Startups looking at going global should first establish proof of local traction before doing so, John Lim, Partner at Meet Ventures, said in an interview with AsiaTechDaily.
“If you can’t generate demand locally, it is usually even more difficult to generate demand overseas,” Lim said, adding that many good Series B/C startups he has come across already have significant traction at home before they embarked on overseas expansion.
Meet Ventures is a consultancy firm that specialises in running startup accelerators and market access programs. Its team comprises of former VCs, program directors, consultants, and startup CXOs.
The firm’s end-to-end services including program structuring, startup sourcing, startup interviews and selection, mentor recruitment, organising masterclasses, business matching, coaching, day-to-day operations, startup fundraising support, and organising demo days.
Lim talks more about Meet Ventures, his tips to startups, and more in an interview with AsiaTechDaily. Edited excerpts below:
What background and domain expertise do you have? And when did you first think about starting a fund?
I used to work at SGInnovate ($200 million deeptech fund) and LongHash Ventures ($100 million web3 fund). Currently, I run an innovation consultancy firm called Meet Ventures that helps corporates to run their accelerators and government agencies to run their market access programs. We also represent a few family offices and PE firms to scout for Series B/C/D startups.
What types of companies/sectors do you look to invest in? and What’s your mental model for investing?
We are sector agnostic but prefer startups that are based in or operating in the APAC region. As we are looking for growth-stage startups, healthy financials and a consistent growth rate are important. Achieving profitability is a plus point.
What is your typical investment range and how many startups do you invest in per year in general? Additionally, can overseas-headquartered startups get funding from you?
Our investors can write cheques of $10-100 million. We look at around 2-3 growth-stage startups per year. We welcome overseas-headquartered startups who have a presence in APAC or at least have the intention to do so after receiving funding.
What would be the KPI that you usually check about the startups’ growth? It may be diverse in each industry like LTV, CAC, MoM, etc. but it will be helpful to understand more about your additional investment factors.
Healthy revenue figures. Discipline in spending. Consistent growth rate over the past 3 years. Profitability is a plus.
Can you share any investing mistakes that you made if there are any and the lessons we can learn from it?
Investing based on the startup’s heuristics. Winning many pitch competitions and hackathons does not automatically mean that a startup is good.
What mistakes do you see founders make when raising money?
Asking for very high valuations without good traction or a good reason to back up their demands.
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?
For early-stage startup founders, I think the team and especially the CEO is very important. 3 questions I usually ask are
1) What is the background of the CEO and team?
2) What is your monthly burn rate and what do you spend on?
3) What is your monthly revenue and how much of that is recurring?
What’s your general thought about the term “Global” and What are the important factors (criteria) for local startups to consider for international expansion?
I think going global is a good long-term vision to have. But it’d be good to see proof of local traction before venturing overseas. If you can’t generate demand locally, it is usually even more difficult to generate demand overseas. Many good Series B/C startups that I come across already have significant traction at home before they embark on overseas expansion.
What kind of startup or tech industry will impact the world in the future like 2-3 years locally in your view? (or what tiny/nonexistent markets today will be trillion-dollar markets in 10-20 years?)
Sustainability is definitely an area to look at. I think the impact goes beyond financial returns but it also impacts our lives and the lives of future generations.
What are the top three books, movies (TV series), or podcast episodes that changed your life and why?
1) Bible. A pastor once said that our theology impacts our philosophy on life, which impacts the decisions we make and actions we take.
2) The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Fundamentals are important.
3) Shark tank. Good lunchtime entertainment.
What are the top three life lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
Live. Laugh. Love.
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