Jeffrey Payne from Golden Gate Ventures on Entrepreneurship Lessons

My vision is that entrepreneurs are 80 percent trained and 20 percent born with it. So not everyone can be a founder, especially in high-growth and very cumbersome startups,” says the Singaporean co-founder of the venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures (GGV).

While it may go against the trend of those who claim that entrepreneurship is a skill that can be taught, Payne argues that some personality traits—compatibilism and fluid intelligence, for example—are innate.

“Liquid intelligence is how people process information and come to a conclusion. Founders have to make decisions with little or no data within a certain deadline, so they have to acquire and process as much knowledge as possible to know what decisions they need to make,” as Payne, who also helped launch the startup accelerator The Founder Institute in Asia, says.

“If you are too agreeable, you cannot make decisions because you will listen to everyone. To be a good founder, you must be obnoxious, but humility is also required.”

Payne, a serial entrepreneur with experience in Silicon Valley prior to co-founding Southeast Asia-focused GGV in 2011, has always been interested in working with and mentoring entrepreneurs in the region. In fact, GGV was born out of a need to solve a pain point he identified among startups needing funding from Bay Area investors as the SEA entrepreneurship scene was relatively unknown at the time.

At the time, Payne mentored startups with Vinnie Luria, Entrepreneur in Silicon Valley who was traveling across Asia after selling his company. Given the potential of some of these start-ups, they have launched Golden Gate Ventures so that the Angels of the Bay Area can invest in regional startups.

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Big name investor like Carousell, RedMart and Ninja Van

Co-founder of Golden Gate Ventures, Jeffrey Payne
Golden Gate Ventures co-founder Jeffrey Payne wears a rose gold Cartier Santos Dumont watch with a leather strap (Photo: Felicia Wang)

Since then, GGV, which focuses on the consumer-driven internet and mobile sectors, has launched four funds and invested in nearly 70 companies across Southeast Asia, Greater China and the United States, including Carousel, Caro, Ninja Van and Red Mart. Bain reveals projects underway in agrotechnology and climate technology, with the company planning to close one or two additional deals by the end of this year.

The landscape has changed dramatically since the founding of the GGV. After a decade of rapid growth with several unicorn companies popping up in the region, SEA is now on the radar of global investors. Within 10 years, the annual capital invested increased 50 times from US$130 million (S$185 million) in 2010 to US$7.7 billion in 2020, with food, fintech and logistics attracting the most investments.

Grab and Gojek have put the spotlight on the region by raising money around the world and selling Southeast Asia to investors. Because of them, people understood what was going on here,” Payne notes.

In addition, he believes that the region’s startup ecosystem has benefited from the proliferation of low-cost airlines, which have increased regional travel, and the use of English. “Before 2014, when I traveled to Indonesia or Vietnam for a conference, there was always a translator. Now, I don’t need one. Using English helps unite the region a little bit more,” he says.

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Driving the growth of the ‘Golden Triangle of Startups’

Co-founder of Golden Gate Ventures, Jeffrey Payne
Photo: Felicia Wang

These days, the Golden Triangle of startups in Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia are not only seen as the gems of the region, but are also poised to influence the next wave of growth.

Continuing to lead the growth of the ecosystem, Golden Gate Ventures announced in May that it will open two new outposts in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, complementing its other offices in Singapore and Indonesia. Its goal is to attract investments to the Vietnamese market, promote the exchange and growth of new ideas and innovations, and help emerging Vietnamese companies build regional businesses.

In Paine’s view, each of these three strong countries has its own strengths and advantages that make it eligible for further growth and cross-border synergies. “With the capital and talents of Singapore, and the most advanced founders here, you will have regional experts since their headquarters and product teams are here. Singaporean teams also tend to be more ambitious and global in outlook,” he says.

Indonesia’s strength lies in its large market size and potential for returns. “In many sectors, if you are No. 1 in the country, you will be able to generate returns on venture capital over several rounds. The IPOs have shown that there are returns for different types of private investors.”

In contrast, Vietnam’s young earthquake and sheer technical talent made it an attractive destination for investors and entrepreneurs. Payne says, “Besides the population density and adoption of mobile technology, it is No. 1 in terms of technical talent in Southeast Asia. Teams can do very complex things like Web3 and coding because they consider this to be second nature.”

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What’s Next for Startups 2.0

Co-founder of Golden Gate Ventures, Jeffrey Payne
(Photo: Felicia Wang)

Staring at his crystal ball, Payne believes it will become difficult to start a business in the next decade as the SEA startup ecosystem matures. “The rate of new consumer startups with unique ideas is declining as the distribution of consumers is controlled by a few monopolies. The founders have to think about what kind of companies are worth starting and what suits their personality.”

According to GGV’s Southeast Asia Startup Ecosystem 2.0 report, the next generation of entrepreneurs is more likely to create only social commerce start-ups, medtech and fintech. There will also be a slight increase in B2B SaaS (software-as-a-service) startups as well.

“To do a good job, you have to have a vision that others don’t, such as an inflection point when something changes in your country, region, or globally. Then, build something to become the first company to catch up on that change,” he says.

To prepare for this changing landscape and the higher expectations of investors in the future, GGV’s new portfolio growth strategy, called Founder First, aims to provide the founders with not only the financial capital, but also the human and social capital that the company has accumulated over the years.

“We have to look at founders as human beings. They are not money-making machines, they are human beings. They have to be self-aware because being a founder can be very lonely – and this has only gotten worse during Covid-19,” he notes.

As a result, budding entrepreneurs are often asked how many hours they sleep and how they regulate stress when they meet. Noting that many have to deal with anxiety, fatigue, and impostor syndrome at one point or another, he notes that those who have had them for a long time, “need to know how to manage their stress and recognize the early signs of trouble.”

We have to look at the founders as human beings. They are not machines to make money.

exchange the right

Payne notes, however, that most startups don’t need venture capital funds. “Not every company needs to grow into a unicorn and most investors ignore these groups of companies. But while such companies, like software companies, may not be able to get as much capital because they don’t need it, they deserve to be present “.

Payne says he wouldn’t shy away from speaking out in such situations. If these companies fit our investment criteria, and we can help them think bigger, we might invest in them. On the other hand, we will also tell them the truth. If we see that their business will be small, do not collect money from us.”

However, his interactions with these entrepreneurs do not necessarily end here. “We are happy to guide them to help them get where they want to go. If we can help anyone, we will try; if we can give honest feedback, we will because that is what the GGV has been like from the start.”

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