information, download the full report here.

Visit PwC’s Singapore Venture Hub


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An article written by Venture Capital Journal. Read the full article here.

Venture debt is growing faster than traditional equity financing and faster than the wider VC market, according to a recent PitchBook report titled Venture Debt a Maturing Market in VC.

It thus “makes sense that the growth of venture debt has outpaced the broader VC market,” the report noted. “More companies receiving institutional venture backing equals more potential borrowers for lenders, in many ways making venture debt a dependent variable.”

The PitchBook report claimed venture debt has been split evenly between early and late-stage companies over the last decade in terms of financing count. ButPitchBook’s methodology treats convertible loans as venture debt, which is hugely popular in the early-stage.

“Recently, even seed-stage loans have caught up [to late stage], largely because of the increased use of convertible notes for these investments,” the report said.

Read the full article here.


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It’s been an interesting number of weeks going into a slow down circuit breaker mode. As the traffic ground to a near halt, I have been observing how the change in work and lifestyle impacts not just me and my family but also the Singaporean island state of 5+ million people and the consumer behavior. From the way we buy our food and grocery, to staying in touch with family and friends and taking time to become more environmentally conscious. Consumers are gravitating towards new behaviours that are shaping the new normal way of life.

How digital technology is helping us in the New Norm

In the workplace and school, digital technology has undoubtedly helped many to continue with work and learning. My 11 year old gets up at 7, takes her breakfast, scans her temperature and does her PE workout before going into a Zoom class. Her art classes are now carried out over video conferencing. Amazing.

Related Article : Venture Debt – Panacea or Poison – for tech-backed companies during Covid-19

Traditionally, Singapore has thrived on offline businesses like hawker centres and wet markets where the locals go to get their fill of world-famous delights and also buy fresh produce. It’s been a way of life for many decades but these businesses have suffered a massive decline as people avoid venturing outdoors. The initial options for hawkers were food delivery platforms but the commission fees quickly make it untenable just to break even. A quick thinking young hawker came up with an idea to leverage the Facebook Community and established Hawkers United  that would help market, take orders and also give unsavvy hawkers delivery options to get their food to hungry consumers. The digitalization of hawker business now meant that hungry Singaporeans can now satisfy their craving for chicken rice, prata and fried oyster. Similarly, Pasar United is an extension that now helps grocery and wet market vendors to digitize their offering. We started seeing produce like seafood, fruits and vegetables online too. The news headline shouts out: “From wet markets to web markets”. 

Environmentally conscious consumer behavior

The lure of Singapore’s hawker centre is beyond just good food, but also that recognizable grey haired chef behind the wok. When I mask up and head out to buy food from my neighborhood hawkers, I noticed more people adopt environmentally friendly use of bringing their own container to reduce disposable packaging. With the surge in food ordering, there was a momentary shortage of disposable food containers. The BYO concept is definitely a great move for the environment and more importantly, the food tastes much better in a glass container.

Related Article : Resilience and Adaptability in the Face of COVID-19

However, cash transactions are still the preferred mode of payment for these offline businesses. Singapore has undergone an infrastructure upgrade to equip these businesses with the means to take cashless payment via QR code. Beyond making it more accessible and affordable for digital payment, there needs to be a significant cultural shift for consumers and business owners to adopt cashless means of payment. Our physical wallet needs to be replaced by our digital wallet, and in this current pandemic, not handling cash could also mean reduced infection risk.

Digital to non-digital

Not every part of our lives needs digital and what I am hoping to see revived is drive-in cinemas that were popular in the 70s and 80s. With movie theatres shut, perhaps we can huddle safely inside the comfort of our own enclosed space out under the moonlight to enjoy a movie screening. Nonetheless, I see our new normal way of life changing bit by bit and reshaped to accommodate what the world needs to evolve into going forward.


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Genesis Alternative Ventures Co-founder Jeremy Loh joined the other three distinguished speakers from the Venture Capital industry to deliver lots of insights and advice for the students of Singapore Management University.

Jeremy spoke about the beginning of his Venture Capital career as it straddled both the technological and the financial aspects of venture creation.

He went through some research and process of a business plan to raise funds and realised if we cannot commercialise and turn the idea into business; we were only half successful.

As a venture capitalist, Jeremy seeks motivated individuals who want to risk everything to commercialise an idea. Ideas can be pivoted along the journey, it’s much harder to change a person who doesn’t start off the right mindset.

And after experiencing the unique situation of COVID-19, some opportunities will be driven by the wider adoption of existing habits and combined with technology to win in the #NewNormal.

Read the full article here:

https://iie.smu.edu.sg/GHE_AMA