Nobuaki Kitagawa is bringing CyberAgent Ventures to Thailand
Echelon Ignite saw many international investors, but the greatest interest came, without a doubt, from Japan. This was most prominently embodied by Global Brain being the premium Echelon Ignite sponsor, but also by looking at the Investor Panel on the first day, and the Investor Roundtable during the second day. This comes with no surprise. Thailand and Japan have a long standing business and governmental cooperation. Major Japanese companies manufacture in Thailand (Sony, Nikon, and Toyota just to name a few) and Bangkok’s largest expat community is Japanese. In June Japan amended VISA requirements for Thai citizens, in a move to boost travel.
Since the relationship are good and Japanese investors have already established themselves in most countries around the region, and are looking for fast growing markets, Thailand was somewhat the logic next step.
One of the investors coming to Thailand is CyberAgent Ventures. We spoke with Nobuaki Kitagawa, CEO of CyberAgent Ventures Beijing.
As of my knowledge you have not invested in any Startups in Thailand and I assume many Startups here don’t know CyberAgent Ventures yet. Could you explain a bit what kind of investments CAV has made in the past and what you general investment approach is?
CyberAgent Ventures is a venture capital firm focusing on early-stage Startups in the consumer Internet sector in Asia. We have been operating VC business in Japan, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Korea. Our portfolio covers a variety of the consumer Internet-related companies throughout Asia including:
- Mixi (Social networking service in Japan)
- DeNA (Mobile social game platform in Japan)
- Youku-Tudou (Online video sharing service in China)
- Userjoy (Online gaming developer in China and Taiwan)
- Kakao Corp. (Smartphone messaging platform in Korea)
- Vatgia (E-commerce marketplace in Vietnam)
- Tokopedia (E-commerce marketplace in Indonesia)
We have offices in Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Taipei, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Seoul with 25 investment professionals in total.
You have various offices around Asia, do you plan to have a physical presence in Thailand, and if so, what team size are you looking at?
Yes. In fact we will announce our first investment in Thailand very soon and plan to set up our new office in Bangkok early next year. In terms of the size, it will be a few investment professionals as other offices of CAV.
What is attracting you most to the Thailand Startup community and what kind of investments are you looking to make in Thailand, in terms of size and area?
While the Internet market there is very promising, there are few venture capitals to support start-ups to grow further into a growth stage after they get funded/ supported by incubators/accelerators. We would like to fill the gap. We focus on early stage investments. As series-A investor, our average investment size will be about US$0.5M-1M per deal and we will mainly target at BtoC consumer Internet services.
Are you going to look for investment partners in Thailand?
We are very open to work with partners in Thailand as recognizing ourselves as new comer there.
On what do you base your investment decisions?
1. Potential market size of business; 2- differentiation/uniqueness of product compared with competitors in the market; 3- management team
What can a Startup expect, if you decide you decide to invest? Are you going to provide “only” money or are you providing expertise and help as well? How strongly will you get involved in the day-to-day business, business strategy etc.?
First, as we have kept focusing on the Internet industry for more than 8 years with more than 100 all-Internet-portfolios across Asia, we believe that our deep expertise about the consumer Internet industry will provide Thai-based Startups with unique values. Second, we are able to support our portfolios to go abroad through our physical presences in Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. As the Internet world becomes more global, we believe that our unique capability to support overseas business development will be one of strongest value propositions to start-ups in Thailand.
At Echelon Ignite you got a brief impression of the local community, what was your impression of the quality of Thai Startups?
I still would like to meet more entrepreneurs in Thai, but while having met a lot of entrepreneurs across Asia I feel that Thai entrepreneurs have competitive advantage as strong as other entrepreneurs in SEA.
What do you think is the greatest plus for the Thai Startup scene and likewise what do you think is holding it back?
The biggest plus is opportunity; it appears there are a lot of open fields where even a start-up will play its game in the Internet industry. The biggest issue is a lack of investors; as a lot of the consumer Internet services first need to build a huge scale of user base before executing monetization. Without sufficient capital support to make the strategy feasible, it will be very difficult to create large-scaled consumer Internet services. We actually would like to contribute anything to solve the issue in Thailand.