Golden Gate Ventures closes new $60 million fund for Southeast Asia

Singapore-based Golden Gate Ventures has closed a new $60 million fund for Southeast Asia’s rapidly-growing startup ecosystem.

The firm first announced its new fund last summer, when it had closed an initial $35 million in capital from investors including Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek and Naver, the Korea-based owner of soon-to-go-public chat app Line. Now it has surpassed its original target of $50 million having added a range of new backers that include Korea’s Hanwha Life Insurance, Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank, and Germany’s Hubert Burda Media.

Founded by ex-Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Vinnie Lauria, Jeffrey Paine and Paul Bragiel in 2012, Golden Gate Ventures began as a $10 million seed fund. It has since invested in over 30 companies across 10 countries via two funds, this latest being the second which has expanded its focus from seed into Series A, too.

“This is like we’ve done our Series B, we’ve matured as a fund,” Lauria, who founded and sold U.S. forum site Lefora with Bragiel before moving to Asia, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“There’s more confidence in ourselves in terms of the check sizes [and] we’ve gotten mentally stronger in terms of how we are approaching things. That’s just us growing up alongside the ecosystem,” he added.

Southeast Asia has gained increased exposure over the past year or so thanks to a series of deals that include Alibaba’s billion-dollar investment in e-commerce firm Lazada, the rise of Grab and its alliance with Lyft and other Uber rivals, and reports which show that the region — which has a cumulative population of over 600 million, 250 million of whom are currently internet users — is poised for massive growth in its digital economy.

Yet, Lauria — who discussed life as a U.S. VC in Southeast Asia with us earlier this year — insisted that raising this fund was no easy task, despite it being over-subscribed. Most of the fund’s LPs are Asia-based, and Golden Gate Ventures founding partner Lauria said there had been little interest from U.S.-based entities although European organizations were more aware of the region.

Some family offices in Europe “see this as a region with good financial returns and want to plug in with someone who can help,” he said. While others like Hubert Burda Media, which has put money into Vietnamese search firm Croc Coc and Bangkok-based Medial Departures, are “actively looking and keen to invest with someone who shares their philosophy,” Lauria observed.

Golden Gate Ventures has cut checks from the fund since announcing the first close, and the focus will continue to be on marketplaces, e-commerce and other internet services with “a consumer feel to them,” as was previously described to us, with capital split between seed, and larger deals and follow-on rounds.

Lauria said the additional $10 million raised will help Golden Gate Ventures write a few more larger checks than it had originally expected to, but there aren’t plans to massively ramp up further down the line.

“We love the early stage. If we do awesome, we’ll raise another fund that is in line with the market. But I want to be a small fund [that’s] nimble like a boutique [and attracts] startups because we are early stage and work much closer with them,” he said.

There’s much momentum for investing in Southeast Asia, where other new funds include B Capital from Saverin, which is backed by BCG and targeting a $250 million close, a $100 million fund from Jungle Ventures (which is also doubling down on seed-stage investing), and Venturra Capital’s $150 million fund, but Lauria doesn’t see fierce rivalries at this point.

“It isn’t so competitive that we are losing deals, but the landscape is large and competitive enough to invest in different ways,” he said. “If you’re a global investor thinking early stage internet, you’re not thinking Southeast Asia yet, but that will change, it’s a few years away.”

Last summer, around the time of the fund’s first close, Golden Gate Ventures issued a report that looked closely at Southeast Asia’s potential as a startup ecosystem. Its most recent release is focused on M&A and exit potential in the region.

The latest data from the firm suggests that startups in Southeast Asia have attracted $1.7 billion in investment capital this year alone, with VC funding doubling year-on-year. Though a large chunk of the 2016 to date cash came from Alibaba-Lazada, Golden Gate Ventures believes it is a sign of a hugely positive future.

“Despite the perceived difficulties in China affecting investor sentiment in the country, investment continues to flow into Southeast Asia,” it said in a statement.