Who is Scentan Ventures, the Firm Behind Tradeshift’s $75M Round?

Last week, Tradeshift surprised the market with the results of its Series C funding round: $75 million (see coverage: here, here, and here). We’ve gotten numerous questions from readers about who Singapore-based Scentan Ventures is. Few readers in the West seem to have heard of them, so we did some digging and translated various Japanese publications. Confusing the situation somewhat further is the fact that Scentan is based in Singapore, though the exclusive rights that Tradeshift provided to it are for the Japanese market.

We hope to interview Scentan in the coming weeks to learn more about their views on the Japanese market for e-invoicing and supplier connectivity – as well as the opportunity with Tradeshift. In the meantime, we feature some translation “sleuthing” below from Japanese to English courtesy of Spend Matters Research VP, Thomas Kase (who is fluent in Japanese, having worked in the country for many years in manufacturing):

  • Scentan Ventures is headquartered in Singapore. Kishou Okubo is the Managing Partner. Our translation suggests it is “a venture capital firm focused on investing in marketplace-centric innovative technologies, products, and services from a borderless perspective.”
  • Scentan is affiliated with Glider Associates K.K. (headquartered in Tokyo, whose CEO is Ken Machino), which agreed last August to a JPY 2B increase in capital via third-party underwriting (investment) done by Macromill (also headquartered in Tokyo), whose Chairman and CEO is Tetsuya Sugimoto.
  • Takafumi Horie has been appointed as a “service advisor” to the firms. The two parties (Macromill and Scentan) and Mr. Horie will collaborate with Glider Associates to bring Macromill’s marketing expertise and Scentan’s technology global perspective and network together with Mr. Horie’s media business experience to strengthen the partnership even further.
  • Focusing on a clear investment strategy for the partnership, the syndicate will use their capital in three areas: strengthening promotion and reach towards their domestic (Japan) user base; strengthening their position as a provider of previously unavailable unique capabilities in the local market; and improving on the advertising/marketing capabilities within each product line and developing e-commerce capabilities.
  • One of the goals “is enabling users to immediately purchase products featured in the [portfolio companies relationships] … preferred path is [to] develop [their] own e-commerce platform.”
  • In addition, the venture seeks to leverage “English capabilities to open up the foreign world [to the Japanese]” and to enable its users (of the portfolio companies) to “interact with [foreign companies] including language support for [non-Japanese] content/capabilities.”

What are our takeaways?

  • Scentan has reaches far beyond Singapore – the firm and its principals have deep relationships in the Japanese market as part of its broader investment strategy, syndication model, and partnerships.
  • It’s possible that Scentan is located in Singapore simply from a tax perspective (the partners behind it have deep Japanese roots, as noted above). This is a common strategy for organizations in the Asian market, given the tax advantages Singapore offers. Note, this is speculative on our part, but it would explain the headquarters being in Singapore rather than Japan.
  • The Tradeshift investment appears strategic, not just financial, to Scentan (and its other partners) based on the overall goals of the investment partnership including penetration of the Japanese market.
  • It’s not yet clear to us how the investment will help Tradeshift (outside of providing capital for growth) beyond the Japanese market in Asia (e.g., China).

We look forward to exploring the Japanese and Asian market opportunity for e-invoicing and related commerce capabilities further after talking to Tradeshift, Scentan Ventures, and its partners.

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