313: Edith Yeung on investment and future of blockchain (Ashley Talks 21)

Podcast highlights:

  • 14:58 You are investing a lot in China while many of your colleagues in the San Francisco area do not. How does this usually work? — Each investor has a different style in terms how they want to attract companies. It tends to be easier if you’re vertically focused on a particular market, for example blockchain. If you are a founder, it’s necessary to find the people who are vertically focused on the products or markets you are interested in. You should know when you reach out who you want to be contacting regarding potential investments.
  • 24:24 Turning now to the topic of blockchain, what is your vision of the future of blockchain? — Multiple parts to this answer. Excited because it represents a change in how we think about the ownership of data. From a technology side, it’s changed how people think about a lot of relationships. Obviously distributed ledger technology is not new, but what is new is the idea of tokenization. It helps creators and investors get the capital and resources they need right from the start. China and the Chinese government have been very supportive of blockchain as a technology. What they haven’t been supportive of is all the cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs). China is just a huge market that basically any company focused on establishing themselves there will have enough to attract investment.
  • 44:25 Let’s talk about women for a bit. How did it feel to be a female developer working in this space? — First of all, we should encourage everyone, not just women to have a basic understanding of coding. This is going to be a building block for so many things in the future. Even if you don’t end up being the person writing the code, you will be able to have meaningful conversations with people who do. In China, have met so many great women CEOs and investors. The important thing is to know what you’re talking about. It’s not about being a woman, it’s about being good at what you do.

Podcast notes:

  • NOTE: This podcast contains explicit language
  • 00:05 Welcome Edith Yeung, Partner at 500 Startups, to Ashley Talks with host Ashley Galina Dudarenok.
  • 00:40 Tell us about your journey. How have you ended up in San Francisco Bay investing in so many global startups? — Born and raised in Hong Kong. Came to the US at age 16 as an exchange student. Stayed with an American family in the Midwest. Have been in the US for over 20 years and started career as a developer building risk-management systems. Started own entrepreneur group in San Francisco using Meetup, which turned into a sort of media conference business. Through this met a partner from mainland China who developed Dolphin Browser on Android. This experience led to wanting to do more with investments and startups, and so here we are.
  • 07:14 What are the biggest differences between managing an investment fund versus just investing by yourself? — As an angel investor, the thinking was why not invest some of your own money to help a company get off the ground. When managing a fund, however, the entire thought process is how do we maximize the return for our investors. As a fund manager, it’s necessary to have true conviction your decisions will make a return.
  • 14:58 You are investing a lot in China while many of your colleagues in the San Francisco area do not. How does this usually work? — Each investor has a different style in terms how they want to attract companies. It tends to be easier if you’re vertically focused on a particular market, for example blockchain. If you are a founder, it’s necessary to find the people who are vertically focused on the products or markets you are interested in. You should know when you reach out who you want to be contacting regarding potential investments.
  • 18:38 What are the companies you’ve invested in that you’ve liked the most or been most impressed with? Have you had any failures? — So many. Really, there have been so many. Very much enjoyed meeting Prerna Gupta who is founder and CEO at HOOKED, which is the number one reading app in the US for millennials. As an early-stage investor, it’s important to be open-minded about products and services people haven’t seen before. You can’t try to invest in the next Instagram, this just won’t work. As a fund manager, if you see a great investment and miss out, that is a failure. When you see something you believe in, you just have to go for it.
  • 24:24 Turning now to the topic of blockchain, what is your vision of the future of blockchain? — Multiple parts to this answer. Excited because it represents a change in how we think about the ownership of data. From a technology side, it’s changed how people think about a lot of relationships. Obviously distributed ledger technology is not new, but what is new is the idea of tokenization. It helps creators and investors get the capital and resources they need right from the start. China and the Chinese government have been very supportive of blockchain as a technology. What they haven’t been supportive of is all the cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs). China is just a huge market that basically any company focused on establishing themselves there will have enough to attract investment.
  • 34:19 Do you have a favorite startup coming out of China now? — Again there are so many. If you think about content production companies, right now the power is in finding a way to produce and personalize content online. One exciting company in this space is Castbox. They are very impressive. Another company is Agora. They are doing basically video chat as a service. This is more back end, but it is gaining in popularity.
  • 44:25 Let’s talk about women for a bit. How did it feel to be a female developer working in this space? — First of all, we should encourage everyone, not just women to have a basic understanding of coding. This is going to be a building block for so many things in the future. Even if you don’t end up being the person writing the code, you will be able to have meaningful conversations with people who do. In China, have met so many great women CEOs and investors. The important thing is to know what you’re talking about. It’s not about being a woman, it’s about being good at what you do.
  • 50:52 Moving forward will you continue focusing on China? Will you continue focusing on any specific technologies? — Focusing on early-stage blockchain-related projects. This will be the focus for the next three to six months. If you’re working in this space, get in touch. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re focused on China or not. The number one quality to seek in a founder is to never take “no” for an answer.

