AC Ventures, a Jakarta-based venture firm, nurtures early-stage, high-growth companies. Over the past 15 years, the firm has cultivated a reputation for backing disruptive business models and fostering innovation in Indonesia’s vibrant startup ecosystem. AC Ventures recently concluded the fundraising for its fifth fund, ACV Fund V, amassing an impressive $210 million. With the new fund, the venture capital firm received backing from investors such as the World Bank’s IFC and stakeholders from the United States, the Middle East, and North Asia.
Specializing in consumer businesses, B2B enterprises, digital media, fintech, and SME industries, AC Ventures has been a strong support for founders striving to make a positive societal impact with their ventures. Leveraging deep local networks and value creation departments, the firm helps founders transform their startups into world-class companies.
In our recent interview with Adrian Li, Founder and Managing Partner of AC Ventures, we gained insights into the firm’s vision, mission, and strategies for shaping the Indonesian tech landscape.
Over the past decade, Adrian has played a key role in shaping over 120 businesses, steering them towards success in dynamic markets. His portfolio has household names like Stockbit, Shipper, Xendit, KoinWorks, Julo, and Carsome, showing his keen eye for identifying and nurturing category leaders.
His entrepreneurial journey spans co-founding ventures in China and Indonesia, where he utilized his expertise and gleaned invaluable insights that now inform his strategic guidance for portfolio businesses.
Li emphasizes the importance of empowering entrepreneurs with “smart, connected capital” and providing them with the resources they need to succeed. He highlights the firm’s deep local networks and Indonesia’s first and leading value-creation department as key factors in achieving this mission.
Here, Adrian Li shares insights into his investment philosophy and the vision driving AC Ventures’ impact in the Indonesian startup ecosystem. Dive into the interview to uncover his thoughts on entrepreneurship, mentorship, and the future of tech in Southeast Asia.
AC Ventures has played a pivotal role in nurturing over 120 businesses in the past eight years. Can you share a success story or a particularly rewarding experience from your portfolio that reflects AC Ventures’ impact on the Indonesian startup ecosystem?
AC Ventures takes great pride in contributing to the success and growth of numerous startups within the Indonesian ecosystem. Some standout success stories from our portfolio are the journeys of Xendit, Carsome, Julo, KoinWorks, and Stockbit, among many others. When we initially invested in these companies, they were promising but less-established players in the industry. With our strategic guidance, mentorship, and financial support, we witnessed our portfolio companies evolve into market leaders, disrupting the industry and achieving remarkable milestones.
During our partnership, AC Ventures played a pivotal role in helping these portfolio companies secure key partnerships, navigate regulatory challenges, and scale their operations efficiently. We provided not only capital but also crucial resources, industry insights, and a vast network that enabled them to thrive in the competitive landscape.
The success of our portfolio companies is a testament to AC Ventures’ commitment to fostering innovation and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in Indonesia. We are proud to have been a catalyst in their journeys, contributing not only to their success but also to the overall vibrancy of the Indonesian startup ecosystem.
As we continue our mission at AC Ventures, we remain dedicated to identifying, supporting, and propelling the next generation of visionary entrepreneurs who have the potential to make a lasting impact on both the local and global stage.
Your focus at AC Ventures includes consumer businesses, B2B, digital media, fintech, and SME industries. How do you identify and prioritize investment opportunities in these diverse sectors?
It really all starts with the founding team. At AC Ventures, we prioritize strong, market-fit founders who address significant problems and seek to drive positive impact at scale. Our approach remains consistent – investing in high-caliber founders with a high degree of integrity who have demonstrated via their track records that they can build strong, scalable businesses in our core areas of interest.
AC Ventures is known for empowering entrepreneurs with “smart, connected capital.” Could you elaborate on what this means in practice and how it differentiates AC Ventures in the Indonesian startup landscape?
AC Ventures stands out in Indonesia by offering hands-on support for our portfolio companies. Our dedicated value creation team provides tailored services, including business development, talent and ESG advisory, government relations, strategic partnerships, capital advisory, and more. We go beyond traditional funding, actively steering startups toward growth and success. Our extensive network of external expert advisors, ranging from industry veterans to tech innovators, further sets us apart in empowering entrepreneurs as they pursue sustainable success.
With AC Ventures aiming to be a generational partner to founders, what long-term strategies or trends do you foresee shaping the tech ecosystem in Indonesia, and how is AC Ventures positioned to contribute to these developments?
At AC Ventures, our vision of being a generational partner to founders aligns with our anticipation of long-term trends shaping Indonesia’s tech ecosystem. We foresee continued growth in digitalization and an increasing emphasis on sustainable technologies, with a significant emphasis on fintech, e-commerce, climate tech, MSME empowerment, and other solutions. Our strategy involves identifying these trends early and providing robust support to our portfolio companies through mentorship, strategic networking, and market insights. AC Ventures is uniquely positioned to contribute to these developments, leveraging our deep local knowledge and extensive industry experience to empower founders and drive innovation in the Indonesian tech landscape.
Your Advisory Board and Limited Partners bring deep networks and resources. How does this collective expertise contribute to the success of the startups you support, and can you share an example where this network played a crucial role?
Our advisory board and LPs play a key role in the success of the startups we support at AC Ventures. This collective expertise offers invaluable market insights, mentorship, and connections that are crucial for a startup’s growth and scalability. For example, there was a situation where a startup in our portfolio was facing challenges in scaling its operations. Leveraging our network, we connected them with industry experts who provided strategic guidance and facilitated key partnerships. This intervention not only helped resolve the immediate operational challenges but also set the startup on a path to significant market expansion, demonstrating the tangible impact of our network’s collective expertise.
Given your involvement with the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) and various mentoring roles, how important do you think mentorship is in the world of venture capital, and how has it shaped your own growth as an investor?
