3 Focal Points when Fund Raising


Points to note when you are fund raising:

1. Do your homework - Your job is to get your fund raising materials (deck, financials) to a level that is ready to be communicated and consumed. It will constantly be updated as you move along in your business as well as while you are pitching. Research your target investors really well to better optimise conversion rates (which stage and average check size, geography (your beach head market vs your eventual markets), sectors, do they lead or follow, post investment engagement with the company etc.).

2. Have a different mindset from selling - Your job is to get your "nos" as quickly as you can as you go down the list of investors to reach out to as opposed to trying to convince an investor and wrestle them down to a "yes". Investors know what they like to invest in, that is their day job. From your own research and interviews with founders who received investments from investors, you are only maybe 70% of the way there as far as you how much you know an investor and what do they like to invest in "at this time", it will never be apparent. 

3. Start with 3 warm up pitches followed by 7 ones - Use the first 3 pitches to hone your real-time pitch down, have a cofounder be in the room as well to jot down frequently asked questions and watch for any visual cues that signals that your pitch is weak or strong. If you get 10 straight rejections, stop fund raising and regroup with your team, advisers/investors and find out what is wrong. Sometimes its you, the targeted investors, or its because the investment environment has changed. Find out the cause and tweak (A/B test it) your approach again. Sometimes you need to hit a different set of investors to talk to, and most times it is not your pitch style or flow. And of course, there are times when the reason is you. But trust me, there are enough investors out there now to invest in all types of founders, so just keep going.


Your first and now

Your first cry and now faking it to get attention. 
Your first poop and now cute facial expression when you make one. 
Your first smile and now loud hearty laughs that melts hearts. 
Your first murmur and now baby words. 
Your first crawl and now fearless walking by trial and error.  
Your first reaction to ice, birds, dogs and now to people close and far. 

Your first birthday party with balloons, candy, but now with family and friends you will remember.

Happy first birthday our little man.

We love you,
Mommy and Daddy

Reflecting on Singapore Startup Ecosystem in 2014 - Happy National Day!

After digesting (partly) the ICM Masterplan  and various ideas suggested for the Startup Ecosystem, these are my thoughts below. I will try to keep this brief. If you have questions about any of it, please email me (it's been a long week). This post will be updated along the way (beta).

As of August 9, 2014, this is my assessment of the Singapore Startup Ecosystem (as per Founder Institute (1 to 5), there is no "3" rating) ;).

Founder Training - 2 
Founder Culture - 2 
Labour Training - 2
Labour Culture - 2
Mentor Quality (SEA) - 4
Mentor Quality (US) - 2
Infrastructure - 4
Regulation/Policies - 4
Market Size (Platform/Distribution) - 2
Monetization (Payments) - 4
Capital - 2
Exit (IPO) - 1
Exit (M&A) - 2
Media - 2

What are the 3 major issues/discussion points facing startups in the Singapore Startup Ecosystem?

1. Culture
Culture takes time to change. Make tech sexy again for students through education and media outreach. Need a coherent long term effort by all stakeholders in the ecosystem. 

2. Market Expansion
Choosing the right markets to expand to with expertise to navigate Southeast Asia and the USA like we do Orchard Road.

3. Government's continuing role
Government efforts need to stay its course (it is a marathon not a sprint) - be humble/flexible and listen, move out of the way if need be. 

What do I propose?

The establishment of one unified entity (with full autonomy - private sector led, public sector supported) to direct all innovation driven enterprise (IDE) efforts, funding and activities.
  • With the one unified entity (privately led with government support), government resources will be allocated as quickly and efficiently as possible. 
  • Collapse all IDE grants, initiatives, funding, subsidies under one roof. Rewire all government grants and funding systems.
  • A central resource for programs, education, travel subsidies for founders and mentors to and from target markets.

Why?

Great intention and a large budget. Too many cooks (spread too thin).

It is not working as best as we want it too. It can be improved. We can achieve (sorry if it is a bit cheesy).

Happy National Day!


- The End -

p.s. love to hear your thoughts, there are ways to fix the 1 & 2 ratings, if you want to know more or how email me.

Kickstarting Emerging Markets Startup Ecosystem Part 1 - Bandung/Jogja

It was my first time in Bandung and Yogyakarta (Jogja) Indonesia recently speaking and visiting startups, incubators and co-working spaces. I caught up with several Founder Institute Singapore graduates in Jogja (above) and dived deeper into the startup community and where their state of affairs are. Here are some findings and feedback on what I discovered.