300: Tiang Lim Foo – SeedPlus, Venture Capital, and Southeast Asia

Podcast highlights:

  • 06:56 People in the region seem to speak highly of the work you guys do at SeedPlus. You seem to check all the boxes for the ideal startup founder most VCs look for. — Never referred to self as an entrepreneur. What entrepreneurs do is way, way harder than what we do as VCs. Having been in venture capital for a few years, have a greater appreciation for the dangers of stereotyping. Great founders can come from anywhere. Biases can lead to dangerous thinking and missing out on great opportunities. Empathy is probably one of the hardest skills to acquire as a VC. You need to have empathy with founders. Of course we are investing for financial gain; but at the same time we want to help build businesses that are good for human beings. An example of a company focusing on empathy is Amazon. Jeff Bezos has always been customer-first, customer-centric. This has not changed over the years.
  • 14:53 When you’re chatting with a founder, what do you look for? — It’s really about the team. At the seed stage there are a lot of unknowns. This means the founder and the team have a much bigger impact on overall outcome during this early period. We look for qualities like mental agility, understanding context, market fit, displays of leadership, and just like pure grit. It’s a delicate balance. When you come across someone who has an opinion about how the world should work, even if it’s not correct, this suggests it’s possible to have a discussion around making ideas work. It’s also relevant to consider the context in Asia. To have an opinion implies you’re willing to go against the grain. Asia is more conformist than other cultures, and this is not always great for entrepreneurship.
  • 45:29 A new generation of talent is wondering how they can be part of the Asian Century. What advice might you give? — There’s no better way than just being here. You can read and watch as much as you want, but it’s not as good as seeing things for yourself. Singapore is a great gateway into the rest of Asia. It’s good for families and it’s safe and efficient here in Singapore. Immersion and acquiring a language are also fantastic ways to get acquainted with the region.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Tiang Lim Foo, Operating Partner at SeedPlus, to ATP Stories with host Graham Brown.
  • 01:00 Can you give us a brief synopsis of yourself? — Operating Partner at SeedPlus, a seed-based venture capital fund in Singapore. We closed our first fund in June, 2017. Primarily we invest in the broader Southeast Asia region, not too much in Japan, South Korea, and China.
  • 03:50 All of the members of SeedPlus who have been on our show seem very relaxed for VCs. You all seem pretty informal in your approach to venture capital. This is not how VCs tend to operate in Asia. Is this deliberate? — Partially it’s a reflection of who we are and where we came from. [Tiang] came to SeedPlus from Evernote, the note taking software company that started in Silicon Valley. Worked for them in Singapore from 2012-2015. At SeedPlus, we have backgrounds in tech companies. It informs our dress, our language, etc.
  • 06:56 People in the region seem to speak highly of the work you guys do at SeedPlus. You seem to check all the boxes for the ideal startup founder most VCs look for. — Never referred to self as an entrepreneur. What entrepreneurs do is way, way harder than what we do as VCs. Having been in venture capital for a few years, have a greater appreciation for the dangers of stereotyping. Great founders can come from anywhere. Biases can lead to dangerous thinking and missing out on great opportunities. Empathy is probably one of the hardest skills to acquire as a VC. You need to have empathy with founders. Of course we are investing for financial gain; but at the same time we want to help build businesses that are good for human beings. An example of a company focusing on empathy is Amazon. Jeff Bezos has always been customer-first, customer-centric. This has not changed over the years.
  • 12:41 When you think of your role as a VC, do you take on board inspiration from people like Jeff Bezos? Do you read Tony Hsieh, for example? — That book is on my never-ending to-read list. If you think about this from a game-theoretic perspective, venture capital is one of the few industries that reward long-term strategy. Venture is a multi-round game. You want to partner with founders with whom you can have a long relationship. Reputation compounds over time. Founders may come back after their idea germinates a bit and you find it’s now a better fit for the fund.
  • 14:53 When you’re chatting with a founder, what do you look for? — It’s really about the team. At the seed stage there are a lot of unknowns. This means the founder and the team have a much bigger impact on overall outcome during this early period. We look for qualities like mental agility, understanding context, market fit, displays of leadership, and just like pure grit. It’s a delicate balance. When you come across someone who has an opinion about how the world should work, even if it’s not correct, this suggests it’s possible to have a discussion around making ideas work. It’s also relevant to consider the context in Asia. To have an opinion implies you’re willing to go against the grain. Asia is more conformist than other cultures, and this is not always great for entrepreneurship.
  • 19:18 When you look across Southeast Asia today, do you see these qualities coming through? — In a very macro sense, yes. 3-5 years ago if you were starting a business in Singapore, it implied you were unemployed. These days starting a business is a career choice. Across the region there is more of a groundswell happening.
  • 24:22 What’s happening at the macro level with China in Southeast Asia right now? — Historically speaking there have been very deep networks and connections with mainland China. There is still an enormous growth potential inside China. However, now we’re starting to see a shift towards expanding into Southeast Asia. This is a very natural extension for Chinese businesses. It’s a pretty exciting time. For VCs there are a lot of opportunities as people and markets begin to come online.
  • 28:48 How can investors in Southeast Asia manage this “Chinese effect”? — It’s not obvious there are clear answers. At the seed stage of investing, you go back to first-principles: are we investing in good businesses?
  • 33:18 The period you spent at Evernote was quite an interesting time in your career. They are a company who have tried to keep their product simple even as it evolved. As an investor, how do you manage the temptation many businesses face of wanting to move in many different directions at once? — This goes back to having empathy for users and consumers. Most users can’t verbalize their needs well. Designers have to intimately know what problem they are solving for their users. At the end of the day, the CEO must make a decision and have confidence they’re making the right decision on behalf of customers.
  • 41:43 When one looks at Southeast Asia, it’s possible to see a competition developing between Amazon and Alibaba. Where do you think this will go? — It’s too early to say. Also, it’s not clear Amazon sees it as a competition per se. It’s not just about e-commerce selections. It’s also about the ancillary services around the customer. This could be Amazon Prime media, storage, etc. Amazon is a company thinking 5 to 10 years ahead. You can’t do this if you’re defined by competition in the market.
  • 45:29 A new generation of talent is wondering how they can be part of the Asian Century. What advice might you give? — There’s no better way than just being here. You can read and watch as much as you want, but it’s not as good as seeing things for yourself. Singapore is a great gateway into the rest of Asia. It’s good for families and it’s safe and efficient here in Singapore. Immersion and acquiring a language are also fantastic ways to get acquainted with the region.

