Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Raj Singh was recorded in September 2016.
Raj Singh, Founder and Executive Director at Singh Ventures, offers a window into his firm’s investment thesis.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about your investing focus. How big is the fund? What size investments do you make?
Raj Singh: I run an early-stage VC fund. We are about $50 million right now. We were founded about two years ago. We focus on mobile technologies. We get involved with anywhere from a concept stage to less than $10,000 a month of recurring revenue. What’s really unique about our fund is what we do in addition to the capital.
What I’ve always seen as an issue is once you raise that funding, it’s very hard to find that perfect team that is aligned with your vision and with your goals. You could either go out and recruit your own perfect team or, alternatively, outsource work such as marketing and PR to another agency.
When you outsource, their interests are not in building the business with you. Their interests are to increase their bill. What we did was, we essentially acquired different resources that we felt were necessary for all entrepreneurs building a company such as a web development firm and marketing and PR firm. That’s what sets us apart.
Sramana Mitra: You said very early-stage was acceptable. Could we then say that you are okay with pre-seed investments?
Raj Singh: Absolutely.
Sramana Mitra: What types of ventures are you focusing on? Speak to us about the specific industry sector that interests you. Is it B2B or B2C?
Raj Singh: I prefer B2B in any sort of mobile technology. I’m also very fond of P2P technologies. Most of my past companies are in that space. I can give you a couple of examples.
Sramana Mitra: Yes, we will do some of those. Let me come to that in a moment. I want to get a few more broad qualification points. What about geography?
Raj Singh: We do anywhere in the United States. Right now, we’re based in Philadelphia. I would say a lot more of the deals that we look at are in the mid-Atlantic region. We refrain from investing outside the country at this time.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s talk about your current portfolio. Give us a few examples what you’ve invested in. Take us through the thought process of why you’ve chosen to invest in those deals so we can get into your head a little bit about how you look at investments.
Raj Singh: When I look at an investment, I take a look at the market size. More importantly, I look at the founding team. I look if they have had a successful track record. If they have, that makes it a better opportunity for us. I also look at first-time entrepreneurs. When you talk about pre-seed, first-time entrepreneurs are risky. Those types of businesses, it’s critical to be aware of the founder’s mindset.
One of the few things that I look for right away is if this founder is coachable. If there are pitfalls in the business, are there things that we can say or help tweak that will help make the business successful. If so, is the founder willing to accept these changes. You never want to be stuck with a founder who’s rigid on his course. Startups are very fluid. I would say the founder and the founding team and their flexibility is a key factor.
In addition to that, I look at the different resources that we have other than the company that we already own. These are resources like business development. What connections does my advisory board have? How can we push these companies further? To give you an example, three of our Board Members are heavily involved in real estate.
One of the most recent investments we made was in a company called Showing Assistant. It’s a P2P mobile application that allows realtors to to leverage each other and share the viewings that they have, instead of having to show each house individually themselves. It allows other realtors to show homes to potential buyers on behalf of a certain realtor.
Sramana Mitra: You’re looking for unfair advantage in terms of your network that you could plug into the company and accelerate it.
Raj Singh: I wouldn’t call it unfair advantage but yes, it’s an advantage from the network.
Sramana Mitra: Unfair advantage is a term that we use very extensively in Silicon Valley to qualify an advantage that you have that somebody else doesn’t have. We are always looking for unfair advantages in doing something. I may know a lot about the topic. That is my unfair advantage in that sense.
Raj Singh: Sure. In this specific case, we have Board Members who are active in real estate. They have a wide network of individuals who can use the user base.
This segment is part 1 in the series : 1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Raj Singh of Singh Ventures