“Keep hustling — you have to keep the pressure on yourself to move fast,” said Kuo-Yi Lim, Managing Director, Monk’s Hill Ventures.
That was Lim’s advice to startup founders in Asia in conversation with e27.
Previously the CEO of Singapore’s Infocomm Investments (the investment arm of government agency Infocomm Development Authority), Lim had started Monk’s Hill Ventures which recently raised S$100 million (US$80 million) to invest in the region.
“ASEAN is particularly attractive to us (Monk’s Hill Ventures), because of the demographics and generally strong macros across countries like Indonesia and the Philippines,” he said, adding, “We also continue to see very strong startups emerging in Singapore.”
What about Thailand, where he will be travelling to next week? Lim noted that the Southeast Asian country is home to “strong design and creative sensibilities” as well as “good entrepreneurs”.
However, a lot of local startups in Thailand are very much focussed on the domestic market. “While startups can be successful targeting a relatively populous country like Thailand,” he said, “they will need to scale outside of the country to be significant enough for venture-type returns (and to appear) attractive to VCs.”
Thai startups looking to venture overseas will first have to realise that they can do well regionally or globally. Their good design abilities have long been manifested in gaming and e-commerce startups, which travel well as businesses, according to Lim. However, they will still face challenges like language barriers. “Ease with English is key for expansion and going international,” he said.
Criteria for investing
It has been four months since Monk’s Hill Ventures launched its US$80 million fund, which targets entrepreneurs looking to raise Series A or B funding. While it has a database of more than 1,000 startups in this region, the firm has not announced any investments yet.
Lim’s criteria for investing in startups might come off as cliched. It is always about the team, the opportunity the team is after and the product the team is building to address the opportunity.
As an investor, he does not prioritise the team over the product or vice versa. “I don’t think it is an either-or thing; I don’t believe a good team can win with a poor product or an unattractive market opportunity.”
In terms of verticals, Lim hinted at e-commerce, enterprise SaaS, Big Data and cloud-based services.
“Certainly look forward to making our first Thailand investment soon,” he added.