Why I Decided to Start a Business in Asia
I still remember the day that I decided to move to Hong Kong. At that time, I was working in Silicon Valley. The thought of moving around the world to a different continent and adjusting to an entirely different culture and new language was exciting and exhilarating and at the same time daunting.
I was excited about the opportunity to move to Hong Kong because I knew I was entering uncharted territory from a VC perspective. In 2007, I embarked on my voyage across the Pacific Ocean and became head of VantagePoint Asia, which backs early stage tech companies and represents $4B in committed capital. In 2013, I decided to open my own VC firm along with my partner, Wei Hopeman. It was a major step to leave an established, international company and launch a new firm. Also, I had the choice between the conventional and unconventional path--moving back to the US to start a VC firm or being one of the pioneering VC firms in Asia.
Below are the top three reasons why I took the unconventional approach and launched a business in Asia:
Asia is experiencing a major technology and venture capital shift.
Tech startups and VC firms are experiencing rapid growth in Asia, yet the market is still young and untapped. Pan Asia, sans China, offers interesting investment opportunities because infrastructure investing is still growing and entrepreneurs are evolving. It is fertile ground for VC firms to identify outstanding entrepreneurs and help them build their companies. Working with early stage startups is a challenge, which is what drives me everyday. I enjoy being in Asia at the forefront of change and the ability to work with interesting companies in diverse cultures. Additionally in Asia, there are more interesting investment verticals, while Silicon Valley venture investing is more concentrated on fewer sectors.
We founded Arbor Ventures to have a significant impact on the intersection of financial services and digital commerce as well as invest in companies that are immersed in fast-growing, transformational markets.
FinTech/FinServ companies are on the rise.
For the first time, Asia's population is moving away from cash-based commerce to an online / mobile payment society dominated by Millennials, who envision their world very differently from previous generations. Instead of following in their parents' traditional career paths, these young, well-educated people are choosing an alternative path and creating unique tech startups to fit their perception of the market needs. Today, there is a growing need for capital in the region. It is estimated that by 2030, Asia will have 66% of the world's middle class with mobile phone penetration in excess of 125% dominated by Millennials.
Asia's investment community needed female leaders.
We are proud that Arbor Ventures is the first female-led VC firm in Asia. The tech industry worldwide has historically been male-dominated. While more females are joining the tech workforce, the percentage is still just 25 percent. This is a tragically low number because women are well suited for the VC industry. They offer a balanced voice to boards and a different perspective regarding product adoption and marketing. In Asia, approximately half of the population are women. These women are active in the workforce and control the household funds, so it is just common sense to have a woman's perspective when designing a product and launching a company that targets this group.
Is starting a business abroad right for you?
Many of my American friends have asked for my counsel regarding whether or not they should take jobs or start companies abroad. It's a hard road and not for everyone, but it's been the most rewarding eight years of my career.