Fact: Women entrepreneurs take only 2.7 per cent of the global venture capital funding pool worth US$84 billion (S$113 billion). It’s a drop in the ocean. But where others may have walked away to explore other horizons, Pocket Sun saw opportunity.
Such foresight has earned this cheery, energetic individual quite a following.
Sogal, her university project turned- global community that empowers women founders, has more than 100,000 members, and the figure is “growing weekly”. It has more than 30 chapters in cities such as London, New York and Shanghai. At 24, Pocket graced the cover (alongside four men) of Forbes Asia’s 2016 30 under 30 issue for her work in co-leading Sogal Ventures with business partner Elizabeth Galbut.
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To date, Sogal – the first millennial venture capital firm led by women – has invested in more than 50 start-ups, many of them run by women entrepreneurs. Its current portfolio has 19 start-ups, with investment sums ranging from US$50,000-US$500,000.
What’s so different about Sogal’s approach? In true millennial style, it’s playing the social-impact and personal values card hard.
“Every one of the 19 companies in our current portfolio has some sort of social impact while making money and showing the potential for real profitability,” shares Pocket.
Case in point: Singapore based fitness app Guavapass, recently acquired by the US-based Classpass for an undisclosed sum. Such acquisitions, while impressive, are business as usual for Pocket, who’s more interested in raising the profile of women and under-represented classes.
“Women will not be the only demographic that gets lifted up in this process.
Minorities too, whether they are veterans, individuals with disabilities, people of colour, or those from other underrepresented communities, are hugely underestimated and undervalued. When there’s so little capital flowing to them, they have to work much harder to get a fair term sheet or to get investments at all. Investing in the ‘unpopular’ demographics is really a triple bottom line situation,” which she explains as work that has a positive impact on social responsibility, economic value and the environment.
“You raise their profile, create more success stories, and they have a greater chance of being successful and inspiring more people to join the race. I think we need more competition and representation. Right now, people are realising that all voices need to be heard.”
For Pocket, a worthy investment has to have a personal impact as well.
“One investment that’s been particularly fulfilling is Lovevery from Idaho. It makes brain development-centric toys for babies and has been redefining the standards for baby toys. Its first product, a play gym, won a Red Dot Design Award.
The entrepreneur has three kids, and I can see how fast her business is growing (mostly by word of mouth) – her products are among the top three in their category on Amazon, plus she’s selling in China. How much heart she’s put into it has been awesome, especially since it launched less than a year ago. This kind of international expansion and ambition has been super inspiring for me.”
So what’s up next for this pocket rocket? (Yes, the pun is intended.) She’s keeping her cards close to her chest, but she says: “The past few years, I’ve only been investing, and I’m only now starting to see how businesses rise and fall. I wouldn’t call it failure – that’s a word that evokes fear. I think of it as another great source of information and wisdom for my future use. Whenever I feel stuck or not at my best, I remind myself that everything happens for a reason – it just means it’s time to try something new and get inspired.”