Sequoia has unveiled a new platform that aims to link up early-stage startups from Southeast Asia and India with “seasoned” business leaders who can help these young companies succeed globally, particularly in the US market. The programme targets software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups and currently has mentors who hail from tech companies such as Palo Alto Networks, Okta, and Tricentis. 

Called Pathfinders, the new platform is pitched as a way for startups that need the knowledge and connections to venture into global markets. 

“[It] connects founders with seasoned business leaders who can accelerate their company-building journey by helping them develop and execute their go-to-market strategy, make key hires, think through design choices, and more,” Harshjit Sethi, Sequoia Capital India’s managing director, said in a blog post. 

These business leaders, dubbed pathfinders, also would have the opportunity to invest in startups from the region, alongside Sequoia in India and Southeast Asia, “at the same terms and with no commercials” to the venture capital firm, noted Sethi. He added that Pathfinders operated on a pro bono basis, so there was no commercial benefit to Sequoia. 

The current crop of 25 pathfinders include Palo Alto Networks’ president Amit Singh, UIPath’s chief product officer Param Kalhon, Rippling’s co-founder Prasanna Sankar, and Okta’s senior engineering director Pratyus Pattnaik.

According to Sethi, six startups under the programme already have received investments and mentorship from the pathfinders.  

He said the platform would be scaled “significantly” over the next year, with plans to onboard more pathfinders. There also were plans to move Pathfinders to a mobile app, currently in beta, to enable founders and pathfinders to connect and access more details on each other. 

“Participating pathfinders can view a curated list of startups looking for support in their area of expertise, listen to virtual pitches, and access a single-view portfolio management dashboard in the app,” Sethi said.

Startups on the platform will be able to provide their feedback on working with a pathfinder, which then will be shared with future founders so they can better decide on who to work with. 

Palo Alto’s Singh said: “The entire enterprise software market is being disrupted by next generation SaaS built using cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and mobile-first design principles. To succeed, Indian disruptors need to understand the Western buyers, their needs, and users’ expectations clearly and design products that fit them effectively. Pathfinders connects entrepreneurs with experienced operators living in these countries, who have built expertise over decades understanding Western buyers.”