One of the world’s largest angel investor networks, established by Diablo Valley Bank co-founder Randy Williams, Keiretsu Forum is opening a new chapter in Sydney, as part of an accelerating expansion into the Asia-Paciﬁc Region.
The San Francisco-founded group of angel investors, which began in 2000, has about 3200 members across 53 chapters in the US, Europe and the Asia-Paciﬁc region, and charges members a yearly fee in exchange for access to global, pre-vetted deals.
The Australian chapter of the business will be headed by Sapien Ventures founder Victor Jiang, with PrimaryMarkets chief executive Nick Capp set to be vice-president.
MrJiang, who started Sapien Ventures in 2015,raising $50 million predominantly from wealthy Chinese migrants, told The Australian Financial Review he was hoping to have about 300 paying, local members within 12 months.
“We are considering offering a freemium model for people to access Keiretsu Connect [the technology platform underpinning the Keiretsu Forum], but as soon as someone wants to make an investment and unlock deeper due diligence on an investment opportunity, they will have to pay to become a member,” he said.
“But the primary focus isn’t about selling memberships, it’s more about sharing deals and swarm intelligence to be able to access global deal ﬂow and give Australian investors a way to tap into that.”
Rather than just providing access to tech deals, Keiretsu Forum also gives investors opportunities to buy into real estate developments, or retail businesses.
The angel investor network has already invested about $US400 million ($436 million) into North California real estate and its members had backed skincare company Clarisonic, which was acquired by L’Oreal in 2011, providing a 13 times return to Keiretsu investors.
As well as operating the angel investor network, Keiretsu also has its own co-investment venture capital fund and a charity, which gives $250,000 annually to other charities in countries where the forum operates.
Mr Williams said the average net worth of members in the forum was about $10 million and that companies wanting to raise capital were able to pitch to different chapters of the group to raise more funds.
“I started Keiretsu so that I could have swarm intelligence from those around me so I could be a better investor. My wife and I have made 55 investments through Keiretsu and if it wasn’t for this I’d have probably lost my life savings 19 years ago,” he said.
“I’m in Silicon Valley, but I think it’s naive for people to think that the best deal ﬂow in the world just comes from here. What we provide beyond capital is help commercialising and expanding to countries like America, Europe, Tokyo or Singapore.”
Mr Jiang decided to bring Keiretsu to Australia earlier this year after Sapien Ventures invested in the US technology platform Linqto, which was white labelled to create Keiretsu Connect.
He said Sapien Ventures, which has backed companies such as Airtasker and HashChing, would consider investing in deals alongside the angel network should they ﬁt into the VC fund’s core areas of ﬁntech, marketplaces and blockchain.
“We’re looking to expand our portfolio to include more international companies, having recently backed a US and Chinese business.”