Ffmh 2nd Edition Meet The Investors Part 1 (1)

After our first edition of Female Founders Mentoring Hours in July, we were heartened by the number of investors who reached out to join us as a mentor for future editions – it only goes to show how many investors share our vision. As Cocoon Capital plans to run FFMH every 4 months, do drop Lauren (lauren@cocooncap.com) an email to find out how you can join us as a mentor to kickass female founders!

Today, we introduce an awesome line up of investors from 500 Startups Vietnam, Qualgro, Quest Ventures, TNB Aura, Seed Myanmar, Sequoia Capital India (Singapore) and Investible! As each session is only 13-minutes long, founders, please do your due diligence and read up about insights into the mentors’ background, their investment strategy, what they enjoy discussing with founders and their top tips for office hours below.

Please check out the rest of the series from the first edition of FFMH as well – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.


Eddie Thai, 500 Startups Vietnam

Eddie Thai 500

Eddie Thai is a partner with 500 Startups, a global early-stage VC firm headquartered in San Francisco, and a general partner of its Vietnam-focused fund. He has invested in over 25 companies, including ApplyBoard (edtech startup now worth > US$1B), Trusting Social (fintech startup later backed by Sequoia), and PayJoy (fintech startup later backed by Greylock). His efforts have been covered by Bloomberg, BBC, the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and various regional outlets. Before 500 Startups, he worked in strategy & finance roles for companies and clients ranging from startups to Fortune 500 corporations, primarily in technology, media, and telecommunications. He received degrees from Harvard University and Yale University.

What is unique about 500 Startups Vietnam?

First, we focus on startups that have a nexus to Vietnam, for example a Vietnamese co-founder, a Vietnamese team, and/or serving Vietnamese customers. I think this gives us a pretty broad and unique universe of potential investments, especially considering how many startups are leveraging Vietnam’s tech talent and/or entering the Vietnam market these days.

Second, I think our 10-person team is a distinct combination of “local” [Vietnamese] and “global.”
– Local: 100% of our team is ethnically Vietnamese, 80% of our team was born in Vietnam, and 100% are based here in Vietnam.
– Global: 100% of us have experience working and/or studying abroad across four continents, from Johannesburg to Copenhagen, from Bangkok to Tehran, from Singapore to San Francisco.
I think this gives us broad networks, diverse perspectives, and differentiated value-add. On top of that is our membership in the global 500 Startups community of founders, mentors, investors, and others.

What investments do you enjoy looking at?

I’m open to taking a look at anything, but I most enjoy talking with passionate founders who intimately understand a problem they want to solve for emerging markets, especially in financial services, education, and health care.

From a potential investment perspective, the sweet-spot timing is companies that have a product with some traction raising a round in the US$100K-$1M range. First institutional VC round? Even better!

Which part of an investment do you enjoy most discussing with a founder?

I like to understand what founders have learned in the first part of their entrepreneurial journey — what they feel has worked and hasn’t, from both a company perspective (product, sales, etc.) and a personal perspective. The only constant is change, and I like to see how people observe, assess, internalize, and adjust as needed.

What are your 3 top tips on how to make the most of the mentoring hours?

1) Give me pre-read materials (pitch deck / website / one-pager / whatever) in advance so I can get a head start on understanding your context. I’d rather use our brief time together going deep on your challenge(s) than going over high-level introductory information.

2) Be direct about what you want, why you want it, and what challenges you’ve had in getting it up until now.

3) Recap your / my next steps within the same day. If introductions, write me a separate forwardable intro email for getting opt-ins.

One more thing: if not too much trouble for you, please follow-up with me later about whether the advice or other support I provided was helpful for you. Having a feedback loop helps me be more helpful for others, and I also like to hear about entrepreneurs’ progress.

What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate COVID-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post series B)?

Across startups regardless of stage, I’ve advised since relatively early in the pandemic: “Founders should get lean and agile so you can survive in the near-term and thrive in the long-term. To do that, you have to be super clear-eyed about the situation, your business, and yourself and be prepared to do the hard stuff, fast. But be empathetic, too! And no matter what, communicate clearly and honestly with all of your stakeholders.”

In practice, COVID-19 has had different implications for different founders. Several startups have had to cut burn or shift their fundraising plans sooner or later. One of our startups has pivoted, from focusing on customer acquisition and relationship management for restaurants to doing the same for retail shop owners. Other startups of ours seemed ready-made for a post-COVID world and have seen substantial increases in revenue.

In the end, we have tailored our advice and support to our portfolio companies as needed on a case-by-case basis. (As we always must).


