VVSEAI's Podcast: Hard Truths by Vertex

Elise TAN | 20 Feb 2024

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Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India is a pioneer in investing in tech start-ups in this region and has helped to build a number of unicorns. In this podcast, we want to share and uncover Hard Truths - raw, unfiltered insights and venture capital experience across Southeast Asia & India. Tune in to hear from leading founders, innovators, venture capitalists and industry experts in the region and to gain industry insights from those in the know.

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Podcast: Hard Truths by Vertex | Series 2 | Episode 7 - How Guan Dian built a Tech Unicorn from Ground up to address the Trillion-dollar R&D market

Imagine building a global tech powerhouse from scratch. That’s the story of Guan Dian, cofounder, CMO and APAC GM of Patsnap, a pioneer in AI-powered patent search and analytics. From humble beginnings in China to leading a global tech team, Guan Dian’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

See how Guan Dian transformed Patsnap from a small startup into a dominant force in the tech industry through her visionary leadership and strategic partnerships. Discover how she navigated cutthroat competition, industry disruption, and even global pandemics to propel Patsnap to success.

Tune in to HTBV S2E8 to find out!

Listen on Apple podcast and YouTube now!

Podcast: Hard Truths by Vertex | Series 2 | Episode 7 - How Roshni went from babysitting to owning SEA's largest parenting empire

In this episode, we have a conversation with Roshni Mahtani Cheung,, the founder and CEO of The Parentinc, a pioneering parent-tech leader renowned for owning the largest content-community-commerce online platform for parents in the region. The Parentinc recently made waves with the acquisition of Mothers Work in Singapore, marking their foray into physical retail.

Roshni reflects on the challenges of balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship, the importance of a supportive community, and the transformative power of building a business rooted in authentic passion. Get ready for a conversation that goes beyond tech and into the heart of female leadership and resilience!

Tune in to HTBV S2E7 to find out!

Listen on Apple podcast and YouTube now!

Podcast: Hard Truths by Vertex | Series 2 | Episode 6 - PayPal Mafia Insider on Winning In a Tough Market | Jack Selby

In this episode, join host Elise Tan in this special episode of the Hard Truths by Vertex podcast, as she sits down with member of the PayPal mafia, Jack Selby, venture investor and independent film director. Discover the untold stories of PayPal’s early days, including the merger with X.com and the birth of the pioneering digital payment giant.

Jack shares valuable insights on the current investment landscape, exploring business cycles, and the hard truths for both early-stage founders and investors. Plus, delve into the fascinating world of independent filmmaking and learn why Jack finds it a refreshing departure from the routine of tech and finance.

About Jack Selby
Jack Selby is a member of the PayPal Mafia - employee no. 9 and served as the senior vice president for corporate/ international development. He currently runs AZ-VC, focusing on #startup opportunities in Arizona’s thriving tech ecosystem and serves as the Managing Director at Thiel Capital.

Vertex Ventures was an investor in X.com which later merged with Confinity. After the merge, X.com was renamed as PayPal, the digital payments pioneer that many know today.

Tune in to HTBV S2E6 to find out!

Listen on Spotify and Apple Podcast.


Hard Truths by Vertex Series 2 Episode 5- Unlocking the trillion dollar Indian startup ecosystem with Nikhil Marwaha

In this episode, Nikhil Marwaha, Senior Executive Director, shares his extensive investment journey spanning early and later-stage companies in sectors like consumer, B2B enterprise, and healthcare. Learn about his experiences with growth equity funds, insights into venture investing, and the exciting trends in the Indian startup ecosystem. Based in Gurgaon, he sees a different set but nevertheless exciting venture opportunities.

Stay tuned for discussions on emerging themes, including enterprise B2B SaaS, manufacturing in India, and the rise of electric vehicles. Discover the unique stories of Vertex's portfolio companies, such as Certa and Pilgrim Beauty, and gain valuable advice for early-stage entrepreneurs navigating the dynamic Indian market!

Tune in to HTBV S2E5 to find out!

Listen on Spotify or watch on YouTube.


