Sea President Nick Nash is leaving to start his own Asia-focused investment fund

Nick Nash is leaving his role as group president of Sea, the Singapore-based games and e-commerce company that went public in the U.S. last year, to start his own startup fund.

Sea announced that Nash will exit the company at the end of 2018, giving it plenty of time to transition and find a replacement. In the meantime, TechCrunch understands that Nash will begin fundraising with a view to starting his own investment fund that will focus on technology companies in Asia.

The exact name of Nash’s firm is still to be decided, but a source with knowledge of the plans revealed that the Sea executive plans to use his experience taking Sea, which was formerly known as Garena, public via a billion-dollar listing on the New York Stock Exchange last October. The listing was notable as a rare example of an exit in Southeast Asia.

Nash is said to be eying investment potential around the Series B and Series C ‘gap’ in Southeast Asia, and the wider Asian continent. That’s essentially the space that Sea was in prior to its IPO.

A spokesperson confirmed Nash’s plans in a statement:

Nick recently shared that his long-term plan is to return to his roots in investment. This comes at a time when our IPO has been completed and we are on a strong financial footing for our next phase of growth. Nick has committed to stay until the end of 2018 to ensure a seamless transition and hand-over of his responsibilities.

Until the end of 2018, Nick will continue advising Sea its long-term strategies with a focus on ensuring a smooth transition. Nick will then embark on his next adventure of investing in the next generation of technology and technology-enabled businesses in Asia. We think his plan of investing in technology companies in Asia is a very exciting one and wish him every success in the pursuit of his passion.

Nash joined Sea from General Atlantic, one of its investors, in late 2014. Most startups don’t usually give out grand titles like ‘Group President’ which, combined with constant rumors of a public listing, certainly seemed to suggest that the hiring was very much made to take the company public. Now that the achievement has been made, it isn’t a huge surprise that Nash is moving on to his next challenge.

His exit comes at a time when Sea is under pressure for mounting losses.

The firm announced an annual loss of $561 million for 2017 today, more than double its figure for 2016. Revenue for the financial year grew by 20 percent to reach $414 million, but that was only half of the rate at which Sea’s sales costs increased.

The company is anchored by its core gaming business — which maintains strong links with investor Tencent and other publishers — while it is burning money to get into e-commerce with its Shopee venture. The company also offers a digital payment service.

Shopee competes with Alibaba’s Lazada and, in Singapore, Amazon. The business saw its GMV jump to $4.1 billion in 2017 from $1.5 billion in 2016. Sea doesn’t break out Shopee’s revenue or other costs.

Sea’s share price debuted at $15 but was $12.26 at the time of writing.

Update: Forest Li, Sea chairman and CEO, paid tribute to Nash’s efforts in an email to the company’s 5,000-plus staff:

Dear Sailors,

Please join me in extending best wishes to Nick Nash, our Group President, who will be retiring from our company at the end of 2018.

Nick has served as Sea’s Group President since December 2014. In the past three years, Nick played a critical role in Sea’s tremendous growth, especially in our IPO in 2017. I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Nick’s distinguished achievements as Group President. His energetic leadership, business judgment, and tireless dedication to our mission have made a lasting contribution to Sea.

At the latest year-end dialogue session with Nick, Nick shared with me his potential plan of going back to his roots and starting a private equity fund, which would focus on supporting the next generation of technology and technology-enabled businesses in Asia. As you may know, prior to joining Sea, Nick was with the private equity firm General Atlantic for over a decade. I am excited about Nick’s plan to launch his new initiative in the near future and to embrace an exciting path with a new set of challenges.

Both Nick and I feel that his retirement at the end of 2018 is a well-timed one. Sea has executed its strategies well over the past several years, achieving strong leadership positions across three business segments. With its successful IPO, our company is now on a strong financial footing for the next phase of growth. Most importantly, we both have great confidence in the next generation of talents who will step into Nick’s responsibilities with skill and dedication.

The ten-month transition period between now and Nick’s departure at the end of 2018 demonstrates Nick’s commitment to a thoughtful, phased transition plan for Sea. With the contributions he has made to Sea and the alignment of the mission of Sea and that of his new initiative, we look forward to a long-term partnership with Nick.

Let’s wish Nick the very best in this new chapter of his life!