We live in a world that runs on trade-offs. How can a low customer acquisition cost (CAC) actually be harmful for the business? What is the point of looking at CAC in absolute terms if a low CAC confers lower relative value versus a higher CAC? At scale, you don’t wait for the perfect hire to surface, so how do you create an environment to bring out the best in every single team member, across every level, such that you maximize outputs, results and personal growth for thousands of employees who are going to turn your startup into a home run? Things that truly matter hardly make it to the boardroom and these are the things that investors often fail to see unless they have been through it themselves at some point in their career.
Finding the right fit
After seven years in the world of early-stage startups as a founder and operator, I am certain that this startup ecosystem is where I want to spend my time and energy building towards meaningful outcomes. The question to answer is this: “In what role can I make the most impact?”
Being a VC had always been at the back of my mind. What held me back all these years from actively pursuing it as a career choice – apart from the fact that I think being on the ground is way more fun – was the fear of not being able to add much value to founders. Ray Dalio, renowned billionaire investor and one of my favorite authors, sums it up well, “If you can’t successfully do something, don’t think you can tell others how it should be done.” I, for one, am a firm believer of the operator-led VC model.
I wasn’t looking to join just any VC firm. I was looking for a very specific fit, one that had shown evidence that they were indeed committed to an operator-led model across all levels of the firm. I looked at the profiles of non-partner level investment team members across firms in the region, and Monk’s Hill Ventures (MHV) was one of the handful of firms that stood out with a high concentration of former-founder and operators within their investment team.
Coincidentally, MHV was running its annual Fellows Program at that point in time and I thought it could be a good platform to answer some of my own doubts about becoming a VC.
- What kind of venture capitalist do I want to be and will I be good at it?
- Will I enjoy being a VC?
- Are MHV’s values truly aligned with mine?
MHV Fellowship Experience
Weakness doesn't matter if you find solutions.
Needless to say, since I have no experience in VC, almost everything instantly becomes a weakness on my end. Despite that, I had a lot to be thankful for at MHV. Great mentors to learn from, helpful colleagues, and fantastic opportunities to learn and develop.
One of my first observations of MHV – and also the one thing I appreciate most about it – is it’s open culture. Everyone is free to voice their opinions. Even interns. Being the most inexperienced and junior member of the team, it is tempting to fall into the consensus driven groupthink trap instead of expressing what one’s true opinions are. I avoid this by making sure that I am always the first to give my opinion on each investment we are evaluating during our internal call after the founders have presented. How often do you see the most junior and inexperienced person speak up first in a room full of highly intelligent folks?
It is this incredibly open culture and discipline that allows me to quickly develop my own skill sets and confidence as a VC. Did I end up looking stupid at times? Of course I did, but it is not about avoiding those learnings; it is all about what sets you up for hyper growth. You can choose to look intelligent once and remain stupid forever or look stupid once and be intelligent for the rest of your life.
“Behave like one and you will be one” was what I’ve always told my team in my previous stint as country manager at a VC-backed startup. It was a humbling experience for me to practice what I preach and behave like a full-time investment team member when I am not (yet). I didn’t let a job title restrict what I could achieve out of a fellowship and if you are reading this, neither should you. I am incredibly grateful to our Partners Peng, Kuo-Yi, Justin and Michele who trusted me to, independently, present deals all the way to the Investment Committee during the fellowship, just like how any other full-time investment team member would. I would also like to thank my peers Eunice and Nat for always being helpful and going beyond their duties to show me the ropes. It definitely took time and effort to build this trust and I am thankful for the opportunities that MHV offered during the fellowship.
Last but not the least, everyone has their own reasons and motivation on why they dream of a career in VC. Be sure to join for the right reasons for that will determine your success or lack thereof. In such times where we hear of unicorns being born every day (fun fact: 586 unicorns were minted in 2021 globally; that’s 1.6 new unicorns born per day), it is easy to be distracted by the noise and get carried away by the prospects of being in the action for the sake of it. Remember, it is only when you set yourself up for success that success comes to you. The MHV Fellowship is a great platform for anyone looking to discover a successful career in VC and I would strongly recommend it to those who have a genuine passion to contribute to the startup ecosystem to apply for it.
With my experience here, I now look forward to meeting some amazing founders across Southeast Asia. I do believe that entrepreneurship is hard, but you are never really alone in that journey. Feel free to reach out for a chat if you ever hit a stumbling block as a new, to-be VC.
Kim Hock was previously a MHV Fellow in 2021. He is now an Investment Associate at MHV.
The application for MHV Fellows 2022 is now open. Learn more about the program here.
Image: Kim Hock (first row, second from the left) participating as a judge in a VC Business Competition Challenge.