298: Jianggan Li on Momentum Works, Tech Accelerators, and Opportunities in China

Podcast highlights:

  • 04:33 You describe Momentum Works as a tech accelerator. What do you do? — Over the past two years we’ve changed our business model quite a bit. For many ventures, you can get a team together, get some investors, and start producing a product. The problems come next when you have to deal with customers, have to find the right people to help you expand, etc. At Momentum Works, we hunt startups. To be a successful accelerator, you can either be really knowledgeable about niche markets and products, or you act more like a pure VC where you basically just supply money. We do a bit of both.
  • 32:55 Do you spend a lot of time traveling to and from China? — In 2018 have traveled there at least once every six weeks, usually to either Beijing or Hangzhou. We have to otherwise you end up losing touch with the market. What’s interesting is the degree to which there is a lot of second-generation wealth in China looking for places to invest. It’s very common that once people get rich in China they begin to look for off-shore opportunities for their assets. Singapore is becoming more and more attractive in this regard.
  • 41:30 As you continue to develop Momentum Works, what kinds of startups are you looking to have walk through your door? — We are always open to talking to people. The people we like to work with are those who are passionate, but who also understand what’s going on in the world. How is what they are doing similar to what others are doing in different markets? Having this sort of strategic openness to what’s going on, to the bigger picture, really helps. It’s really hard to tolerate people who lack logic in what they’re doing. People are good at telling stories, but it takes logic to turn plans into reality.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Jianggan Li, founder and CEO of Momentum Works, to ATP Stories with host Graham Brown.
  • 00:27 You describe yourself as an entrepreneur across emerging markets. Can you describe what this means? — We are living in a world where there is lots of growth in different markets. Interested in the dynamics of each market and how to break into each market, work with locals, and make something happen. Have worked in six markets across Southeast Asia and speak seven languages, if only basic conversations in some of them.
  • 04:33 You describe Momentum Works as a tech accelerator. What do you do? — Over the past two years we’ve changed our business model quite a bit. For many ventures, you can get a team together, get some investors, and start producing a product. The problems come next when you have to deal with customers, have to find the right people to help you expand, etc. At Momentum Works, we hunt startups. To be a successful accelerator, you can either be really knowledgeable about niche markets and products, or you act more like a pure VC where you basically just supply money. We do a bit of both.
  • 10:30 You’ve lived in many places, but you’ve gravitated towards Singapore as a base for your latest project. Why does it make sense to have an accelerator in Singapore? — Over the course of 13 years, have been coming to Singapore. It’s in the middle of everything. There’s money, there’s a great network, etc. It’s a good place to have your tech lead or your talent lead.
  • 13:40 You helped set up Easy Taxi in Singapore. Tell us what that was like. — Originally the Easy Taxi work was part of Rocket Internet. While living in France, met someone who knew about Easy Taxi and encouraged me to get into touch with them to see if they were interested in coming into the market in Singapore. The tech team was based in Brazil, which made the time difference quite complicated to work around.
  • 16:33 If a startup came to you now at Momentum Works and described having their various units spread around the globe, do alarm bells ring in your head? — Wouldn’t say alarm bells. If you’ve managed to build a team across different geographies, this in and of itself is quite a feet. We would be keen to see if it could be made to work.
  • 21:05 Tell us more about Momentum Works. How do you organize yourself? — People usually come to us, often through referrals. We thought about the idea of doing batches, but we didn’t go in this direction. If someone comes to us, we will have lengthy discussions with them and see if it is something we can get involved with and to what extent we can contribute. For us it can take the form of joint-ventures where we’re involved in the day-to-day, or as simply providing cash.
  • 31:10 Are there any other players in the accelerator space trying to operate similar to the way you do things, as sort of a middle ground? — There are a few here in Singapore who do that. There are also some alumni from Rocket Internet in various places trying to do things in different ways. It is interesting to see how people are trying to experiment with different accelerator models.
  • 32:55 Do you spend a lot of time traveling to and from China? — In 2018 have traveled there at least once every six weeks, usually to either Beijing or Hangzhou. We have to otherwise you end up losing touch with the market. What’s interesting is the degree to which there is a lot of second-generation wealth in China looking for places to invest. It’s very common that once people get rich in China they begin to look for off-shore opportunities for their assets. Singapore is becoming more and more attractive in this regard.
  • 37:10 With the rise of Chinese wealth, there is a massive shift of talent moving to Asia. Have you noticed a different type of entrepreneur on the ground now? — Certainly. In one regard, we see people working on projects where it’s simply easier for them to operate in a more relaxed privacy and regulatory environment. In time, when regulations in China catch up to those in the West, companies will have been able to learn a lot from the data they were able to collect and analyze.
  • 41:30 As you continue to develop Momentum Works, what kinds of startups are you looking to have walk through your door? — We are always open to talking to people. The people we like to work with are those who are passionate, but who also understand what’s going on in the world. How is what they are doing similar to what others are doing in different markets? Having this sort of strategic openness to what’s going on, to the bigger picture, really helps. It’s really hard to tolerate people who lack logic in what they’re doing. People are good at telling stories, but it takes logic to turn plans into reality.

275: Bob Gallagher — Appsynth

Podcast highlights:

