Business Podcast by Roohi: SEA Ecosystem Ft. Jeremy Au (VC at Monk’s Hill Ventures)

· Press,Blog,VC and Angels,Podcast,Southeast Asia


Jeremy talks about building connections through podcasting and his advice for aspiring podcasters, being involved in the Southeast Asia tech ecosystem, raising capital as a founder vs. as a VC and startup funding in Southeast Asia vs. USA.

Check out the podcast episode here and the transcript below.


Roohi Kazi: (00:00)

Hi everyone! Welcome to the podcast. Today, I'm joined by Jeremy, who is the VC at Monk's Hill. Hi Jeremy. Would you be able to share a bit about your podcast, BRAVE podcast, and what you've been up to over there?

Jeremy Au: (00:12)

Yeah. I'm Jeremy. I'm a VC and Chief of Staff at Monk's Hill Ventures, which is a series A VC fund in Southeast Asia. I also host the BRAVE Southeast Asia Tech Podcast, which is a similar podcast looking at tech and venture capital, and really looking at a no-BS view on what it takes to build the future, and really learn from the best Southeast Asia tech leaders. So the podcast has grown to over 12,000 followers, and it's a great community for resources, transcripts, and discussions about what it takes to get there. And you can listen more at to get, for example, weekly tech news, reviews about what's happening in Asia, leadership profiles, and some bonus Q&A episodes that we often have as well.

Roohi Kazi: (01:11)

That's amazing. You're doing an absolutely great job at highlighting the Southeast Asia ecosystem, and I think you and Daryl, and there are a few others out there who are true ecosystem builders for the region, so I'm really appreciative of what you guys are doing. So my next question to you is, so what's your take on kind of building connections through podcasting?

Jeremy Au: (01:33)

Yeah. I think podcasting is an interesting medium, right? Because at the end of the day, the core routine or behavior at the bottom of it, a fundamental level of it is a conversation one-on-one, right? You and I are having a one-on-one conversation. And the truth of the matter is we could have had a conversation over coffee somewhere, or over Zoom or perhaps even at a dinner party. Perhaps we could have had that conversation, had a couple of people listen in, right? Two or three people listen in and we can even scale that out. For example, to a fireside chat, right? Where, you perhaps it's an event and there's 20 people listening to us.

Or if you talk to a hundred people listen to us, and you and I are having that one-on-one conversation, right? And I think the interesting about podcast is that it makes it both asynchronous and, scalable, right? First of all, it's asynchronous, right? Which is the most powerful part of it. You don't have to be available on Wednesday night, seven o'clock at dinner, to be part of the fireside chat or, go all the way to the event. Or you can be somewhere else. You can be listening to this live. You can listen, be listening to this five days in the future. You can, listen to this 20 years in the future. And the asynchronous nature is so powerful of it.

And then the second level, of course is really the scalability of it, right? In the sense that there is that repeatability of it, you know, we don't have to have this conversation every single time someone wants to listen to it. And so, as a result, podcasting is a great amplification for people who want to listen, and consume it. Yeah, I think from a production perspective, from a connection perspective, I think it's really about having that one-on-one conversation at the end of the day with the knowledge that, it can be replicated for the future and for future business.

I think it doesn't take away the fundamental core connection requirement. And maybe down the road there's some parasocial connection that happens with listeners who listen in and get a sense of who you are, who Jeremy is, for example, but that's really much, I would say, a secondary downstream requirement. So I think, I think it's less made from podcasting, but more of the connection DNA slash- root- slash- sea crystal, that's at the core of the podcast that amplifies.

Roohi Kazi: (03:42)

My biggest takeaway was to have a connection perspective and a one-on-one conversation. So my next question to you on podcasting is, do you invite guests on your podcast and any tips and strategies for any kind of newbie and aspiring podcasters out there?

