On April 2010, we opened Neoteny Labs‘ first fund (Neoteny Startup 1) to investors and capped the fund at US$5 million. We didn’t want to raise more because we felt US$5 million, combined with the leverage from NRF, would suffice for an early-stage venture fund focused on consumer internet startups in Asia. A month later, we closed the fund to strong interest from investors such as Omidyar Network, Digital Garage, Netprice, Outblaze, Emitac, Fred Wilson, Brad Burnham, Tovio Annus, Michael Levinthal, Owen Van Natta, Jeff Jonas, Mohamed Nanabhay, Dhananjaya Dvivedi, Balall Yaqub, Mamoru Taniya, Oki Matsumoto, Teruhide Sato, Jun Makihara and a few other cool folks we can’t name. Credit goes to Joi for raising most of it, although I chipped in at fund raising with investments from local investors such as Jayesh Parekh and Darius Cheung.
And then we got down to business. Since May 2010, we’ve made investments into 10 companies, with a handful more in various stages of completion. We tapped on the NRF TIS program for 4 of our 10 completed investments. Of the 10 investments, 7 have teams in Singapore. Almost all of the co-founders of these 7 companies were immigrants. The other 3 investments were located in the US (2) and Hong Kong (1). In case you’re wondering – although the fund is focused on Asia, we still try to keep an eye on what goes on in the Valley, and occasionally we come across a team with a product that we love.
I think I’ve also learnt a lot and grown somewhat over the past year together with the portfolio. I was a little overwhelmed at first, having to figure out a ton of stuff as it happened for the first time and sorting out kinks as we got our processes up and running, but Joi has been a patient General Partner, great mentor and chummy friend through it all. Farhan joined me in Singapore about halfway through, and has been a godsend since.
With a little over 2 years of the fund’s investment period remaining and well over half of the fund invested, I think we’re going to give up some of our initial investment momentum, go slower and figure out the region better, while continuing to keep a lookout for solid teams with great products to match their global ambitions. I’ve been to KL, Jakarta and Manila only once since we started, and can’t say I know the tech startup communities there well enough. I would love to spend time this year in KL, Jakarta, Vietnam and possibly check out Karachi.
We’ll also continue to work closely with our portfolio on all things small and big. Hiring (especially software engineers) for the companies in our portfolio is something that I won’t ever stop thinking about. I’m personally psyched by the plans and progress made by some within our portfolio, but will leave it to them to spill the beans when they think the timing is right.
That’s all for now I guess. I hope there will be more to share with you in the months ahead!
Photo courtesy of franchellin vincent via Fotopedia