  • 04:18 Earlier this year, you picked up an award in Singapore. Tell us a little bit about that. — We picked up two awards from Campaign Asia-Pacific. Campaign Asia-Pacific is basically the de facto agency world magazine in the region. It was really good recognition for us. Now it’s onward and upwards!
  • 26:00 Do you see anything emerging in Thailand on the mobile front that will catch on in the rest of the world? — On the consumption side, Thailand is leading in terms of time spent on mobile. We’re talking 4-5 hours a day. There is also mobile payment via QR codes, which are very big here. We see the drive to a cashless society. These are things you would notice in Thailand, people scanning people’s QR codes and transferring money for products and services very easily.
  • 44:10 So now you’re 8 years into the story of Appsynth. Where do things go from here? — For us it’s a careful balancing act in terms of having the people we need versus having a situation where work dries up and we can no longer support the number of people we have. Maybe we could expand to 100 people, be we’ll have to see. We also want to look at growing regionally and also in Europe and the US. One effort we’ve engaged in is diversifying the nationalities of our employees. As we move forward we need to continue to figure out how to change our structure to support our growth.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Bob Gallagher, Managing Director and Founder of Appsynth to ATP Stories with Graham Brown.
  • 00:40 You set up Appsynth in 2010, correct? — Yes, that’s correct. Coming up on 10 years in Thailand with 8 of those years running Appsynth. We have over 50 people working for us now and have seen a steady stream of growth in this regard.
  • 01:40 So your background was originally in music, wasn’t it? — Yep. Started working in mobile 12 years ago for a mobile music distributor and even before that running a record label. Came to Thailand first at age 18 and saw the potential in the markets there.
  • 04:18 Earlier this year, you picked up an award in Singapore. Tell us a little bit about that. — We picked up two awards from Campaign Asia-Pacific. Campaign Asia-Pacific is basically the de facto agency world magazine in the region. It was really good recognition for us. Now it’s onward and upwards!
  • 07:48 These awards must help in terms of recruitment. Can you talk a little about that? — We’ve probably hired a bit more than 15 recruits in the past year, which is a lot. The award adds to the prestige of working with a company like ours. While we’re growing, we’ve been focusing on things like company culture and creating an environment where people want to come but also then want to stay.
  • 10:35 When you look at other companies, who do you admire in terms of getting corporate culture correct? — There are many different role models in this regard. There’s no one way to run a business. But to name a few, there’s Spotify. Of course there are other inspirations from different fields. Just take a look at who are the best software teams in the world and how do they operate. One benefit we have in terms of hiring people is the ability to tell candidates they will be able to work on many different projects given that we’re not such a big company. We don’t have teams devoted just to narrow features or products.
  • 15:15 Can you describe a bit about how you capture the sort of software engineer who wants to go out and make a difference in the world? — This is really a reflection on how we go about business development and being selective in terms of who we work with and what sorts of things we take on. There’s a lot of work out there, but we need to find things that are exciting and are going to be used by millions of people. This gets people motivated.
  • 20:30 You’ve recently published some data about working in Thailand and the changes taking place there. Can you help us understand some of these trends? — We clearly see how hard people work in Thailand. Certainly in technology and knowledge work, people work very hard here. The pace of work has been increasing here and we expect this to continue.
  • 23:50 In Thailand you have a hard-working population, and a young population very connected on social media. What sorts of opportunities does this create for a company like Appsynth? — This is a point we like to highlight because Thailand really is at the forefront for mobile usage and mobile shopping. It’s not in places like the US, it’s here in Thailand.
  • 26:00 Do you see anything emerging in Thailand on the mobile front that will catch on in the rest of the world? — On the consumption side, Thailand is leading in terms of time spent on mobile. We’re talking 4-5 hours a day. There is also mobile payment via QR codes, which are very big here. We see the drive to a cashless society. These are things you would notice in Thailand, people scanning people’s QR codes and transferring money for products and services very easily.
  • 35:20 What sorts of other things are you experimenting with there in terms of mobile payments and money transfer? — The app we produced for 7-Eleven here in Thailand has a feature where parents can top up their children’s accounts and eliminate the need for those kids to carry cash. This helps parents better control where and how their kids can spend money too. Another feature you see is loyalty tracking, which can be used to offer discounts and enticements to consumers.
  • 36:45 Do you think Thailand will be a leader in terms of being a cashless society? — Yes, I think so. People have really embraced this new QR-based payment model. Maybe Thailand won’t be the first country to go cashless, but it will certainly be one of the first.
  • 37:45 What is the mobile music scene in Thailand right now? — People here obviously love music and mobile, and in fact Spotify as the big player in this space was actually a bit late to come to Thailand. There are other players here including well-established local labels who are getting into mobile music.
  • 39:50 Do you see a lot of Chinese investment coming into places like Thailand? Are there Chinese companies coming in and making big investments? — Yes, definitely. There’s pros and cons of course. We’ve seen some cases were Chinese investment comes in and ends up moving development jobs back to China where some Thai developers simply don’t want to move for whatever reason. This has opened up new talent avenues for the companies that remain. This is what happened, for example, at Lazada.
  • 44:10 So now you’re 8 years into the story of Appsynth. Where do things go from here? — For us it’s a careful balancing act in terms of having the people we need versus having a situation where work dries up and we can no longer support the number of people we have. Maybe we could expand to 100 people, be we’ll have to see. We also want to look at growing regionally and also in Europe and the US. One effort we’ve engaged in is diversifying the nationalities of our employees. As we move forward we need to continue to figure out how to change our structure to support our growth.

274: Andrew Romans on blockchain, ICOs, and venture capital (Cross Border Kyle KYL8)

Podcast highlights:

