Inflection Points and Aha Moments
In this week’s episodes, our guests offer incredible insight on venture capitalists’ most common and pressing questions.
- How does one find the most capable and highest-potential entrepreneurs?
- How does one maintain a diverse and robust network in a rapidly evolving venture capital landscape?
- How is an individual investor able to consistently bring the absolute best version of themselves to every interaction?
There is much to be learned from both Hian and Rachel’s dedication to growing and nurturing their network, care for their entrepreneurs, and commitment to personal growth and development. Catch each episode below or on iTunes, Spotify, and Anchor.fm.
This season of the Kauffman Fellows Podcast is produced in partnership with Mighty Capital. Together, we unravel what truly makes a great VC investor.
Hian Goh, Openspace Ventures Partner, on Southeast Asia’s Goldilocks Moment
As a founder-turned-investor, Hian Goh relies on his own lived experiences to deliver above and beyond for his entrepreneurs.
This week, Kauffman Fellows CEO, Jeff Harbach, sat down with Openspace Ventures Partner, Hian Goh (Class 20), to discuss how his formative life experiences fostered his global perspective on VC, how he shows up for entrepreneurs, and how he’s developed his personal brand.
Hian Goh is a partner at Openspace Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on Technology, Media, and Internet companies in Southeast Asia. He is also the founder of Asian Food Channel (AFC), a 24 Hour food and lifestyle Pay TV network. Additionally, Goh is a founding member of the Salomon Smith Barney Technology investment banking practice in Asia, which is now a part of Citigroup.
On the impact of Southeast Asia on the global ecosystem
“We’re seeing a Goldilocks moment for Southeast Asia. Over the decade, we’ve seen 650 million people get onto the internet, mostly through mobile phones, 4G penetration, and the population has been trained to use digital services. Often, the first time people are touching banking or lending. So, that’s the first very interesting phenomenon.
The other Goldilocks moment that’s happening for Southeast Asia is the regulatory framework. LPs view Asia, historically, primarily as just China. It is an Asian venture. It’s investing in China. Well, now, with all the regulatory issues and the change in temperature about investing in China, I don’t think people are going to abandon China completely. Still, they’re going to have to augment. They’ve already made their investments in India. India will do very well, but it’s the last sort of bastion of large populations that can generate billion-dollar outcomes in Southeast Asia. So, it’s a really good, lux moment for the entire ecosystem, but it’s taken 10 years.”
On inflection points in his life
“The first one was an education relatively early. My dad went to England. He was posted there. I followed him, and I went to a British public school. In Singapore, if you’re a Chinese person, you are of the majority race. You don’t face racism. At the age of 16, it was the first time I felt like an outsider. A lot of insecurity started to appear, a lot of questioning started to appear if people just didn’t accept you for who you were. Today, I have this real underdogs sense and a passion for protecting the underdog, which is what an entrepreneur is because I went through pretty rough times in the British public school. I also learned the chops. Those were the first formative years.
The second big formative decade was starting the Asian Food Channel. I always joke about the fact that I almost went bankrupt three times running that television network. I held the fixed asset through the deepest financial crisis, the global financial crisis, where the media business plummeted by 60%. I still have satellites that I had to pay for. I restructured the company twice. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The shareholding kept on going down. You had to top up with options. I went through a lot. Those 10 years as an entrepreneur give me such empathy and sympathy for the craft that I am in today.”
On lessons learned during his career
In venture capital, patience and persistence will take you far.
“The first thing is that things take time. When you’re in investment banking or consulting, you say in two years, I’m going to be an associate in three years. I’m going to be a VP in four years. I’m going to be an MD, and then you benchmark yourself, and if you don’t do that, then, therefore, you’re not going to I’m not successful. We’re in entrepreneurship. There are moments or months when nothing happens, and then suddenly, everything happens.
The second thing is you have to be persistent. More importantly, you have to protect the downside. Things generally take longer than expected. Therefore, you have to be a little bit more conservative in your projections, or you must always have little reserves somewhere in case things start to turn against your favor. Those are things that you don’t learn unless you’ve gone through them.”
On why he became a venture capitalist
Hian’s desire to give back once he could find success put him on a path to VC.
