Written by Adrian Li
It’s been a few years since launching my first Internet startup in 2005. From setting up office in a 30sqm apartment in Beijing’s university district to creating one of the leading one on one live English training platforms in China that was acquired in 2010; this invaluable experience served as the foundation for my future startup endeavors. Now, after cofounding another 3 technology ventures, I’m no longer based in China and will be turning my focus from being an entrepreneur operator to an entrepreneur investor in Indonesia. Why?
Even in my first company, an enduring motivation that I have always had is to “empower people with opportunity”. In Idapted it was to provide quality English training to provide students with better opportunities and now with Convergence Accel it will be to bring a package of experience, network and capital to help further empower entrepreneurs to build valuable and long lasting businesses. Personally, I find this the strongest motivating factor for me in starting a venture fund – for sure it has to be the right market (Indonesia) and investing in the right space (internet/ technology) both of which I love but ultimately what gets me out of bed every day and energized is the opportunity to work with and help support passionate entrepreneurs looking to build successful businesses.
As an entrepreneur some of the biggest challenges I faced daily were finding great talent, accessing important business networks for growth and getting relevant and detailed experience sharing when tackling tough problems. Hence as a VC I’ll want to work with our portfolio to help over come these issues. For example, we’ll be building an in-house recruitment team to help find talent and we’ve built an outstandingfrom US to China who are on board and accessible to our portfolio CEOs. So we’re building Convergence Accel from the perspective of an entrepreneur and thus despite not having extensive investment track record our first hand experience in starting technology ventures will form a strong foundation for the fund.
In the end timing is a large factor in any success story and while we cannot control time we can look to underlying demographics and fundamentals to support that now is the right time to invest in the technology sector for Indonesia. Here I think there are three key areas to look at; access, adoption and spending. While overall broadband penetration in Indonesia has been slow – Internet access especially through mobile growth has been exponential. By 2018 there will be a forecast 150MM smartphones in Indonesia with over 100MM connected via 3G and above. On the adoption side we recently saw in Mary Meeker’s presentation that Indonesia already has the highest consumption of screen minutes per capita globally together with the 4th largest Facebook population and one of the most engaged twitter users – adoption of internet products clearly has momentum. Finally with an economy nearing 50% of South East Asia’s total GDP and among the fastest growing at a forecast 7%, Indonesia is clearly has a lot of market potential in the next decade.
Heading back to my business school application my stated long term goal in applying to Stanford GSB was “to set up a socially responsible venture capital firm that affects meaningful change, contributing to social and economic development” It has been just over 10 years since I wrote that application and the launch of Convergence Accel will be my first step into the venture investing world and the start of an exciting next chapter for me.
So if you’re looking to build a ventureto find out ways we can help you with more than capital. We look forward to hearing from you.