Technology has had a profound impact on every aspect of our life, and education is no exception. With the commoditization of information and the rise of AI, our methods of education are obsolete. Though at the root of the problem, technology can help accelerate the progress in education. Innovation in edtech should help drive better learning outcomes, stay relevant, and make education more accessible.
This interview with Managing Partner Peng T. Ong first appeared on GreatOwls.com.
Interview by Olga Sych
You created three highly successful, but very different companies ranging from gaming to content management. What led you to create each of them?
I look for what I call ridiculous states of the world that don’t make any sense and then try to fix those states. The first one was looking through classified ads with your finger on newspapers. That didn’t make sense, so I thought, ‘Why doesn't a computer do it?’ The second one was how to manage hundreds of gigabytes of content with thousands of employees contributing to the content on a website. I thought there must be a better way to do it with automation. The third one was about how digital security is so archaic in our space and the world we live in, so I tried to fix that.
What is one of the most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
To choose to be an entrepreneur.
Today, data is an important competitive advantage for companies. Companies use it to understand their customers, decide on a business strategy, and optimize their business.
As an operating advisor at Monk’s Hill Ventures, I talk to startup founders on how they can do that. These startups range from early-stage companies, to more mature companies in the pre- or post-IPO stage. Some companies already have established data science teams and are keen to scale that out, while others are figuring out how to hire their first data scientists or even decide what kind of data they should be collecting. Nevertheless, there are a few common themes that keep coming up, and I hope to address some of them here.
Everywhere I look these days I see cranes. Not the kind that fly, but construction cranes. While some look at them and see ugliness, I see something else: the towers reaching skyward symbolize Vietnam’s striving ambition, Vietnam’s promise.
Why do big corporations find it so hard to innovate? Why is it difficult to create products that are somewhat different from what they have already produced or using different distribution channels? In short, what is the nature of innovation that makes it so difficult to process-ize? One of the reasons is the same reason why many startups do not get past the seed stage.
As Dimitra Taslim prepares to head off to Harvard Business School, he reflects on the 10 important lessons he learnt as a VC at Monk's Hill Ventures.
A speech given by Peng T. Ong on scalable and sustainable solution to education around the world at AVPN Conference 2017 in Bangkok on June 7, 2017. Peng T. Ong is the Chairman of SolveEducation!, a non-profit organisation that focuses on making high quality education accessible to everyone. Leveraging on technology, SolveEducation! aims at revolutionizing education through gamification and artificial intelligent.
Greetings, honorable members of AVPN and all the participants of this year’s conference. … Ladies and gentlemen. Friends and future friends.
The theme of this year’s AVPN conference is collaborating for impact.
We are here today because we are hopeful that through collaboration we can make a bigger difference to the world we live in.
Contributions that will benefit individuals and groups, with collaboration, can possibly scale up to make a difference to towns, cities, and nations. Thus, one of the key purposes of collaborating is so that our collective impact is much more scalable than our individual efforts.
Personal insights from Justin Nguyen, one of our Operating Advisors.
I often say that success is half luck and half what you make of it. But the thing is, you can make your own luck.
Not that long ago when I was the CEO of a young gaming company, an opportunity was literally standing in front of me, but if I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have missed it.
I was in line at the Macau airport (economy class, of course), heading home from the Global Gaming Expo, when I happened to look up at the business class line. That’s when I saw him: the CEO of one of the biggest players in our space.
I prefer not to identify him by name, but let’s just say he was a big fish. Seeing him there would be like a software startup CEO spotting Larry Page, just standing there with his wife.
He had no idea who I was, but of course, I knew exactly who he was. Me? I was running a small company, competing against giants: their R&D spending in a single year was 20 to 30 times the size of our entire budget. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.
We weren’t even a blip on his radar.
I decided to change that.
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]