In this quick TechNode Global Q&A with James Tan, Managing Partner at Quest Ventures, we gain some insights on trends driving innovation in the region, as well as a few example companies making an impact on sustainability, social commerce, and finance.

A winner of the Movers & Shakers – People’s Choice VC award at the ORIGIN Innovation Awards, Quest Ventures is a top venture capital fund in Asia. Its portfolio of 90+ venture-backed companies operates in more than 150 cities across Asia, creating employment and advancement opportunities for more than 4,400 employees, while its Enterprise and ESG efforts directly impact thousands more.

James Tan is Managing Partner at Quest Ventures, a top venture capital fund in Asia. Prior to this, James was co-founder and COO of 55tuan, a NASDAQ listed e-commerce group that grew to more than 200 cities and 5,000 employees across China.

As the first Singaporean and one of the rarefied few foreigners to found a public listed internet company in China, and for his investments in the next generation of entrepreneurs, James was recognised as an outstanding overseas Chinese by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council of China. For his outstanding global contributions, James received the Alumni Award from the University of South Australia.

James currently serves as advisor, board member or trustee on the Action Community for Entrepreneurship, Applied Innovation Institute, Business Angel Network of Southeast Asia, Beijing CYL Joint Committee on Entrepreneurship Development, National Research Foundation CGAP Fund, Social Impact Catalyst, Sports Excellence Business, and Vietnam Angel Network.

James has been a guest speaker at China-focused and entrepreneurship events such as ITB Berlin, Private Equity Insights, Stanford-PARC Digital Cities, SWITCH, and World Islamic Economic Forum. He is an advisor or mentor at Chinaccelerator, Founder Institute, and PSA unboXed. He has guest lectured at Fudan, IE, Tsinghua, and UC Berkeley.

James is a graduate of the University of South Australia, and received scholarships from both Beijing and Singapore governments for his MBA from Tsinghua University in partnership with MIT. He studied and dropped out of computer science at NUS during the first dot-com era to work on two-sided markets.

What are the trends driving innovation in the Asia Pacific region today?

Sustainability, mechanization, digital economy

What are three key challenges that both startups and VCs need to navigate in this post-pandemic environment?

Mutable environment and conditions. New consumer behavior. Endemic environment, rather than post-pandemic.

Kindly share your firm’s strategies in addressing such challenges or enabling your portfolio companies to adequately overcome these.

Focus on resilience, adaptability, and speed to scale.

What is your view on the ecosystem’s obsession with “unicorn” status? Are we focusing too much on valuation rather than sustainable growth?

It’s good to achieve unicorn status, but must be backed by strong fundamentals.

How do you see the environment for venture capital in the medium term? How about the long-term?

More VCs in the medium and long-term with bigger war chests. This would mean more funds to deploy and the ability to grow the startup ecosystem more rapidly.

Can you share some interesting data or case studies from your portfolio that are a good example of how technology can bring about impactful change amid today’s business environment?

Ion Mobility is developing electric two-wheelers for Southeast Asia, providing a more sustainable alternative for the $8.53 billion motorbike industry. Partipost democratizes marketing by empowering creators to execute campaigns for brands and engage in social commerce. GajiGesa provides short-term liquidity access to the lower-income population of Indonesia, preventing debt traps as a result of borrowing from high-interest alternatives.

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