  • 00:40 Can you give us a quick introduction about yourself? — Really an entrepreneur who found a way into venture capital and investing. At heart see myself as someone who founds and builds companies. More recently have become infected with the blockchain bug.
  • 27:10 ICOs and tokenization represent a new tool in the entrepreneur’s toolbox for how to fund a business while at the same time creating a fan base. It will be very important to see how these things are regulated going forward; however, right now it is possible to be fully compliant with the law, while at the same time developing your business and product in new and truly innovative ways with these technologies. Venture capital has traditionally been very illiquid. When VCs invest in companies, it might be up to seven years before they see a return on investment. With an ICO in contrast, the expectation is that in a matter of weeks coins will be trading on an active market and generating returns and cash flows for investors. It’s a game changer for venture capital.
  • 35:45 So this is basically a whole new economy? — Yes. In fact, if any listeners run or know someone who runs an airline, give us a call. We can help you raise billions of dollars with a token offering. Any company with a loyalty program who does not tokenize moving forward is going to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Large companies will be the big winners here. If you think about it, companies like Costco are already doing something similar in driving a discount-based loyalty program. As soon as companies add liquidity through tokenization, the sky’s the limit.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Andrew Romans, co-founder and general partner of Rubicon Venture Capital, also CEO and general partner at 7BC.VC, to Cross Border Kyle with host Kyle Ellicott.
  • 00:40 Can you give us a quick introduction about yourself? — Really an entrepreneur who found a way into venture capital and investing. At heart see myself as someone who founds and builds companies. More recently have become infected with the blockchain bug.
  • 03:25 What are some lessons you’ve learned getting started and becoming an author? — The books have been a network path and have allowed me to meet new investors around the world. With the blockchain book, it was an attempt to clearly lay out the existing securities law in the United States and how it’s possible to be 100% compliant and still do an initial coin offering (ICO). There is a lot of misunderstanding around ICOs, what they are, how they work, and how they comport with existing law. Many investors simply don’t understand crypto and distributed ledger technology because it’s so different from anything else they’ve worked with. To take another example, publishing is a market ripe for the introduction of blockchain and smart contracts. Having a distributed record of book sales and how authors are reimbursed will go a long way towards improving how the publishing industry works. And not only publishing, but also real estate and any other instance where someone feels a contract was not fully honored. When someone says all this cryptocurrency stuff is rubbish and all the coins will go to zero, it may be true for 99% of the coins out there now; but the ones that make it will be huge.
  • 27:10 ICOs and tokenization represent a new tool in the entrepreneur’s toolbox for how to fund a business while at the same time creating a fan base. It will be very important to see how these things are regulated going forward; however, right now it is possible to be fully compliant with the law, while at the same time developing your business and product in new and truly innovative ways with these technologies. Venture capital has traditionally been very illiquid. When VCs invest in companies, it might be up to seven years before they see a return on investment. With an ICO in contrast, the expectation is that in a matter of weeks coins will be trading on an active market and generating returns and cash flows for investors. It’s a game changer for venture capital.
