Women In Asia Are Getting Ahead In the Venture World

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Which women are breaking through in the world of business in Asia?
Of an elite group who have shaken things up over the past year, three of 50 power women profiled in the April issue of Forbes Asia come from the venture capital and tech investing world:  Solina Chau of tycoon Li Ka-Shing connected powerhouse Horizon Ventures in Hong Kong, Tina Ju of KPCB China and TDF Capital in Shanghai, and Ho Ching of Singaporean state-owned investment firm Temasek.  Additionally, Anna Fang of Beijing-based ZhenFund, the largest angel fund in China, counts as one of the 12 women to watch. See Forbes post by Silicon Dragon editor Rebecca Fannin.
To break through in the male-dominated and clubby venture capital world means that these women really must be very special. From my experience in covering venture since 2000, it seems to me to be easier to have impact and break through the glass barrier in Asia than in the U.S.  By my count, there are many more female partners at China and India venture firms compared with those at Sand Hill Road, Silicon Alley and Silicon Beach.
Some that come to mind who are powerful venture investors in Asia are Stella Xi of Keytone Ventures, Ruby Lu of DCM, Kathy Xu of Capital Today, Nisa Leung and Helen Wong of Qiming Venture, Melissa Guzy of Arbor Ventures, Vani Kola of NEA IndoUS, Veena Avadhanam of Mumbai Angels, and Bharati Jacob of Seedfund.
Adding to this, the recently published Forbes Midas list of 100 leading venture capitalists globally makes a point of noting only five women who made the rankings: Mary Meeker, Rebecca Lynn, Theresia Gouw, Beth Seidenberg, and Jenny Lee, the sole woman on the Midas list from Asia. See prior Silicon Dragon post at Forbes on top 100 VCs globally. – by Rebecca Fannin, Silicon Dragon

U.S. – Emerging Markets

Tesla1This week saw American electric vehicle maker Tesla make headlines for launching its Model 3, a $35,000 car that drew more than 150,000 pre-orders. Though attention centered on CEO Elon Musk’s presentation in California, hype was also high in China, India, Brazil, Singapore, South Korea and South Africa. Tesla is expanding its network of Supercharger stations and service centers globally, and is slated to more than double its showrooms to cover over 440 locations across North America, Asia and Europe by the end of 2017. Musk has been targeting China as a key market though Tesla sales in China were initially disappointing last year but could pick up as Chinese fans lined up pre-order the Model 3 sedan at Tesla experience centers.

Uber, going after the Asian market and facing enormous local competition from Didi Kuaidi and GrabTaxi, upped the game by unveiling an SDK targeted at developers in China and India that integrates its service into apps. Uber has been losing some $1 billion a year battling for market share in China, but with “hundreds” of cities reaching profitability over the past six months, the ride-hailing service can afford to continue investing heavily in its China operations, with an eye toward overall China market profitability within two years. Uber also is expanding operations in Africa, opening three new markets.

Andreessen Horowitz has led the $9.2 million Series A round of Branch, a mobile-first digital bank for developing markets, alongside seed investors Khosla Impact and Joe Lonsdale’s 8VC. The startup, based in San Francisco and Nairobi, Kenya, is a “branchless bank” structured as a for-profit business. The investment marks a16z’s first in a U.S.-based company that services Sub-Saharan Africa as its primary market.

Matchmaking app Dil Mil, which connects South Asians across the globe, has raised $2.7 million from investors including CSC Upshot, Transmedia Capital, Maiden Lane Ventures and Naval Ravikant (founder of AngelList). Launched in 2014 and based in San Francisco, Dil Mil uses multi-source verification and detailed partner preferences to create potential matches, which can be used worldwide. The team plans to use the fresh funds to experiment with new product features such as video dates and VR dates.

Cross-border VC firm GGV Capital participated in the $200 million funding round of popular work chat app Slack, alongside lead investor Thrive Capital, Comcast Ventures, and Slack’s existing investors Accel, Index Ventures and Social Capital. The latest funding valuing the startup at $3.8 billion comes in spite of a contraction in VC funding for tech startups and amid widespread concern about high valuations.
Slack has opened its first outpost in Asia, in Melbourne, as its headquarters in the APAC region.  The Melbourne office will house a sales team, an engineering team, and a technical operations team, adding to its existing 360 employees around the world.