Hard Truths by Vertex Series 2 | Episode 4 - Unlocking the Trillion dollar SEA Startup Ecosystem - Malaysia's Context with Chan Yip Pang

In this episode of Hard Truths by Vertex podcast, Chan Yip Pang, Executive Director at Vertex Ventures SEA & India, explores the Malaysian startup ecosystem, delving into his journey and the three phases of Malaysian tech development. The conversation covers notable investments, the strengths of the Malaysian ecosystem, and Vertex's investment thesis, offering insights for ambitious founders in Southeast Asia. Join Chan Yip and host Elise Tan as they discuss hard truths and valuable advice for entrepreneurs aiming to make their mark in the Malaysian startup scene. Tune in now!

Tune in to HTBV S2E4 to find out!

Listen on Spotify or watch on YouTube.


Hard Truths by Vertex Series 2 | Episode 3 - Unlocking the Trillion dollar SEA Startup Ecosystem - Indonesia's context with Gary Khoeng

****Indonesia is the largest market in Southeast Asia but with a nascent startup ecosystem, how can entrepreneurs navigate rapid growth while ensuring bottom-line profitability? In this episode, Gary Khoeng shares insights on Indonesia's startup landscape. Covering topics across profitability, unit economics, and internal governance, Gary provides a pragmatic understanding for navigating the challenges of the evolving market. This episode offers key considerations for those aiming to tap into Indonesia's startup opportunities within the broader Southeast Asian context. Tune in now!

Tune in to HTBV S2E3 to find out!

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Hard Truths by Vertex Series 2 | Episode 2 - Hard Truths about minting the next Indian Unicorn with Piyush Kharbanda

💬 Why Copycat model don't work in India?
💬 How have the rules of Venture Investing changed coming out of the pandemic?

💬 What are the types of companies that have done well in the Indian ecosystem? In our second episode of Season 2 of our Hard Truths By Vertex podcast, Piyush Kharbanda, our General Partner and seasoned investor shares his thoughts on the above and more.

Tune in to HTBV S2E2 to find out!

Listen on Spotify or watch on YouTube.

Series 2 Episode 1 -Hard Truths by Vertex | Series 2 | Episode 1 - Unlocking the Trillion dollar SEA Startup Ecosystem - the Singapore's context with Carmen Yuen

What are the evolving trends in the Southeast Asia startup ecosystem? In this episode 1 of Hard Truths by Vertex podcast series 2, Carmen Yuen, General Partner at Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India, shares her journey from government-backed initiatives to becoming a key player and rare woman partner in the startup landscape. Get into the mind of a prominent investor and your questions answered - how to navigate this challenging economic and slow funding period? What are the best strategies going forward for your startup? Tune in for a conversation that delves into the heart of the startup world!

Learn about

  • her journey from executive director to general partner
  • the type of startups that succeed in Singapore
  • valuable lessons learnt along the way

Tune in to HTBV S2E1 to find out!

Listen on Spotify or watch on YouTube.

Episode 11 - Truths about Automating and Growing F&B and Retail businesses in Southeast Asia (17 May 2023)

How do you adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics and evolving needs of businesses when it comes to achieving product-market fit? How do you build a business serving clients that operate on thin margins in a competitive environment? And how do you ensure your business remains resilient against client churn and funding challenges?

In Episode 11 of Hard Truths by Vertex, Wai Hong Fong, the co-founder of StoreHub, reveals the hard truths he learned in building a successful business that caters to F&B and retail businesses.

Tune in to HTBV11 to find out!

Watch on YouTube.

Listen on Apple, Spotify and Google.

View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 11.

Episode 10 - Truths About Modernising the $15B Ayurvedic Wellness Market (03 May 2023)

What are the secrets of building a successful D2C nutrition brand? How do you get millennials to buy something usually recommended by their grandparents? How do you keep their attention when the product you sell takes months to show results? And how do you know when you’ve achieved product-market fit? In Episode 10 of Hard Truths by Vertex, Ameve Sharma, the founder and CEO of Kapiva, reveals the hard truths he learned building a successful D2C brand.

Tune in to HTBV10 to find out!

Our Guest

Ameve Sharma is the founder and CEO of Kapiva, a leading Ayurvedic brand in India. Kapiva offers a wide range of natural and effective products for health and wellness. Using only the highest-quality ingredients and traditional techniques, Kapiva is committed to delivering better health outcomes to its customers through holistic Ayurvedic solutions.

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View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 10.

Episode 9 - Truths About Empowering SEA's 71M MSMEs Through Financial Inclusion (19 Apr 2023)

Validus co-founder and Group CEO Nikhilesh Goel left behind a comfortable career in Private Equity and Investment Banking to join Vikas Nahata in building Validus. According to Nikhilesh, “It's been one hell of a ride.”

