In the dynamic e27 community, diverse voices actively shape discussions on emerging technologies and innovation. This feature spotlights our top 10 contributors, all distinguished investors, whose strategic insights and financial acumen significantly impact the startup landscape. Their nuanced perspectives within their respective domains offer a valuable glimpse into their experiences and provide insights for those navigating the intricate pathways of the ever-evolving startup ecosystem.
Chan leads StartmeupHK at Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK), an initiative supporting overseas founders of innovative startups in setting up or expanding in Hong Kong. The services include providing information on the local startup ecosystem, connecting individuals to the startup community, hosting events, and fostering a conducive environment for startup growth.
“With global attention on climate issues and the critical need for action to secure a livable future, the transformative power of technology can be pivotal. We expect to see more greentech companies coming out of Asia, poised to tackle the specific challenges that prevail here.”
Ng, a VC at Gobi Partners GBA, sources, selects and supports startups in Hong Kong and GBA. Embracing Gobi’s core mindset, borrowed from Thomas Tsao, is that great entrepreneurial talent is evenly distributed around the world, but access to opportunity is not.
“Founders, there will always be some parts of your startup operating in a ‘duct tape’ mode where things are being done improperly, barely manageable, and unscalable.
Prioritise fixing duct tapes in critical areas, including:
- Founding team dynamics and morale
- Burn rate/runway
- Product-market fit/sales.
Without these three, everything else is meaningless in this market.”
Genping is a Partner at Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, with a keen interest in tech and startup investments. He focuses on early-stage TMT sectors in Southeast Asia, particularly in internet/mobile and enabling technologies.
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Looi Qin En
Looi, a Partner at Saison Capital, actively leads pre-seed and seed investments in fintech, B2B commerce, and Web3 startups.
“The convergence of fintech and blockchain is the seismic shift that will reach its defining moment in the coming year. Despite US$100 billion+ invested in fintech to date, we still face many challenges – it still remains expensive, slow and inefficient to move money across borders. With the blockchain’s transparent and tamper-proof ledger, 2024 might just herald a new era where money isn’t just transferred; it’s transformed.”
Proman serves as the Managing Director and Partner at Scrum Ventures, contributing to the growth of the Bay Area-based firm and the establishment of their first vertically-focused fund in sports and entertainment.
“Now is a prime time for entrepreneurs, but funding is becoming more selective, emphasising the need to attract and retain fans while leveraging new technologies for growth. In the sports industry, innovation is crucial, yet it tends to lag behind. Startups often focus on specific solutions, overlooking the transformative potential of technology for the holistic fan experience. Drawing insights from industries like travel, which has tackled similar challenges, can provide valuable guidance for staying ahead of the curve.”
Michelle Ng serves as the Head of Environmental, Social, and Governance at Quest Ventures. In this role, she collaborates closely with startups, overseeing their growth acceleration through a blend of incubation services and programs while also taking charge of key markets in Southeast Asia and emerging Asia.
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“The silver economy’s full potential is yet to be harnessed by investors and entrepreneurs. Longevity serves as a macro tailwind, driving the digitalisation of healthcare, caregiving consolidation, and the rise of technologies like blockchain. Investors increasingly focus on key areas within the senior-centric healthcare sector, such as telemedicine, wearable devices, and patient analytics.
Early-stage social enterprises in Singapore are entering a rapidly evolving tech-enabled silver marketplace, providing a testing ground for innovative ideas before potential expansion into larger markets like Japan and China. With the right funding at the right stage, startups in the silver economy can optimise their business models for a growing consumer class and capitalise on the maturing silver market.”
Nicko Widjaja, Founding CEO of BRI Ventures, leads the corporate VC initiative backed by Bank Rakyat Indonesia in Jakarta. With over a decade in venture capital, corporate transformation, and the startup ecosystem, Widjaja was previously the Founding CEO of MDI Ventures, a Telkom Indonesia-backed venture capital firm with investments spanning over 10 countries.
“It goes without saying that venture capital in Indonesia is an exceedingly risky and competitive business. With high stakes, we in the corporate venture space tend not to get too excited when startups show us their ‘magnum opus’ or various forms of get-rich-quick schemes that come with their budding companies. Instead, we’re looking for plays that can help us satisfy a more nuanced double bottom line.”
Olena Petrosyuk, Partner at Waveup, advises global firms on market entry, valuation, and fundraising. She has secured over US$1 billion in funding, facilitating rounds ranging from US$1 million to US$100 million for startups across sectors from Brazil to China, including B2B SaaS, healthtech, and Web3.
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Rachel Lau is Managing Partner at RHL Ventures, a private investment firm focusing on growth capital investments in Southeast Asia and the US region.
“AI hardware chips will likely be the driving force as the innovation cycle becomes shorter each year!”
Sophie Chiu is Principal at AppWorks, a startup accelerator and early-stage VC firm in Greater Southeast Asia. The six-month AppWorks Accelerator admits 20-30 startups per batch, boasting over 500 active startups and 1,500+ founders in its extensive alumni network. With a total AUM of US$400 million, AppWorks is dedicated to supporting founders in Greater Southeast Asia.
“Tough markets make great founders outshine more. Don’t lose hope, and keep up the good fight.”
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