The value of M&A deals in the APAC region dropped sharply in the first quarter of 2016, largely due to a slowdown in Chinese domestic activity that has led Chinese firms to pursue more deals in the U.S. China’s outbound acquisitions in Q1, most of which were in the U.S., reached $81.7 billion, comprising nearly all of the Asia region’s total outbound deal value. Indian firms looking to establish a global presence ranked second in terms of deal making activity, with 23 deals worth $2.2 billion. Meanwhile, amid the market volatility of Q1, no technology companies listed on U.S. exchanges.
The long-term trend of a foreign buying spree by Chinese companies has continued to push ahead despite this past week’s withdrawal of a bid by China’s Anbang Insurance Group to buy Starwood Hotels. Some $113 billion has been announced by Chinese companies on overseas deals this year after a record tally of $121 billion in 2015. At least one major corporate investor, billionaire Guo Guangchang, founder and chairman of Fosun Group, has pull back this year after investing more than $10 billion overseas in the past two years. Fosun’s notable deals include buying a stake in circus troupe Cirque du Soleil and purchasing resort operator Club Méditerranée SA. Read the Wall Street Journal interview with Guo, here.

Counting on growth of China’s strong healthcare sector, Goldman Sachs has put $37 million into Venus Medtech, a Hangzhou-based replacement heart valve maker that meets China FDA requirements. Firms Sequoia Capital China, Qiming Venture Partners and Dinova Venture Capital participated.

A team from China, the China Computer Go team, plans to challenge Google’s AlphaGo, the AI program that beat a world-class player in Go, a board game that originated in ancient China more than 2,000 years ago. AlphaGo, developed by Google subsidiary DeepMind, shocked audiences when it beat South Korean professional Go player, South Korean Lee Sedol in Seoul this past March.
Meanwhile, a high-profile visit to China by Google CEO Sundar Pichai reflects a potential warming of ties between Google and China, and even possible phone or app store launches in China.

WeWork, backed by China’s Legend Holdings and its Hony Capital fund, is preparing to open co-working spaces in Shanghai, Hong Kong and several other Chinese cities during the second half of 2016. WeWork is likely to face strong competition from local players in an increasingly crowded market. China’s Ministry added more than 360 companies to the list of “national technology incubators” this year, compared with 135 in total last year. URwork, an incubator in Beijing, raised $30 million in March, and Beijing’s Kr Space reached a $150 million valuation in January. Thousands of incubators and shared spaces have sprung up across China since early last year, many of them imitating WeWork, but remaining largely empty as the slowing economy has weighed on startup funding and more entrants have launched. “So many incubators, so few startups,” has become a common refrain among seasoned founders.
The Chinese government has continued to tout startups as a new engine of China’s economic growth beyond traditional manufacturing and exports, with Premiere Li Keqiang visiting several incubators and shared-office spaces and often using the words “innovate” and “start businesses” in his latest annual government work report.

Samsung Pay has entered China via a partnership with local bank card organization China UnionPay. While the launch is a milestone for Samsung, it comes at a time when China’s payments space is becomingly increasingly crowded, especially with the introduction of Apple Pay against a backdrop of market dominance by Tencent’s WeChat Payment and Ant Financial (Alibaba)’s Alipay. Some 350 million people in China pay for goods with their mobile phones.

Broadening its “ecosystem products,” which include TVs and Internet routers, Xiaomi has launched a smartphone-controlled rice cooker that sells for $150 and adds to Xiaomi’s network of smart household products, which contributed roughly 5 percent of the company’s total revenue last year. The rice cooker is the first product under a new sub-brand, named “Mijia” (Mi Home).

