Funding and financing issues has always been one of the top challenges for SMEs in Singapore. Thus, entrepreneurs can consider Venture Capital (VC) funding as it is a form of equity financing. Venture capitalists make loans and equity investments to small, emerging companies at their early-stages. The loans usually carry high rates of 30 percent to 50 percent annual rate of return. They also take equity positions where companies have to give a portion of their owners’ interest in the company in exchange for the venture capitalist’s backing. (Source: Entrepreneur)
In today’s article, we look at how Soo Boon Koh founded iGlobe, a local VC firm that invests in early to mid-growth stage of technology companies in Singapore and overseas.
Soo Boon Koh has over 30 years of global experience in finance and venture capital investing and she founded iGlobe Partners in 1999, with Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore as the fund sponsor. (Source: iGlobe)
How it started
When she first started out in the finance industry, she held various senior management positions in the Treasury and Credit departments in her 12 years of work in the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS). She also headed the International Departments, Credit Division with responsibility for its eight overseas offices and Syndication Department for the Asia-Pacific region.
After that, she left her job in Singapore to accompany her husband on a posting to San Francisco. She later joined the Singapore Technologies at its San Francisco office before moving to Vertex in the same city. It was tough for her in the beginning because she had no contacts among start-ups or other venture capitalists Hence, So she started to set up meetings and asked a lot of questions. In an interview, she said, “I had seven to eight meetings a day. Americans are generous, they will share with you, so I learnt a lot.” (Source: Asia One)
According to iGlobe Partner’s website, Soo Boon held executive management positions with Vertex Management Inc., (Vertex), the venture capital arm of Singapore Technologies, managing three funds during her tenure from 1988 to 1999. She established the US operation of Vertex and headed the Silicon Valley office for nine years, where she was instrumental in the early days of technology transfer for over 100 engineers in Silicon Valley for Chartered Semiconductor and Chartered Microwave. In October 1996, she started Vertex’s European operations and ran its European operation until June 1999. She guided numerous successful investments to IPOs, such as Lattice Semiconductor, Creative Technologies, Premisys Communications, Pie/QuickTurn, SCM Microsystems, Brokat AG and Activcard SA. (Source: iGlobe)
She left Vertex in 1999 and founded iGlobe Partners.
According to their business profile, iGlobe Partners invests in entrepreneurs who are shaping development in these three core areas – Internet of Things (IoT), Internet/Mobile applications, and Health/Biotech. They aims to build successful businesses that create value for their investors and entrepreneurs. They invest in potentially groundbreaking ideas and innovations, partnering exceptional entrepreneurs to realise their vision and scaling their companies globally.
They focus on their investment strategies which addresses what they believe are investment gaps – bringing together the team, experience and connections that have steered numerous companies towards achieving their goals. They operate with a cohesive team of partners and advisors from Singapore, Europe and North America.
In July 2010, Soo Boon established a S$20 million iGlobe Platinum Fund to invest in early to mid-growth technology companies mainly in the digital media sector based in Silicon Valley and Singapore. Then, the iGlobe Platinum Fund II was launched in late 2015, which nvests in companies in the early- to mid-growth stage. In 2017, it focused on selling its stakes in all of these companies which have grown significantly over the past few years and is on track to achieve returns that exceed the fund’s target gross internal rate of return of 25 per cent per year. (Source: The Straits Times)
Challenges with entrepreneurs
She said in an interview that coachable entrepreneurs are worth their weight in gold. With her years of experience in the field, she realised that many tech start-up entrepreneurs have doctorates or MBA and they think their inventions are good and they know best. However, their arrogance will tend to lead their start-ups downfall.
She mentioned in an interview, “I have many battle scars from these discussions with them throughout the years,” she says, adding that entrepreneurs who heed their venture capitalists’ advice are more likely to succeed.
Currently, Soo Boon serves on the boards of directors of u-blox AG (SWX:UBXN) and several private companies, including Verisilicon, Fortemedia, Sparky Animation and Anacle Systems. She is a board observer of Unity Technologies, NerdWallet and Scanadu. She also served on the board of Telenav Inc. (NASDAQ:TNAV) from May 2001 to November 2011.
What drives her passion in VC is sense of satisfaction she get when entrepreneurs and investors are able to reach or even exceed their financial goals through owning equity and sharing profits when there is an acquisition or public listing. Thus, she remains excited about this industry.
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