Capital way to help tech-enabled small firms

B Capital partners (from far left) Gavin Teo, Kabir Narang and Eduardo Saverin. The fund is looking for entrepreneurial firms with a "global-first" mindset.
B Capital partners (from left) Gavin Teo, Kabir Narang and Eduardo Saverin. The fund is looking for entrepreneurial firms with a "global-first" mindset.PHOTO: B CAPITAL

A global venture capital firm co-founded by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has raised US$360 million (S$478 million) at the final close of its fund.

Investors in B Capital Group include pension funds, banks and insurance companies, as well as family offices. Mr Saverin said the fund is looking for entrepreneurial firms with a "global-first" mindset.

It aims to invest in the "technology-enabled" areas of financial services, healthcare, industrial logistics and consumer enablement - all areas where there is tremendous growth potential in Asia.

Portfolio companies include Mswipe Technologies, India's largest independent merchant acquirer and point-of-sale network provider; and Ninja Van, a Singapore-based logistics firm.

Mr Saverin said: "We're not just investors passively backing the entrepreneur. We're business builders... rolling up our sleeves and helping companies scale on a global level."

B Capital's vision is to help bridge the gap between innovative entrepreneurs who need resources, and corporations that seek to innovate and partner companies with emerging technologies.

"It's going away from the idea of people in a dorm room or incubation space trying to disrupt the businesses of this world, but that same group of individuals building phenomenal technology, leveraging the distribution network, the regulatory know-how of the largest businesses of the world to scale their growth," he added.

B Capital is founded in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group. This enables it to match cutting-edge start-ups with top corporations, platforms and brands. It has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Singapore. It focuses on providing B and C Series funding to firms that already have products and generate revenue.

B Capital partner Kabir Narang said valuations have started to stabilise. "That's good news for us... There is a big gap in B and C Series funding. That's why it's a very interesting time... a happy hunting ground where you can see some level of traction to evaluate companies, with the ability to compare and contrast entrepreneurs and their (business) models."

Fellow partner Gavin Teo said it is also a good time in the macroeconomic cycle, when corporates are sitting on cash. "The combination of high profits and low corporate taxes means there is a lot of cash on balance sheets for the types of companies we bring to bear as partners for the portfolio firms we invest in.

"This is a good time to invest, but also a good time to look at potential exits in the next 18 months as we are at a point of the cycle where a lot of companies will be looking to buy growth inorganically."

B Capital expects to invest up to US$20 million in each portfolio company, including reserves for future growth funding.

Mr Saverin believes "tech enablement" of the world has a very long runway: "We're less than 1 per cent of the way in terms of how technology is enabling society.

"If you think about large businesses that have come to bear on the technology side, like Google and Facebook, both of those started targeting an advertising market in their early days, which was meaningfully smaller than the types of markets that the companies we invest in today are tackling - healthcare, financial services, logistics.

"These are massive industries."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'Capital way to help tech-enabled small firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe