How do someone get into the venture capital industry in Singapore?

I get this question quite a lot in the last 3-6 months from students and professionals from the industry. To not repeat myself over and over, I thought I will just blog about it.

Venture capital is broadly categorized under Private Equity as a financial asset class. "Venture capital" here will be referred to early stage - seed, and Series A investments. Growth and late stage venture capital is quite different in many sense (which I will not go into in this post).

If you like to work for a venture capital firm that invests in early stage technology startup companies in Singapore as an analyst, associate, principal or junior/venture partner level. The points below will give you an edge above everyone else who are smart, hungry and full of initiative, willing to be coached etc. After all, it is an apprenticeship business. Everyone starts somewhere.

First, you have to love the world of start ups. It has to ooze out of conversations with you, your resume and the way you talk (live and breathe it). What are some of the tell tale signs that you are crazy about entrepreneurship and starting up?

  1. You have participated in business plan competitions or entrepreneurial clubs and associations.
  2. You have started a company or worked in a startup (family businesses do not count).
  3. You have dabbled with a side project or two while you are holding down a day job.
  4. You have taken a class to teach yourself a functional skill in technology - coding, design, UX, online marketing etc.
  5. You have invested in a startup and are able to articulate why you have invested.
  6. You have helped, advised founders of a startup.
  7. You have organized or ran community events and activities for startups.

Second, you have to have founders' empathy. How do you acquire this particular empathy?

  1. You have started a company or worked in a startup and worked under the founding team.
  2. You have invested in at least a startup and are active either on the board of directors or speak to the founders 1-2 times a month. And have done this more than 5 years.

Third, you have a skill that is relatable to founders of startups.

  1. You can code, design, growth hack, online/mobile market.
  2. You are helpful with smart introductions. With potential hires, partners and customers.
  3. You have a specific engineering background. e.g. machine learning, artificial intelligence.
  4. You have a specific industry background. e.g. advertising networks, gaming studio.

At the end of the day, irregardless of what your position is in the venture firm. You need to command respect from the best founders out there. This is more important than just money. As you grow with experience, it will help propel you to the next level.

Lastly, be yourself, hustle your way there and know deep down what is your motivation to join our profession.

Good luck.



Humbled by Honest and Courageous Founders

Last week, we had our first event of the year for Founder Institute Singapore 2014, entitled "Making the Leap from Employee to Entrepreneur". It was the first time for the past 4 years with this particular event content. I invited 3 of my recent FI graduates to talk about their founding journey.

What transpired during the 2 hour session totally overwhelmed me and brought me  to tears more than once (especially Rishi's talk). 

I hereby salute all founders who have made the decision to make the leap. You will always have my respect.

Our next 2 events before starting the semester can be found at www.fi.co/join

Founder Institute Singapore - Rewired Summer 2014 (Launched!)

Founder Institute Singapore Summer 2014 is Launched and Taking Applications! Go to www.fi.co/join (select Singapore)

The next Founder Institute Singapore semester - will be tentatively called "Founder Institute Singapore Rewired 2014". I have been directing Founder Institute Semesters in Singapore for the past 4 years and mentored and helped start several chapters in Southeast Asia. Our cohort of alumni is the best group of people I have gotten to know ever. No assholes so far (which is what I am proud of), all real mofos who would not take no for an answer as they navigate the startup maze. I hereby salute you all.

I have invested in quite a few of you, exited one, mentored and advised a bunch. The feedback from the market on Founder Institute graduates are impeccable but we are not going to get big headed. Founder Institute founders possesses the founder DNA when you first enter the program, the rest is the idea, the tools, the push and the tenacity to get things done. I know roughly what will succeed now after all these years. So lets get down and do this shit.

There will be 2 main changes coming up (which are in the works but will be implemented in a form that I see fit once the semester starts, this is my FTM - fuck this moment):

1. We will focus a lot more on the first 5 weeks of ideation than ever before. In addition to the mentors' rating and special assignment grading of the founders at the 2 mentor review sessions. I will also give my input from the start and actively kick people out no matter what the mentor rating is. 

The criteria is simple: focus on the mission and ideology of your company and clearly articulate the problem statement against your own personal founding story.

If the general direction is game changing, and may move me to think of quitting my job (hypothetically) to join you. You will be safe and will remain in the program.

This semester will be epic! Hang on, embrace yourself.