As many American startups have made the move to Asia, the western VC model of ‘entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs’ has also followed.
Monk’s Hill Ventures, a newly launched VC fund, plans on investing US $80 million into tech startups all across the APAC region at the Series A and B level. Besides being led by a team of veteran entrepreneurs who have built and backed startups in Silicon Valley and Asia, Monk’s Hill is also a VC fund based in South East Asia (with offices in Singapore and Jakarta), which is still a new concept in the region.
We had a chat with managing director Peng T. Ong to find out more about this innovative new fund and the gaps it hopes to fill.
“South East Asia is 600 million people. It’s only small compared to China or India – so we wanted to fill this gap,” he said. “Another thing we realized was missing is what you call ‘entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs. I’ve spent 12 years in the Valley and the big thing there was experienced people helping the next generation.”
Peng stresses the importance of leading by example and Monk’s Hill is a venture fund that lets entrepreneurs draw from a deep well of expertise. “We are run by a group of entrepreneurs; all of us have started companies before. It’s not uncommon in the US and you could argue that you should have been an entrepreneur if you want to be a VC,” he said. “We think the future of venture capital is a service industry – so who better to service the customer than those customers themselves?”
As a serial entrepreneur, Peng has seen his share of successful exits. He was first the co-founder and CTO of Match.com (acquired by IAC), the founder and CEO of Interwoven (acquired by HP) and founded Encentuate (acquired by IBM). Besides a track record in building and selling startups to tech giants, Peng was also a partner at GSR Ventures; a top VC in the Mainland.
His partners bring just as much to the table. Kuo-Yi Lim was the former CEO of Infocomm Investments, a $200 million VC fund that’s backed startups such as Twilio. Stefan Jung helped co-found Rocket Internet outfits Zalora and Lazada and was also a venture partner of Global Founders Capital, a $200 million fund for early stage startups. Monk’s Hill also has Tom Clayton in a special advisory role. Besides founding the Sequoia Capital-backed Bubbly, Thomas headed up mobile business at BEA System which was acquired by Oracle. Visit their website for full details on the Monk’s Hill team.
Despite being a South East Asian-based VC fund, Peng said that Monk’s Hill is looking to back the best entrepreneurs – no matter where in the APAC region. Perhaps Hong Kong startups will also have a chance to catch this new fund’s attention.
When asked to lend his thoughts on the local ecosystem, Peng compared it to startup hubs of similar size. “Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel, all the smaller regions and countries have the problem of scale. And if you look at Israel, the reason why they’ve started being an entrepreneurship hub is because of the government,” he said. “My theory is if it’s a small place, then the government needs to do something.”
Unlike large countries such as the US which has seen ecosystems such as NYC and Silicon Valley evolve over time, places like Hong Kong need support from above – and Peng said that helping grow the startup scene will be a task and challenge for the local government.
Monk’s Hill Ventures on Startbase.HK: Monk’s Hill Ventures
Peng T. Ong on Startbase.HK: Peng T. Ong