LeEco subsidiary Le Sports has completed a $1.2 billion Series B funding round at a $3.3 billion valuation. More than 30 investors, including HNA Group and Chinese celebrity investors actor Sun Honglei, actor Jia Nailiang, and actress Liu Tao participated. Though its business model revolves around broadcasting sporting events globally, Le Sports has also invested in device development. The independently funded subsidiary has 14 million unique visitors per day, about 3 percent of China’s online video users.

New York-based global investment firm KRR and existing investor Alibaba have put an undisclosed amount into Yiguo, a Chinese online fresh-produce e-commerce platform. The round is confirmed to be higher than the $220 million Series C financing received by rival Womai.com.


Foxconn is paying $3.5 billion for a 66 percent stake in Japan’s Sharp, a figure lower than the $6.2 billion fee that Sharp had announced a month earlier. Amidst sluggish sales of flat screens and TVs, can Taiwanese billionaire Foxconn CEO Terry Gou prove that he made the right bet on a household brand that needs a strategic overhaul? Eva Dou of the Wall Street Journal goes behind the Sharp deal and profiles Gou here.


India has updated its foreign direct investment (FDI) regulations to allow 100 percent FDI in B2C e-commerce. The announcement from the country’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) potentially opens the doors for global retail players such as Alibaba, eBay and Walmart to buy up e-commerce players in India, a market that is predicted to grow to $100 billion by 2020 from today’s $10 billion. This development is highly significant as India has traditionally had strict rules around foreign involvement in retail. Though many overseas firms have already picked up stakes in India’s top e-commerce firms – for example, eBay in Snapdeal and Amazon in Snapdeal and Paytm – the new regulation could foresee a wave of future investments and acquisitions as these firms are able to to invest more heavily and build out their footprint in India.

Former Tesla Motors CIO Jay Vijayan has led a $500,000 seed funding round in FixNix, a Chennai-based governance, risk and compliance solution for enterprises. Other unnamed Silicon Valley-based angel investors participated in the deal.


Tokyo-based Rakuten has confirmed a new round of funding for Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory (ACSL), a Japan-based firm that develops robotics and drones for industrial purposes, taking a 20 percent stake. The Japanese company’s interest in drones comes after it closed down a number of global operations and announced a new strategy focused on growth areas of its business. This week Rakuten also participated in the $33 million Series A of a Japanese online talent search platform, Bizreach. YJ Capital, the investment arm of Yahoo Japan, led the round. Salesforce Venures, Dentsu Digital Holdings, East Ventures, and IMJ Investment Partners also joined in. The round follows the startup’s first funding from Japanese investment firm Jafco in 2010. The new funds will be used to improve its employment search engines and job listing services.


Malaysia’s state investment arm, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, led the $170 million Series D financing of Garena, a Singapore-based company that makes mobile gaming, e-commerce and payment apps. The round values Garena at $3.75 billion, and brings the company’s total capital raised to $500 million. Earlier investors in the startup include U.S.-based PE fund General Atlantic, Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, and Keytone Ventures. Khazanah recently also made big bets on Chinese online lending platform WeLab and travel search engine Skyscanner.


Philippine VC firm PLDT Capital (the investment arm of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company) has invested $5 million in Silicon Valley-based Matrixx Software, a provider of real-time, integrated infrastructure for digital service providers. The investment is PDLT Capital’s fifth since it was founded in September 2015 with a $50 million fund, and is part of the firm’s strategy to create an innovation bridge between leading suppliers of consumer technologies around the world and PLDT’s market in the Philippines.


The startup nation of Israel is continuing to see robust signs, with predictions by IVC Research Center and KPMG of nearly $1 billion in venture capital to be raised in 2016. Last year saw 18 new venture funds raised for a total of slightly over $1 billion. Meanwhile, the number of Israeli startups reached 7,400, up from 2,000 in 2004. China interest is helping to fuel the market. Some 500 Chinese business delegations visited Israel in 2015 to meet with Israeli tech companies, VCs, incubators and government officials. More than 60 new Chinese investors have begun investing in Israeli companies since 2012, a topic explored at Silicon Dragon Tel Aviv 2015.


  • Silicon Dragon weekly digest by contributor Ying-Ying Lu

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