  • 35:45 So this is basically an whole new economy? — Yes. In fact, if any listeners run or know someone who runs an airline, give us a call. We can help you raise billions of dollars with a token offering. Any company with a loyalty program who does not tokenize moving forward is going to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Large companies will be the big winners here. If you think about it, companies like Costco are already doing something similar in driving a discount-based loyalty program. As soon as companies add liquidity through tokenization, the sky’s the limit.
  • 41:05 When you spend all day in the blockchain world, you realize the problem that this is the way things should happen; but it doesn’t work because the solution doesn’t exist. Right now there are a lot of missing pieces to this technology. There are all kinds of badly needed fintech and basic payments infrastructure, and right now there is a big opportunity for VCs to investment with companies to get these things built.

243: Julian Kwan – Investacrowd (Founders in Asia FIA3)

Podcast highlights:

  • 12:00 How did Julian Kwan get started in Singapore? It’s the best place to start a property tech business. Thinking where the investment comes from is critical
  • 24:25 The huge sense of belief and 150% conviction that you need to have in starting a business. The dilemma startups face with an idea that’s too early for the market (like real estate token exchanges)
  • 39:50 Asian companies don’t support startups like Western companies do. Raising money from traditional sources is much harder in Asia than in The West – but is this situation changing in recent years?

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Julian Kwan to Asia Tech Podcast Founders in Asia with Jodie Collins
  • 01:25 How did Julian Kwan get into Asia? A backstory on Julian backpacking in and around Asia, studying in Beijing, then working in Shanghai on different jobs before moving onto real estate development and renovating a prosthetics factory in Shanghai
  • 06:35 Did Julian have any local partner to work with in the renovation of the prosthetics factory project? Turning it to a hotel, raising money from a big American entrepreneur, opening it, eventually signing up a couple of deals with real estate developers in China then expanding into other parts of Asia
  • 08:50 Did Julian move to Sri Lanka permanently for a project there? The challenges Julian faced in doing business at Sri Lanka
  • 12:00 How did Julian Kwan get started in Singapore? It’s the best place to start a property tech business. Thinking where the investment comes from is critical
  • 15:05 What is Investacrowd? A real-estate financing company, a tech platform where global investors can access high-quality commercial real-estate investments – a diversification tool
  • 17:35 Did Julian develop the Investacrowd technology in Singapore? Expansion plans into adopting the blockchain technology and the shareholdings into the smart contracts instead of old paper contracts
  • 20:50 How did Julian develop the idea behind Investacrowd? What was his inspiration for starting the business and how did Julian transition from idea to making it happen?
  • 24:25 The huge sense of belief and 150% conviction that you need to have in starting a business. The dilemma startups face with an idea that’s too early for the market (like real estate token exchanges)
  • 28:20 Does Julian see ICTX (Investacrowd Token), an extension of the Investacrowd business, as a pivot away from what he is doing?
  • 30:25 As the CEO, how does Julian balance out his team in terms of where their focus is on the existing business versus the new business? And how are the “old-world” real estate companies moving into the blockchain space?
  • 35:55 Being a business founder now working in an area that is moving at an extremely fast pace, how does Julian manage that from a health and time perspective?
  • 39:50 Asian companies don’t support startups like Western companies do. Raising money from traditional sources is much harder in Asia than in The West – but is this situation changing in recent years?
  • 42:35 Where are the most interesting markets for property technology in Asia?
  • 44:30 Julian’s tips for founders who are looking to move or are interested in Asia – find and go what’s behind the curve; work in an accelerator or VC fund, see all the different things and come up with something of your own; understand the cost space; play the long game otherwise people won’t work with you

