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Tiang Lim Foo, Partner at Seedplus in conversation with Jumpstart
Venture Capitalists (VCs) are private equity investors who invest in startups with growth potential in exchange for an equity stake. But these individuals and their contributions are usually hidden behind the startup’s success.
We spoke to Tiang Lim Foo, Partner at Seedplus, a seed-stage fund with a focus on Southeast Asian startups that counts Qoala, EngageRocket, and Travelstop in its portfolio, to find out what a VC’s day looks like, and what they do in their downtime.
Juggling life and work as a VC
Foo’s journey as a VC began when he started investing in companies as an angel investor while working for startups. Angel investing gave him a taste for the profession, and he took the leap five years ago to dive fully into the world of venture capital.
“I’ve always been pretty passionate about technology and it’s quite interesting for me to see how the journey of entrepreneurship evolves on the other side of the table, especially if you work with a more diverse set of founders, technology and business model,” says Foo.
Foo is also a family-man and enjoys spending time with his family, and is also an avid reader and reads two to three books at the same time. He also runs long distance to stay fit, although he admits that he does not have an ideal work-life balance.
“I’ve never subscribed to the notion of work life balance. To me, it’s really more about work life integration,” he says. According to him, since humans spend a large chunk of their waking hours working, it is really important to ensure that our energy is dedicated to things we are passionate about—that’s the key to fulfillment.
A high-intensity job
A VC provides more than just capital to a startup. Experienced VCs also bring their expertise, and a network that can propel a startup onto the path to success. Foo is excited by the leaders he meets every day and the way they think about the future of their respective industries and sectors, and their strategy.
Foo agrees that VCs have a high-intensity, high-pressure job, and he depends on caffeine every morning to brave the day ahead. He is conscious of how he spends his time and leaves enough time in his schedule – which largely consists of answering messages and emails – to learn investment theses or to give himself space to think.
Being a VC can be challenging, and for Foo, the most challenging aspect of the profession is to be available for all the startups in his portfolio.
“Things move quickly in a startup and when they need you, they need you,” he says. “I am constantly running all the time and constantly trying to figure out what’s the most efficient way to get the most things done.”
According to Foo, there are different types of stress — there are unfounded anxieties that are not constructive, and there’s anxiety that could be positive and productive if tackled correctly. Foo believes entrepreneurs have the highest stress and he was inspired by founders in the past and continues to learn from them.
Most of the stress in the startup ecosystem comes from the need for speedy decision-making and agility needed to survive and thrive. According to Foo, the success of a startup ultimately hinges on the ability of the founding team to take quality decisions with speed.
He adds that this is probably the biggest competitive advantage a startup has in gaining on its competitors as well as industry incumbents.
A fulfilling journey
The satisfaction of helping founders and startups in their journey towards success drives Foo to work every day.
“At least for me, having a hand in helping companies to get off the ground and [seeing] the evolution of the companies has always been enjoyable,” he says.
And while entrepreneurs are driven by their passion for the cause or the problem they are trying to solve, Foo finds himself looking forward to meeting the right people, to build the right businesses.
“I’m a big believer in partnering with really smart and driven people to build impactful and meaningful products, companies, businesses. That’s what it boils down to—the human aspect of it,” says Foo.
And while an entrepreneur is rewarded with success and fame for his efforts, Foo believes his journey as a VC has been fulfilling and rewarding in itself, at least from an intellectual standpoint.
“I’ve learned so much from different founders, from different industries, backgrounds, sectors, and for me that’s really satisfying,” he adds.