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Genesis welcomes our latest Limited Partner, OurCrowd, is a global venture investing platform that empowers institutions and individuals to invest and engage in emerging companies. OurCrowd manages more than $1.9B in committed funds for its 300+ portfolio companies and venture funds.

We sat down with Jon Medved (JM), Founder & CEO of OurCrowd. John is a serial entrepreneur and investor, who has been named by the Washington Post as “one of Israel’s leading high tech venture capitalists” and by the New York Times among the “top 10 most influential Americans who have impacted Israel.

 

Q1: You’ve been in the startup industry for a very long time. What is it that excites you about the industry?

JM: Startups are the lifeblood of technological innovation and progress. Decades ago, Lockheed Martin invented Skunk Works, and Xerox created Xerox Park, where the brightest minds could dream up big ideas unhindered by stultifying corporate red tape.

Today, the smartest companies in the world – including all the tech giants – realize that the only way to bring innovation into their products is to scout for startups developing relevant tech, invest in them, and snap them up. Today’s entrepreneurs have become Rockstars who are often celebrated and admired. They are responsible for building the world’s largest companies who have completely transformed our lives. Startups are developing the tech we need for computing, communication, and commerce, not just for the tech industry alone, but to address the critical issues of our time: food production, healthcare, clean water, sustainable energy and much, much more.

As a venture capitalist, I have the privilege of enabling visionary founders and innovators by connecting them with the investors who can fuel their startups and transform their dreams into commercial reality. Our companies literally save lives, heal the sick, and provide fresh food, water and clean energy where it’s most needed. They protect critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks. They provide the digital tools that help businesses grow. They entertain and they create employment. And when they succeed, they repay their investors many times over. It’s the best job in the world.

 

Q2: OurCrowd is a well-known equity investor and you’ve now launched a venture debt strategy. Can you tell us your rationale? What has been the reaction from your investors and startups?

JM: OurCrowd’s mission was always to democratize access to private markets, so in that sense it’s just a natural continuation of our journey. This initiative also came at a perfect time. Demand for venture debt is at an all-time high as entrepreneurs and investors alike realize its critical importance in the market.

This new debt product serves us in two ways. It allows us to further support our portfolio companies by offering them non-dilutive financing, which is highly relevant given the decline in valuations and the desire to avoid serious dilution from a down round. It also expands our value proposition to our investors with a cash-generating facility that provides steady income and much shorter duration than the equity investments. We are getting great feedback from both portfolio companies and investors for adding this new asset class, as evidenced by the oversubscribed Genesis first close.

 

Q3: Why did you choose to partner with Genesis?

JM: We decided to partner with Genesis because of the Genesis team’s strong domain expertise, with 40 years of VD/VC/PE experience and $100m+ venture debt deals executed. They are probably the most experienced venture debt team in Southeast Asia. The team’s performance speaks for itself in the early results from Fund I.

Genesis also gives us access to a unique market opportunity. Venture debt is growing strongly across Southeast Asia and high-growth companies that raise venture debt typically do so concurrently with an equity fund raise. In 2021, a record $621B was invested into global startups with $25B injected into companies in Southeast Asia. This represents a 3x increase over equity raised in 2020.

OurCrowd also likes to invest alongside strong LPs, like the Fund I investors who also decided to invest in Fund II and include some of the strongest institutional investors in the region. Moreover, we know many of the key members of the funds management for many years, and not only like them and appreciate them as fine human beings, but we continually are amazed by their talent and high ethical standards. When a great team addresses a huge and fast-growing market opportunity at the right timing, this is a good time to invest.

 

Q4: Where do you see the venture capital industry, especially venture debt, going in the next 5 years in SEA and Israel?

JM: A typical benchmark used by research analysts is to estimate the total size of the venture debt market as a percentage of total venture capital invested during a given year. Estimates are that the venture debt market in SEA represents ~2-5% and in Israel ~5-10% compared to 15-20% in the US. These two markets achieved fundraising records in 2021. Israeli startups raised $25.4b, a 136% increase on the previous year, while SEA startups raised $25.7b, a 167% YOY increase. We believe that the record VC money raised in 2021, maturing of the market and strong demand for venture debt amid the current global slowdown will continue to be the main drivers pushing the growth of this market.

 

Q5: How and where can startups in SEA and Israel collaborate together?

