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.
1) What’s your story?
I was born in Fujian, China, and immigrated with my parents to Auckland, New Zealand at the age of 5. Growing up in an isolated and small country offered an idyllic and simple childhood, which in hindsight I greatly appreciate.
At university I studied law and finance, but have had an eclectic list of part-time jobs since 15 – retail (specifically, female swimwear), insurance “actor”, examination invigilator, English conversationalist, civil society research, media/PR intern, tutor, assignment marker, event usher etc. The only typical part-time job I never got to experience was hospitality. It would have been great to pick up barista or cocktail skills (or learn how to cook well).
My first real job was being a lawyer, and then I eventually transitioned into tech VC.
2) What did you want to be as a child?
I think it changed throughout the years, but my most vivid memory is wanting to be a shop owner at the age of 8. I remember pretending to be a cashier lady at a fake shop where customers pay me for some goods and I give them change. These days it’s what I would call a brick and mortar SME :)
3) How did you end up working in VC?
When I was 5 my mother bought me a book of cartoon drawings showing crazy product ideas, such as having a zip for a square sandwich so the inside fillings don’t fall out. I’ve always been curious about inventions and better ways of doing stuff, and VC is a great place to see a lot of that.
Before Monk’s Hill Venture I was working at a tech law firm helping early stage founders with the investment process and legal issues. It became quite apparent to my colleagues that I was more interested in learning about our client’s business operations than drafting their legal documentation.
Coincidentally my law firm did a lot of the financing rounds for tech companies in Southeast Asia, and knew the VC partners here. When I wanted to leave law, my ex-colleagues were very supportive and linked me up with a few Singapore VC funds. After a few Skype conversations with Kuo-Yi and Peng, here I am at MHV.
4) What do you do to stay on top of relevant news in the VC world?
I scroll through social media. On Twitter I follow a lot of people I respect in the VC, tech and media industries. A lot of my Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts are also in the tech industry, so it’s hard to avoid seeing tech-related updates in my newsfeed.
Also, it was a surprise to find that WhatsApp is used so frequently for work in Southeast Asia. I’m in a few different WhatsApp groups that end up discussing tech and VC with varying degrees of seriousness.
5) What’s the most exciting thing about working in VC?
Meeting the entrepreneur that make you think, wow. Seeing first hand how technology is changing the world and improving the lives of people from such different backgrounds and countries. Celebrating the great progress made by our portfolio companies.
6) What piece of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Firstly – think hard about whether you want to raise VC funding. Does it make sense for your business, and your long-term ambitions? Unfortunately too many people think fundraising is a standard route to success these days.
If you are pitching your company to investors, spend more time on your traction or progress, and less time detailing your awards, PR or all-star cast of advisors. Good numbers sells itself.
Also, just in case you were thinking about it … Don’t start your asset-light company pitch with that overused quote –
“Uber doesn’t own any cars
Air BnB doesn’t own any real estate
EBay doesn’t own any inventory
7) If you wanted to start a company today, in what space would you do it?
I think in the next few years there’s going to be even more displacement of jobs than currently. The displacement is twofold – a lag in skill-sets required to catch up with how fast technology evolves, and jobs disappearing as a result of automation.
It would be pretty interesting to build a platform that matches labour with demand at scale, and provide an alternative option for those who are not able to get re-hired. Perhaps in some sort of sharing economy that allows for the increasing flexibility we expect in this world, and simultaneously upskill the labour.
Marketplaces are hard to start/bootstrap though – think I’ll just stick with VC for now.
8) What has been the biggest lessons you learned since you started working in Venture Capital?
Business is all about people. Whether it’s looking for great founders to invest into, rockstar candidates you want to hire, bringing on investors you can trust, or biz dev opportunities that come from referrals.
VC blogger Mark Suster astutely penned a blog titled “Venture Capital is all about Human Capital”.
9) What's the hardest thing about being you?
My indecisiveness arising from the paradox of choice! I’m generally the last person to order my food because I have a hard time deciding what to eat (amongst many other things…).
10) If your life was a book, which book would it be?
Something from the Nancy Drew mystery series. As a kid I read a lot of detective books and liked to “sleuth”... VC can be a bit like that sometimes - the process of fact-finding and understanding people, to ultimately come to a conclusion.