238: Chirayu Wadke – Partner, SeedPlus – Leaving the Valley for Asia

Podcast highlights:

  • 18:45 Leaving Google in Silicon Valley and returning to Asia was not a difficult decision for Chirayu Wadke.
  • 32:30 If you’re in tech, consider moving your engineering teams to Asia. Proximity brings more empathy for the users and affects cost decisions.
  • 47:00 Discussing Smart Cities in Asia and their business potential.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Chirayu Wadke to Asia Tech Podcast Stories! He’s an Early Stage Technology Investor and Operator, and Partner at SeedPlus.
  • 02:00 What’s an un-VC? Chirayu Wadke talks traditional expectations for people in the investment game and how modern technology is changing all of that.
  • 06:10 Chirayu Wadke and Graham discuss a recent visit to a watch-maker Geneva and the challenges of launching a new product in the modern world.
  • 13:00 Apple is outselling every single Swiss watch brand out there. What should traditional Swiss Watch brands and startups learn from Apple?
  • 18:45 Leaving Google in Silicon Valley and returning to Asia was not a difficult decision for Chirayu Wadke.
  • 29:00 The reference customer has traditionally been a Western consumer, this dynamic is chancing
  • 32:30 If you’re in tech, consider moving your engineering teams to Asia. Proximity brings more empathy for the users and affects cost decisions.
  • 37:45 If you’re in Silicon Valley, there are many reasons why you should consider expanding to Asia.
  • 42:45 We are moving further away from one central authority towards peer-to-peer type of business models. This movement benefits the lie of the land in Asia.
  • 47:00 Discussing Smart Cities in Asia and their business potential.
  • 53:30 What kind of advice does Chirayu Wadke have for those interested in moving their business to Asia?
  • 55:40 Thanks for tuning in! Find out more about Chirayu Wadke and his work on www.seedplus.com or contact him directly at [email protected]

210: Michael Smith – 2 Years as a VC in Asia, What has he Learned?

Podcast highlights:

  • 03:08 Can a VC be an “Apprentice VC”? What is the learning curve for a general partner or fund manager within a VC?
  • 31:55 Which investment areas and sectors specifically in South-East Asia are exciting right now for VCs?
  • 38:15 Does the US need to start looking more seriously at what’s going on at the grass roots level across Asian ecosystems?

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Michael Smith to Asia Tech Podcast Stories
  • 01:55 Some background history on Michael Smith.
  • 03:08 Can a VC be an “Apprentice VC”? What is the learning curve for a general partner or fund manager within a VC?
  • 06:00 Even as a VC, you learn through doing.
  • 08:35 The apprentice structure exists in many other vertical sectors, so why not investment?
  • 10:27 Comparing “Present-Michael” with “Two-years-ago-Michael.” What has Michael learned in terms of managing deal flow, communication and time?
  • 13:50 How do you guard your time? Being a VC means you are always in demand, that’s not easy, because it means at some point you have to learn to say “no” a lot.
  • 20:40 What are the signs that a potential start-up needs to give you for you to say “this is worth my time?”
  • 24:00 If you’re advising a start-up, what advice would you give them on the raise?
  • 28:20 Talking about Michael’s investment thesis.
  • 31:55 Which investment areas and sectors specifically in South-East Asia are exciting right now for VCs?
  • 38:15 Does the US need to start looking more seriously at what’s going on at the grass roots level across Asian ecosystems?
  • 42:52 In Asia, hundreds of cities can lay claim to be a tech ecosystem of some sort. How do you advise start-up founders to choose between cities?
  • 52:32 A rising tide lifts all the boats. Everybody in the tech ecosystem should want to help everybody; that benefits everybody.
  • 53:50 You can find more about Michael Smith and SeedPlus by visiting his blog: Michael Smith Jr. – Apprentice VC

