26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Saemin Ahn, managing partner, Rakuten Ventures

Saemin Ahn is Singapore-based managing partner of Rakuten Ventures, an investment vehicle that falls under the auspices of Japan-headquartered e-commerce firm Rakuten’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm, Rakuten Capital.

Ahn is also an executive officer of Rakuten, where he drives and assesses investment opportunities, outlines deal structure and takes part in mentoring schemes for entrepreneurs. He has held the managing partner role at the Rakuten Ventures fund since its formation in 2013.

He partners and backs developers of advertising, artificial intelligence and on-demand business technologies globally. He sits on the boards of portfolio companies including e-commerce platform Carousell, visual technology developer ViSenze, mobile advertising platform Pocketmath, digital literature platform developer Epic and Algorithmia.

Most recently, the unit backed Singapore-based retail loyalty and rewards platform ShopBack and Malaysia-based on-demand food provider Dahmakan.

In 2016, Rakuten doubled the size of its Global Investment Fund to $200m and promptly led the $120m round for Spain-based ride-hailing app Cabify, while also launched a ¥10bn ($85m) Rakuten Ventures Japan Fund to invest in startups in its home country.

These new commitments are all built on the original $10m Southeast Asia-focused fund launched by Rakuten Ventures in 2013, when Ahn arrived from internet and technology group Google (now under the auspices of Alphabet), and this initiative was joined the following year by the original $100m Global Investment Fund for investments in startups based in the US, Israel and Asia-Pacific region.

Initially, the unit was conceived to be a strategic investment fund, Ahn told GCV in April 2018, adding: “It was [strategic at first], and then I just started ripping it all to shreds. Thankfully, it has been a very good run. If you look at us just by the numbers, we are a statistical anomaly…Several of our companies are profitable – they are running at a very nice clip of growth. We are very lucky to have such motivated and high-quality founders to work with.”

When his global fund was doubled, Ahn said: “Rakuten Ventures has been given the opportunity to work with some amazing founders who have created great products and businesses.

“With the continued progress and growth of those very leaders, we are happy to be able to dream a little bigger and push even further by partnering more core technology and service providers. We will work continuously to support invested companies and organisations in taking the next step.”

A native of South Korea, Ahn received a bachelor of science in business administration and broadcasting and journalism from Sogang University.

He told Tech in Asia in an interview: “Actually, I wanted to become a journalist. I majored in broadcasting and journalism at Sogang University in Korea. But I also wanted to learn about business and started wondering about the what and why of business.”

Ahn started his career in brand management and content distribution from his stints at automotive group Hyundai Motor’s credit card operating subsidiary, Hyundaicard, and animation studio Animal Studio.

Eventually, Ahn moved to Singapore with an Asia-focused sales and business development role for Google in 2009 and from there stepped up to cover the whole Asia-Pacific region.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF