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In an AI World, Drop the Idea that Empathy is Feminine

This article was first published on InformationWeek.

Empathy makes someone a better employee, and we also need to build empathy into our artificial intelligence applications.

Traditionally undervalued in the tech industry, empathy — which is the ability to read and respond to another person’s feelings, thoughts and experiences — is a trait hiring managers and C-level executives can no longer ignore. After all, in a world where artificial intelligence will take up to 5 million jobs away from humans by 2020, the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that up to 14% of human workers will need to adapt to new occupations to secure our future in the workforce. In other words, as we start sharing the workforce with more machines, human soft skills such as empathy will be at a premium.

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Through Razor-Sharp Focus, C88 Built Investor Confidence In An Innovative Business Model

By crafting itself as the fintech startup for emerging economies, C88 is striving to break down financial inequality.

Building a credit score system and establishing peer-to-bank communication that accommodates the unbanked and a growing middle class would be a bold move for any Southeast Asian business, let alone a five-year-old startup. But C88’s leadership team was fully aware of these challenges, and their clear-minded approach recently carried them through a bountiful series C fundraising round and into a dominant position in their markets.

C88 currently operates platforms and marketplaces in two Southeast Asian countries— www.CekAja.com is the largest financial platform in Indonesia, and www.eCompareMo.com holds the same distinction in the Philippines. Each site provides innovative services for local users, including comparison shopping for insurance, loans and credit cards. For banks and lenders, C88’s platforms offer crucial customer data and credit scores for millions of consumers. This data allows institutions to price services at fair and competitive rates for low- and middle-income users, while simultaneously educating users—particularly the unbanked—on available services and providers.

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Watch, absorb, trust: Your job as a Mentee

Being a mentor is challenging. No question about it. It requires time, energy, and dedication. Not everybody is cut out for the gig. But here’s what no one tells you (or at least no one told me): being a mentee is also challenging.

Not everyone’s cut out for the role either.

Being a good mentee requires you to listen, watch, and learn—without always knowing why. That’s where patience and trust come in, attributes that don’t always come easily to young, ambitious people—the kind that experienced professionals are likely to take under their wings.

Let me give you an example.

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2019 will be a pivotal year for Southeast Asian tech startups

This article was first published on The Next Web.

With a rising middle class and a booming tech startup scene, Southeast Asia (SEA) sits where China did 10 years ago—on the cusp of a major economic boom fueled by the tech industry. The only questions over the last few years have been: When will the tipping point be reached, and when will SEA mature from a promising regional market into the next big world economy? I’ve seen promising signs that in 2019, our region may finally reach that tipping point.

The 10 nations in SEA (Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines) are projected to become the fifth largest economy in the world by 2020. More importantly, though, local companies are driving much of the growth. SEA is now home to eight unicorns—tech startups valued at US$1 billion or more—including Grab, the ride-hailing company that beat out Uber for regional dominance in early 2018.

For these burgeoning tech giants, expanding outside of SEA is an obvious next step. Tech startups will also continue to take the lead in bolstering the regional economy. Here are three of my predictions for where SEA startups will go in 2019.

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How Influencer Platform escapex Plans to go Global

Today not all celebrities are made at the box office or in a recording studio. Though a hit movie or single can help, many launch their careers or find new, devoted fans on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. They’ve become influencers, and their social media presence brings them closer to their fans than ever before.

Even as celebrities have become increasingly reliant on social media, however, many have become frustrated with its limitations. Popular platforms nurture creators but too often deny them control over what they create—and how it is monetized. That’s where influencer platform escapex comes in. Founded four years ago, the Singapore-based startup aims to create a new social currency that will improve the experience for influencers, brands and followers alike.

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The Next Big Thing In Fintech Isn’t Mobile Payments

In October, Grab announced a $200 million investment to expand its fintech offerings. No longer just a ride-hailing service, Grab is now one of Southeast Asia’s largest non-bank financial firms, offering payments, micro-loans, and other services. Today it handles more than one billion financial transactions each year.

Grab is not alone. Companies from fellow Southeast Asian ride-hailing service GoJek to international tech giants like Alibaba and Amazon have been moving in on fintech.

What’s the secret to fintech’s appeal? It’s not just the vast numbers of unbanked people in the world, who represent a ready-made user base for innovative financial products. Nor is it only the vulnerability of the business models of existing payments networks like Visa and Mastercard, whose cumbersome transaction fees increase prices and, possibly, slow down innovation.

The main appeal of fintech is the opportunity to collect and analyze customer data. Fintech is where the money is (literally), and how consumers spend their money also points companies to potential profit pools. By data mining through fintech, they can understand customers’ wants and needs better than ever before. They can use those insights launch new products or hone their existing ones. And they can sell their data to third parties, opening up entirely new revenue streams.

Here’s why the merging of tech into the finance world presents one of the most exciting opportunities in today’s startup landscape.

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Is Indonesia’s Startup Ecosystem Overhyped?

Indonesia’s startups are gaining serious traction from international investors, positioning the country’s ecosystem to lift off as a dominant destination in Southeast Asia. But that success is not guaranteed. Indonesia’s government, investors and founders have to make strategic moves in order to bring the country to the level of Singapore or Silicon Valley.

The capital funneling into Indonesian startups is unprecedented. The country pulled in more than $3 billion of venture capital in the first half of last year, netting about 20 percent of all VC funding in Southeast Asia, according to a survey by Google and consultancy A.T. Kearney. Even more impressive than the weight of money flowing into startups is the growth in investments; as recently as 2012, Indonesia garnered just $44 million in capital. Indonesian unicorns also stand out amid the region’s giants, with Tokopedia, Go-Jek and Traveloka cinching three spots among the top 5 most funded startups in Southeast Asia, according to Tech in Asia.

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Why Entrepreneurs Should Think About the Social Impact of Their Social Media

The original motivation behind social media platforms was to address a basic human need: we’re social creatures and we long for connection, community, belonging. Social media’s simple goal was to create a new way for people to communicate, share, and form relationships. That simplicity faded as the world’s populations joined those networks, with all their complicated nuances and differences in tow.

For all the development and progress achieved by Facebook, the social media platform is now contending with major negative repercussions around the world. As social networks like Facebook and Instagram plowed new paths for networking and connecting, they simultaneously – likely unwittingly – seeded new ways to amplify disinformation, hatred, and exclusion on their applications.

Headlines today focus on the negative, but overall, social applications have delivered incredible benefits to users, opening up a whole world of communication we never dreamed possible. Society is now developing a better understanding of how our social media accounts impact our lives in the physical world, and startups have a new chance to disrupt the market and move beyond some of the mistakes that major social media platforms are dealing with today.

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Portfolio Company Founder Profile Series - Paul Hadjy

A sneak peek into the background profile of our portfolio companies’ founders.

Paul Hadjy is the CEO and Co-founder of Horangi, a full-stack cybersecurity platform. Paul manages the efforts behind creating cutting edge, cyber security solutions while ensuring that users in the C-suite down to technical operators are all armed with the right, actionable data to make critical cyber decisions.

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A Day In The Life: Horangi’s Paul Hadjy

Horangi CEO and co-founder Paul Hadjy is always connected. Whether sitting in a meeting or returning the emails that crop up overnight, the 33-year-old entrepreneur aims to keep his two-year-old cyber security company focused on clients. And as such, he finds himself forging new relationships and sustaining established ones with his team, client entrepreneurs and investors.

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The Secret to Extraordinary Growth, According to Ninja Van

Ninja Van was born from co-founder and CEO Lai Chang Wen’s frustration: he couldn’t find a bespoke but affordable shirt, so he created automated custom retail brand Marcella. Later when he couldn’t guarantee timely, seamless delivery for his products, he began to explore last-mile logistics. After Lai resigned from a derivatives trader post at Barclays to pursue his new project, his friends Shaun Chong and Boxian Tan joined as co-founders. Tan doesn’t believe founding a startup with friends is usually a smart strategy, but the close core team yielded extraordinary results for Ninja Van.

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The State of Southeast Asian Tech Report Launch & Panel Discussion

In anticipation for Slush Singapore & Monk's Hill Ventures’ report on Southeast Asian tech, startup and funding ecosystem, we are holding events in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta!

Join us for the launch of The State of Southeast Asian Tech report and panel discussions discussing respective countries' tech startups and ecosystems. What could be a better way to mark the countdown to Slush Singapore!

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Why I Don’t Invest in AI

This article was first published on VentureBeat.

