Sequoia raises $1.35 billion to invest in India, Southeast Asia startups

The three Sequoia India funds will continue to invest across India and Southeast Asia
Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Sequoia’s Limited Partners, have collectively committed $1.35 billion to two new Sequoia India funds. This includes a $525 million venture fund and $825 million growth fund, according to Sequoia India managing director Shailendra Singh. Sequoia is an early investor in companies like Apple, Google, Oracle and WhatsApp.

Sequoia India now operates seed, venture and growth funds, a structure that allows Sequoia to remain a relevant partner for founders at all stages of their journey. The three Sequoia India funds will continue to invest across India and Southeast Asia (SEA).

“We are excited about the depth of opportunities in this region, which is undergoing a massive technology-led transformation,” said Singh in a LinkedIn post. “The start-up ecosystem in both India and SEA has come a very long way in the last few years; the market gets deeper and the crop of founders, and their achievements, becomes more impressive each year.” 

He said the combined GDP of India and SEA is expected to cross $14 trillion and the number of mobile internet users will likely cross 1.5 billion by 2030. This region will become home to a number of massive technology companies during the next decade.

He said a fundraise represents a massive responsibility to deliver attractive returns to Sequoia’s Limited Partners, the majority of which are non-profits, foundations and charities. However, founders in India and SEA face a challenging, high-friction environment in which they have to build companies.

“This year, in particular, has been difficult for many of us – for founders, employees, investors, and for society at large. The Covid-19 pandemic is raging on and we’re in an unprecedented humanitarian and economic crisis. It has also been a time of reflection. Where are we in the journey of the startup ecosystem in India and SEA? What type of future should we aspire for?” said Singh.

He said the startup ecosystem in India and SEA has had a tumultuous journey over the last decade. During periods of exuberance, investors have rushed in to invest large amounts of capital into startups. This has, expectedly, resulted in short term over-funding and hyper-competition amongst start-ups. These periods have been followed by down cycles, cost-cutting and negative sentiment. These cycles have enhanced startup mortality and left many founders, investors and startup employees scarred.

Besides other challenges, Singh was of the view that startups in India do not have the benefit of a regulatory framework that allows listing on foreign exchanges like Nasdaq. In this market context, most start-ups have chosen to remain private, and raising capital has become a proxy for success.

“Our markets are deepening, our founders are world-class, our tech talent is formidable - but we need to hold ourselves to a higher bar. It’s time to aspire for massively large and profitable companies,” said Singh. “It’s time to build more products that can compete globally on quality, not just on price. We need more unique and innovative startups, pursuing original ideas in addition to “X of Y” business models. We need more examples of authentic leadership, improvements in gender diversity, and inclusive, safe and nurturing work culture for our teams.”

He said the ecosystem needs exemplary, enduring, lighthouse companies of the future, that can prosper for decades and be resilient across market cycles.

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