lundi 19 octobre 2020

Interview of Benoit Laurent, CEO and co-founder of Worders

 1.     Benoit, who are you? 

I’m French, dad of 2 and co-entrepreneur with my wife since 2005. The first company was a social network for travelers. The second one was a marketplace dedicated to cheap translation and the current one, Worders, is still in the translation business but this time with a very strong focus on quality. Oh, and I forgot one point. Before those online adventures, I was glass blower and trust me, there is a long road between glass in fusion and a Macbook pro ;-)


2.     Why have you expanded in South East Asia? 


My deep relation with SEA comes from a personal experience. When we sold the 2nd company, we decided to try a new family adventure on the other side of earth in South East Asia. Everything started from this point. The 3rd company has been created at this moment and our first customers was SEA based. Since then, we kept an eye on this booming part of the world.


3.     What is your main advice for a company expanding in South East Asia?


If you want to do business in SEA, you have to move in SEA. You can’t understand how it works if you stay in your office in Europe or in the US. Everything is different in SEA. From philosophy to habits, your targeted audiences are way different than any other ones on earth.


4.     Could you explain the role of your lawyer(s) in this expansion? 


A good lawyer is almost as important as a good VC for a fast-growing company. There is plenty of reasons for a company to crash out of the business itself. When you know that you take your decision based on a reliable legal advice, you are sure to avoid a large part of stupid and expensive mistakes.



dimanche 30 août 2020

Interview of Mattia Tomba, co-founder of Tradedeq and head of APAC

 1.     Mattia, who are you?

I am an Italian investment professional who has been living in Singapore since 2016. I am currently running the business in Asia for Tradeteq, a company I created with other partners. We provide a trading platform that connects banks with the global capital markets. 


In the past I worked for a couple of American investment banks and a sovereign wealth fund in Middle East.


I am also a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Singapore where we focus on the relationship between Middle East and South East Asia.


2.     Why have you expanded in South East Asia? 


Our company is headquartered in London and focuses on trade finance. As we know, trading of goods and commodities has been one of the main activities in SE Asia for centuries, therefore a presence on the ground is important and relevant for us. We also have a team of developers in Vietnam. We have decided to set up our regional operations in Singapore thanks to the infrastructure provided by the city-state.



3      What is your main advice for a company expanding in South East Asia?


Of course it depends on the sector which one operates in, but the market is for sure big and it has the potential to grow.

However, one has to remember that it’s a fragmented market. While there are commonalities among countries in the region, they have different rules, regulations, ways of doing business and cultures. Therefore, a presence on the ground is required to navigate this environment. 



4      Could you explain the role of your lawyer(s) in this expansion? 


Lawyers are extremely important for us. We are involved in trading and securitization, which means that what we do is providing a technological and legal infrastructure to parties to trade and settle. Hence lawyers have been playing an instrumental role in creating our platform. One of my partners is indeed a lawyer and we have a legal counsel in house. Everything we do, labour issues, fund raising, setting up vehicles and so on involve lawyers.



5      What could be the consequences of Covid-19 on foreign investments in South East Asia? 


Real technological innovation will only come from US, Israel and few places in Europe, but South East Asia has a market big enough to adopt and implement these innovations creating new chances for companies operating in the region.


Covid-19 creates dislocations and accelerates existing trends such as digitisation and digitalization. Therefore, new opportunities arise for companies who convert information in a digital format and for the ones who benefit from a more digital world.


Another important factor is the (hybrid) war between US and China. Many foreign companies will probably keep factories in China for the domestic markets, while moving production for exports in other countries, therefore South East Asian countries can capture part of that. US will also manage its foreign relations via a network of countries while existing multi-lateral organizations are losing powers, thus South East Asian countries will also need to navigate the complexity of this new environment. It will not be so easy to balance US and China going forward.





lundi 25 mai 2020

Interview of Mark Maloney, Managing Partner of Tulla Group

1. Mark, who are you? 

I am a Managing Partner at Tulla Group, a private advisory and investment group owned and operated by the Maloney Family. We specialise in 3 main areas being Critical Resources, Finance and Social & Wellness. In addition I am Chairman, NED, Advisor and Mentor to a number of Entrepreneurs and Executives across a range of business stages. I am also Chairman of the University of Technology Sydney’s Entrepreneur Leaders Advisory Board.

2. Why have you invested in SE Asia?

We have invested in SE Asia because of the network, growth opportunities and new markets its offers our Australian businesses. We also see a presence in Singapore enhancing our access to capital for future growth of these businesses.

3. What is your main advice for an investor investing in South East Asia?

I would advise to take your time and take it slowly. Its important to understand the dynamics of the region and be well acquainted with your investing partners before you jump in. We spent 5 years visiting the region before we did anything of significance. 

4. Could you explain the role of your lawyers in this expansion?

Our lawyers are critical in making sure we are protected legally in the many agreements and contracts we need to have in place to effect our business in South East Asia. In addition being on top of the governance required in each area is a high priority for us. Lasty and most importantly they have been great at enhancing our network in the region and introducing us to new sources of business.

