Digital News Asia (DNA) continues a weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy. These articles are from Digerati50, a special print publication released in January 2014. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].
Few companies with deep technology here, so tends to focus on online businesses
Feels that while improved, Malaysia’s funding ecosystem needs more players
HAVING been a venture capitalist since 2000, Chok Kwee Bee now runs her own fund, Teak Ventures Sdn Bhd, which she launched in 2008 with RM40.5 million (US$12.5 million). The fund is part of Malaysia Venture Capital Management Berhad’s Second Outsource Partners’ Programme.
You may think she is jaded after going through more than 1,000 business plans over that period, but she is quick to dispel that notion.
“It is exciting listening to the plans and dreams of the entrepreneurs and sharing their pains and success on their entrepreneurial journey. The day I feel that this is a chore or bore, I will quit being a VC (venture capitalist),” she says.
That day is likely to be far off, seeing how funding and coaching from Kwee Bee has helped companies grow “from a pupa to a buttery” and the accompanying sense of achievement she feels from this.
“And of course, the exits and excitement of making good returns and striking a home run with an investment,” she adds.
Considered one of the more successful VCs around, she has had a hand in the development of successful entrepreneurs like Mark Chang, Steve Hsia, Joel Neoh, Khailee Ng and Ng Sang Beng.
Aspiring entrepreneurs wishing to approach her for advice or funding should know that Kwee Bee has changed as a VC today. Not surprisingly, she saw almost every company as having potential when she first started out in 2000, but the going is a lot tougher these days.
She now prefers to work with Gen-Y entrepreneurs with novel ideas. Her rationale? “There are not many companies with deep technology here and so I tend to focus on online businesses as this sector is poised to take off in this part of the world.”
She is focusing on companies that can generate revenue in a short time, or that at least can grow their user base very quickly. This requirement for revenue is moulded by her experience in the aftermath of the ‘dotcom bust’ in 2000.
“If companies do not generate revenue quickly, they will run out of cash and this is a lesson I learnt from the dotcom debacle in 2000,” she says.
The hardest part for her is working with entrepreneurs who do not listen to advice and are slow to react, are complacent or not hungry enough.
Finding good companies and picking a winner is tough, and rare enough. “Often, one does not know for sure that they are potential winners till later, when everything falls into place.”
Part of this “falling into place” is listening to the advice and counsel from one’s investor, and staying hungry.
Having the right team is absolutely critical to Kwee Bee and ranks as among the two key lessons she has learnt in her 14-year VC journey so far. “It is all about people. People who are creative, execute well, deliver speedily, think big and stay focused.”
This focus is the second lesson, as once a problem has been identified, she feels the entrepreneur cannot procrastinate and needs to make changes fast – whether it is to change strategy, replace key management or pivot to another business.
As she takes a step back and assesses the Malaysian entrepreneurial ecosystem, her verdict is, “There is still lots of room for improvement.”
Observing that entrepreneurs are still not reacting fast enough and thinking big enough, she feels that the funding ecosystem needs to be improved with more players involved.
At the same time she acknowledges that progress has been made. “The overall ecosystem has improved, with more angels, startups and mentors.”
And that’s good news for all, especially Kwee Bee who enjoys learning about technology, new business models and helping smart people with big dreams scale their companies to the next level.