THE SEARCH FOR A HERO
How investors pin down the incalculable essence of leadership.
“What is the difference between a great idea and a great founder? Which is better?” With these words, Arrif Ziaudeen, founder and CEO of Chope, starts the ball rolling and gets the discussion off to a rousing start.
Ziaudeen is moderating the second instalment of Great Minds At The Great Room, a series of talks jointly presented by The Peak and co-working space The Great Room. Titled “Investing in Formidable Founders”, this session brings together Ozi Amanat, founding partner of K2 Global, and Hian Goh, founding partner of Openspace Ventures and founder of the Asian Food Channel, to share their insights into how venture capitalists suss out the investment potential of a company, based solely on the founders.
“We bet on people,” says Amanat simply. “That’s our first philosophy. I’ve seen a lot of bad ideas become great companies because they had a great founder.”
Amanat and Goh talk about the qualities a great founder should possess. “It’s difficult because you have to quantify something that is not quantifiable,” admits Amanat,
whose company – a bridge between a venture capital and private equity firm – has invested in some of the biggest names like Spotify, Airbnb, Uber and Alibaba. “Does the founder have an X factor? Do they see the world differently? Do they have scars? Can they pivot a company that needs pivoting? It’s a flip of the coin, really. But, with some people, you can actually see the life force within them, that can take over the room.”
Goh looks for emotional authenticity. That was the reason why his company, Openspace Ventures, which focuses on Series A and B funding, decided to invest in Love, Bonito, the Singapore fashion label started by Rachel Lim and Violet Tan. Spending time with Lim convinced Goh he was right to go with her. “She has this killer instinct,” he says, relating her uncanny ability to extract useful information for the business from anyone she meets.
“Venture capitalism is a brutal business. It’s not philanthropy, it’s not a social enterprise. We are out there with swords and knives and fists and we are fighting. People don’t see that.” OZI AMANAT
03 Alicia Thian & Brian Bonde 03
02 Kenneth Goi 02
01 Sonia Ong & Jacqueline Chee 01