5. What could be the consequences of Covid-19 on investments in SE Asia?

I think longer term the opportunities in SE Asia are going to be great as foreign companies diversify their risk away from China and transfer operations to different countries in SE Asia. This will have a significant positive impact on their economies.

dimanche 3 mai 2020

Interview of Thomas Jestin, CEO of KRDS

Thomas Jestin, CEO of KRDS

1.      Thomas, who are you?

I’m a French digital entrepreneur, I’ve been in Singapore since 2013. I am the CEO of one of the largest independent digital marketing agencies in Asia. We have a staff of near 100 and offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai and Chennai in India, beyond our HQ in Singapore. We work with brands such as BNP,  Singapore Airlines, SAP, Ski Dubai, P&G, Yves Saint Laurent, the Singapore zoo and others. We design and develop social media content, websites, applications and chatbots as well as lately voice bots with our product Yelda  I co-founded the company with friends back in 2008 right after a failed attempt at creating the French Facebook when finishing business school.
I’m passionate about Artificial Intelligence and the future of work. I’m on the board of these 2 think tanks Live with AI and NXU.

I run the weekly French newsletter Parlons Futur  (Let’s Speak about the Future) where I share my interesting finds as well as at times my own opinion pieces, it's read by more than 5,000 people. I’ve written more than 50 articles over the past few years, published by news organizations such as The Huffington Post or the French media Les Echos and L’Express. You can find my work in French here and in English there
I also co-produce CommitStrip, an online geeky cartoon about developers' lives. The dedicated website garners 500k+ visits every month, go check it out. 

2.      Why have you expanded in South East Asia ? 

I first came to India with my backpack in 2009, I was looking at a way to get some of our tech work done for our clients back in France. We proceeded to open our own tech studio in Chennai, in the south of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu, 2 of my partners relocated there for 3 years. Then we realized that Asia was also a market where to sell our services, so we opened offices in different key cities across Asia. The experience we garnered in France was key to our success in this part of the world, the case studies we would show in the early years in Singapore were eye-openers to our prospects. We didn’t even benefit from previous relationships in these new markets, we simply had a very aggressive strategy of reaching out to leading advertisers to whom to showcase our expertise and past work.

3.      What is your main advice for a company expanding in SouthEast Asia ?

Have one of the founders relocate to Asia for many years to show you're serious about it. We're entering the Asian Century , it requires a strong commitment from the top. Leverage the VIE program, if you're eligible, which lets you identify and hire talented young Europeans eager to move abroad. It depends on your line of work obviously, but favor the English-speaking cities/countries at first, where it's easier and safer to do business. Take hiring very seriously, it’s really hard to find and retain great talent. And it will sound self-serving, but make sure to digitize your offering and use digital ads to reach out to your target audience in a personalized way at scale, especially in these times of covid-19 when people have time to try out any app to make their lives simpler and while ads are cheap due to falling expenses by big companies.

Just for the anecdote, hiring has been hilarious at times as for me : we've had a candidate in Indonesia come with his father who was doing all the talking, and showed us the most obscure deck ever, everytime he would click to the next slide, there was the sound effect of a cash register. Another time in China, a candidate for a digital position came wearing a large sweater featuring the American flag, he said he was running a toy shop and wondered how we could do business. A last story, in Singapore, I asked a candidate what he thought of the job, he said he hadn't actually read the job desc, he just read the title and thought we would discuss the opportunity in the interview.

4.      Could you explain the role of your lawyer(s) in this expansion? 

Interestingly we haven’t had the need for a lawyer for many years. Luckily our business contracts with clients are not too complex nor long, we are using templates that are quite straightforward.
Only when the time came to grant shares to a partner did I feel the need to get some legal help to prepare the agreement. And lately for M&A discussions that need resurfaced. These are obviously critical matters, you don’t want to get them wrong!

5.      What could be the consequences of Covid-19 on foreign investments in South East Asia ? 

Many investors will get cold feet. Some sources will inescapably dry up. Reduced purchasing power, prolonged lock-downs as well as possible second waves of infections won't help either obviously. There will be less money available to be invested overall most likely.

But there will still be money, lots of money, for daring entrepreneurs with traction in key areas such as healthcare, e-commerce, delivery, edtech, fintech or martech.

For instance, French startup Alan, based in France just raised €50m in a round led by none other than...Temasek Holdings!

Startups, more than ever, should be as lean as possible, do things that don't scale <>, iterate and try new things, fail fast and try again. Think of a few startup/product/feature/service ideas, put up a landing page, buy some ads, and see what sticks, then only start building from there. Software startups, that is, all startups, should also look at making free or much cheaper for a while whatever they have whose marginal cost is zero, so as to leverage that crisis to gain consumers or get as many people as possible to try their products, that's the best way to prepare the recovery!

And if you can't raise money, consider becoming a cockroach startup for a while... In these hard times, I also invite entrepreneurs who haven't done it yet to watch all the episodes of the How to Start a Startup series by Y Combinator on Youtube, it's mind blowing. 