“It was not only whether I wanted to be a venture capitalist, but whether I wanted to be a venture capitalist in Southeast Asia. I started as an angel investor. I said to myself, if I ever survived as an entrepreneur for 10 years, maybe I could give back something to the community. So around 2010, I started angel investing.
When we saw the mobile phone adoption happening, and more importantly, people were migrating to the region. Singapore had done such a great job. It wasn’t just Singaporeans trying to start companies. It’s people from all around the world saying this is the region. This is the place where I want to be. I realized, maybe the next generation of guys will have a more accelerated success path. Then I saw the fact that there wasn’t enough capital. I saw the risk aversion that is so common in Asia, especially in Singapore. So, I was very inspired.”
Rachel Springate Udell, Founding Partner of Muse Capital, on Creating Synergies Between the Tech and Entertainment Space
This week, Kauffman Fellows CEO, Jeff Harbach, sat down with Muse Capital Founding Partner, Rachel Springate Udell, to discuss the importance of building relationships in venture capital. Rachel is the Founding Partner of Muse Capital, which is a seed-stage strategic Venture Fund. She is a leading business development expert in a niche focused on creating opportunities between startup ventures and the entertainment space. Before Muse Capital, Udell was the Global Head of Corporate Sales at Quintessentially, where she traveled the globe, building relationships with some of the world’s leading CEOs, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and brand directors.
On how she came to found Muse Capital
It may not always seem like our careers are heading in the direction we think, but then all of our experiences combine to put us exactly where we’re supposed to be.
“I have a pretty non-traditional path into venture capital, having spent most of my career as a business development expert. I’ve developed deep relationships with Fortune 500 decision-makers, athletes, sports teams, influencers, celebrities, and I’ve worked with them in a business development capacity. So, I was typically doing deals between those groups my entire career.
Then, over the last 10 years or so, I was doing that with startups. Helping young entrepreneurs partner with some of these big groups to help create transformative partnerships in the early stages of a business, when typically, it’s tough for them to do that.”
On how she learned to be confident in her role
Confidence often comes with experience, but sometimes it’s just trusting in your skills, being willing to take risks, and seeing them pay off.
“A running theme in my career is jumping in headfirst. I’ve been pretty fearless when it comes to life-changing opportunities. In my brand research role, I got the opportunity to take over an event with huge marketing directors. The events director had a nervous breakdown and left three weeks before the event, and I was the intern at the time. They asked me to take over, and I figured why not.
Quintessentially, I knew I’d always wanted to travel with my career. I hadn’t been in sales before, but I thought I could do it. That division didn’t exist. We had to work together to create the business model for that side of the company. Five years later, it ends up becoming the biggest revenue generator for the entire business.
In the beginning, I feel that I did have this real self-confidence and awareness that I was able to do things well, but it’s tough. You go in there, and you’re the only female in the room, certainly the youngest in the room. Working internationally and going into rooms in the Middle East, and people walking out on me because they were expecting a 40-year-old woman, and it was me at the ripe old age of 25.”
On the importance of relationships
Early on, Rachel saw the impact that getting to know a person, hearing their stories, and building a relationship could have.
“A running theme in my life is that I’ve always valued the importance of relationships. I’ve got stories from my high school or even college years of always being the one that was making friends with everybody. In my college days, with my six closest girlfriends, we’d go to a bar, a restaurant, or we’d go out, and I would meet the owner, and I would like to hear their stories. I would like to understand their journey. I would find it funny, they’re all drinking, having fun, and there’s me sitting there hearing about their lives and completely geeking out on their stories. I have this real curiosity and interest in what people are doing and what they care about.”
On lessons learned early on as an investor
“There were situations when I was consulting where I had such strong relationships within the entertainment industry, but not enough knowledge of technology and startups that I might go to an existing relationship where the technology wasn’t quite ready. I had a couple of instances there where I realized I needed to learn so much more about technology, how to vet it, how to understand where a particular company sits within the competitive space, and where mistakes were made.
It was a real awakening to realize I needed to understand how investing works and how to vet companies. Luckily for me, my relationships were strong enough that not knowing didn’t affect our relationships. It was certainly a hard lesson. We need to go and study a bit more and get a little bit more understanding of this whole startup venture ecosystem.”