I consider myself lucky to have achieved what I had set out for—to do something pathbreaking in finance and innovation. Ever since I started my career in a private equity firm, Aureos Capital, and delved into fund portfolio management and fundraising, I loved the impact and scale achieved by capital.
Soon, I decided to move to venture capital as I wanted to invest in younger, innovative and technology-driven teams. That led to me joining my father’s research and consulting firm Tholons and setting up my venture capital investment practice. I later co-founded Wavemaker Labs in Singapore which went on to become one of the country’s leading accelerators and was also approved by Singapore’s Technology Incubation Scheme.
However, throughout this journey, something kept disturbing me—where were the women entrepreneurs? Why was there such a poor representation of them at angel meets and demo days? Why were there not more women leaders and investors investing in the women that are there? Having had the opportunity of being mentored by some amazing women leaders, I knew I had to do something concrete and bring about hchange.
It was not easy. Diversity was not a trending topic six-seven years ago when I had started out in the field of investment, but things are changing. The numbers were staring at me and the opportunity was huge. Years of research has shown that women-led companies have given more than 37% returns as compared to the ones led by men and have scaled businesses with efficient use of capital. Without women leadership, there was no way inclusive products and services could have been built to serve 50% of the population out there.
Confident after the returns that I got through my initial investments in women-led firms, I launched Saha Fund—world’s first venture fund for women entrepreneurs. We raised $10 million as a Securities and Exchange Board of India-registered fund and got the support of leaders such as Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Zia Mody and even the Small Industries Development Bank of India. We went on to invest in Fitternity (a fitness platform which was later acquired by Cure.fit), MyAlly (an AI-enabled talent lifecycle management solution which was acquired by Phenom, a global HR technology company), Shoptimize (a SaaS company enabling brands’ digital growth), LoveLocal (a hyperlocal ecommerce marketplace) and JoulestoWatts (a consulting company).
The success of the Saha Fund gave me the confidence to create a more diversified global platform and engage with women investors, leaders, corporates and founders. StrongHer Ventures, a $100-million platform, was founded to engage with early-stage female-founded and focused start-ups globally through pre-seed funding. The fund was aimed at the ones that were into bringing women back into the workforce and allowing them to be financially independent.
Through the funds, we mentored over 1,000 start-ups globally and invested in over 50 companies. The start-ups that we funded have impacted the lives of over 100,000 women. Our mission is to double the global amount of venture dollars invested in women entrepreneurs by other funds.
Proportionate representation of women as decision-makers is not prevalent in leadership positions. Women have the opportunity to change that narrative. It is time for women to reach out, create their inner circle and start building their entrepreneurship journey.
(The author is founder & CEO of Saha Fund & StrongHer Ventures)