How it all started
John started angel investing in 2011, and his first investment was in online restaurant booking site Chope. You might recall Chope: they recently raised a huge US$2.5 million round of investment led by Singapore Press Holdings. Following the investment in Chope, John was at Echelon in 2012 and met PayrollHero and Drive.sg, which he subsequently invested in. Some of his other investments include ImpulseFlyer as well as San Mateo based Flight Car. Following the startups John met at Echelon last year, John will also be joining us at our Taiwan Satellite next month to meet and find out more about the startup ecosystem in Taiwan.
Hopes to bring value to investee company
Digging deeper, John told us that he wants to bring value to his portfolio companies. John would hustle and make the necessary introductions to his contacts if any of his portfolio companies needed the extra hand. John described himself as a social engineer, where he would facilitate any potential partnerships or collaborations between his portfolio companies and his contacts he has gathered over the past few years. Prior to investing, John was in the food and beverages (F&B) business too, where he cofounded popular Yogurt chain Frolick, as well as Coffee and Dessert Bar Black. John also runs Orita Sinclair School of Design.
Investment direction and thoughts
Of all the portfolio companies which John invested in, most of them are marketplaces. John believes in the value of marketplaces that facilitate buyer and seller transactions. While most of John’s portfolio companies are Asia-based, Flight Car marked his first investment in the States. This is likely to continue and John is currently looking to invest in more U.S.-based companies.
“In Singapore, there is a limit of interesting companies you can find. That’s different in the U.S. I am also trying to balance my portfolio spread between Asia and U.S. companies. U.S. companies might potentially command a higher potential returns, whereas for Asia companies — because there are not a lot of huge exits yet — I have to be realistic on the potential returns, too.”
Another interesting fact which John shared is that, of all his portfolio companies, Drive.sg is the only company which he is the sole investor. On top of that, Drive.sg is his biggest investment to date. John told us that Drive.sg is the least risky company among all his portfolio companies as the company has been profitable even before the investment. Drive.sg is also co-founded by passionate and driven co-founders, which attracted John to invest in them.
You have to trust your gut feelings
Angel investing is relatively new to John, and with no prior experience, we asked if he has ever been worried about investing in the wrong company. John told us that ultimately you have to trust your own judgements, and that you cannot expect people to teach you how to invest. That said, John mentioned the importance of knowing the background of the team and who else is backing the team.
John wants to work at Spotify
What’s John’s near future plan? Given his entrepreneurial background and his passion for music, John told us that he would love to work at Spotify and he is passionate about the product. Spotify, if you are reading this, John would love to join your team.
So, this is the real John Tan.