In this session of Stories of an Investor, we caught up with full-time angel investor, Victor Quah. Victor is a Malaysian angel that actively invests and is a firm believer that founders and investors should stay grounded and be open-minded to learning. Victor shared with us his takes on founder evaluation, and how and why traditional businesses struggle to adopt technology to improve processes. Read on to learn more!
Hi Victor! Thank you for joining us! Let us kick off with a little context, why and how did you make your way into the world of angel investing?
Victor: I believe Angel Investing in its very essence is about giving someone a chance; to believe in them. In life and business, sometimes all we need is that one chance that can make all the difference between success and failure. I was very fortunate to have been given that chance early in life and today I would like to return the favour.
You are based in Malaysia but actively make investments in Singapore, how do you evaluate the start-ups before making an investment & after making the investments how often do you keep in contact with the start-ups in Singapore?
Victor: I’m a bit old school, I like to meet the founder and have a chat face to face before making any investment. I believe it is essential to get to know the founder first before talking about any business-related matters. Unfortunately given the current circumstances of COVID, one would have to settle for Zoom calls.
Once investments have been made, it really depends on a case-by-case basis. When leading a syndicate, for the obvious reason (responsibility to fellow investors), one must be in monthly contact with founders to understand what are the obstacles and potential challenges up ahead and offer guidance and or solutions.
Diving a little into investing, what is your key criteria when evaluating start-ups?
Victor: Given the very nature of start-ups, there is not many material data or track record but instead, we must carefully understand and analyse the founder’s character, attitude, how they think, and what ultimately drives them on this crusade. Honesty and transparency from the founder are essential at all times. Regardless of how skillful or experienced the airplane pilot is, if you can’t trust the pilot, you shouldn’t board his/her plane.
Coming from a manufacturing background, where do you go to learn about the different verticals that you invest in?
Victor: I think it is not a question of where but how. We are fortunate to live in an age where information is abundant and easily accessible to many. I believe the key is keeping an open mind and staying hungry for knowledge. If your goal is to learn then you will find ways to achieve it. With the right attitude, the right action will follow and the result will reflect.
Jack Ma mentioned in many forums that the “Traditional” businesses today are poised for great disruption with technology and will be the future.
What do you think are some challenges deterring these “Traditional” businesses from adopting technology like Big Data & IoT and how do you think it can be overcome?
Victor: Many traditional businesses may not have,
(1) the exposure or knowledge to what is available to them,
(2) understanding the value that technology brings to the table, and
(3) the rate of change of technology is increasing exponentially, keeping up with the trend becomes an obstacle.
Today we are surrounded by technology and bombarded by the speed of adoption/change in our everyday life. COVID-19 has proven that change and technology are inevitable, and a necessary ingredient for businesses to survive and thrive for success. Education and open-mindedness are keys to overcome this challenge. By educating businesses, they gain a better understanding of why and how to adapt and embrace technology that will differentiate themselves in this ever-changing competitive landscape. It is great to see during COVID-19 periods many startups are providing webinars; inviting industry veterans to share their views and experiences on technological adoption.
Having led one of AngelCentral’s Syndicate – PS Love, how was the experience like for you?
Victor: It is a new, learning, and rewarding experience for me. I’m grateful that the founders and myself are all on the same page on how we see things and openly discuss issues. It is gratifying to be able to transfer and apply past knowledge and experiences to the founders whilst also learning new things from them. I think having a mutual two-way street paves the way to a rewarding experience.
To end the session, what would be one piece of advice you would give to new angel investors?
Victor: Never think you’re the smartest guy in the room. Listen. Listen. Listen.
AngelCentral is the most active and fastest-growing community of angel investors in Southeast Asia. We organize regular pitch sessions, angel education workshops, and provide syndication services. Since Inception, AngelCentral has trained >300 angels and our members have invested >S$16m into the startups.
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