With the rise of the middle class, increased Internet access, and a booming startup scene, the number of venture capitalists in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia, has been rapidly growing in recent years.
As the business ecosystems in Asia continue to grow, there is a need for sharper analysis of the region. If you are an investor, for instance, you need to hear about what VC experts think about the emerging technologies and market trends in regional business ecosystems.
But who do you listen to? Here’s our list of the top thought leaders in Asian venture capital that you should follow.
After holding executive positions in different banks, Yasuhiko Yurimoto founded Global Brain in 1998. The company originally provided consultancy and business development services to other firms. But since establishing an investment fund and incubation center in the early 2000s, Global Brain has grown to become an early stage venture capital firm.
Yurimoto’s work at Global Brain has made him a regular guest in business events. He has been a panelist for “Creating a Compelling Investment Case/ Early Stage Portfolio for Series A Investors” at e27’s Echelon and a judge at Morning Pitch, an event that aims to connect venture and large companies together. Yurimoto is currently an Enterprise Global Mentor at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
A Yale alumnus and a winner on China’s popular dating show If You are the One, Adam Bao is not a stranger to prestige and recognition. He currently holds an executive position in the award-winning venture capital firm Cherubic Ventures and was part of the team that started launching funds for startups in Southeast Asia. Perhaps Bao’s best contribution to China’s business ecosystem outside of actual investing is The Harbinger, a podcast and blog in English that features China’s leading founders, tech companies, and venture capitalists.
Although he finished his studies to become a medical doctor, Ritesh Malik found success as a serial entrepreneur and investor. In one of his interviews, Malik said that he only took up medicine because his family wanted him to take over the family hospital. But he remained defiant. He studied Management of Technology and Innovation at the Harvard Business School and founded coworking space Innov8 and angel fund Guerrilla Ventures. He also currently has an accelerator and incubation center called Project Guerrilla. Among the companies in Project Guerrilla’s portfolio are design merchandising company ThinkPot and tech startup Mashinga. To date, the center has funded more than 40 companies.
Malik has been featured in renowned publications for his success as an entrepreneur, a startup mentor, and an investor. In 2016, he was selected to the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 India: Finance & Venture Capital list and just recently, he was included in the Fortune India 40 Under 40 list. Apart from being interviewed and featured by different news outlets, Malik is also occasionally invited as a TEDx speaker.
In her article “Supporting Youth Innovators: Five challenges student entrepreneurs face” in the Hong Kong-based publication for startups Jumpstart, Stephanie Tang said that venture capital firms are “less inclined to support first-time founders” especially those who are “straight out of or in school” because they might lack experience and maturity. For Tang, however, a founder’s age does not determine his startup’s success.
Tang’s belief comes from her role as Managing Director at the Rookie Fund, a venture capital firm funding student startups (at least one co-founder must be in school or a recent graduate). As Rookie Fund is a firm that banks on the potential of young individuals, the company often holds events that look to educate and guide aspiring entrepreneurs on how to start, run, and scale their business. Last year, Tang was among the panelists in Rookie Fund’s Crash Course on Venture Capital.
Thomas Tsao is the founding partner of Gobi Partners, a venture capital firm that has invested in more than 250 startups in Asia. Because of his work, Tsao has been included in the Forbes ranking of the top venture capitalists in China and he has been a keynote speaker in business events hosted by South China Morning Post, the World Bank, and the World Islamic Economic Forum, among others. He will also a featured speaker in the upcoming Asia PE-VC Summit in Singapore.
Ruangroj Poonpol is probably known as Thailand’s Startup Godfather for establishing one of the largest Thai incubators Disrupt Technology Venture and for being a venture partner at 500 Tuk Tuks, a microfund focusing on Thai startups backed by 500 Startups.
But despite all his successful endeavors, Krating admitted that it took some time—seven years in Silicon Valley—for him to acquire the necessary skills needed to be successful in business. According to him, he founded Disrupt University, a startup school offering courses to entrepreneurs, because he wants others to learn faster than he did. One of the University’s courses is VC 101, a three-day course that aims to help produce the best investors in Thailand.
After selling the Asian Food Channel in 2013 Scripps Network Interactive, Hian Goh became a venture capitalist and co-founded Openspace Ventures in 2014. Known for its early investment in Indonesian unicorn Go-Jek, Openspace has also invested in various companies including BeautyMNL, a Philippine-based online marketplace for beauty products and Halodoc, a medical platform in Indonesia. Goh’s successful transition from an entrepreneur to a VC is often featured on publications like e27 and The Peak. He is also often interviewed about his insights as a VC on the Southeast Asian market.
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