Hailing from Singapore, Jeshua Soh is a young and dynamic angel investor who has woven a narrative that curves through unconventional education, accidental entrepreneurship, and a globetrotting escapade to over 55 countries across five continents.
In an exclusive interview with the Editor of Asia Tech Daily, Jeshua Soh describes his journey, which is a narrative of resilience, curiosity, and dedication to making a meaningful impact.
Delve into his story as it unfolds with lessons from filmmaking, startup ventures, and the fascinating world of technology innovations and investing.
From Filmmaker to Entrepreneur: A Unique Path Unfolds
Jeshua’s journey kicked off in Singapore, where he defied the norms of traditional education, dropping out of a top Junior college at 17 with nothing more than a PSLE certificate (primary school education). His passion for filmmaking led to the creation of J Rental Centre, a peer-to-peer rental platform born out of a desire to maximize the utility of accumulated camera equipment.
“My work with startups and the ecosystem began in 2016 when I founded Startupmedia to help startups and the ecosystem tell their stories and school myself in starting/scaling businesses. This gave me a front-row seat to the world of tech/innovation, and I began making some personal angel investments along the way.”
In 2018, Crossworks Myanmar was born, initially intended to hire talent for Jeshua’s ventures. However, it quickly evolved into a platform facilitating remote team management for over 40 companies globally, providing job opportunities amidst the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jeshua’s audacious adventure unfolded during the pandemic, where he traveled to over 55 countries, joining Accelerating Asia and Decacorn Capital to dive deeper into the world of disruptive technology-led innovations.
“Having traveled extensively and gaining experiences working around the table as a founder, vendor and investor, I try to vary my investments across frontier markets and the US while applying the same logic of ‘looking where no one else/few others are looking,”
The Investment Philosophy: Looking Where Others Aren’t
“There is no one size fits all, and I often quip that investing is not about a bunch of checkboxes or charts- that’s robot behavior. In the early stages, it’s really all about the founder/founding team.”
In evaluating potential startup investments, Jeshua significantly emphasizes the founding team. For him, it’s about identifying founders uniquely positioned to solve specific problems and possessing the motivation, skills, and a solid market understanding.
“In crowded spaces, things are either going to be fully valued or overvalued. My personal motto is to do something useful and not just solve first-world problems in first-world places.”
Further, upon asking about the specific qualities of startup founders, “the motivation, unique insight and resourcefulness of startup are things that I look out for,” Jeshua expressed.
Jeshua’s life mission of “doing something useful” is intricately woven into his investment philosophy. His focus on higher growth rates in developing markets aligns with the belief in the power of compounding interest.
“There are opportunities in different industries, corners of the globe and the ‘less apparent’ bets which few are willing to take, but it is also the learning which helps to derisk such bets.”
Exit Strategies and Long-Term Planning: Building Value as the Core Focus
While exit strategies are crucial, Jeshua advises founders to prioritize building intrinsic value. According to him, a valuable company, sustained by growth and impact, naturally becomes an attractive acquisition or public offering candidate. Time in the market, rather than timing the market is what sets apart both good investors and founders, reinforcing the significance of building intrinsic value over time rather than being a fly-by-night entrepreneur or founder. This implies being able to be a ‘cockroach’ and survive various market conditions, shocks and being highly resourceful to do more with less or do more with what one has.
Advice for New Investors: Commitment and Learning
For aspiring investors, Jeshua advocates a decade-long commitment at the minimum, cautioning against a tourist mentality that often results in poor returns.
Jeshua’s key tips for new investors:
Fundraising Strategies for Founders: Balancing Need and Needy Energy
Jeshua challenges the very decision to start fundraising, cautioning that not all businesses need venture capital. For founders opting for VC funding, swift closure of funding rounds is advised to maintain focus on product development.
Jeshua’s Fundraising Strategies for Founders:
Looking beyond profit, Jeshua advises early-stage founders to tackle problems they have a unique insight into. His counsel includes focusing on solving the problem first, worrying less about the form or technology initially, and adapting along the way. Mistakes are part of the innovation process, and Jeshua encourages founders to embrace failure, learn from it, and keep making new mistakes.
Personal Achievements and Travel Wisdom: A Glimpse into Jeshua’s World
Beyond his work in entrepreneurship and investing, Jeshua takes pride in escaping the ‘rat race’ and finding work that he believes is genuinely useful. His unconventional journey, from an unconventional education to navigating different industries without conforming, is a life less ordinary. His extensive travel experiences also impart valuable lessons, with incidents in Europe teaching him about risk and the unpredictability of crowded places.
Jeshua Soh’s journey offers a refreshing perspective on entrepreneurship and venture capital in a world driven by innovation and disruption. From solving personal problems to investing in the unconventional and embracing a life less ordinary, his insights inspire both budding entrepreneurs and seasoned investors to explore paths less traveled.