What prompted him to do this? How did he know it was the right time to build Validus? How has Validus changed the lives of MSME founders? And what are the Hard Truths Nikhilesh has learned along the way?

Tune in to HTBV9 to find out!

Our Guest

Nikhilesh Goel is the Group CEO and co-founder of Validus Capital. Prior to founding Validus, he worked in private equity and corporate finance in Southeast Asia for the previous 14 years. His experience includes debt and equity financing in a variety of industries, as well as portfolio management and value creation in SMEs. He also established Taipan Partners' M&A advisory practice, which focuses on consumer and technology sector transactions throughout Southeast Asia.

He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Nagpur University as well as an MBA in Finance from the University of Delhi's Faculty of Management Studies. He contributes to the fintech ecosystem by sharing insights on alternative lending, small business financing, and peer-to-peer platforms at fintech and SME conferences on a regular basis.

He was recently named one of the 'Top 10 Fintech Leaders in 2019 and 2020 - Singapore Fintech Association Awards', as well as the 'Innovation Leadership Achievement in Singapore Award 2021 - The Asian Banker'.

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View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 9.

Episode 8 - Truths About Building a Billion-Dollar, Profitable Content Business (5 Apr 2023)

Serial founder Joseph Phua wears many hats. Join us in Episode 8 of Hard Truths by Vertex, where he draws upon his experiences as Chairman of VVSEA&I portfolio company 17LIVE Inc., and concurrent roles as Chairman at Turn Capital, at SoundOn Group, as well as from his prior capacity as CEO and co-founder of dating app Paktor.

What was Joseph's road to founding 17LIVE? How does he navigate the constant uncertainty that surrounds entrepreneurship? Why did he make the difficult decision not to list on NYSE, even after ringing the bell? And what are the Hard Truths he learned along the way?

Tune in to HTBV8 to find out!

Our Guest

Joseph Phua is chairman and co-founder of VVSEA&I portfolio company, 17LIVE Inc., a social live-streaming platform. He also holds concurrent roles as Chairman at Turn Capital and the SoundOn Group and has recently started the fast-growing Next Apple News media platform.

Prior to this, he founded Paktor, a pioneering dating app that has expanded beyond Singapore to the rest of Southeast Asia and North Asia, to form the largest social dating group in the region. Joseph holds a BSc in Finance from NYU Stern, and an MBA from Chicago Booth.

Watch on YouTube [Coming Soon].

Listen on Apple, Spotify and Google.

View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 8.

Episode 7 - Truths About Helping Influencers Make a Living in the $68B SEA Creator Economy (22 Mar 2023)

In the final installment of our International Women’s Day series, we bring you Episode 7 of our Hard Truths by Vertex Podcast.

Amidst Indonesia’s rapidly growing content creation market, Paulina helps influencers earn a living as the CMO of TipTip. Paulina has over 20 years of experience in marketing, brand building, and innovation for leading luxury brands, and emerged as a top-5 finalist in The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition. What are her learnings from being on the Apprentice? What is Vertex’s investment thesis for TipTip and the content-creation vertical? What does it take to succeed as an influencer? And what are some Hard Truths she has learned along the way?

Find out in HTBV7!

Our Guests

Paulina Purnomowati is the Chief Marketing Officer at TipTip, the go-to monetization platform for Southeast Asian content creators and a one-stop shopping and learning destination for digital content and live sessions for everyone. Prior to joining TipTip, Paulina was the Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy at Evolve MMA, Asia's premier martial arts championship brand. She has nearly 20 years of experience in brand building, marketing, innovation, business development, and corporate development for leading brands such as L'Oréal, P&G, Evolve MMA, Chanel, Mount Scopus, Valiram, Mitra Adiperkasa, Global Brands Group, TOD'S, and ERHA CLINIC. She was the sole Indonesian representative and top five finalists for The Apprentice: One Championship edition in 2021.

Khushbu Topandasani is an Associate Director, Investments at Vertex Ventures South East Asia & India, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her portfolio includes TipTip, Fairatmos, Dailybox, Cosmart, Fairbanc, and Sirclo. Prior to joining Vertex, Khushbu was a Product Manager at Citibank where she was also part of the prestigious Management Associate Program. At Citibank, she undertook several roles including Corporate Banking, Insurance, Wealth Management, and Cards & Loans. Khushbu also interned at Ernst & Young Singapore and Starwood Hotel & Resorts Singapore (now Marriott International).

