Venture Capital Is Also a People Business, Says Gobi Partners

The venture capital (VC) industry is arguably one of the most exciting industries in the world today. Everyone wants to find the next unicorn. Everyone wants to replicate the success stories of Uber, Snapchat, and Instagram. Gobi Partners, the most interconnected Pan-Asian VC firm across North Asia, South Asia, and ASEAN with US$1.5 billion in assets under management, certainly understands that rush. In its 20 years in the VC space, the company has funded a lot of successful start-ups, including on-demand logistics company GoGoX, which became Hong Kong’s first unicorn.

It’s therefore not surprising that a lot of young people today are interested in being part of this industry. In our recent Real World Challenge with Gobi Partners, many of the student applicants specifically expressed an interest in helping start-ups and joining VC firms. Fortunately, there are multiple ways for them to penetrate this space.

Real World Challenge with Gobi Partners
Contestants were tasked to solve an authentic business problem presented by Gobi Partners.

“There are various potential profiles and experiences that can make you a very successful venture capitalist,” says Danny Chong, Senior Investment Director of Gobi Partners GBA. Working for a consulting firm or an investment bank can expose you to leaders who have a sixth sense for how the industry is moving. Being part of a start-up or founding one yourself, on the other hand, gives you an understanding of the DNA or culture of what makes a great start-up.

It also depends on the stage of the venture capital firm that you’re looking at. According to Danny, late-stage venture capital firms that make larger investments tend to require more quantitative assessments, so having a CFA may be more relevant, but early-stage ones may focus more on the qualitative aspects of a start-up such as its founding team and market potential.

“There’s no perfect way,” Danny asserts. There are, however, some qualities that Gobi Partners does look for in potential hires. One of these qualities is diversity in experience. Having people with different backgrounds is important, “so that in the decision that we have, looking into one potential investment, there will be people with different experiences and lenses looking into it and contributing their ideas.”

Staying critical and analytical while remaining objective is also crucial. According to Danny, you need to be able to make unbiased judgments when making decisions about which opportunity to go after.

Still, it’s not always about the numbers. The venture capital industry is also a people business. “There’s lots of soft skills involved,” Danny says. You need to be able to build relationships with founders and other ecosystem partners. Vanessa Lai, the PR Manager at Gobi Partners, adds, “How you’re interacting with not just your own team but also with the ecosystem is key, and what kind of network you’re bringing in is also a valuable asset.”

Any industry that is this exciting comes with its fair share of challenges, so problem-solving skills are a must. “With many initiatives or if there is any crisis management required, members of different departments step up and help out,” says Vanessa. “It’s a relatively small team. Everyone’s doing more than one thing and bringing different expertise and experience to the table, so besides the focus of your actual role, what else can you bring to the team?”

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