29 Jan 2021
Founder and managing partner of Creative Ventures, Thailand's first venture capital fund based in Silicon Valley, Poonyathorn Suthipongchai, or Champ, shares some quick insight on investment, also during times of COVID-19 and plans for the future. Let’s see what he has to say!
What investment areas do you find interesting?
We have been investing in Healthcare and Automation's breakthrough technologies since we started our fund five years ago. We saw the opportunity lay in the global aging population trend. However, COVID19 has accelerated these two areas significantly. eXo Imaging is one of our companies developing the ultra-portable and low-cost ultrasound device you can carry in your pocket to everywhere globally. They have significant progress, and we are very excited to see them reach their major milestone this year. The other company I would like to mention is Southie Autonomy, which you can think of them as a PowerPoint for robots, but instead of creating a presentation, you are telling the robot what to do by just drag-and-drop, no coding is required.
Where do you advise people to put their money during times of COVID-19?
I am biased because I take a long-term view on things, so my investment approach is not speculative, but closer to what most people would call buy-and-hold. The advice really depends on many factors, such as their financial objective and how much money they have, but overall, I’d suggest people play defence. That means create a balanced portfolio of multi-assets, including government (not corporate) bond, equity index (not individual), commodity basket, and inflation-linked bond. This will help minimise the swing in their portfolio if they want to play more “defence.” If they can weather the swings, I suggest a global equity index of S&P500, Stock600, and CMS300. If they really want to be offensive, then a thematic or industry-focused fund, such as tech and healthcare, would work well. Coming into 2021, we should expect a lot of upswing in the “post-COVID” businesses, such as leisure and luxury travels, which should see a pent-up demand from upper-middle- and upper-class consumers.
What’s your criteria in investing for companies?
Our method is market-first. Hence, we have been studying our investment areas and develop our own "secret sauce" - a specific set of criteria for each type of investment. The company we invested in will have to fit in most of the criteria or justify why some missing criteria are not applicable. For example, when we were looking for an investment in food service automation, we found that
1. The pizza market structure is a perfect starting point but should have the capability to expand to other foods,
2. The solution should be an end-to-end process, and
3. The maintenance should require a minimum of resources.
That is when we found Picnic, which is now selling to branded pizza chains globally.
Tell me about some plans you have in mind for the near future?
Over the past five years, we have raised $30mm and expanded our office to cover San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. We are expanding our fund size to $100mm. We have spent the past five years building a playbook that has proven to work well and our return has been phenomenal. We are gearing up for expansion, raising more capital, deploying in more companies, and generating more return.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Time management – a big part during the pandemic is that people actually work more at home and it’s very easy to not shut it off and continue working. I don’t view time as 9-5 for work, I try to blend them and that’s necessary for me because I work in so many different time zones, it’s practically impossible for me to block things out. So, I use my time as a resource and how to balance different aspects of my life whether it’s work, health, hobbies, relationships and not try to say alright I’m going to do X and Y only from 6-9 pm. Maybe those X and Y are better done during the day and so I might take a Wednesday late afternoon off to go surfing, to refresh myself for the week, for instance. I think about what kind of picture I want in my life, how to create that and not try to be this traditional 9-5 because my life doesn’t quite work that way, especially in this post COVID environment so I think if I could have a high clarity on what the picture of my life in a week would potentially look like, it’s basically different kinds of outcomes. I think more about what the outcome of life should look like and try to manage them accordingly.