Watch it on YouTube.

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View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 7.

Episode 6 - Truths About Being a Female Leader in the Trillion Dollar Climate Tech Market (15 Mar 2023)

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we bring you Episode 6 of our Hard Truths by Vertex Podcast.

Natalia Rialucky is a mother of two and works full-time connecting carbon projects and businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint, as the founder and CEO of Fairatmos. Puiyan Leung is also a mother of two, and leads deals across Southeast Asia and India as a Partner at Vertex Ventures SEA&I. How do they find the balance between being change-leaders at work and the demands of motherhood? How do they navigate the nascent but developing Southeast Asian carbon markets? And what are the Hard Truths they’ve learned in doing these?

Tune in to HTBV6 to find out!

Our Guests

Natalia Rialucky is the Founder & CEO of Fairatmos, a platform that finds, verifies, and connects carbon projects with businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Prior to this, she was Chief Strategy and Social Impact Officer at TaniHub. She was the Head of Social Impact at the Boston Consulting Group before Tanihub. She has over ten years of experience in agri-tech, impact investing, growth capital, management consulting, and start-ups in South East Asia and the Asia Pacific region at leading firms such as BCG, KKR, TaniHub, Grab, Xendit, and 01VC.She earned her bachelor's degree in International Relations and Affairs from the University of Indonesia and her MBAs from the University of California, Berkeley, and INSEAD.

Puiyan Leung is Partner, Investments at Vertex. She joined Vertex Ventures SEA & India in 2020 and focuses on opportunities in Southeast Asia. Pui Yan previously worked as a Director of Investments and Operations at Singtel Innov8, the corporate venture arm of Singtel. Prior to that, she held a variety of operational roles, including serving as Singtel's Indonesia-based lead in representing Singtel's digital portfolio's local market development and expansion interests. Pui Yan earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from the National University of Singapore (NUS). She joined the Kauffman Fellows Program in 2019, which focuses on innovation leadership and venture capital for US and global investors.

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View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 6

Episode 5 - Truths about Lighting Up One’s Own Path and That of 60M Workers in Indonesia (08 Mar 2023)

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we bring you Episode 5 of our Hard Truths by Vertex Podcast.

Nelly Nurmalasari may have grown up in a small town but has always had huge ambitions. Her first exposure to female empowerment came in the form of guidance from her mother, encouraging her to dream big, and teaching her how to always ask the right questions. This put Nelly on a path to careers at BCG and Traveloka, and an MBA at Wharton. Now she inspires and empowers so many others. What was her journey to joining a team that unlocks opportunities for millions of mass workers? How did she become CEO of Pintarnya? And what are the Hard Truths about turning a shared vision into a reality?

Tune in to find out!

Our Guests

Nelly Nurmalasari is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pintarnya, a technology startup based in Indonesia with a mission to unlock employment and financial opportunities for millions of mass workers in Indonesia.

She began her career at BCG, spending over 10 years as a project leader, and was chosen to receive a full scholarship toward an MBA at The Wharton School. During her studies, she developed a strong interest in technology and eventually joined Traveloka, where she rose to the position of SVP, leading a business unit with over 600 employees. She also ran a salon on the side, the pain points of which led to the idea that birthed Pintarnya.

Jessica Koh has been with Vertex Ventures SEA and India for close to five years. She is currently an Investment Director and led the investment in Pintarnya. Prior to Vertex, Jessica was at 500 Startups, involved in Investments & Fundraising. She graduated from NUS, placing on the Dean’s List, and spent a year in Sillicon Valley as part of the NUS Overseas Colleges programme.

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View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 5

Episode 4 - The Truths About Disrupting India's Age-Old Manufacturing Industry (01 Mar 2023)

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we bring you Episode 4 of our Hard Truths by Vertex Podcast.

As a second-time founder, Sonam Motwani has a wealth of experience and unique insights into the manufacturing industry in India, which she has used to build Karkhana.io. And Kanika Mayar is one of just 9 senior female #VC investment professionals in India, with experience leading deals and building companies across various sectors. How did this female dream-team (coincidentally) come to be? What does it take to build a business and stand out in the male-dominated manufacturing industry? And what are some Hard Truths our two guests have learned along the way?

Tune in to find out!

