What do you focus on at B Capital?
I’m the Director of Strategy & Operations at B Capital. As part of the founding platform team in Asia, I work closely with our portfolio CEOs and co-founders to scale their businesses faster and tackle the hardest problems in the region. My role is split into three parts – enabling select portfolio companies to continue scaling non-linearly (for example, driving new market entry and monetization), building programs that help founders to grow themselves and their businesses (for instance building out teams and creating game plans to serve the needs of target customers and market segments), and ensuring that we as a firm have the structures and processes required to maximize ROI for our Limited Partners (LPs).
I’m extremely lucky to have lived in Asia for the past ten years. I’ve experienced first-hand the birth and growth of ecommerce in SEA, and understand how consumers think, behave, and adopt digital practices across the region. This is the decade of data/AI, and the SEA ecosystem, is ripe for disruption. The internet economy will triple to 300 billion; Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have started accelerating their move into the digital economy. Exits will inject more capital into the ecosystem, allowing entrepreneurs to solve harder problems and disrupt entrenched ways of working. To be at the heart of driving that change for over 400 million internet users in SEA is amazing.
What attracted you to work at B Capital
I see what the future will look like in this role, especially across our four thesis areas of Enterprise SaaS, FinTech, Consumer Enablement, and Healthcare. Understanding the landscape, the way the money flows, exposure to different business models and founders – all that was too good an opportunity to pass up. While I love being an operator and thrived on the energy of having true ownership in defining a vision and making it come to life, I’ve found that I get to do that at scale by working with some of our portfolio companies worldwide.
There are few roles where you can openly admit to learning something new each week, but at B Capital, having a mindset of continuous learning is essential. Within my position, I am encouraged to adapt, change, grow.
If you were not in this career, what would you be doing?
I would be running my own company. I’ve done zero to one and worked in big multinationals and found that you need to be able to do or at least understand both to build a company that can scale. All corporations began as a startup. All startups need a big customer or set of customers to get their flywheel moving. The first question I ask any founder before working with them is why they started their company. TAM, unmet consumer needs, and pain points are all valid, but the founders I enjoy working with the most attach personal meaning to their business. I like to think that all the hard work and sacrifices of operating a startup are done for more than money.
What is most interesting or unique about working in venture capital?
Working in VC means you get to interact with some of the best business problem solvers. While all CEOs may not be able to solve mathematical theorems, it’s a prerequisite to know how to get things done. Founders must build great teams, adapt to the market, be curious and willing to experiment with new ideas and be open to feedback (both good and bad). The best founders want to hear the criticism to improve, and they listen to their leadership team to ensure their goals are always tethered to where the company is going.
Lastly, working in a VC demands an ability to say no, so you have time to say yes to the most impactful initiatives. I always try to create time to think and to make good choices. If I’ve had a day when I’m jumping from meeting to meeting, discussing how to create value for a customer, improve operations, or opine on a business model, I reflect on whether I’ve been impactful or if I’ve just shown up. And it’s a balance, it’s important to recognize when to provide targeted advice, when to say nothing and give them the space to build, and when to challenge their plans. We are in a privileged position to guide entrepreneurs that are creating tomorrow.
What is something someone might not know about non-investing roles at a VC firm?
A lot of people don’t realize that VCs are building platform teams to help their companies’ post-investment. The days of providing capital and driving decisions via quarterly board meetings are gone. I speak to the CEOs of our portfolio companies weekly – sometimes it’s a WhatsApp message, other times it’s a 1-hour call. Engagement is essential, and I’m lucky to have access to the CEOs and what’s at the forefront of their mind joining previously disconnected dots and or making introductions that go on to create real value.
What’s something many people may not know about you?
I love playing games – trivia games, board games, strategy games. And I can be competitive. I’ve played cricket competitively most of my life while living in Australia and Singapore; after getting married and having kids, I think that side of me comes out during games night.
Connect with Karl on LinkedIn!