Mentorship holds a valuable role in the growth of any individual. It bridges experience gaps and fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth. My involvement with the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) and other mentoring roles has reinforced this belief. It has allowed me to guide emerging entrepreneurs and immensely shaped my growth as a leader, entrepreneur and investor. Through mentoring and experience sharing, I gain fresh perspectives and stay attuned to evolving market dynamics, ensuring that my investment approach remains both innovative and grounded in real-world business challenges. This reciprocal flow of knowledge and experience is essential for staying ahead in the rapidly changing venture capital landscape.
As the founder and managing partner of AC Ventures, what specific qualities or characteristics do you look for when evaluating potential team members to join your investment team?
When evaluating potential team members for our investment team, I prioritize a blend of analytical acumen, market insight, a genuine passion for our industry, and, most of all, a character that displays a continuous drive for improvement and learning. I look for individuals who not only have a strong understanding of financial and investment principles but also possess an innate curiosity about emerging technologies and market trends. Equally important are soft skills such as adaptability, teamwork, and strong communication abilities, as these are crucial in building relationships with founders and navigating the dynamic world of venture capital. Ultimately, a candidate who demonstrates a balance of technical expertise, market understanding, and interpersonal skills is ideal for our team at AC Ventures.
Early-stage founders often face challenges beyond capital. How does AC Ventures support its portfolio beyond financial investment, and what resources or strategies do you recommend for early-stage startups?
At AC Ventures, we prioritize unit economics and sustainable growth metrics. We advise portfolio companies to focus on healthy margins, ensuring robust and sustainable growth. Strong fundamentals, leading to strong financials, open up various exit options, including IPOs, M&A, or secondaries.
Considering your extensive experience as a founder and investor, what common mistakes do you see early-stage founders make, and what guidance would you offer to help them navigate these challenges?
In my experience, early-stage founders often mistakenly overlook market fit, leading to products that don’t align with customer needs and mismanaging capital, either by overspending or not investing enough in crucial areas. Another common issue is undervaluing the importance hiring best of class talent. My advice to founders is to continuously validate their market fit, balance financial prudence with strategic investments, and focus on building an amazing team. These steps are key to navigating the challenges of the startup world and setting a solid foundation for growth and success.
You’ve been recognized in Forbes Indonesia and Prestige Indonesia 40 under 40. How do you manage the balance between personal achievements and the collective success of AC Ventures and its portfolio companies?
These recognitions are a tremendous honor that reflects not just my journey but also the collective achievements of AC Ventures and its portfolio companies. Balancing personal accomplishments with our collective success involves a synergistic approach where individual efforts complement and enhance our shared goals. My role in AC Ventures is to foster an environment of learning and collaboration, ensuring that while we celebrate individual milestones, we remain steadfastly focused on our collective vision. This balance is achieved through clear communication, strategic planning, and a shared commitment to excellence, enabling us to drive forward both personal and collective growth in the dynamic landscape of business and technology.
As a sponsored endurance athlete and a certified triathlon coach, you bring discipline and dedication to your professional and personal life. How does your athletic background influence your leadership style and decision-making in the world of venture capital?
My passion for exercise deeply influences my way of life as I believe that to be your best self, you also need to build physical and mental health. The discipline and dedication required in endurance sports translate directly into my professional life, fostering resilience and a long-term perspective in my approach to investments. Endurance sports teach the value of setting clear goals, meticulous planning, and adapting to changing conditions, skills that are crucial in navigating the dynamic world of VC. Just as in endurance sports, I believe in pushing boundaries, maintaining a steady pace toward objectives, and supporting my team to achieve their peak performance, ensuring that we collectively reach our strategic goals.
In building AC Ventures, what aspect of the journey are you most proud of, and what keeps you energized and enthusiastic about the future of the Indonesian startup ecosystem?
In building AC Ventures, the aspect I’m most proud of is the driven founders we’ve had the privilege of investing in, who are creating enormous societal and economic impact in Indonesia and beyond. Of course, that would not have been possible without the tight-knit partnership and team that makes up AC Ventures, and I’m deeply grateful for all my colleagues whose daily actions have built AC to where we are today. What keeps me energized and enthusiastic about the future of the Indonesian startup ecosystem is witnessing the remarkable ingenuity and resilience of local entrepreneurs. Their drive to solve real-world problems and contribute to the nation’s economic growth promises a dynamic and transformative future for Indonesia’s tech landscape, and being a part of this journey is both inspiring and rewarding.
As a mentor at Endeavour, Founders Institute, and Antler, and with a strong commitment to charitable work, such as founding the CNYTrust, how do you see the intersection of entrepreneurship and social impact in Southeast Asia?
Through my involvement in initiatives like these, I’ve observed a growing intersection of entrepreneurship and social impact in Southeast Asia. Entrepreneurs in this region are increasingly recognizing the potential to drive sustainable change while building successful businesses. They are integrating social objectives into their business models, addressing key issues like education, healthcare, and environmental sustainability. This shift toward a more socially conscious entrepreneurial approach is not only elevating the standard of living in Southeast Asia but also setting a precedent for how businesses can contribute positively to society while achieving economic success.
Li also discussed AC Ventures’ recent success in raising $210 million for its fifth fund, ACV Fund V, which will focus on investing in startups like MAKA Motors and Koltiva. He emphasized supporting startups beyond financial investment, offering tailored services and leveraging its extensive network of industry experts to steer startups toward growth and success.
As AC Ventures continues its journey of empowering Indonesian startups to scale globally, Adrian Li remains energized and enthusiastic about the future of the Indonesian startup ecosystem. With a focus on entrepreneurship and social impact, AC Ventures plans to drive sustainable change and contribute positively to society and the environment in Southeast Asia.