25 Southeast Asia venture firms rally to connect Covid-19 related startup layoffs to new openings
By Kiran Kaur Sidhu & Karamjit Singh April 9, 2020
- Almost 500 talent postings and 200 job listings since launch on April 1
- Community approach right tonic to help those who have lost jobs to rebound quickly
“Top talent is what makes or breaks ventures, so as an ecosystem, we have a collective interest and responsibility to keep the talent in Southeast Asia. Customers come and go, financial capital flows in and out but human capital is what we need to hold onto,” said Joachim Vandaele, Founding Partner at FutureLabs Ventures.
In this vein, 25 venture firms across Southeast Asia (SEA) including B Capital, Alpha JWC Ventures, SIG and Jungle Ventures are supporting a talent database on SEAcosystem.com which connects startup employees impacted by COVID-19 layoffs with new opportunities.
Since the database went live on 1 April, almost 500 talent postings have been made and technology companies have listed close to 200 job opportunities. These 25 venture firms across SEA have rallied together to support top startup talent through this initiative.
The community-led effort was inspired by a similar venture-led list in the US. Venture firms, startup founders or individuals can make their own talent posting or job listing by filling out a form on www.SEAcosystem.com. This will be added to the database once it can be verified that it’s come from a real person. Those in the startup community are then encouraged to organically reach out to others on an individual basis.
"Layoffs should be the last resort to be taken in efforts to optimise cost during times when production and transaction numbers decline. However, in the end, many startups cannot avoid it. We hope SEAcosystem database can bring new unexplored opportunities to match with these talents’ expertise and previous experience," said Erika Dianasari Go (pic, left), Partner at Alpha JWC Ventures.
Erika also does not see an issue with the possibility that talent registering on the database will be limited to in-country and not cross border roles due to likely short-term travel limitations.
“Many companies, including from our portfolio, have also multiple headquarters in different cities for different purposes, so I think this should not be a problem. Some roles might need physical presence in the home base, but some don’t, so it’s just a matter of finding the right talent for the right role in the right company.”
On having local language command as an advantage, she emphasises that, “talent is an open market; and in a supply shortage, companies can’t have all the checklists in one person and they need to decide: skillset vs language, which gap is easier to build?"
Whatever the language, sparking conversations was a key driver to this initiative, explains Chris Sirisereepaph (pic, right), Partner at Saison Capital.
“We want conversations to happen so that good folk can find the right companies to thrive in. Doing well in a startup environment is more than about skill sets, it’s also about multi-tasking, taking ownership and dealing with chaos. Especially in tough times, talent remains the most important resource for any startup.”
Talent may remain the key resource, but it is also undeniable that for the first time in a decade, the talent pendulum favors employers now. On dealing with this new equation, Chris says, “There definitely is an increase in supply due to the current crisis. But I believe employers that think long term and place emphasis on other factors such as culture fit would not disadvantage new hires. I would still encourage job seekers to look for organisations or roles they can see themselves in for the long run."
Meanwhile, David Gowdey, Managing Partner at Jungle Ventures highlights the ease at which talent working in technology roles can fit in anywhere due to the highly fungible roles in technology. “So, if you’ve built up a level of expertise within one startup then much of that knowledge can typically be applied to another. Hopefully we’ll be able to see a high absorption rate of any displaced talent, as we emerge from the current crisis.”
The community-driven approach taken with the establishment of SEAcosystem.com could just be the tonic to help those who have lost their jobs to rebound quickly, says Rachael De Foe, a communications specialist for tech companies who observes that, “For the first time, startups may find themselves facing unique but specific hurdles around resource allocation and talent sourcing.”
The full list of supporting VCs includes Saison Capital, FutureLabs, Convergence, Trive Ventures, Tribe Accelerator, Jungle Ventures, SIG Asia, Alpha JWC Ventures, Rainmaking, Hustle Fund, Venturra Discovery, Patamar Capital, Wavemaker, Big Idea Ventures, Morph Ventures, Angel Central, KKFund, SOSV MOX, REAPRA, Openspace, B Capital, SCB 10X, ACE (Action Community for Entrepreneurship), Propell Asia and ReefKNoT Investments.