Our Guests

Sonam Motwani is CEO and founder of Karkhana.io, a flexible & scalable manufacturing solutions provider with an aim to digitalize manufacturing in India. Prior to Kharkhana.io, Sonam co-founded Rolling Cube, and has held a Project Manager position at P&G. She is a rare woman who led a team of 20 to make electric race cars at Formula Student UK back in college

Kanika Mayar has been with VVSEAI since 2020 and is one of the few senior female investment professionals in the country across more than 500 venture capital funds. She has led deals across sectors such as agritech, business to business (B2B), consumer and health tech. Prior to joining VVSEAI, Kanika was an Investment Officer with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) where she focused on investing in technology, telecom, renewable energy and infrastructure companies across India and South Asia. Before IFC, Kanika was with Goldman Sachs’s Investment Banking team covering transactions in natural resources in Europe.

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View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 4.

Episode 3 - Opportunities in Southeast Asia & India with Ben Mathias (15 Feb 2023)

Vertex Ventures has been investing in South East Asia and India long before it became fashionable (!) so we know a thing or two about which sectors are on the rise. Tune in to learn how we view the key sectors of Supply Chain, Consumer and Fintech.

Our Guest

Ben Mathias is Managing Partner at Vertex Ventures South East Asia and India. Prior to joining Vertex Ventures, he was Partner at NEA. Before joining the world of VC, he held leadership positions at E2open and i2 Technologies.

The Hard Truths podcast is a top 10 show in Singapore. If you are a founder, investor or interested in the startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia and India do subscribe now so you don’t miss any of our upcoming episodes.

Listen on Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hard-truths-by-vertex/id1659392336

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2JMf3yPwhuOIY85rpx5B2Y

Watch Part 1 of the video on YouTube.

View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 3.

Episode 2 - Building Nium Into a Unicorn with Pratik Gandhi (1 Feb 2023)

Starting with a little office in a dilapidated old building to joining the rarefied ranks of unicorns in Southeast Asia, Nium has come a long way. But what did it take to keep it going even when the chips were down and fresh funding was hard to come by? What set them apart from their competition and what were some of the bets they had to make? And what were some of the Hard Truths they learned on the way?

Our Guest

Pratik Gandhi is the COO and co-Founder of Nium (formerly InstaReM), a leading embedded fintech company that provides banks, payment providers, and businesses of any size with access to global payment services. He leads the global finance, operations, and customer service teams, with responsibility for driving focus on Nium’s financial activities and helping the company deliver exceptional experiences.

Prior to Nium, he worked for companies such as Arthur Andersen, Xerox, PepsiCo and Telstra before specialising in banking, an industry where he held senior roles at Fullerton India Credit, Standard Chartered Bank, and Citibank.

Read more about this episode here.

View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 2.


Episode 1 - Building an enduring VC with Kee Lock Chua (18 Jan 2023)

You might know of Vertex Ventures as a successful VC in South East Asia and India. But did you know that it had a troubled start? So how did we then go on to becoming one of the top VCs in the region with investments in Grab, Nium and PatSnap and what is our secret recipe for identifying the kinds of founders that build unicorns? What are the hard truths about building an enduring VC? Learn about these and a lot more directly from Kee Lock Chua, CEO of Vertex Holdings and Managing Partner of Vertex Ventures South East Asia and India.

Our Guest


Chua Kee Lock
is CEO of Vertex Holdings and concurrently Managing Partner of Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India as well as Chairman of Vertex Growth Fund.

Prior to this, he held senior positions in Biosensors International Group, Ltd., a developer / manufacturer of medical devices; Walden International, a US-headquartered venture capital firm; NatSteel Ltd., a Singapore industrial products company, and Intraco Ltd., a Singapore-listed trading/distribution company. Mr. Chua co-founded MediaRing, provider of voice-over-internet, which later listed on Singapore’s stock exchange.

Mr. Chua was appointed by the Singapore Government as a Non-Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Cuba and the Republic of Panama in 2020. He currently serves on the boards of several companies, including Yongmao and Credit Bureau Asia, which are publicly listed.

Mr. Chua graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin and a M.Sc. degree from Stanford University.

Read more about this episode here.

View Notes and Full Transcript for Episode 1.

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In addition to Southeast Asia and India, the Vertex Global Network is comprised of affiliates in Silicon Valley, China and Israel. This provides a unique platform for our portfolio companies to realize their full potential by leveraging the combined experience and resources of our extensive network of global partners.

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