Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin: Billionaire investor in Singapore start-ups

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin at the launch of online property search portal 99.co in January.
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin at the launch of online property search portal 99.co in January. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has invested in about five Singapore tech start-ups since his arrival here in 2009.

They are software development firm called Anideo, Nitrous.IO , e-grocer Redmart and property portal 99.co. His latest investment in a media firm will be announced next week.

The sums he invested in each company are not disclosed but industry insiders put it at over $3 million.

Mr Saverin who has been here since 2009 will be getting married to Ms Elaine Andriejanssen, 31, an Indonesian Chinese based in Singapore.

Start-up founders who have received funding from him say he is a good investor to have, as his business insights on customer acquisition and marketing help his portfolio companies grow faster.

Co-founder of property portal 99.co Darius Cheung told The Straits Times: "He shares his insights with us which is really useful because it reduces our mistakes and speeds up our business expansion."

Mr Saverin sits on 99.co's board. Mr Cheung has at least one meeting with him every quarter and he is always accessible on his phone.

Mr Saverin was the lead investor in 99.co when the start-up raised about US$1.6 million in January 2015 and is its board member.

Mr Roger Egan, co-founder of Redmart, said Mr Saverin is "smart money", referring to his global connections to help start-ups go global or get additional funding.

"He's also proactively helpful. He suggested that we e-mail customers to let them know that they can save money if deliveries can be made at a certain time. This lets us group deliveries together, allowing us to cut down on our logistics cost."

In his last interview with The Straits Times in January 2015, he said that he was interested in funding Internet start-ups with products and services aimed at mass consumers.

I look at the "bigger picture of how to make the world a better place" before deciding on where to invest, said Mr Saverin who spoke during the announcement of his investment in 99.co.

"I've always put the consumer in the centre, identify the big problems they face, then see how technology can be used to solve those problems."

He believes 99.co can help people find the best home possible. In Redmart, it is about giving busy people the convenience of buying groceries online.

He also said then that Singapore can succeed as a tech start-up hub because of its growing pool of experienced entrepreneurs, more top-tier venture capital firms setting up offices here, and the availability of engineers and computer science graduates from local universities.

Last month, he was among foreign and local entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers invited to the Istana to meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the opening reception of start-up conference Founders Forum. Mr Lee said the government supports entrepreneurship and wants to invite tech startups to use Singapore as a test-bed for disruptive products and services.

Mr Saverin told The Straits Times that he "was quite impressed with the PM's enthusiasm for the (start-up) space".

The tall and gangly Brazilian is very private and although ultra-wealthy - he is worth about US$5 billion - he does not move around with bodyguards.

He does not seek publicity, preferring to speak to the media only to support his investee companies.

Mr Cheung of 99.co said Mr Saverin is really a nice guy.

"I mean, it's weird right? He's so wealthy yet he is humble. He genuinely wants to help start-ups."

chngkeg@sph.com.sg