JM: Startups are shrinking the world. Cross-cultural collaboration is essential for innovation, because it breaks boundaries of thinking and attitude. Just look at how many of the top tech executives in the US are immigrants. One of Israel’s great strengths that has helped make our tiny country a global tech powerhouse is the fact that our population comes from more than 100 different countries, creating a rich cultural diversity that expands knowledge and thinking. Every time an Israeli startup begins a collaboration with a partner or customer from another country, it adds to its experience and effectiveness.

We are now seeing the same phenomenon in our new relationship with the Gulf states following the signing of the Abraham Accords, where Emiratis and Israelis are bringing different and complementary skills and experience to bear on a wide variety of issues and creating something brand new and even more exciting. In the same way, collaboration between startups in SEA and Israel can only enrich everyone involved and expand their horizons. Israeli companies can benefit from SEA skills in scale up and manufacturing, SEA companies can benefit from Israeli R&D prowess and deep tech innovation.

 

Q6: What do you look for in a founder or founding team?

JM: OurCrowd vets hundreds of startups every month and chooses perhaps one or two percent to add to our platform. Our founders must display technological excellence, relevant experience, original proprietary technology, good management skills and commercial sensibility. It is very rare for one person to have all those skills, so we tend to invest in teams of founders whose skills and experience combine to create the right group to establish, lead and build a company with a potentially commercial product. Moreover, we want to work closely with our teams, so it helps to like them!

 

Q7: What are the challenges and opportunities that you are seeing in the tech industry?

JM: The world is in crisis. We need answers to the critical issues facing our planet and its people. Startups can create the technology we need to fix the world. Just look at BioNTech, a startup founded by Turkish immigrants in Germany that created the vaccine marketed by Pfizer. Startups that tinker with problems that no-one needs to solve will not survive. But founders who identify a real problem, develop a practical, commercial solution and find a way to market will continue to succeed.

 

Q8: Any advice to founders on weathering the current downturn?

JM: This market correction was almost mandatory if you look at the soaring valuations of the past few years. Founders can no longer expect to enjoy the soaring double-digit price/revenue ratios that we have seen. There is still a lot of venture capital waiting to be deployed, but investors will want to see realistic business models and more modest spending. Founders should trim costs, extend their runway, and turn to alternative financing like venture debt instead of dreaming of huge cash injections from selling off tiny parcels of equity at high valuations.

 

Q9: What is your favourite movie and why?

JM: It’s A Wonderful Life. No explanation necessary.

 

Q10: What’s next for you?

JM: I have the greatest job and the cutest grandchildren in the world. I’m staying right here with them in Jerusalem, the most beautiful city on Earth.


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We get it. Running a startup is a crazy roller coaster ride. That is why it is important to find and bring the right VC partners on board with you.  You will probably meet many before deciding on a core team. And it all starts with a convincing pitch that is engaging, clear and concise.

When I googled “how to pitch my startup”, I got more than 42 million hits. I am sure most of the advice offered is sound, if a little generic.

Having worked in the startup ecosystem in both Silicon Valley and Southeast Asia, I have noticed that there is a difference in the way founders here approach their pitch. I have noticed that Southeast Asian entrepreneurs tend to be more conservative in their pitch approach and more reluctant to talk about their achievements (and I include myself in this category). There are many cultural reasons for this but such reticence does not serve startup founders well, especially when making their pitches. 

Over the years, my team at Genesis and I have attended multiple startup pitch sessions and have given my share of feedback and useful tips to help founders in Southeast Asia sharpen their pitch.  Here’s a quick summary of those feedback:

 

  • Be clear about your ask

It is perfectly fine to be upfront about what you are looking for – be it mentorship advice or an investment. Many founders feel shy about talking about money so early in a discussion but trust me, it is helpful for the VC to know your objective from the start.

For instance, if you are looking for funding, you can start by saying,  “Thank you for your time today. I am looking for $6m funding for a 10% share of my agri-tech company.” 

Or, if you are looking for strategic partnerships, “Thank you for your time today. I am looking for partners in the agri-tech and/or logistics space who can add value to my business.” It is also reasonable to seek introductions to business contacts or possible advisors. 

 

  • Be proud of your mission and credentials

Once I sat in on a pitch from an edutech company and it was only after 5 or 6 slides that she revealed that she is a geneticist. Immediately that became interesting to me. What is the connection between genetics and education? 

Most founders tend to have business, finance or engineering backgrounds. So when someone with academic achievements and industry experience turns up to share why they are on this mission, it certainly catches the attention of an investor. 

Likewise, for your mission. Whether you are solving a payment problem or moving 1 ton of ugly food per day, if you are not excited about your mission, no one else will be.

So do speak with positive energy and conviction. I know this is not natural for many of us in Southeast Asia but it is important to “infect” the VC with your enthusiasm. 

 

  • Be humble when receiving feedback 

This sounds contradictory to #2 but it makes sense. The VC industry is a small one, particularly in our region. One of the first questions that VCs ask themselves is “can I work with this entrepreneur over the next 3-4 years and help build this business?” 

“VCs invest in people, not ideas or technology.” Most investors are placing a bet on the founder’s ability to successfully handle the multiple challenges of growing a startup. And founders who are unable to handle a couple of tough questions in a pitch are less likely to raise money from investors.

So treat the feedback as a gift. An hour that a VC set aside to listen to your pitch may not end up in an investment. But the feedback could bring fresh perspectives, new ideas and insights for your business or even how to improve your pitch.

 

  • Be concise with your elevator speech

It is always good to be prepared to talk about your startup concisely. You’ll never know when you’ll meet a potential investor. 

We suggest an elevator speech along these lines:

  • Think BIG: What is the end goal (e.g. save 10 tons of ugly food per day)?
  • Start SMALL: What are the low hanging fruits that you are plucking today?
  • Move FAST: How are you going to scale? 

Starting with your Big Idea allows you to plant a seed into the investor’s mind. And if you get interrupted and don’t get to the other two parts of your elevator speech, at least you’ve communicated your mission. This leads me to the final point.

 

  • Be jargon free 

Most VCs are finance- or economics-trained. A few of us are engineers by training. Even fewer of us were medical professionals. 

While we may have picked up terms like “NFT”, “Metaverse” or “DAO”, it helps if you use layman terms in your pitch. Try pitching to your family or friends first; if they can understand what your business is about, the likelihood of an investor understanding it would be higher.

For an idea of a jargon-free pitch deck, do take a look at AirBnB’s early pitch deck.

 

Last but not least ….

The tech and venture market will have its up and down cycles. Whatever the climate, there will always be venture investors looking for the next unicorn or decacorn. When you get an hour of time with a VC or a partner,  it is more important to be ready with your pitch. And be prepared to evolve that pitch deck. You will be fascinated when you see the 40th version compared to your first deck.

We wish you much success and hope that these tips are useful in helping you elevate your pitch and raising the next round of funds.

(A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn on 21 July 2022.)


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Thom Slater first joined Genesis in October 2021 as an Intern and was converted to full-time employee on 1 April 2022 upon a successful completion of his internship. We talked to Thom about his experience thus far.

 

Genesis [G]: Hi Thom, please tell us more about yourself.

Thom [T]: I am originally Canadian but I’ve spent the first 20 years of my life in Asia, mostly in Singapore. After completing National Service  with the Singapore Armed Forces & Police Force, I moved back to Canada to complete my Bachelor’s degree in History at University of British Columbia. 

Outside of work, I enjoy boxing, dragon boating, & watching hockey and basketball. I love spending time out in nature on hikes or sailing, listening to music & reading all sorts of books.

 

[G] At university, you majored in History. What prompted the switch to Finance? How did you achieve the switch?

[T] History was never my intended field of work. My long-term strategy was to study something I enjoyed in a program that gave me the flexibility to have a broad choice of topics to make me a more well-rounded person. As part of the requirements for my history degree, my electives included computer science, linguistic anthropology, political science & economics, and philosophy. There was even room for a minor in Classical Studies where I got to take a course in Roman law! 

At that time, my plan was to combine the growing field of data analytics with business, as a Business Intelligence Analyst. To that end, after I graduated, I took two technical certification courses, one in data analysis and  another in financial skills. Fun fact: my co-worker & fellow Analyst Joelene Wong is an alumni of the same Amplify Trading financial course! Once I started my internship with Genesis, I realised that I really enjoyed the VC space and was more than happy to accept my conversion offer.  

 

[G] Please describe your typical workday, if there is such a thing!

[T]: There is no such thing as a typical day! This is why I enjoy the VC space so much. It’s constantly evolving and I love the dynamic workflow. There are days that are slower than others, allowing me to research industry  trends or upskil myself on finance-related topics. 

Then, there are other days that I work for up to 12 hours so that we can finish an urgent piece of work. While tiring, those days are genuinely rewarding because I know that I’ve done my part to move our team closer to a shared goal. 

 

[G]: What was your internship experience like at Genesis and what prompted you to accept the offer of a full time analyst role?

