“Come on, come on, come on, come on
We will go our way
We will leave someday
Your hand in my hands
We will make our plans
We will fly so high
Tell all our friends goodbye
We will start life new
This is what we’ll do”
Nearly 25 years back, the Petshop Boys, a popular British pop duo, preached the virtues of “going west” extolling the prospect of starting life anew and flying high.
This is advice that a lot of folks in India took to heart, migrating to greener shores in the US and Europe to start new lives. But one Indian entity, a VC firm, seems to have decided to go in the polar opposite direction—Go East—in an attempt to chart a new destiny for itself.
One might be tempted to wave this development away as inconsequential; so what if one lone VC firm in India decided to head East? Normally, it wouldn’t matter, but in this case, it does, as the name of this VC firm is Sequoia Capital (India). With a corpus of over $3 billion and a portfolio of nearly 150 startups, Sequoia Capital is India’s biggest VC by some distance.
But in the recent past, Sequoia has adopted a sharp and decisive focus in Southeast Asia along two important dimensions.
First, the firm has expanded its portfolio in Singapore and Indonesia to more than 15 startups.
More importantly, the firm has moved key personnel from India to Singapore. In March 2017, Shailendra Jit Singh, Sequoia’s Managing Director who was earlier domiciled in Bengaluru, formally moved to Singapore officially assuming the role of CEO of an entity named Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore Pte Ltd. The name may seem clunky but the idea was clear—a geographical focus on Southeast Asia.
Sequoia’s move is interesting for two reasons. It gives us a prism to examine the past leading up to the status quo: can we glean anything about the state of the Indian startup ecosystem from this? Also, it gives us an opportunity to explore the future of VC investing in the region and the underlying sentiments and imperatives.
Sequoia in India
Let’s start with taking a look at Sequoia’s history.
Founded in California in 1972, Sequoia is arguably the world’s most prestigious VC firm. Sequoia’s list of hits includes marquee names such as Apple, Google, Oracle, PayPal, and WhatsApp. Sequoia’s first serious look into India was in 2006.