Indonesian venture capital firm AC Ventures announced Monday that venture capital veteran Helen Wong has joined as the fund Senior Advisor and Full-Time Venture Partner.
AC Ventures said in a statement that Wong will bring over 20 years of investment experience from established firms including GGV and Qiming Ventures to support AC Ventures in areas including firm development, team training, investments, and portfolio advisory. Wong has a strong track record of identifying strong teams and high potential sectors in China and Southeast Asia. She led investments in Akulaku and Reddoorz and has served on the boards of high-profile Chinese internet companies, including Tudou/ Youku and Mobike. She was also recognized as one of China’s top 25 female venture capitalists by Forbes magazine in 2020.
According to the statement, AC Ventures recently completed the final close of their Fund III with over $205 million in committed capital from well-known investors, including The World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Abu Dhabi Development Holding’s venture platform DisruptAD, bringing the firm’s total asset under management (AUM) under management to $380 million.
Fund III, which held its first close in 2020, includes highly notable late centaur companies invested at early stages, such as Shipper, Stockbit, Ula, and Aruna. Funding interest around the portfolio also continues to be strong, with over $100 million of announced funding for four other portfolio companies since the start of 2022.
In line with the firm’s core commitment to bringing value to entrepreneurs, AC Ventures said it continues to invest further in expanding both their investment and value creation teams this year. In particular, AC Ventures will bring on additional functional experts in talent operations, marketing, business development, and capital formation to support its growing portfolio in the coming months.
With over 35 investments already completed in fund III AC Ventures, it said expanding its local team in Jakarta will enable greater support of the portfolio founders as they scale their businesses.
“AC Ventures’ playbook of identifying opportunities in proven digital models with high potential in Indonesia along with working closely with founders will perfectly leverage my experience from China to both identify new investments and support portfolio founders with the learnings and takeaways I’ve gained in the past 20 years,” said Helen Wong, Senior Advisor and Venture Partner, AC Ventures.
AC Ventures Founder and Managing Partner Adrian Li said : “We are excited to be working with Helen to accelerate the growth and further institutionalization of AC Ventures. Her vast experience from China and long standing relationships in North Asia will perfectly complement our focus and execution in South East Asia adding a further unique dimension to our offering to entrepreneurs.” Here are some further Q&A with Helen Wong:
What is your professional background, and what are the key aspects of this which are relevant to your role with AC Ventures?
I have worked in different regions around the world – I started my career in Silicon Valley/ United States (US), then moved to China, and most recently covered Southeast Asia (SE Asia). I believe my global experience can be helpful to entrepreneurs in SE Asia. This includes spotting investment trends across regions, and working with portfolio companies to optimise their value creation.
I have seen various investment cycles, companies going through ups and downs. During some of the toughest times, I advised companies on their strategy, fundraising, human resource issues, among others. I also have experience in initial public offerings (IPOs) and merger and acquisitions (M&As), which should be helpful as we see SE Asia companies starting to access the public capital markets.
Why did you decide to join AC Ventures?
I have known Adrian for a long time since he was an entrepreneur in China, so our mutual trust and understanding have been built over the years. I have seen the firm AC Ventures develop and grow; Adrian, Michael, and Pandu have deep local connections especially in the Indonesian tech ecosystem. I like the dynamic culture and energy of a young firm. I became an individual limited partner (LP) and got to know them better.
I believe the combination of my global, especially China experience and their local SE Asia/ Indonesian connections can offer the best value add to entrepreneurs and generate the best returns for LPs.
What are your role and your focus with AC Ventures?
Firm strategy/ development, team training, investments, and portfolio support
What do you think entrepreneurs from South East Asia can learn from China’s Internet development?
China’s internet market has had a longer history – hence business models have emerged and iterated several times. I believe certain elements are similar, and some cannot be transferable, but I am confident we can spot these together with the AC Ventures team.
Chinese companies have learned several lessons about scaling and development speed, which I believe are also important lessons for any startup. As a natural development, I believe entrepreneurs can also learn to leverage the capital markets to grow their companies further and even make acquisitions.
Where do you see future opportunities and challenges in SE Asia’s digital economy?
The digitalization of SE Asia has been accelerated by covid. The hardest part for startups is that educating users has become a lot easier, so monetization should also be easier. Longer-term trends that I am optimistic about are the demographics of SE Asia – young workforce and growing urbanization leading to economic growth and decoupling of US/ China, which means more opportunities for SE Asia.
The key challenge would be talent, but SE Asia is attracting talent from other parts of the world, and remote working will also help alleviate the bottleneck. On a more macro level, the challenge for SE Asia has always been the fragmented nature of the market. This means that focusing on Indonesia, the biggest market to test out your product-market-fit, and then expanding out to different countries later is often a good strategy.
Have you worked together in the past?
We have often interacted on deal flow and investment trends in the region. I have presented several deals internally at my previous firm, including Carsome and Payfazz.
I have personally invested in an Indonesian startup that AC Ventures is also actively reviewing. We both think highly of the founder and the company’s area.
As an individual LP in the fund, I started advising some of their portfolio companies, sharing the experiences of Chinese companies with similar business models.