Jeremy Au: (03:58)

Yeah. I think everybody wants to do a podcast, right? In the sense that as long as you want to have a conversation with someone else, and you would like to have a larger audience, right? So I think a lot of folks really want to talk about podcasting. And I think that we have about three episodes on that talks about podcast, how to invite guests, how to create a system and there's also further Q&A discussion about more advanced questions that people have that folks can listen. I think for guests, I think they're different styles. For myself it's quite straightforward. Generally, I talk to people who I already know because my job and my passion brings me to lots of different conversations and I hang out with lots of different people. And I remember just having very delightful conversation with, for example, Will Fan. He's the founder of New Campus, which is an education tech professional skills startup. And we had a wonderful dinner for a community of BRAVE Southeast Asia folks, about half a year ago.

And, you know, I remember it was a long dinner and we were talking to lots of different people and then only towards the end did we , he and I get to have a chance to chat. And then we had a wonderful conversation for half an hour and he left a mark with me, right? And six months down the road, I was looking for guests in a sense that I had a buffer and I was looking ahead. I see myself like, okay, who did I enjoy having that connection moment with that sea crystal for the podcast? And I was like, yeah. And I still remember my conversation with Will, right? And I reached to Will and say, Hey, you know, I still remember that conversation we had, and it stuck with me. And I'd like to invite you to, obviously go deeper into some of these issues that we talked about and then we had a conversation right? And I think people enjoy the conversation because they feel like I already know him and he already knows me. And so that's, you're not just listening for the content about who Will is, but you're also listening because you're listening for the warmth and the companionship that you can have. And so, that tone and level of interest, I think can be quite hard to fake honestly for most folks, unless you're a professional. But I think if you look at even the best folks like comedians and guest interviewers, there's always some level of relationship that often already preexist at some level.

It doesn't have to be a lot, to be honest. It doesn't. It could be one meeting, it could be a few meetings, but I think that's so key to getting there. And so I think for aspiring podcasters often say Hey, instead of trying to say who are the most interesting people in the country or the world, and let me try to interview them, let's invert this a little bit, right? Who in your network right now is the most interesting people that you can potentially do? And then work your way, from there for, and find out what kind of conversations animate you, what kind of guests animate you, and what kind of tone do you like, in your conversations, right?

And those things are actually much more important, to discover early in your journey rather than the best, in that sense, people that happen at the end of the day.

Roohi Kazi: (06:56)

My biggest takeaways were starting with your network and having a preexisting relationship. So now I wanted to pivot away from all the podcasting talk and into more SEA and venture capital and other areas.

So my first question to you is, how do you get more involved in the SEA ecosystem? And this is a question that, a burning question that I have as well.

Jeremy Au: (07:18)The good news is Southeast Asia Tech system is looking for people like you, right? Technology in the future, are very scary things in the sense that, there's a lot of change. There's obviously artificial intelligence and generative AI and Chat GPT, for example, is a big way of change. We have nuclear fusion, we have digitization of B2B and a lot of business functions of change, that's honestly very scary to most people in the world, right?

For existing businesses, incumbent, commercial enterprises and approaches and the technology industry is looking for people who aren't scared of change, who are willing to not only just learn about it, but also go native in it and bring that change and channel that future into existence. And because of that, technology has always been looking for people. And if you raise a hand and say, I'm willing to learn, I'm willing to be there, the truth is, you'll find a job and role in technology industry, very easily because it's, you are basically saying, you know, my vote is to build the future, rather than to preserve the present status quo, right? And that's actually a very rare talent mindset. Amazing.

Roohi Kazi: (08:25)

So I think my biggest takeaway is to be willing to learn and to be present, be there, as you said. So my next question is how do you raise capital as a founder versus as a VC fund? Anything you could share on that?

Jeremy Au: (08:38)

It's actually a question that I laugh and enjoy because a year ago, I think I might say that question is a little bit foolish to compare, well, couple of years ago, and then I think now having been venture capital, I think there's some similarities as well. I think where the similarities are is that when you're raising money for a startup or you're raising money for a venture capital fund, You are both raising capital for the future.

And what that means is that at some level you are taking money from a limited partner or some rich, entity, right? And you're basically telling them that we have a dream of investing in companies that will become, a billion dollars, for example, in 10 years. And the reason why it's able to do that is it's able to not only, see the future, channel that vision and execute on that and build that within 10 years. Instead, it may have taken 20 or 50 years without us existing. Right? The only difference, of course, is that the startup is making that promise on an individual level. We're just saying, I'm going to do it this way and I have this vision and approach to do it, and this is my one company that's gonna be part of that future.