[T]: My internship began when Work–From-Home was mandatory in Singapore. So my interactions with my co-workers were strictly online for the first 2 months. Despite this, I felt connected to the company as the Genesis leadership team made time in their packed schedules for regular check-in calls to see how I was doing and if I had any questions. 

Being an intern at Genesis is great if you want to really push yourself past the typical barriers and mindset of being “just an intern”. If you take initiative, for instance, check in with the rest of the team to see how you can help, and learn on your own time, chances are very good that you will be given responsibility that most interns don’t get exposure to. Of course, you have to deliver on your promises but the seniors will guide you, as long as you reach out. 

There were several reasons I accepted the conversion offer. Firstly, it was the willingness of the Genesis leadership team to teach and share their experiences with the whole team, and their genuine concern for your well-being. 

The rest of the team are just as kind, welcoming, and great to work with. They work hard but can have fun spontaneously too. For example, one day during a presentation on quick ecommerce trends, the presenters secretly ordered ice-creams to see if these platforms could deliver by the time it finished. [They did, and the team thoroughly enjoyed their ice creams]. We take our market research and due diligence very seriously! 

Overall, Genesis is an exciting and challenging workplace that gives me real opportunities for growth and I’m grateful to be here. 

 

[G]: Any memorable experiences at Genesis you’d like to share? What did you learn from it?

[T]: I still remember one of my first video calls with a start-up company. After the call, our Managing Partner Jeremy asked me what I thought of the company. I was stunned for a moment; I couldn’t believe I was being asked for my opinion by the most senior person in our company after my first-ever call. It was that early moment that made me feel like my voice mattered, despite being “just an intern”, and it crystalized my conviction to not let that label stop me from growing.

 

[G]: We hear you are a great mixologist and worked as a bartender for a year in Canada? Are there any similarities between bartending and venture capital / debt?

I would hesitate to call myself a mixologist; those guys are pros! As a bartender and manager, I worked behind the bar throughout my university degree (except the final year due to Covid). 

A similarity would be needing the ability to multitask in a hectic & fast-paced environment, where efficiency & time management is key. Soft skills that I learned bartending that came in handy were communication & teamwork, customer relations/service & conflict management/resolution.

 

At Genesis, we are proud of our internship programme where interns are given the same opportunities as full-time employees to contribute meaningfully to real projects. Find out more about our internship programme here.


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It has been an incredibly busy two months for us at Genesis Alternative Ventures, the current market volatility notwithstanding. 

In April and May, we took advantage of the reopening of global borders to visit our investors, partners, and portfolio companies in Tokyo, Seoul, and Indonesia. In May, we hosted our General Partners Advisory Board and Limited Partners to share the progress of the Fund and to  discuss the macro-economic investment outlook. It was refreshing to catch up with everyone face-to-face and to reaffirm the trust that we built via two years of virtual meetings.

All the discussions I had were enlightening, insightful and relevant in the current market uncertainties and I thank everyone for sharing your thoughts and time so generously. As one good deed deserves another, I thought it would be useful to sum up and share my takeaways that might help guide us through these turbulent times: 

  1. Growth of venture debt : Amid rising interest rates and increased market volatility, private debt tends to shine and venture debt providers across Southeast Asia, India and the US are reporting a surge in deals and a growing pipeline. 
  2. Cash is King: With tighter funding market environment and falling valuations, startups should look for opportunities to consolidate and acquire good assets to strengthen their position while cutting back on cash burn to focus on profitability and preserve cash runway 
  3. Keep Calm and Carry On: Venture investors have indicated continued support for existing companies and will allocate more capital to their portfolio, instead of hunting for new ones. However, with freshly minted Southeast Asia venture equity funds like Jungle Ventures Fund IV ($600m), East Ventures multistage $550m venture and growth fund, Mass Mutual Ventures Fund II ($300m), there is still ample liquidity for early-stage companies seeking entry ticket funding. However, founders are advised to sharpen their pencils as the days of funding back-of-envelope ideas are gone. 
  4. There ARE Alternatives to TINA (There Is No Alternative): Navigating a challenging environment, sophisticated investors are pivoting from traditional portfolios that were based on a mix of public equities and fixed income. Increasingly they are looking for an alternative bucket of private equity, venture debt, and real estate where opportunities for better yields than liquid assets, with lower volatility and less correlation to headline risk. 

Next month, we hope to share some insights on Founders’ sentiments from a survey of the entrepreneur community. I thank you in advance to all those who have kindly agreed to be surveyed and share your thoughts with us.  

