Founded in 1999, Catcha Group is an entrepreneurial foundation with over 20 years of expertise in building and investing in disruptive technology enterprises globally, with a keen focus on Southeast Asia and Australia.
As one of the prominent investors in the digital domain within emerging markets, particularly ASEAN, the group has had six IPOs in fourteen years. Notably, the listing of iProperty Group in 2007 on the Australian Securities Exchange, REV Asia Berhad in 2011 on Bursa Malaysia, and later IPOs of iCar Asia in 2012, Ensogo (formerly iBuy Group) in 2013, and Frontier Digital Ventures in 2016, all on the Australian Securities Exchange.
In February 2021, Catcha Group added another milestone with the listing of Catcha Investment Corp, a blank check company, on the NYSE, raising $300 million in gross proceeds to target technology businesses in Southeast Asia and Australia.
Today, Catcha Group, under the leadership of Patrick Grove, operates as an international internet conglomerate, overseeing various publicly listed and private ventures in media, new media, online classifieds, and e-commerce. Asia Tech Daily’s took an interview with the prolific founder, entrepreneur and investor Patrick Grove which delves deep into the entrepreneur’s journey, investment strategies, and the future of tech in Southeast Asia and Australia. Engage with this exclusive conversation to gain valuable insights, offering a unique perspective on startup ecosystems and the dynamic world of digital entrepreneurship.
Patrick Grove’s trajectory traces back to his formative years in Singapore and Indonesia before finding a home in Sydney, Australia. His entrepreneurial spirit sparked early with the inception of two companies during his university days. In 1999, fueled by the dot-com boom, Grove made a pivotal decision, leaving behind a graduate job at Arthur Andersen to embark on a venture in Southeast Asia. The result was Catcha.com, a dot-com phenomenon that weathered the storm of the dot-com crash and evolved into the Catcha Group in 2004.
Grove’s entrepreneurial roots are in a profound understanding of local markets, growth challenges, and the transformative journey from startup inception to digital powerhouse.
“I have always believed in building the startup ecosystem regionally. Why can’t we be the next Silicon Valley? After exiting some of my companies, I found myself in a unique position to help the next generation of founders, not just by investing, but also by providing my unique perspective as a founder.”
The perennial challenge of balancing short-term financial returns with long-term strategic growth is a crucible for startups. Grove’s approach is unequivocal – a steadfast focus on the long term. As an entrepreneur, he cautions against pandering to market whims, advocating for a company’s commitment to sustainable growth. Grove asserts that building with a long-term vision naturally garners market appreciation over time.
Grove states: “I have always focused on the long term. When founders focus on short-term financial returns, you end up in the trap of pleasing the market.”
Discussing exit strategies, Grove elucidates the myriad options available to startups – from IPOs to trade sales. However, he challenges the conventional wisdom of founders obsessing over exit plans, advocating for a laser focus on building a robust business. Drawing from his experience with iProperty, Grove illustrates that a well-executed exit presents itself when a company is built on a foundation of profitability and excellence.
Grove advises: “Focus on building the business and a good exit will present itself.”
Transitioning seamlessly from entrepreneur to investor, Grove offers guidance to newcomers entering the startup investing arena.
“Get to know as many people as possible. Everyone in the space is really helpful and is willing to share deals with one another. As a newcomer, you may not be leading investment rounds, but lead investors are always looking for follow-on investors to join the round.”
Sharing insights for early-stage founders, Grove identifies a common pitfall – overlooking the critical role of people in a company’s success. He emphasizes the pivotal importance of the first ten hires, urging founders to meticulously evaluate candidates and ensure they are ready for the unpredictable journey of a startup.
Grove emphasizes: “People, people, people. A company is as good as its team. Your first 10 hires are going to make or break the company. Get to know candidates really well when interviewing them, and make sure they are ready to hop on a wild journey with you.”
Highlighting the need for adaptability, Grove shares a vital lesson from his portfolio companies – the willingness to pivot. Drawing from experiences where existing strategies faltered, Grove highlights the humility required to reassess and consult with teams or peers for effective pivots.
Grove reflects: “You have to be willing to pivot the company at a moment’s notice.”
Acknowledging the resource constraints that early-stage startups often face, Grove sees this as a test of entrepreneurial hustle. He suggests that investors reward resourcefulness, and building an entrepreneurial culture within the team can unleash surprising potential.
Grove advises: “Being resource-constrained is part of the game for any founder. Investors will assess your resourcefulness and reward you for it.”
In his role as Chairman of Catcha Digital Berhad, Grove sheds light on key trends and opportunities in Southeast Asia. The company’s mission is to support Asian tech entrepreneurs in building profitable digital companies. Grove envisions Chapter Two of a startup’s journey, focusing on expansion, partnerships, talent acquisition, and business growth.
“We want to invest in them, back them, merge with them and help them with chapter two of their journey,” he envisions.
Reflecting on taking six companies public, Grove challenges the traditional view of an IPO as an exit. Instead, he views it as the start of the next chapter, offering companies diverse opportunities and increased accountability to a broader investor base.
“An IPO opens you up to so many different opportunities; it’s easier to raise money and debt; and as an entrepreneur, it allows you to realize some of the value that you have created. The public markets also force companies to have a greater degree of accountability. You are no longer just accountable to a bunch of VCs; you are now accountable to large corporate institutions and retail investors.”
Drawing parallels between his passion for the outdoors and entrepreneurship, Grove finds inspiration in nature’s need for constant adaptation. In a world of market fluctuations, he sees adaptability as the key to success for both entrepreneurs and investors.
Grove concludes, “In the natural world, species must constantly adapt to changing environments to survive. Similarly, entrepreneurs and investors must be able to adapt to changes in the market and economic conditions.”