Or you can be a VC fund, for example. And you could be, I'm going to find the founders who are gonna build this future, and I'm gonna invest in 20 companies that channel that future, and so from a fundraising perspective, actually both startups and VCs will have decks that explain this narrative, this approach, this, you know, competitive conversation, why they think they will make money, right?

And so I think there's a lot of similarity, and I think the truth of the matter is that, you know, for example, some VC funds, they raise 20 million or a hundred million fund, and the truth is, there are some middle stage startups that will also raise 20 million or a hundred million as a fund, when they're in the Series B, Series C, Series D, right?

And so actually there's a lot more similarity, of the fundraising process. The only difference, of course, is that startups are talking to VCs and it's a single company that you're making investments versus a VC fund would be targeting limited partners, on average, but will also be saying that they have a portfolio approach. They're investing in 20 bets on that future. And I think that's the core difference, but then, when you talk about the repetitions, the execution tactics, there's actually a lot of similarities that come.

Roohi Kazi: (11:03)

I think my biggest takeaway was this crux of all of it, which is building for the future from both the VC side as well as a founder. So my next question to you is how do you find LP as an institutional investors for your VC fund?

Jeremy Au: (11:17)

Well, the answer is quite similar actually to founders in the sense that there's a universe, right? And what I mean by that is there's a universe of institutions and family offices and rich individuals and even perhaps friends and family who are looking to invest in venture capital as an asset class.

Of course, I think it was about venture capital's asset class. It's a private, market return. So it's similar to private equity, you know, you have to keep that capital, put away right effectively for 10 years or the lockup period. The returns are superior to the public markets right now, and has been for the past 30 years, and so it's a very compelling, you know, investment. Advantage, a decision, for lots of folks who are looking to invest money after they're finished investing in stocks, bonds, real estate, et cetera, right? And at the end of the day, therefore I think they're out there, right?

They tell people that they'll limit the partners. They tell that they're institutions. They tell that they're looking for fund managers. So you just have to reach out to them, and put together the same reps as you would as a founder, right? You put together the universe, you put together a list, you prioritize them by priority one, priority two, priority three.

You have conversations of all of them. You tell them why you're different. You tell them why you're different and better and then, they make a decision about which VC.

Roohi Kazi: (12:38)

I think you shared a good three- step approach of universe priorities and decisions. So my next question to you, what's the investment thesis of Monk's Hill VC on that?

Anything you could share on that?

Jeremy Au: (12:48)

I think, in venture capital, for us, we are big believers of Southeast Asia, right? And that's our biggest thesis. We're believers that, you know, Southeast Asia as a region, the time has come, over the past, you know, 10 years, but more importantly over the next 100 years, right? And what that means is that, Southeast Asia is obviously a huge population of hundreds of millions of people who are young, upwardly mobile, aspirational, tech- first, digitally- savvy. And more importantly, not many folks have built for it. Obviously, there have been waves or founders that built for it, founders from across the world as well as a new generation of local founders who are really starting to build, for the local problems. And for example, of course Facebook, or WhatsApp is probably the number one messaging platform in Southeast Asia, right? Outside Vietnam.

And, okay, that's obviously an example where Southeast Asia is very permeable right to communication apps and there's a huge network effects that. But when it comes to local, for example, logistics, e-commerce enablement, you know, serving the middle class, a lot of those things have not yet . Been built in global multinational corporations have not. And so companies like NinjaVan, for example, have been tremendous in making it able, for example to transport door to door in, city, for a dollar, right? And isn't that crazy? Like a package that you send can be sent for a dollar. That's if you did it yourself, and if included your gas and your own personal time, you would probably be in order magnitude than a dollar. But that frictionless logistics network that you and I take now for granted in some parts of obviously Asia, not all yet, enables e-commerce that happen, right? Which is, people can buy online safely with the knowledge and their items are not damaged, but also feel like they can do returns, if they don't like the product, right? Which is fundamental for e-commerce to take off. And if e-commerce is taking off as a platform, then suddenly you're allowed to have e-commerce brands to take off. Then you're allowed to have direct- to- consumer aggregators take off. You have e-commerce enablement, logistic partners taking off, right?

