How tech giants are spawning a generation of investors in SE Asia

DealStreetAsia

Executives in Southeast Asia are giving up the comfort of plush corporate jobs to become fund managers as the startup ecosystem in the region is throwing up significant investment opportunities.

James Tan, the co-founder and managing partner of Quest Ventures, is one such investor. Tan earlier co-founded and served as the COO at NASDAQ-listed e-commerce company 55tuan in China.

Under his leadership, the company grew from a five-person operation to one that had a headcount of 5,000 employees across China with a presence in over 200 cities.

55tuan then went on to become the first and the only group-buying startup to make a debut on NASDAQ in 2015. Its investors then included Goldman Sachs, Zero2IPO Capital, Sky Blessing Investment and CDH Investments.

That experience was significant, Tan said. It helped him understand the impact that private capital and technology can have on any sector that eventually led him to launch his own VC.

“Unless you are deep in the trenches with the startup, you can never have an understanding of what they are going through. What an investor has is at best an expansive yet in-depth theoretical perspective of the startup at a point in time, usually monthly, mostly quarterly,” he said.

“We get new ideas from meeting new founders every day. You don’t get this opportunity as a founder,” said Quest Ventures’ Tan.

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