I started my journey in startups & tech more than 10 years ago. The year was 2009, but the world was still reeling from the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis. It didn’t matter to the bunch of us who were in Silicon Valley as part of the NUS Overseas Programme (NOC) though; we were starry-eyed couldn’t wait to immerse ourselves in the startup ecosystem that started it all. And this same group of twenty-something year olds were inspired to do something similar in Singapore.
The startup ecosystem in Singapore and Southeast Asia was effectively primordial back then. There were no unicorns, little to no financing options, and tech as a career was an interesting conversation topic at the dinner table but definitely far from mainstream. Those of us who chose to work on startups and in tech were optimists and idealists. We believed that we were able to build something meaningful here in Southeast Asia, and in doing so, make the world a better place.
Fast forward 10 years later.
This year, we’ve seen the birth of 5 unicorns across the region so far. In Q1 2021 alone, more than $2b poured into the region. That’s a far cry from $1.5bn in 2015. There are more options at every financing stage, from accelerators and incubators (Antler, Entrepreneur First, Iterative etc) to growth stage funds. Heck, we even have super angel groups, scout programmes, syndicates etc.
It is against this backdrop that me and Kaspar decided to team up and launch Forge Ventures.
It started with a simple thought – that while the ecosystem had changed tremendously over the last 10 years, seed investing hasn’t changed all that much. So we asked ourselves a simple question – what would a venture fund look like if the model was invented in 2021 rather than in 2000?
Over the last several years, having spent time on both sides of the table, both Kaspar and I observed and learned several things:
- That a small fund size is good and brings alignment. Alignment between investors and founders. Alignment between GPs and LPs.
- That the founder is the customer – that successful investors exist to serve founders, and not the other way around.
- That with the right level of investment, nurturing and tools, you can transform a portfolio of companies into a community of founders.
- That in a post-COVID world, we are now competing on a global stage. Capital is commoditised, and the index mentality permeates all facets of life.
And this is where things get personal for me:
- We chat a lot about product-market fit in startup land, but not enough in VC land. I believe that your fund size is your strategy, and in early stage seed investing, small is beautiful.
- I love rolling up my sleeve to work with founders at the earliest stages of company building. To me, that’s where the magic is.
- I am a product person at heart. I love tinkering with new products and applications. A large part of what we will be doing at FVC is using tech-enabled workflows, processes and APIs that enable us to punch above our weight class and create more value for our founders.
- With the above in mind, the best way I can be of service is to have deep partnerships with each and every one of our founders. This also means that at FVC we will only work with 15 to 20 teams, and we will want to make sure we move the needle for every one of them.