Disclaimer: The content in this article is meant to be informative and for general purposes only. It is not and shall not be construed as investment advice. 

(A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn on 3 June 2022.)


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What a difference these past two years have made!

Whenever I was invited to speak about venture debt in the past, I always start by explaining to the audience that venture debt is a form of business financing that is tailored for venture-backed, high-growth startups who do not have the collaterals nor track record generally required by traditional banks. When used appropriately, venture debt is an attractive form of growth funding because it minimizes dilution of a founder’s (& early investors’) ownership stake.

Fast forward to February 2022 where I addressed a virtual room of startup entrepreneurs from SEA Founders – a community of growth-stage founders in Southeast Asia. I was very heartened by the sophisticated level of understanding about financing tools to power startup growth. Comparing this to when I first started out in venture debt in 2015, these founders have certainly become more acquainted with its use case.

However, I thought it would be useful to clarify some terminology and practices. This will be a handy guide for founders when talking to venture lenders as part of their next fund raise:

Convertible debt is not venture debt.

Venture debt is a bit like a mortgage loan. If we want to buy a house, the bank will provide us with a mortgage loan that we progressively pay down. Before we accept the loan, we would do our maths, asking ourselves, “how much do we have to pay on a monthly basis for this home loan? What are we comfortable with?” Once we decide, we don’t think about it much until the home bank loan is fully repaid. Once fully repaid, the house is ours.

On the other hand, convertible debt is where we borrow money to buy a house, but the lender has the option to decide if he wants the loan repaid in cash or take a portion of the house in return. Here the borrower has to deal with the uncertainty of whether a part of the house may eventually belong to someone else. Hence, a convertible debt is not venture debt.

Shares are not given free to lenders via warrants.

Due to the risk profile of a startup company, venture lenders will ask for warrants, which is an option to buy some shares in the company in the future at an agreed price. I think it’s important to understand that you’re not giving the equity warrants to the lender for free. The lender actually needs to pay and convert the option into shares of the company at a cost.

The way we describe it at Genesis is that we are investing debt into the portfolio company while simultaneously playing the role of small-time equity investor. Because we believe in your company, we’re willing to provide debt financing to grow the company. And because we have done our homework as an investor, we would love to be able to put some equity to play too.

Covenants can be used for instilling financial discipline

Many founders’ initial reaction to covenants is generally negative. However, I believe if designed reasonably, it can bring financial discipline and performance milestones for startups.

Early-stage start-ups tend to have big dreams. Founders would say to me “I am aiming for five million revenue this year and twenty million next year. Based on P&L. I think I am comfortable with a debt to equity ratio of forty percent, so I want to borrow five million dollars in venture debt.” But when we propose business and financial covenants around the loan, founders would come back and revise their projections e.g., “I can’t grow 4x within 12 months.”

A very canny CFO from one of our portfolio companies once shared that taking on venture debt has allowed him to introduce financial discipline within his startup. An example would be working out the mortgage repayment I described earlier and discipline is needed to make repayments on time. Having a venture lender onboard gives him the confidence that he has passed the stringent credit litmus test and he can confidently tell prospective VCs that he has a track record of being financially disciplined. Therefore covenants that are structured reasonably will help companies grow, rather than suffocate. Hence it would be useful to have a candid conversation with your venture debt lender on the purpose of the proposed covenants.

I hope the above “advanced level” clarifications about venture debt is useful for you. For an elementary overview of venture debt, please read this article on the Top 10 Questions Every Founder Asks About Venture Debt.”  If you have any questions on how venture debt can support your startup’s growth, please do not hesitate to contact me.

(A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn on 28 February 2022.)


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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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Our Partner and co-founder, Ben J Benjamin answers some frequently asked questions about venture debt from start-up founders.

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. In effect, venture debt can empower growth while minimizing equity dilution.

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

2. What about interest rates? And collateral?

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

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

Given the nature of a startup’s business, very few of them have any collateral to pledge to the loan agreement. Unlike banks,  venture debt lenders will not ask for personal guarantees or collateral. Instead, lenders will ask for warrants and include covenants to ensure repayment.

3. What are the typical payment terms?

The loan usually has to be repaid within 36 months, fully amortized. 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 equity 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 equity dilution at the early stages of the company’s growth, it makes sense to use venture debt to minimize 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 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, networks, and value-add.

8. I like the idea of minimizing equity 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 venture 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 fundraising, 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 capitalization table with good investors on board, 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



 

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