Southeast Asia (SEA)’s startup ecosystem is as vibrant as ever. Not only are startups being created in a rapid pace, but also the establishment of new venture capital funds, business angel networks, accelerators, incubators, and of course, startup events that bring all ecosystem players together to compare notes, learn new things, network and collaborate.
Good news are pouring in every day on new startup developments, more funds being raised, and many other success stories. However, things on the ground are not that rosy. Founders and investors alike face tremendous challenges on a wide variety of things in navigating through the startups ecosystem in this region.
Victor Chua, Investment Director of Gobi Partners, shares some of his thoughts as an investor in SEA.
1. What interest you to become a venture capitalist?
I believe VC is an enabler to the ecosystem – bringing smart capital and network onto the table, we are actually unlocking the economic and social potential in entrepreneurs. As a VC, we play many roles in supporting the journeys of founders that we invest in. These are people who form a large and significant segment of any economy, essential the basic blocks of any markets. As such, our role as VC brings huge impact to the society and economy.
2. How many startup pitches have you come across throughout your VC career? And how many amongst those did you invest in?
To be honest, I have lost count. But as a general rule of thumb, the investment rate is less than 1%. So far, I have invested in about 25 companies.
3. What has been your biggest challenge investing in Southeast Asia?
The biggest challenge is really bridging the knowledge between countries. SEA is a huge market with different sets of opportunities in different countries. As companies in SEA go for a regional strategy, it is important for founders to share and learn from each other. As I invest in a portfolio of companies, it makes sense for them to work together for a larger strategy.
4. What do you think of the state of Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem? What need to be done to ensure the market reach its full potential?
I think the SEA ecosystem is at its early stage – a lot more room to grow and expand. We are gradually attracting more stakeholders from other regions, e.g. China, U.S., Japan, Korea etc. The key to hit its full potential is really to focus on mobility – mobility of ideas, talent, knowledge and resources.
Victor is also responsible in making deals for the Gobi MAVCAP ASEAN SuperSeed Fund, a US$14.5 million pool that targets seed-stage companies in the region launched in March 2016.