Carmen Yuen | Bloomberg CEO Forum at ASEAN
Our General Partner, Carmen Yuen recently joined the esteemed panel at the Bloomberg CEO Forum (6 Sep 2023) and shed light on the state of the startup ecosystem and the future landscape of venture capital in Southeast Asia. She explained how investors discern which companies are investable and what startup founders can do to help their companies stand out:
- Are the founders adapting and finding alternative revenue streams? During times of "valuation rightsizing", investment slows down. We look for founders who stay resilient and nimble in keeping the company afloat.
- Can the founders manage their stakeholders well? When exploring other revenue streams, founders may face resistance from investors and advisors who may be more focused on short term growth rather than long term survival. Exceptional founders would push back tactfully and focus on putting the bread on the table.
- Are the founders creative in retaining their talent? Good founders look after both their team and the business. It is not uncommon to see that during a financial crunch, companies choose to lay off their employees. However, this may be a quick win but not an ideal solution. The company would have utilised precious resources to hire and train these employees that they have let go.
- Instead, outstanding founders that we have seen have been creative about retaining their talent while rationalising their costs. Possible solutions include job-sharing or job-shifting, where employees are retained while keeping costs low. The benefit to the company of doing this rather than letting go of their employees is that the company can bounce back faster when the market turns around.
- Bottom line, bottom line, bottom line - The last piece of advice that Carmen shared is that investors value founders who are focused on the bottom line. And it is useful for founders to have the hard talk with investors - that the reality is that their company’s revenue may remain flat for the year and that it is more productive to aim to become EBITDA positive instead.
In summary, Carmen underscored that a startup's ability to attract further investment hinges significantly on the founder's leadership, particularly during challenging times.
For deeper insights into the ASEAN Venture Capital ecosystem, we invite you to watch the complete panel discussion available here.
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