Seeding tech enlightenment

Kabir Misra is in charge of a new Softbank affiliate that is making its mark across Asia.

Softbank bills itself as a leader in consumer-focused IT and media innovation, and with the formation of a new venture capital affiliate, the Japanese giant is betting that increasingly these innovations will come from across emerging Asia.

Softbank China & India Holdings recently reached a final close on its debut fund, Bodhi Investments LLC, which drew more than $100 million in commitments, primarily from anchor investors Softbank, Cisco Systems and Deutsche Bank.

The firm looks for early stage software, media, telecom and internet opportunities throughout Asia, excluding Japan and South Korea.

Bodhi Investments is led by Kabir Misra, a Bangalore native based in Hong Kong, who previously led Deutsche Bank's software and internet investment banking across Asia. Softbank head Masayoshi Son asked Misra to launch a new venture business that would capture tech growth in India and China. Softbank later agreed to broaden the mandate to include other emerging Asian nations, such as Vietnam. “There are a lot of arbitrage opportunities across geographies,” notes Misra.

The Bodhi team also includes Anna Lo, another former Deutsche Bank investment banker, Anil Viakara, founding partner of Horizen Ventures, Jay Chen, co-founder of ChinaVenture Investment Consulting, and William Bao Bean, a former Deutsche Bank research analyst covering Chinese internet and telecom companies. The professionals are spread across the regions in which Bodhi expects to invest.

Already the Bodhi team has invested roughly $20 million in startups across India, China, Singapore and Vietnam. Among the deals are two online gaming companies based in India and Singapore, respectively. Other deals include a security applications software business and a design tools business, both based in Bangalore, and a credit card marketing startup based in Beijing.

In two cases, Bodhi has been the sole investor in a company, and the firm usually leads financings.

“We'll look at anything that is consumer- and media-oriented, as long as it's geographically within Asia, ex-Japan, ex-Korea,” says Misra, who adds: “We have a full pipeline expect to close 2 more financings this summer.”

Softbank , with a market capitalisation of roughly $20 billion, is already affiliated with Softbank Capital, a US-focused venture capital firm. As Asia further develops its own versions of Silicon Valley, Bodhi will have access to plenty of additional capital should its early investments prove successful.