206: Bay McLaughlin – Why Silicon Valley Must Pivot to Asia

Podcast highlights:

  • 06:35 Ignore the Greater Bay at your peril! What makes the Chinese Greater Bay different? Why do entrepreneurs need to get up to speed with The Greater Bay? Will Valley entrepreneurs who don’t pay attention miss out?
  • 25:55 Brinc’s 4 main AI investment themes: How I feel (medical and health technology to prevent foot amputations in diabetics), drone technology (optimizing palm oil plantation inefficiences in Malaysia and Indonesia), How I live (smart and safe cities) and how I move (transportation and drone technology)
  • 50:05 Local governments in China have incentivised sponsorship programs for foreign entrepreneurs. Is it time for Western entrepreneurs to check them out?

Podcast notes:

  • 00:08 Welcome Bay McLaughlin – ATP Stories with Graham Brown. Bay is back in the ATP Studio to share updates on his world travels (he’s heading to speak at SXSW), life in The Greater Bay and the latest news from his BRINC hardware accelerator.
  • 01:10 A short overview of the last six months
  • 02:40 An update of what is going on in the Greater Bay
  • 06:35 What makes the Greater Bay different? China’s ability to cluster and focus that very few other countries have and Hong Kong’s connectivity to the Western world
  • 09:48 An empowered vibe in Shenzhen with regards to entrepreneurship
  • 12:25 Bay’s presentation at SXSW and how people are going to react
  • 15:30 A change in mindset for certain people, ‘we are not the center of the world anymore’
  • 18:33 Start ups should be thinking how to globalise as early as possible
  • 20:05 Bay’s experiences of getting his butt kicked by Asia
  • 25:55 The four main AI investment themes that have emerged: How I feel (medical and health technology to prevent foot amputations in diabetics),
    drone technology (optimizing palm oil plantation inefficiences in Malaysia and Indonesia), where I live (smart and safe cities) and how I move (transportation and drone technology)
  • 28:38 Are Chinese consumers more willing to yield their personal data?
  • 31:05 What is Quantified Self (QS)? How does Bay use QS?
  • 33:58 Microbiome testing in Quantified Self
  • 37:01 In the future, will creative ideas come out of San Franscisco and be handed over to the Greater Bay for the building phase?
  • 38:07 It’s not about who makes the tech, but about ‘product culture fit’ versus ‘product market fit’
  • 40:09 The new Polar Silk Road and how it will make Chinese businesses relevant to foreigners
  • 44:32 Bay’s experience of being based in Hong Kong
  • 48:46 Advice for someone who wants to get started in Asia
  • 50:05 Local governments in China have incentivised sponsorship programs for foreign entrepreneurs
  • 53:08 Get connected with Bay McLaughlin on Twitter @betabay or website BetaBay.me

205: From San Francisco to Shenzhen (Cross Border Kyle KYL3)

Podcast highlights:

  • 06:05 Soaring rental costs of San Francisco – How does this accelerate movement of venture capital out of the valley and into other hubs, including Asia?
  • 14:10 If your startup is seeking more breathing space, more ability to experiment, and more capacity for risk, maybe you should think about relocating out of an expensive ecosystem (like San Francisco) and into a more cost-effective one.
  • 33:30 Beware the temptation to be sucked into Silicon Valley’s black hole – Kyle Ellicott’s advice for startups on looking at options in the US and Asia

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 KYL3 – Cross Border Kyle with Kyle Ellicott
  • 01:00 San Francisco is so expensive that people are commuting from Oregon: How far is it and how much time does it take to make the round trip?
  • 02:40 Which people do this and where is this “top to bottom commuting” going on? Cases between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas
  • 06:05 The soaring rental costs of San Francisco: How this accelerates movement of venture capital out of the valley and into other hubs, including Asia
  • 09:30 Where else could people live and what decision process would a start-up founder go through to decide where to be: the significant cost advantage in Shenzhen
  • 14:10 What an American company’s move to other hubs means for innovation and its corresponding changes in dynamics: more breathing space, experiments, risks
  • 18:10 The choice to build a lifestyle business in these types of locations: its pros and cons
  • 24:05 A backstory to the digital nomads showing one can go and live anywhere in the world: the case of 64things.com’s Cedric
  • 29:55 Do you think of growing business differently now? The myth of the number of people in the office as a gauge of success
  • 33:30 The temptation to be sucked into the Valley black hole: Kyle’s advice for startups and resources being only an arm’s length away wherever you are
  • 38:15 The shift from businesses being geographically confined to resources: where capital, talent, markets exist
  • 41:30 Where to find details: ATP.show/Kyle
  • 42:05 Kyle’s plans for the show