The More Niche, the Better,’ Says This Asian VC

Market Trends

November 15, 2019

'The More Niche, the Better,' Says This Asian VC

Cofounder of Cento Ventures, Dmitry Levit, is originally from Russia, and has lived in over seven cities around the world. His resume includes stints with L’Oreal, Proctor & Gamble, Yahoo!, and IDG Ventures, and at Cento Ventures, founded in 2010, he looks for startups in Southeast Asia which have been in operation for 2-4 years, have a strong presence in a domestic market, and are looking to expand to another geography.

“We always look for emerging market specific angles and growth stories, so our sweet spot is where companies are starting to think how they can grow their presence beyond their domestic playground, how they need to adjust their management team to help with the expansion, how they need to modify their product, and what sort of investors they need to partner with, and raise capital from. That’s where we like to get in, and those first moments when companies start thinking about raising capital for the purpose of regional expansion has been our focus for the last nine years,” said Levit in an interview with Entrepreneur Asia Pacific.

Sectors He’s Excited About

Levit says he likes the Southeast Asian fashion industry at the moment, and he looks quite closely at the value chain of the fashion, textile, and accessories industry.

“We do believe that Southeast Asia is becoming the destination for global fashion industry as far as manufacturing is concerned. And we want to see what sort of impact this transformation has on the labor markets, on textile markets, agriculture, on fashion on high streets, and on B2B transactions,” says Levit.

Industrialisation and urbanisation are big themes in Asia right now, and while obvious beneficiaries of the boom are construction and manufacturing companies, there’s also an opportunity for tech startups in the space, from internet of things, to real estate marketplaces, online mortgage enablers, and logistics backing to help supply components to manufacturing facilities, says Levit.

“We’re quite fond of anything that pushes Southeast Asia forward into the middle income brackets – anything to do with enabling manufacturing or commercial activity, we’re always happy to see and support. Historically, we haven’t made investments there, but we’re definitely on the road to.”

Travel and hospitality startups of all sorts is also his cup of tea.

“The more niche and the more obscure, the better.”

But personally, he likes the gaming and entertainment industry, and even though Cento has not looked at the sector microscopically, Levit says he would like to explore the space a little more.

On the books for 2020, Levit believes startups that provide services to very small businesses, such as helping them track inventory, managing taxes and storing client information, will come to the fore.

Sectors That Have Slowed In Asia

It seems that people are taking a breather on unsecured consumer loans, while marketing and advertising solutions haven’t been able to make the comeback they deserve, opines Levit. He also says he’s cautious about the e-commerce sector, as well as urban and local services since they are quite well-funded by the rest of the ecosystem.

“We try to go where others don’t, try to focus on trends with capital accretion, and focus on things that are representative of Southeast Asia’s core strengths or areas of growth,” says Levit.

Southeast Asia, he believes, is not currently primed for artificial intelligence, and the recent surge in enthusiasm around the space has been a touch premature, he says.