In Episode 57 of the Investing in Impact podcast, we speak with Shuyin Tang, Partner at Patamar Capital and Co-Founder & CEO at the Beacon Fund, on empowering female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia’s emerging markets.
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About Shuyin Tang
Shuyin is a Partner at Patamar Capital, a leading impact investing firm in Southeast Asia. She holds responsibility for Patamar’s investing activities in the Mekong region and has successfully led investments into education, FinTech, employee benefits, and healthcare companies.
Shuyin plays a pivotal role in spearheading Patamar’s gender lens investing efforts, overseeing the management of the Investing in Women Fund, which stands as one of Southeast Asia’s pioneering gender lens investing funds.
Additionally, she co-founded and currently serves as the CEO of the Beacon Fund, an innovative fund dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia’s emerging markets.
With a wealth of experience across various domains, Shuyin has worked in strategy consulting at Bain & Company, development consulting at TechnoServe, and impact investing at Patamar Capital and LGT Venture Philanthropy.
Her professional journey has taken her through Australia, India, and Southeast Asia. In addition to her private sector roles, she has also served in the U.S. Congress, the Australian public service, as well as at The Lowy Institute for International Policy and UNICEF.
Shuyin’s exceptional contributions have garnered recognition throughout her career.
She was honored as one of Australia’s “100 Women of Influence” by the Australian Financial Review in 2015, identified as an Asia 21 Young Leader by the Asia Society in 2016, and acknowledged as one of the “40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians” in 2020.
Currently, she actively serves on the Investment Advisory Council of the Equality Fund and the Impact Investing Council of the Global Private Capital Association.
Shuyin graduated summa cum laude from the Australian National University, where she was awarded the University Medal for her outstanding academic achievements.
The Beacon Fund
Despite gender bias, limited access to investor networks, and a scarcity of women in influential positions at Private Equity and Venture Capital firms, the inadequate funding received by women-owned businesses cannot be solely attributed to these factors.
Through their Investing in Women Fund, the team gained insights by investing in 14 women-owned companies over the past three years.
They discovered that businesses exhibit diverse profiles and ambitions, with many exceptional entrepreneurs not necessarily seeking an exit strategy.
Currently, financing options in the market primarily revolve around venture capital and private equity, with a focus on high-growth companies and binary outcomes.
In 2019, private equity and venture capital funds invested around $8 billion in Southeast Asia. The focus of these investments was predominantly on a specific type of opportunity: companies with “explosive” growth potential, but often following cash-incinerating business models that yielded binary outcomes of either success or failure.
To address this issue, the Beacon Fund was established to shed light on alternative models of entrepreneurial and investing success.
Rather than expecting women-owned businesses to conform to the existing system, they aim to transform the system to better cater to the needs of female entrepreneurs.
Their focus lies in supporting moderate growth companies that often face neglect from traditional venture capital and private equity firms.
Despite some dismissing these SMEs as ‘lifestyle’ or ‘micro-businesses,’ the organization’s experience engaging with entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia revealed that many of these businesses are profitable, have positive cash flow, and grow at healthy rates.
Due to challenges in securing external funding caused by various factors, including gender bias and limited access to collateral, women tend to gravitate towards businesses with strong unit economics, allowing profits to fuel organic growth.
The Beacon Fund is committed to bringing about change in finance for women-owned businesses. They believe in treating entrepreneurs with respect, fostering transparency in the fundraising process, and transforming it into a positive and empowering experience.
The Beacon Fund’s long-term commitment involves focusing on debt products that align with the moderate growth and positive cash flow characteristics of the businesses they target.
They have moved away from the conventional venture capital fund structure, which mandates fixed exit timelines, and adopted an evergreen structure to better suit the time horizon and financing requirements of their portfolio companies.
Ultimately, their mission is to be an investment firm that effectively serves women by remaining adaptable and continuously iterating on their approach.
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