Wanying Zhang, Qualgro
Wanying Zhang[1]

Wanying is an Investment Manager of Qualgro. Having spent 4 years in Qualgro, she has end to end experience across the investment process, including deal sourcing (across Southeast Asia & Australia), due diligence and portfolio management activities. She has been involved in the investment process for SaaS, Data and B2B marketplace businesses – having led deals and diligence processes for companies in Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, MarTech, EdTech, SMB and Enterprise SaaS, amongst many others. Wanying is a graduate of the National University of Singapore Business School.

What is unique about Qualgro?

Qualgro invests mainly in B2B technology companies. We like to back entrepreneurs who aspire to build regional or global businesses, preferably with technological advantages. Our team works closely with our portfolio companies, to provide strategic support leveraging our collective experience in the business world.

What investments do you enjoy looking at?

As a fund, we focus mainly on B2B Data/AI/SaaS while being industry agnostic. Personally, I enjoy looking at two types of companies: 1) companies with real defensibility in product / business model; 2) strategic sectors in emerging countries, e.g. education, healthcare.

Which part of an investment do you enjoy most discussing with a founder?

Vision of a founder and key milestones / challenges along the entrepreneurial journey.

What are your 3 top tips on how to make the most of the mentoring hours?

Be focused on clear and specific objectives/questions that a VC could help address

Be concise in the pitch, so we have more time for collective brainstorming/discussion

Everyone to be open-minded

What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate COVID-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post series B)?

While saving costs and extending the runway are essential for most startups’ survival, companies with strong fundamentals should leverage this opportunity to continue investing into the business, for more aggressive growth while competitors are more cautious. Most investors are still deploying capital, so it would not be a big challenge for a strong company to raise money.

It is a good time to attract great talents now, even in places where the startup does not have a physical office. WFH has evolved the way a lot of companies operate, maybe even on a long-term basis. As a result, the talent pool addressable is also a lot larger.


Yiping Goh, Quest Ventures

Yiping Quest

Goh Yiping is a Partner for Fund II Asia at Quest Ventures, a leading venture fund for technology companies that have scalability and replicability in large internet communities. Prior to this, Yiping was Chief Product Officer of MatahariMall.com, the largest omnichannel fashion ecommerce site in Indonesia backed by the Lippo Group. In 2014, Lippo Group acquired All Deals Asia, the Southeast Asia ecommerce aggregator and group-buying platform co-founded by Yiping.

What is unique about Quest Ventures?

We focus on Southeast Asia and Kazakhstan and have strong networks within the region, including China. We are all founders and operators ourselves and have walked the entrepreneurial paths through its ups and downs. We believe that we have empathy, and a big heart for fellow founders yet do not hesitate to share hard truths.

What investments do you enjoy looking at?

We are sector agnostic. The investments that excite us are the ones with grounded yet resourceful founders. We also like businesses that care about healthy unit economics, and can address large internet communities. We also respect companies that care in making a positive impact in our world.

Which part of an investment do you enjoy most discussing with a founder?

Anything under the sun! From running the company to fundraising for next stage to branding, product management and expansion. I’m also a professional coach, so I think I’m a rather good listener.

What are your 3 top tips on how to make the most of the mentoring hours?

1. Please come prepared with questions and make yourself heard

2. Come ready with some solutions too as you are still the domain expert

3. Be open minded!

What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate COVID-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post series B)?

Don’t hibernate if your startup is severely affected. Keep finding where the opportunity gaps are. Don’t lose that scrappy, hustling hunger in you. The fittest companies will emerge this period, and let that company be yours

Please! Don’t waste this crisis.

We have seen numerous examples of how fates turn out differently for similar companies. 1 can die, the other can survive and continue to grow. The tale of 2 fates depend on your agility.


Joe Zhang, TNB Aura

Joe Zhang Tnb Aura

Joe is currently a Principal of TNB Aura, a Singapore based venture capital fund making early stage investments in technology-led companies across Southeast Asia. Prior to joining TNB Aura, Joe worked for Fosun RZ Capital with focus on Series B and later stage investments including public equities. Before starting his investment career, Joe gained wide experience in venture building, technology consulting and wealth management. Joe was the Top 5% MBA graduate from National University of Singapore and holds an Engineering degree from the same school.

What is unique about TNB Aura?

We are high conviction investors where we only target to invest into about 15 startups per fund. The rationale is to be hands-on and dedicate our resources, time and efforts to help every portfolio become a great company.

What investments do you enjoy looking at?

