What background and domain expertise do you have? And What makes you turning into an investor?
Tiang Lim Foo: I started my career on the operating side, from engineering to seed-stage and growth-stage startups. After leaving Evernote, where I was responsible for launching the Singapore office, I got an opportunity to collaborate with Jungle Ventures to launch a seed fund which became SeedPlus.
As an investor, what kind of startups (or what sectors) have you invested in so far? How did you find those startups to invest in?
Tiang Lim Foo: At SeedPlus, we invest in seed and pre-A companies in the Southeast Asia region. Our goal is to partner with very early stage, ambitious founding teams who are on their path to product-market fit in large and exciting market opportunities. On that note, we as a team have invested across different sectors and verticals spanning FinTech, marketplaces, IoT, SaaS, logistics and so on. Typically, these founders came through our personal referral networks from the ecosystem.
What would be the core factors that you decide “Not” to invest in certain companies?
Tiang Lim Foo: Ultimately, the two most important factors based on which we make an investment decision are the size of the market and opportunity, as well as the quality of the founding team, which means a lack of either would probably make us hesitant in moving the conversation forward.
What would be the KPI that you usually check about the startups’ growth? It may be diverse in each industry like LTV, CAC, MoM but would be helpful to understand more about your additional investment factors.
Tiang Lim Foo: It really depends on the type of product, business, and the industry the startup operates in. There is no one size fits all approach. We like to work and collaborate with the founders to come up with an agreeable way to measure the progress of the product and the company. So much of what we do ultimately boils down to the vision and insight of the founders, so in some sense our founders are educating us what are the best ways to measure the health of the product & business.
What is the investment range and In a typical year, how many startups do you invest in? And do overseas headquartered startups have a chance to get investment from you or should be headquartered in certain countries?
Tiang Lim Foo: Our ticket size is a range of 500k to 1m, and as mentioned earlier we invest in Southeast Asia companies.
What are the main factors that startups fail as per your experience “AFTER” getting investment and how can they prevent mistakes in advance from your personal perspective?
Tiang Lim Foo: At the startup stage we invest in, there are multiple failure modes and risks since the companies are still on the path of figuring out product-market fit. Most of these failure modes though can be attributed to the lack of focus and clarity. Focus and clarity are therefore very important.
What’s your advice to entrepreneurs who have a chance to meet investors like you? What are the top 3 questions that you always ask the founders?
Tiang Lim Foo: Be clear and concise with your pitch, and do your research beforehand. We talk a lot about product-market fit as an industry, perhaps we should also really talk about VC founder fit. What this means is to do your research to understand if the investment mandate and the strategy of the VC is the right fit for you.
I always like to understand what I call the “origin story” of the founders and founding team. I like to understand the people story; how they got started in their careers, how did the founding team meet each other, what was the motivation behind starting the business and pursuing the idea. I learn a lot from these interactions.
Right after being an investor like in early days, there must be some tough times in building up the first fund along with building up a second fund or giving back the good returns to those LPs, If there is any similar tough time like this, please tell me more about it and how you (or your team) overcome the difficult times.
Tiang Lim Foo: Since we are still in our debut fund, I would say we are still really early in our journey in the venture. On that note, there was a large degree of similarity to startups at the seed stage. We were developing our own positioning and messaging, running our GTM process, doing our own marketing and branding, even coded our own website. That was a lot of fun and a lot of experimenting.
What’s your general thought about the term “Global” and what are the important factors (criteria) for local startups to consider an international expansion?
Tiang Lim Foo: I would think of it in terms of both market accessibility, as well as capital accessibility. Having a clear understanding of your customers and target market is absolute key. In Singapore, since the market size is relatively small, most startups will be thinking of regional if not global expansion from day one. Beyond the obvious questions of when should you expand, and how should you do it, one should also consider expansion from a capital point of view. Are you able to fundraise from VCs from your destination market? How would they be able to support, not only from capital and knowledge but also resourcing you in recruiting, legal, etc.
Having the right capital partner and access can make or break a company‘s expansion plans.
What kind of startup (or tech) industry will impact the world in the near future like 2-3 years locally (in your country) and globally in your own personal view?
Tiang Lim Foo: In Singapore, we are constantly looking at solutions that enable us to live, work and play smarter and more efficiently. I‘m particularly excited about technologies and solutions that address the urban mobility problem. One of our portfolio companies – Neuron Mobility which provides a smart electric scooter solution for urban areas is doing interesting work in this sector.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Tiang Lim Foo: I would really spend more time to invest in helping and nurturing the community in the startup and technology ecosystem in Southeast Asia. This is a region with a lot of potential and promise, and the success of the region comes from the success of the entrepreneurial community.
As you know, our company group name is “beSUCCESS”, what’s your definition of the term “success” as an investor or as an individual human being?
Tiang Lim Foo: I recently watched the Bill Gates documentary produced by Netflix, and the closing quote shared by Mary Gates, Bill‘s mother really stuck with me. It goes something like this: “Each one of us has to start out with developing his or her own definition of success. And when we have these specific expectations of ourselves, we are more likely to live up to them. Ultimately it’s not what you get or even what you give, it’s what you become.”So let’s enjoy the journey, and become the best versions of ourselves.
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