Last year AI companies attracted more than $10.8 billion in funding from venture capitalists like me. AI has the ability to enable smarter decision-making. It allows entrepreneurs and innovators to create products of great value to the customer. So why don’t I don’t focus on investing in AI? During the AI boom of the 1980s, the field also enjoyed a great deal of hype and rapid investment. Rather than considering the value of individual startups’ ideas, investors were looking for interesting technologies to fund. This is why most of the first generation of AI companies have already disappeared. Companies like Symbolics, Intellicorp, and Gensym — AI companies founded in the ’80s — have all transformed or gone defunct. And here we are again, nearly 40 years later, facing the same issues. Though the technology is more sophisticated today, one fundamental truth remains: AI does not intrinsically create consumer value. This is why I don’t invest in AI or “deep tech.” Instead, I invest in deep value.

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A Startup Playbook

Jon is an Operating Advisor at Monk’s Hill Ventures. and has founded a number of companies in the US and Asia. Currently, he is the head of strategic partnership for the Next Billion Users group at Google. Previously, Jon held positions as Chief Product Officer at KODAKIT and RedMart. He first entered the Asian market as the founder of Perx in Singapore.

When I got to Singapore in 2011 and was starting Perx, the ecosystem looked a lot different than it does today. I am committed to the region for the long-term, so I really want to see the ecosystem expand and mature here. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time working with incubators, speaking at tech events, and mentoring startups to help grow the ecosystem. As I mentored companies, built my own or helped build others, I noticed that I was hearing the same issues and was offering the same advice, so I started to create a playbook to building a startup. I’m hoping that learning from my mistakes will help save you from making some of them yourselves and get you to your next milestone faster.

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Find a Robust Mentor, Then Adopt Their Strengths

As innovators, we often aim high when seeking out a mentor, hoping that proximity to a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk-type character will help us to reach our own ambitious goals. Most entrepreneurs have more than one mentor, and those advisors go on to serve different roles throughout a company’s growth. Rather than limiting themselves by seeking to emulate a single inspirational figure, startup founders should first outline the characteristics they hope to embody as a leader, and then seek out the right person or people to help them acquire those traits.  Above all, a mentor should reflect their mentee’s aspirations as the mentee undertakes the transition from a fresh founder to organizational leader. When searching for a mentor, entrepreneurs should find mentors who can assist in a variety of ways; often, this means a team of mentors rather than a single individual.

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My First 100 Days as a VC Analyst in Southeast Asia

RJ is an Investment Analyst at Monk’s Hill Ventures, and was previously a consultant at Balmater Consulting Company, where he led a small team to advise family-owned SME's in Indonesia. Prior to that, he was a financial analyst at Fortman Cline Capital Markets in Manila focusing on local sell-side deals in the region.

The first 100 days in any new job can be daunting. Acclimatizing yourself to new faces, new methodologies, new job functions, and new industries is hard for everyone. Below are some of my personal tips working in a Southeast Asian venture capital fund to help you beat the learning curve faster.

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Three Things to Consider Before Starting Your Startup in Southeast Asia

Yee Hoong is an Investment Analyst at Monk’s Hill Ventures, and was most recently founder of Custom Tribe, an online algorithmic custom shirt startup. Prior to that he was an associate with a life sciences VC/PE, and a management consultant working with clients in FMCG and Financial Institutions.

Every now and then in conversations with founders and friends, the question “would you do a startup again” will most certainly creep up. Reflecting on the decision leaving vc to build Custom Tribe a few years back, I now often advise many to-be founders to think long and hard about it. Here are three things I think are unique to Southeast Asia, from collection of conversations with fellow SEA-born (ex) founders.

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So You Want To Join A Startup (in Southeast Asia)

Lucy Luo is an Associate on our investment team in Singapore. One of her favourite things to discuss with founders is about people and fostering talent.

I wrote this blog because it’s a common topic of conversation with friends and founders, and I’m personally thinking through this for myself. Would love to hear other people’s experiences on it - especially if you’re a founder or startup employee (past, present or planning to).

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VCs evaluate a lot of startups. This gives us a good look into how they operate, what they care about, and the type of people they want to hire. VCs also meet a lot of people, including those who are looking for their next job. This puts us in a pretty logical spot to matchmake candidates and startup jobs. It’s always interesting to hear what each side thinks they’re getting, and then in hindsight what they actually end up with.

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