Fireside chat: What is 500 Durians looking for in Southeast Asia? (LIVE BLOG)


Terence & Khailee 1

You may not be familiar with 500 Durians but you’ve almost certainly heard of 500 Startups. We got Khailee Ng, who manages 500 Durians, for a fireside chat today at Startup Asia Jakarta 2013 so that we can dig into his experience as an entrepreneur (he has had 2 exits so far) and learn what types of startups 500 Durians will invest in. The $10 million micro fund started by 500 Startups is leading Silicon Valley’s charge into Southeast Asia.

Tech in Asia editor Terence Lee will sit down on stage with Ng to discuss what he’s looking for.

#14:55: Ng and Lee take the stage.

#14:56: While the name was originally a joke, the $10 million fund for Southeast Asian companies is not.

#14:55: Ng has sold two companies, one of which sold to Groupon.

#14:59: Ng says he’s been on a “learning journey,” which includes learning about what he should look for as an investor in SEA. One of the things he’s looking for is authenticity. Entrepreneurs should be honest about where they are and what challenges they are facing. Those who aren’t authentic are too difficult to help.

#15:02: Lee asks Ng to explain personal growth hacking. Ng says entrepreneurs grow so much personally and mature as a founder, which seriously affects their bellief systems. From the outside, 500 Durians doesn’t often talk publicly about this “soft side” of entrepreneurship.

#15:05: “We have a preference for things that work in a small context and have the potential to get bigger,” says Ng. “I call it the low-hanging fruit model.” Ng says people attach too much importance to originality, but cloning a foreign business model and adapting it is perfectly acceptable.

#15:08: Lee asks what Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem needs. “Does SEA really need low-hanging fruits?” Ng says he is “obsessed” with whether or not a company can make revenue immediately, then can blown up later. “I just look at the business as a business and don’t worry about whether it’s a cloned model. Don’t get hung up on whether or not it’s a clone.”

#15:11: Ng says people have invested too much into games. Local versions of games don’t work because people play the global versions. Meanwhile, he also thinks its a space that 500 Durians can’t really contribute much value to. He says there’s a lot of room to grow in enterprise. E-commerce margins are thinning and he’s not gung-ho about it.

#15:13: First thing Ng asks when he talks with a startup: what’s gonna make you win and what’s gonna stop you from winning?

#15:00: Ng is annoyed by founders who are over-fixated with their identity and are over-confident.

#15:17: Ng is annoyed by founders who are over-fixated with their identity and are over-confident. Ng touches on his own experience during his first company: he didn’t want to do sales or fundraise because he was too fixated on his identity as something else. He realized that in order to succeed, he had to transform himself into a “sales monster.” Ng says we are all capable of adapting to these changes, and are in fact born with the ability to do so.

#15:19: Ng talks about eventuality — being convinced of the future of the space you’re in. When Ng mentioned Carousell, one of the Singapore startups he’s invested in, has this conviction.

#15:23: “There is a lot of startup dogma going around — things people assume to be true,” says Ng. Early stage founders should be immune to startup dogma, not led by it.

#15:24:Terence asks, “when does lean startup methodology not apply?” Lean startup is good for testing a hypothesis, says Ng, but asks, “where does that hypothesis come from?”

#15:25: Lee and Ng exit the stage!

This is a part of our coverage of Startup Asia Jakarta 2013, our event running on November 21 and 22. For the rest of our Startup Arena pitches, see here. You can follow along on Twitter at @TechinAsia, and on our Facebook page.

(Editing by Josh Horwitz)

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