Hideki Fujita is the founder of SEGNEL Ventures-a Singapore based venture capital firm with a deep interest in South Asian and Southeast Asian market. Prior to SEGNEL, Hideki was the co-founder of COENT Venture Partners. Hideki started his venture capital career at JAFCO and then he worked at GREE, inc., one of the largest mobile social gaming companies, as a director of Business Strategy. At GREE he assumed a corporate management position and was involved in strategic investments within the mobile gaming field with a focus on the Japanese and Chinese markets.
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Hideki is immensely interested in Bangladesh market and is one of the few active international investors who are looking for investment opportunities in Bangladesh. We recently spoke to Hideki, as part of our ongoing ‘Conversation With Investor’ series to better understand his take on Bangladesh startup ecosystem, investment, what makes a startup funding worthy, and what makes a good pitch and more.
Briefly tell us about yourself and your passion.
My career in venture capital industry started at JAFCO, Japan’s largest venture capital firm. I was involved in supporting promising entrepreneurs, growing them into successful investments. My most notable involvements were: Full Speed Inc. and SMS Co Ltd. JAFCO also have branches in China and Singapore. They are big and I spent 6 years at JAFCO.
After working for 6 years at JAFCO I wanted to have experience of global business strategies. Then I took a position of director of Business Strategy at GREE, inc., one of the largest mobile social gaming companies. At GREE I assumed a corporate management position and was involved in strategic investments within the mobile gaming field with a focus on the Japanese and Chinese markets.
Then I decided to set up venture capital firm in Singapore. That’s how COENT came through. Shuhei Morofuji and I co-founded COENT with a regional focus on South East Asia. COENT is doing well and we have made few really big investments. COENT does both seed and growth stage investment. I personally like to see and help entrepreneurs building a company from scratch.
That’s where my new venture Firm Segnel Ventures Pte Ltd comes in. Segnel is early and seed stage venture firm. We focus on Internet and mobile, especially, marketplaces, advertising and entertainment industries.
What are the sectors you are looking forward to invest in?
As I said earlier, I am very interested in internet and mobile, marketplaces, advertising and entertainment related businesses.
When you invest in a company what qualities do you look for in a founder?
It depends on the type of business. Personality, I think, is important, and skills are also needed to perform management tasks. Being a good businessman is important for me, and one should think about making a platform for the business, and have good communication skills. I invest in entrepreneurs and management. An entrepreneur must have strong passion and conviction.
[blockquote source"]You need to have strong conviction to make anything work. If the entrepreneur is passionate about the company, growth and about customers, then that would help the startup to grow.[/blockquote]
What do you look for in a pitch?
The first thing is: what is the problem and then what is the solution you are proposing. Then comes market: how big the market is. The third is team: who they are. The management team is very important to us. And finally, why they are the right team to build the company, what makes them different and important.
What do you think about Bangladesh and future growth potential of Bangladesh Market?
Generally speaking, Bangladesh is a very promising market. Almost all metrics are positive: the population, average age, and GDP growth are very stable. Bangladesh has been seeing a steady 6% GDP growth every year. Stable growth means risks are lower. It is very important for any investor. The potential is huge. The only problem is there are few foreign investors.
What do you think about the startup eco-system in Dhaka?
I think startup ecosystem in Dhaka is at its very early stage. It will take few more years to mature. Lack of investors is one of the major gaps; similarly you need successful founders too.
Generally speaking, Bangladesh is a very promising market. Almost all metrics are positive: the population, average age, and GDP growth are very stable. Bangladesh has been seeing a steady 6% GDP growth every year. Stable growth means risks are lower.
What advice would you like to give to a founder?
Each company has different problem. I would better advice based on what one needs. However, in general: you need to have strong conviction to make anything work. If the entrepreneur is passionate about the company, growth and about customers, then that would help the startup to grow.
[su_note note_color="#f9fafd" text_color="#4e8df6" radius="16"]Credit: Interview by Ruhul Kader, Transcription by Rounak Ahmed[/su_note]