6. You are as voracious a reader as I am. Some book ideas ?


- Has China Won?: The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy (Kishore Mahbubani, April 2020)
- More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens Next  (Andrew McAfee, October 2019)
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (Ben Horowitz, 2014)

dimanche 8 mars 2020

Interview of Eric Ho, VP of Ventech China

Eric Ho, Vice President of Ventech China

Ventech China is a venture capital firm funding early-stage IT, life sciences, mobile technology, and e-commerce companies in Asia and South East Asia. Personal views expressed here. 

Eric, who are you?

We are a VC group covering Europe, USA and China. Based on the expertise we gained previously, we believe that we are well positioned to enter SEA, as the region will likely follow some of the growth stories we’ve seen before.  As such, we formally launched also a SEA initiative in 2018.  Based in Hong Kong, I am responsible for Ventech’s SEA investments. 

Why have you invested in South East Asia ?

Among others, we are of the view that the economy there will grow at an impressive pace. Against this background, we are keen to tap into the high value-added opportunities that will be, for instance, created around the emerging middle-class consumers.

How do you structure the deal ?

When we invest in a startup located elsewhere than in Singapore, we usually ask the founders to set up a holding company in Singapore and transfer their shares in the local startup to this holding company in which we invest. At the end of the day, together with the founders (and investors from seed rounds, as the case may be), we will be shareholders of the holding company which will own the shares of the local startup. 

What is your main advice for an investor investing in SEA?

Apart from business related risks, it would be wise to understand the potential exposures of your capital/assets and how well the local laws are protecting them.

Could you explain the role of your lawyer(s) in this investment ?

Take, for example, we hire lawyers to (1) draft legally enforce able documents and agreements (2) advise legally acceptable corporate structure spanning holdco and local subsidiaries (3) negotiate with the legal counsels of business partners (4) introduce local law firms and other professional firms (5) introduce investment opportunities leveraging on his or her business networks. 

Apart from possession of professional knowledge and local expertise, we are looking for lawyers with a strong work ethics and value highly those are responsive to our needs (one of the key elements is quick turnaround time). This is especially true when it comes to following up the matters post-investment.

jeudi 27 février 2020

A propos

Je suis avocat au Barreau de Paris depuis 2003, pratiquant essentiellement en matière de fusions acquisitions, private equity, venture capital, finance et restructurations. Après avoir été formée et travaillé dans les grands cabinets majeurs de la place, j’ai quitté Paris pour Bali en 2012. J’ai vécu 5 ans dans l’île des dieux et ai fondé Erka Consulting, une société d’aide à l’investissement étranger en Asie du Sud-Est. A mon départ de Bali pour Singapour, j’ai co-fondé Genesis Avocats Singapore, le bureau pour l’Asie du Sud-Est du cabinet parisien Genesis Avocats.
Pour des raisons personnelles, j’ai eu envie de quitter Paris. J’ai découvert Bali au hasard de mes voyages et ça a été un véritable coup de cœur. J’ai rencontré des expatriés et, au fil des discussions, j’ai compris l’isolement de la communauté française à Bali et sa vulnérabilité face aux arnaques fréquentes lors d’investissements immobiliers et achats de terrains notamment. J’ai alors tout quitté en 2012 pour m’installer à Bali, dans l’idée de lancer une société pour assister les expatriés français qui souhaitent investir en Indonésie. Ce fut là le grand départ, effectué dans des conditions personnelles très difficiles. Quelques jours avant la date prévue pour mon départ, en effet, mon père est décédé subitement. Tout s’est passé très vite et j’ai pris la décision de partir malgré tout. C’était ce qu’aurait souhaité mon père. Mais, sur place, je me suis retrouvée très isolée à mon arrivée, devant faire mon deuil à des milliers de kilomètres de mes proches et devant simultanément bâtir cette nouvelle vie dont j’avais tant envie.
Je m’étais donné une année pour mettre en œuvre mon projet, mais en fait très vite, j’ai été mise en relation par une connaissance de Paris avec un de ses amis qui lançait sa startup à Singapour et en Indonésie. Il était en pleine levée de fonds et m’a demandé de mener à bien les négociations. Et c’est là que tout a commencé. Ce projet a été salvateur pour moi, il m’a montré, si peu de temps après mon arrivée, qu’un projet en Asie était viable et, sur le plan plus personnel, a été la première étape de ma très longue convalescence psychologique et morale.
Bali a été un formidable incubateur, pour développer mon réseau et ma clientèle, mais j’ai malgré tout vite compris que pour les affaires, cela se passe à Singapour, vraie capitale économique de la région et plateforme pour tous les investissements dans la zone. J’ai donc travaillé depuis Bali pendant quelques années et je me suis toujours dit que je m’établirais un jour à Singapour.
C’est ce que j’ai fait en septembre 2017, date à laquelle le cabinet que j’ai cofondé a été opérationnel.
Sur le plan personnel, ma vie et mon expérience à Bali, débutées dans des conditions personnelles extrêmement douloureuses, m’ont cependant apporté la confirmation de ce que je crois depuis toujours, si on s’accroche, si on ne renonce pas, si on travaille dur pour cela, on peut avoir ce que l’on veut. Une leçon à tirer : ayez toujours foi en vous même, et même si ça a l’air sans espoir, n’abandonnez jamais !