Ecosystem report card (1-5, no 3): Jogja/Bandung

Founder Pool - 2 (getting better)
Labour Pool - 4 (strong in tech)
Training - 4 (strong technical training)
Culture - 2 (risk adverse, little coopetition)
Infrastructure - 2 (slow broadband speed infrastructure, low operational cost)
Regulation/Policies - 2 (some friction incorporating new companies)
Market Size - 4 (large domestic market)
Capital - 1 (early stages of risk capital coming on board)
Media - 1 (little to no media coverage celebrating startup heroes)  

Positives:
- 1 mobile operator backed accelerator program (Telcom). They run it both in Bandung and Jogja. Definitely a great initiative but not enough from what I hear, as they have certain criteria (telco related) before accepting applicants.
- A large density of Universities and Sekolah Teknik graduates who are technically trained. Strong technical talent pool which is well known for the last few decades.
- Low cost of living compared to other larger cities in Indonesia with much better traffic. Quality of life is better according to many.
- The community is hungry for knowledge, expertise and are gradually looking to be in business for themselves. Looking at product not services companies.

Negatives:
- Little to no risk capital.
- Little to no mentors. Jakarta mentors do come through, but not often enough.
- Crowd are shy and not open to critiques and discussion. Rarely share what they do or what they are thinking.
- Not bold enough to think they can do well outside Indonesia. Even in Indonesia, they don’t think of using Jakarta as a launching pad.
- Ideas are not refined, too insular, but I found a few great teams with great ambitions who hold back because of the realities of life and the ecosystem. No funding, hence need to go slow or bootstrap by doing client work.

Actionable Plan:
- Organize meet ups to discuss ideas (e.g. read Techcrunch, Hackernews, AngelList, producthunt.co) to exercise their thought process on how company/product visions are set.
- Bring more mentors to energize thinking/ideation process. In person or via online. e.g. an Ideation Weekend. Put the community online or on Qiscus/Slack for discussion and feedback.
- Startup a Jogja tech blog to keep track of activities. E.g. Jogjastartup.com
- Set up a Founders Guild to meet, discuss, and keep track of everyone’s progress. Include mentors and investors via an online platform (e.g. Qiscus/Slack). Founders sharing with founders.
- Setup a co-working spaces similar to Hubba in Thailand or Hideout in KL, only for technology startups and developers/designers work/contract for product startups.

I love emerging startup ecosystems, lots of potential especially Jogja and Bandung. Will be visiting more often and striking matches to ignite some crazy teams.

How do someone get into the venture capital industry in Singapore?

I get this question quite a lot in the last 3-6 months from students and professionals from the industry. To not repeat myself over and over, I thought I will just blog about it.

Venture capital is broadly categorized under Private Equity as a financial asset class. "Venture capital" here will be referred to early stage - seed, and Series A investments. Growth and late stage venture capital is quite different in many sense (which I will not go into in this post).

If you like to work for a venture capital firm that invests in early stage technology startup companies in Singapore as an analyst, associate, principal or junior/venture partner level. The points below will give you an edge above everyone else who are smart, hungry and full of initiative, willing to be coached etc. After all, it is an apprenticeship business. Everyone starts somewhere.

First, you have to love the world of start ups. It has to ooze out of conversations with you, your resume and the way you talk (live and breathe it). What are some of the tell tale signs that you are crazy about entrepreneurship and starting up?

  1. You have participated in business plan competitions or entrepreneurial clubs and associations.
  2. You have started a company or worked in a startup (family businesses do not count).
  3. You have dabbled with a side project or two while you are holding down a day job.
  4. You have taken a class to teach yourself a functional skill in technology - coding, design, UX, online marketing etc.
  5. You have invested in a startup and are able to articulate why you have invested.
  6. You have helped, advised founders of a startup.
  7. You have organized or ran community events and activities for startups.

Second, you have to have founders' empathy. How do you acquire this particular empathy?

  1. You have started a company or worked in a startup and worked under the founding team.
  2. You have invested in at least a startup and are active either on the board of directors or speak to the founders 1-2 times a month. And have done this more than 5 years.

Third, you have a skill that is relatable to founders of startups.

  1. You can code, design, growth hack, online/mobile market.
  2. You are helpful with smart introductions. With potential hires, partners and customers.
  3. You have a specific engineering background. e.g. machine learning, artificial intelligence.
  4. You have a specific industry background. e.g. advertising networks, gaming studio.

At the end of the day, irregardless of what your position is in the venture firm. You need to command respect from the best founders out there. This is more important than just money. As you grow with experience, it will help propel you to the next level.

Lastly, be yourself, hustle your way there and know deep down what is your motivation to join our profession.

Good luck.