I always enjoy meeting great founders who are passionate about their startups, having great vision in changing the world and creating real value through innovation.

Which part of an investment do you enjoy most discussing with a founder?

Perhaps not for discussion since they are already on the boat, but curious to understand the motivation and background story of becoming a founder.

What are your 3 top tips on how to make the most of the mentoring hours?

Research on investor’s background, set context, prepare questions and communicate effectively.

What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate COVID-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post series B)?

It depends on the sector and business model. In general, make sure you have a comfortable runway to survive as the bottom line. Think long term as COVID may be a temporary event over the life of your business. However, be aware of the changing landscape due to COVID and make sensible adjustments.


Mouna Aouri, SEED Myanmar

Mouna Bio

What is unique about Seed Myanmar Ventures?

Seed Myanmar Ventures started in 2017 in Myanmar, the last frontier market in the region, with very few players at the time, we have actively supported the growth of the VC as an industry and we also invested and mentored many startup founders.

What investments do you enjoy looking at?

We are industry/sector agnostic but we are always interested in having a closer look at any company that innovates to solve Myanmar’s most pressing problems and contributes to the growth of its digital economy. Our focus is on Seed stage companies.

Which part of an investment do you enjoy most discussing with a founder?

Team and always team first. Then the problem they are solving.

What are your 3 top tips on how to make the most of the mentoring hours?

Please be concise in introducing yourself, your team and the problem you are solving. Be specific and honest in the kind of challenges you are facing. Just say as it is!

What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate COVID-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post series B)?

Cut costs, stay nimble, find new opportunities that may arise from this crisis and finally stay focused on making money and not only burning it!


Pieter Kemps, Tammie Siew, Sequoia Capital India (Singapore)

Pieter Kemps Sequoia

Pieter advises on early stage investments in consumer internet, fintech, with a special focus on B2B software and SaaS. He serves on the board of 10+ companies. Previously he ran his own startup and has held leadership roles at Cisco and Amazon. He holds an MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Tammie Siew Sequoia

Tammie is part of the investment team at Sequoia Capital India, focusing on the Southeast Asia market. Prior to joining Sequoia, she was a senior associate at the Boston Consulting Group in Southeast Asia. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.


Attributed to Pieter Kemps, Principal, Sequoia Capital India (Singapore)

What is unique about Sequoia Capital India?

Sequoia Capital India is one of the few funds that invests across all stages and sectors. We have companies starting from seed, to venture and growth stages in our portfolio. This enables us to take a very long-term view, giving us the opportunity to work with exceptional founders to build truly enduring companies over eight to 10 years.

We believe in the power of active and not passive capital. Company-building is in our DNA. We roll up our sleeves and join our founders in the trenches to help them solve for problems across product, hiring, tech, marketing and more. The India and Southeast Asia team have more than 30 specialists who partner with founders across various verticals – and this is one of the most unique things we bring to the table.

What investments do you enjoy looking at?

We love partnering with extraordinary founders who are solving real problems, going for the moonshot ideas, or looking to build global companies from day one. If we are talking of specifics, tech-enabled businesses, especially in the fintech, consumer tech and B2B SaaS space are of particular interest.

Which part of an investment do you enjoy most discussing with a founder?

We love exploring a founder’s motivation behind what they are doing. Founder-market fit is a critical part of our discussions. “Why you, why now?” That’s the question we like to ask all founders. What’s the problem they are solving, why is this the best time and why are they the most suited to solve it?

What are your 3 top tips on how to make the most of the mentoring hours?

First, have clarity of thought. You should be able to explain your business to us on the back of a business card.

Second, you need to tell a story. Metrics, market size, traction are all important. But more than that, it’s how you set up your story, the tension, that grabs an investors attention in those first few minutes.

And finally, read up on the investor/VC firm you are meeting. Every firm is different. Knowing what an investor’s interest areas are will help you understand how or why they can be a fit for your startup.

What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate COVID-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post series B)?

First and foremost, it’s critical that founders and their teams ensure that they focus on their personal well-being as much as they do on their companies.

Coming to business – across our portfolio, we are asking founders to conserve cash and try and extend their runway as much as possible. At all stages, VCs will now look for startups that can get to solid unit economics.

At the early-stage, capital will still be available, but the bar for investments will go up. There might be some slowdown in investment in the late stages given capital for that comes from global investors. However, it’s a good time for growth stage companies to really cut off the excesses and focus on what matters.

And finally, like everything else, this will take teamwork. So be empathetic and kind. This is the time that will test your mettle as a leader.


