If you follow Southeast Asia funding, you’re probably familiar with iSeed SEA. Some of the startups the fund has invested in since it launched in 2020 include Dat Bike, Skuad and Upmesh. What you might not know, however, is that iSeed SEA is a solo GP fund. Now that solo GP, AngelList alum Wing Vasiksiri, is back with a new fund, called WV Fund II.
The second fund brings Wing Vasiksiri’s total assets under management to $14 million. The core thesis of iSeed SEA and WV Fund II is to close the gap between Southeast Asia and Silicon Valley, since most of Vasiksiri’s network and many of his LPs are in the U.S. This means investing in seed-stage startups from a wide range of sectors, and introducing them to LPs or operators in the U.S., or bringing them onboard as co-investors.
Vasiksiri typically writes checks between $100,000 to $500,000, depending on whether he is the lead investor or not, and the valuation stage of a company.
The 30 startups in Vasiksiri’s portfolio have raised a combined total of over $85 million in follow-on funding from a who’s who of investors, including Sequoia Capital, Y Combinator, AlphaJWC, AC Ventures, East Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Openspace Ventures, Monks Hill Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures and MDI Ventures. Some examples of his investments include Humble, HD, Virtual Internships, Mio, Delos, Staffinc, Rukita and TCC.
Investors in Vasiksiri’s second fund include institutional LPs such as Republic Capital, EGR Partners (Elisabeth de Rothschild’s family office), Kamco Invest and Central Pattana. Individual LPs include Duo founder and CEO Dug Song, Albert Wenger and USV managing partner Susan Danziger, Doordash and Square executive Gokul Rajaram, former Airbnb China COO Kum Hong Siew and operators from Dropbox, Discord and Github.
The solo GP model is new to Southeast Asia, but has gained traction in Europe and the U.S., where Elad Gill, Lachy Groom and Josh Buckley are examples of investors running funds on their own.
Vasiksiri told TechCrunch that solo GP funds first started in the U.S. with angel investors who were getting allocations to good deals and proprietary networks, and wanted to institutionalize their investing. So they raised capital from other sources to invest at a larger scale.
Before launching his own funds, Vasiksiri worked in operations at AngelList, where he got close to AngelList India founder Utsav Somani, who now serves as one of his advisors and is the founder of micro-fund iSeed. The two thought about launching AngelList Southeast Asia, but then the pandemic got in the way of their plans. They continued talking to investors and founders, however, and got excited about trends they were seeing in the region. These included a relatively high GDP per capita, a growing middle class and more people coming online. The first generation of startups were going public, including Grab and Bukalapak, and the problem of downstream capital was being solved by funds like Tiger.
Vasiksiri said benefits of a solo GP fund include speed and transparency since he’s the only decision maker and can commit to a round within days, or even hours.
“There are both pros and cons to this model, but I think the biggest pro is the shape of your relationships with founders is drastically different when the relationship is entirely with you. There’s no kind of hierarchy to it,” he said. “You think about a traditional fund, what a founder does is talk to the analyst, the top-tier associate, maybe talk to a partner and then they talk to ICs or GPs. Oftentimes, the founder is telling the same story.”
With a solo GP fund, however, the GP plays all those roles. “You can dig deeper, you can really build up more of an authentic, genuine relationship with the founder by spending more time with them. I think it eliminates the principal/agent problem entirely.”
Another benefit is that a solo GP can relate to the experiences of founders. “I consider myself a founder, too, just instead of starting a company, I started a fund. I think having that high empathy for the entrepreneur journey, thinking through similar things and understanding how hard it is to be a new entrant competing with incumbents in this space.”
Being a solo GP is also helpful when working with other investors because Vasiksiri isn’t fighting to get high allocations and he doesn’t have ownership requirements. This lets him collaborate instead of compete with other funds. “As you scale up your fund, your collaborators and competitors change at every stage of them game,” he said. “I think remaining disciplined and small, this fund size allows me to do things like openly share deals, avoid adverse selection from other funds, and build off other relationships in a win-win way.”
Vasiksiri focuses on Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia as his core markets, and also looks for opportunities in the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. Vasiksiri is sector agnostic, and instead looks at big contributors to GDP in each country. For example, this include agriculture and aquaculture in Indonesia, so Vasiksiri invests in companies like Delos, a startup developing sensors and other tech to help shrimp farmers increase their yields.
Other areas he’s interested in include fintech, particularly payments and infrastructure, and gaming. “I think Southeast Asia is uniquely positioned for either a big game publisher or a game developer to emerge,” he said. “There are a lot of users here, especially with mobile games, and a lot of players are located in Thailand, the Philippines, a lot of creative talent as well.” Climate tech is also another important sector, since Southeast Asia is expected to become a net importer of natural gas by 2025, and needs to transition to green energy.
While there are only a handful of solo GPs in Southeast Asia, Vasiksiri expects more to emerge as the ecosystem matures, especially as founders of successful startups become angel investors.
“I think a source of solo GPs might emerge it becomes more institutionalized, from writing personal checks to raising funds,” he said. “This is the first generation of solo GPs here and I believe as the ecosystem matures, we’ll see a lot more.”
The solo GP behind iSeed SEA launches his second fund for Southeast Asia by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch