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Daily Markup #609: Vishal Harnal on Tatler Asia — trends guiding his next investments, must-have qualities of VCs, and failure

Ching Yee Ho



Credit: 500 Global

Stable approach, stable returns

  • 500 Global recently celebrated 10 years of investing in Southeast Asia, and our investment approach has been based on an economies-of-scale model — cutting smaller cheques to a sizeable number of companies.
  • That’s how we invested early in companies such as Grab, Carousell, and Bukalapak. “Our model balances risk and reward,” said Vishal Harnal, Managing Partner at 500 Global. “It makes sense for us from a mathematical perspective.”
  • So, what exactly is 500 Global investing in these days in the region? “We have about eight themes that will form 70% to 80% of the investments, and 20% of them would be opportunistic,” he shared.
  • Some of the themes are sustainable cities, the creator economy, Web3, healthcare, education, and fintech — and not just fintech that is catered towards the wealthy, but fintech that is facilitating transactions in rural areas and other parts of the ecosystem — as well as human and machine productivity, which includes Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies and industrial automation.
  • “Then we have rural digitization,” Vishal added. “I care about this a lot as the story of Southeast Asia has not been the story of countries until now. It’s been the story of cities. Entrepreneurs in the region are starting to build innovative companies outside of tier-one cities where the majority of their country’s population live.”
  • When asked by Tatler about the qualities he thinks a successful VC investor needs to have, he shared that early-stage investors have to be optimists to keep an open mind; investors of later stages can afford to be more pessimistic and quantitative; both must be analytical and detail-oriented.
  • Lastly, thoughts on failure? “I’m not afraid of failure,” Vishal shared. “The minute you let it paralyze you, you’ll never make a decision. Failure is part of the startup ecosystem, so baking that into the way you invest is important. What I feel sad about are preventable failures.”
  • Read the full interview on Tatler.

Ching Yee Ho