Recently we attended another interesting discussion on the funding gap in Asia. The event was held at Wisma N2N Auditorium, Tower 2 Avenue 3, Bangsar South last Wednesday (27th November) at 5.30 p.m. It was a very small event with only about 35 people present. The panelist consisted of Dr. Gabriel Walter, co-founder of Quantum Electro Opto Systems (QEOS), Patrick Grove, Catcha Group Founder, DTA Capital Partners Chief Executive Officer, Dali Sardar and Nizran Noordin CEO of TaxiMonger.
Some of the interesting issues on funding in Asia discussed at the event were whether there was a funding gap simply because Venture Caps lacked business experience or the lure of India and China simply overshadowing Asean possibilities. Dr Gabriel Walter who received a total of RM37 million in venture cap funding as well as government grants, said that the business model was the most important when trying to get funding from a VC. According to him, your business must be strong, with a complete business strategy that cannot be easily copied and taken over by others. While Dali Sardar, DTA Capital Partners CEO, who has also been a VC since 1989 had a different opinion. According to him a person’s character, tenacity and the ability to be versatile when it came to handling disappointment or when dealing with failure was more important than the business model itself. According to him, “people buy people.”
There were also differing opinions on who to obtain money from in the initial stage of your business. Although many would agree with Patrick Grove that it’s a good idea to seek financial help from the people around you such as your parents, relatives, neighbors and friends, Dr. Gabriel Walter thinks otherwise. In his opinion, it’s the easiest solution to obtain funding from those who are your relatives or friend, but it may not necessarily be the best for your business in order for you to grow and learn. According to him, if it is difficult for you to obtain a loan from a VC, then there could be something wrong with your business plan. Therefore, you’ll be able to identify the wrong moves and create a stronger business plan in order for you to not only obtain a proper loan but also be able to succeed in running your business.
They all had very good reasons for their answers. It is very important to have a good character just as much as a good business plan. I agree with Dali Sardar, a VC Veteran, that sometimes it’s better to invest in a person who has a good character and is full of optimism and tenacity than a concrete business plan without a good enough character to lead it.
I also somewhat agree with Dr. Gabriel in his opinion that you should never borrow from relatives or family members because they will lend you money not because they believe in your idea and business plan but because you are dear to them and they want to help you out. I think you must always be ready for any sort of funding that comes your way. If it’s from someone you care about then you must be able to know the difference and use the money wisely.
Overall, I would say it was an interesting discussion to witness and definitely looking forward to next!