Reena SharmaJake Booker, Investible

Reena Sharma

Reena is a Vice President of Investor Relations at Investible. Based in Singapore, Reena is responsible for growing the firm’s regional presence across Southeast Asia. Her responsibilities include sourcing investment opportunities, developing ecosystem partnerships and leading the firm’s capital raising efforts. Prior to Investible, she worked within Investor Relations at 500 Startups, supporting capital raising initiatives for the company’s funds and later-stage portfolio companies.

Jake Booker Investible

Jake is the Investment Associate at Investible. Based in Australia, Jake’s role sits across Investible’s entire dealflow process; from origination, due diligence, deal execution, and portfolio support. Jake has a diverse range of finance, strategy, and technology experience. Prior to Investible, he served as a Senior Associate at Macquarie Group where his experience encompassed structured credit and debt transactions and broader technology projects.

What is unique about Investible?

Investible is a new breed of investor that brings proven ‘science’ to the ‘art’ of early stage investing. Over the last decade, we’ve refined a data-driven methodology that enables us to turn uncertainty into opportunity and identify founders with the passion and capability to shape the future.

By combining traditional VC funds with the support and scale of a global investor network, we actively empower founders to reach their full potential and enable investors to strengthen and scale their dealflow across multiple sectors and geographies.

What investments do you enjoy looking at?

Jake Booker:
“We get to meet founders solving fascinating problems. So for me, I enjoy looking at businesses that are adding legitimate value to their customers and tackling problems that need solving. In line with that, we focus a lot on understanding the founder’s vision and why they are ‘the one’ who can solve the problem they’ve identified. When a founder can answer those questions, it makes the opportunity even more exciting.”

Reena Sharma:
“As Investible is a sector-agnostic investor, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of businesses and founders that are solving unique problems. I always enjoy getting to know founders who are making a positive, tangible impact on society.”

Which part of an investment do you enjoy most discussing with a founder?

Jake Booker:
“I enjoy understanding what the founder’s ‘North Star’ is and their big vision for the business – as this plays a larger role in the founder’s ability to inspire and motivate other stakeholders.”

Reena Sharma:
“I like understanding intrinsic motivations behind the founder’s vision and the impact they want to make. The best founders can clearly communicate their ‘big why’ that’s driving them and why they are the ones with the winning solution.”

What are your 3 top tips on how to make the most of the mentoring hours?

Jake Booker:
“1. Remember to introduce yourself; not just your business or idea. The most important factor in early-stage investment is the founder, so think about how you can make it clear that you’re the right person, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time to solve the problem you’ve identified or in the manner you’re proposing to do it.

2. Connect the dots – Focus on communicating the vision and how you plan to get there, particularly by explaining how you have validated your assumptions.

3. Optimise for time – If it’s the first meeting, your goal is to entice investors to want to learn more. Keep answers concise and be selective on the areas that require more detail.

Reena Sharma:
“1. Do your ‘due diligence’ on investors – Research your investor in advance to get a sense of whether they might be a good fit for your business. Some may focus on specific sectors or prefer certain types of business models. If you can, try to tailor your discussion around their area(s) of expertise.

2. Keep your pitch short and sweet – With 13 minutes per session, you have to leave room for questions, feedback, so practice keeping your answers concise and aim to create a fluid discussion as opposed to a presentation.

3. Have your asks ready – Know what you want to achieve from the conversation and be prepared to follow-up with those asks.

What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate COVID-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post series B)?

Jake Booker:
“In a period of uncertainty, it’s important for founders to plan for multiple scenarios and to set clear action ‘triggers’ based on changes in your forecasts, to help provide clarity and give investors greater confidence that you are responding objectively and proactively. Cash is the make or break factor, so you need to watch it like a hawk and focus on supporting your team so that you have enough runway to grow into your next funding round.

Reena Sharma:
“Agility is the secret for startups’ success, so founders need to embrace the uncertainty and continue to be open to validating opportunities and adapting. Founders who are unable to show they are continuing to grow or gain traction post-COVID-19 will find it difficult to raise capital at their valuation expectations. Cash is king for early-stage companies, so the goal should be to preserve enough cash to then be able to grow into your next funding round (if you need one), ideally with a 12 to 18-month runway.”


To read about tips and tricks on how to impress the mentors, check out A Guide to Getting to What You Want written by Alexandra Baranowski from Playfair Capital.

Do keep an eye on our LinkedIn and Facebook pages and blog for updates!

If you’re a male founder and would still like to pitch us, please submit your application for funding on our portal here.