Self reflections from Ganesh Ramakrishnan, our newest member on the Investment team. Ganesh will be matriculating at the Stanford Graduate School of Business later this Fall. Prior to MHV, Ganesh worked at Goldman Sachs, specializing in emerging market equities and Finvoice, financing the working capital needs of SMEs.
What a year it’s been -- from spearheading one of the largest investment roadshows for global sovereign wealth clients in India, to connecting small business owners to affordable sources of short-term capital in the United States -- my experiences during these past twelve months have been substantially wide-ranging, challenging, yet rewarding at the same time. Much inspired from reading Stanford GSB alum Bonny Simi’s unconventional path to venture capital (source), I thought I could perhaps share my own story about how I navigated my way to where I am today - an early-stage VC at Monk’s Hill Ventures (MHV).
A sneak peek into the background of people who work at Monk's Hill Ventures. Next in our profile series is Lucy Luo, one of our Associates.
College of Engineering Fall Convocation
University of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign
December 17, 2016
Peng T. Ong
I am honored to be able to talk to you today.
Congratulations on making it to this point, at one of the world’s top engineering schools.
Now what? We each have about a 100 years on the planet. (Yes, ... you've got approximately 80 left.)
I know many of you already have a job lined up. Have you thought about how the next few years of your life tees you up for the rest of it?
As an entrepreneur, and then a VC, I have spent a lot of my time talking to many highly-accomplished individuals about what drives them... about their purpose.
One of the hardest challenges that many people face is in deciding on a purpose. Yes, I did say deciding. Not finding. Not discovering. Not searching for.
You have to decide on your purpose, or it will literally not really be YOUR PURPOSE.
I would like to use our next few minutes to tell you about three things I'm spending time on because of my purpose.
My "Life Projects", as I call them.
What I hope for is that they prompt you to think about and decide on your own purpose.
So you’ve worked hard at setting up and launching your startup, and now you’re ready to take it to the next level. Well, venture capital could be just what you need to accelerate your growth. But in order to increase the odds of getting that money, you’ll have to perform extensive research, prepare an outstanding pitch, and avoid the following mistakes that could cost you a lucrative deal. [more]
We recently ran a survey on compensation in tech startups in Singapore. This topic is very much a top-of-mind for many founders. Compensation data - base pay, bonus, stock options etc - are hard to come by. Existing salary surveys tend to focus on established IT companies and their roles (e.g. sales, marketing), but don’t quite capture the nuances that startups face.
So we decided to ask startup founders in Singapore. We sent out a survey that asked 4 questions. The intent was to keep the survey brief - founders are busy. We also wanted to get the information out there fast and then iterate later. Responses from 13 founders came very quickly, almost all commenting that they have been looking for compensation data.
A sneak peak into the background profile of MHV's team members. First up on our profile series is Dimitra Taslim, our Sr. Investment Analyst.
1) So, what's your story?
I'm Chinese Indonesian. I moved to Singapore when I was nine years old and later to the UK, where I studied and worked for eight years. I also spent about one and a half years travelling across Africa, Europe, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
Despite the constant lamenting of low female-to-male ratio in the tech industry, the poor representation of women in technical roles hasn’t always been the case. According to some NPR research, some of the world’s computing pioneers were women. And for a while, there were actually more women studying computer science than men.
But ever since personal computers arrived in American homes, that number began to plummet. This was thanks to the notion that computers were for boys -- so male students naturally had a leg up because they had the opportunity to learn programming languages in their spare time.
According to Girls Who Code, 74% of young girls in the US are interested in STEM fields and computer science but by the time they make a decision on their academic or professional careers, a shifts occurs.
In the world of startups, there is a schism between real value creation and the irrational funding market. Strange as it is, these two things can co-exist without much correction for a sustained period of time.
What is this schism?
On one hand, there is an ecosystem of startups hard at work, disrupting incompetent, traditional models of business, whilst making markets more efficient and creating real economic value. This faction works for the long-term and is completely rational.
On the other hand lies the venture capital industry. It thrives on opacity and is driven by egos and primal instincts. It is fearful during bad times and greedy during good times. It is an almost dysfunctional utopia where valuations could shift by the billions in a day, even when the needle hasn’t moved on value creation. This faction is emotional and largely irrational.
What is the truth that everyone knows?
An insider observation on what kind of person you need to be to work in a VC by Omid Scheybani, our MBA intern this summer. Coming from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Omid previously worked at Google, specializing on product distribution in emerging markets.
As someone who is doing his MBA right in the heart of Silicon Valley, I notice a lot of people talking, dreaming, wishing to work in Venture Capital. In fact, not that surprising considering that a recent study of 151 VC Partners in the US found that 53% of them had MBAs — 60% of whom from either Stanford or Harvard (source).
At some point I was so intrigued by the industry that I decided to find out for myself. Given my passion for emerging markets, I wanted that experience to take place in South East Asia, so I ended up with Monk’s Hill Ventures (MHV) which is an industry-agnostic fund that invests across the region (focused on Series A investments). [more]
We hosted 25 amazing entrepreneurs at the recent Monk’s Hill Ventures founders’ dinner. Ninja Van CEO Chang Wen Lai spoke with Managing Director Kuo-Yi Lim about his fundraising experience, and the lessons learnt whilst helming Ninja Van to a US$30M Series B. [more]
At Monk’s Hill Ventures, we invest at the very early period of a company’s life cycle. By this stage, the start-up has only been in operations for 1-2 years, and usually the entire team has less than 20 people. Naturally the original founding members make up the key management team also, and 99% of the time, one of them wears the CEO hat.
But as a company grows, many other considerations come into play. Founders start companies because they are driven by building a product that solves a problem, and have innate passion for seeing their vision through. On the other hand, professional CEOs have built up a career of managing people and growing companies. They’ve seen a lot of things, and if they’re good, they have managed to survive it in tact and led companies to greater heights. We were interested to examine the topic of whether founder CEOs perform better or worse than non-founder CEOs (“professional CEOs”), specifically in the context of tech companies. [more]
The rapid rise of entrepreneurial technology talent in Southeast Asia in recent years has been remarkable, but the long-running issue of there being too few women in the industry means female participation and the values they create have clearly not reached full potential. [more]
People question whether Southeast Asia is capable of producing billion-dollar technology companies. The skepticism is well-founded if you are trying to predict the future based on the past – the number of $1 billion+ tech valuations that we have seen in ASEAN can be counted on two hands.
But if we look at the population and buying power of the top cities/countries in this region, the conditions are there for a company of significant value to be built from scratch. [more]
When you create a company, it will have a culture - whether it is intentional or not.
The key is to create a company with a culture by design and by intent, rather than by default. [more]
What I look for in an investment opportunity.
At the high-level, there are two pieces that I look for in an investment opportunity. The first piece is focused on assessing the two most important traits of the entrepreneur: clarity and resilience. The second piece is focused on assessing the trifactor that I look for in a business: scalability, repeatability, and profitability. [more]
One topic I find myself talking to entrepreneurs a lot about recently is the need to have intentional design for virality of user acquisition... [more]
You have 100 years on this planet, and then you will be gone. What are you going to do with it? The way I see it, there are three routes you could take... [...]