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Daily Markup #626: Khailee Ng’s unexpected path to becoming a venture capitalist at 500 Global and insights on what’s next for SE Asia’s ecosystem

Ching Yee Ho



Credit: AHN

Making a real impact in the world

  • After building and exiting two startups, 30-year-old Khailee Ng (Managing Partner, 500 Global) decided to head to Silicon Valley to learn from the best venture capitalists so more entrepreneurs can succeed. 
  • After his trip, he was determined to bring the resources in Silicon Valley — the density of networks and access to capital — to other parts of the world. “I was a bit naive,” he reflected. “I was also disheartened because nobody thought I was being rational.” 
  • That’s when he met a bunch of geo-aware, well-traveled misfits that were already actively investing outside of Silicon Valley — the 500 Global team! And the rest, as they say, is history. 
  • Today, 500 Global has invested in 2700+ companies across 81 countries including the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and more; 49 of those companies have become unicorns (companies valued at over US$1B), and many of them are non-U.S., non-China, non-India.
  • “It’s not about us, where we are from, or who we are. It’s what we offer to the world; what are we building for people?” said Khailee. “I think the general thesis is that with different backgrounds, upbringings, and diversity, we’ll be able to build for more of the rest of the world.”
  • Someone’s got to make the first move though. So in 2014, Khailee led 500 Global’s first Southeast Asia-focused fund to start seeding startups in the region with capital, kickstarting today’s thriving ecosystem.
  • What’s the state of Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem in 2022? Khailee believes that the region is still in its early innings. Just as China’s Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent kickstarted a step change for the nation, and Silicon Valley is now enjoying 60+ years of compound resources, Southeast Asia’s tech giants — Grab, GoTo Group, and Sea Limited — will lead to a step change for talent and a new wave of startup innovation in the region. “Stay tuned!” said Khailee.  
  • So, what does 500 Global look for in startups today? “We really care about founder-market fit, not just product-market fit,” he said. “We care about having founders who feel for what they’re building. These founders have an advantage over other founders trying to build the same thing. We’re also looking for founders who are willing to build very ambitiously.”
  • One tip for founders? “I encourage founders to build good relationships with their life partners, their spouses, their parents, because overcoming challenges in any kind of relationship or interaction gives them new skills they can use at work,” he said.
  • Listen to the full podcast episode on Asian Hustle Network.

Ching Yee Ho