So this spread of, chain of, incremental, you could say, ideation, but generational execution, is key. And I think really crazy, and all of that's happening at light speed, right? And so, I think there's a lot of tremendous opportunities in Southeast Asia that we are excited to find founders who we want to invest in.

Roohi Kazi: (15:26)

That's amazing that you guys invest into Southeast Asia, and I've seen similar funds as well, who also invest into the top founders of Southeast Asia. So my next question to you before we go off into Melinda's questions are how do you differentiate yourself among similar funds?

Jeremy Au: (15:43)

It's an interesting dynamic and something that folks do think about. I think, of course, I think the most obvious one is that, we believe at, with all our heart, in entrepreneurs, backing entrepreneurs, right? , that's our mission statement, and it's in our DNA, right? So if you look at our VCs, everybody is a former founder, right? From the partners, to our principals and associates. Everybodys a former founder. And I think that's important on three dimensions, right? One is that obviously the first of all is empathy, right? Which is that we understand what's it like to fundraise. We understand what's it like to have a good fundraising process, and we understand what's it like to have a bad, that we're able to be thoughtful.

I think about what honestly, from our perspective, is a good experience and make sure that we try to deliver it as much as possible, right? As much as humanly possible. I think that's one part of it. The second of course, is insights in the sense that, we ourselves have built companies in a country, for example, in Indonesia, in Vietnam, in the Philippines. And we ourselves have built companies in logistics and education tech and FinTech. And because we have that insight knowledge, we're able to obviously provide value in our conversations even before we make the investment decision. But also, when we sit down together and work together, I think we have a lot of value.

And of course, of all this mindset, right? We are entrepreneurial and what it means is that, we obviously, there's a set of investment decisions to be made. But I think we're willing to be entrepreneur on a mindset to be, how do we approach the process? How do we do things differently? How do we help you? I think there's a huge mindset as a company culture that happens when you have a whole bunch of former founders rather than for, than, for example, a group of investment bankers or group of pharma technology executives, right? I think, everybody brings their former cultural DNA and training into the company.

All in, you know, for us, we're entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs. And I think that being said, we found that other VCs are very strong. They are able to find and pick great companies, and there are many great companies who prefer working with their approach and their DNA, and their style. And so I think that's really the fundamental part is, I think it's great, right? When I was a founder in the US or my second company, the truth of the matter was that it was awesome to have a hundred different VC funds and to some extent it was the VC's problem to be differentiated in that sense. But from a founder perspective, it was awesome to have a hundred VC funds to learn from, to meet, and to fundraise from, is that, you know, not every VC fund is able to support you in the future, but in aggregate the ecosystem, the number a hundred, VC funds, times 20 bets, can really provide that value. So I think it's also actually, from ecosystem perspective, is great. VC funds should struggle to differentiate themselves because that means there's lots of capital and it means there's lots of bets are going on great founders who want to build a future. And, you know, this is how competition and differentiation help startups stay nimble and start building future, so should VC funds.

Roohi Kazi: (18:47)

I think my biggest takeaway is the three-pronged approach that you shared of empathy inside knowledge and mindset as a way that you had at Monk's HIll Venture Capital firm have been able to differentiate yourself amongst the other SEA-focused funds here in Singapore and abroad as well.

So my next questions to you are, to wrap this conversation up, are some questions from Melinda Chu. So her first question is, are there trends of startups getting funded differently in Southeast Asia versus, say, the United States?

Jeremy Au: (19:21)

Yeah. And I think it's a really good question because you could also flip and invert a question, right? Which is, how are US startups different than the kind of companies that are being funded all around the world, right? And I think that's really the crux of it actually, because I think the US is a very special country, right? It was the birthplace of venture capital and the startup methodology, because of the availability of capital, right?

And so there's, the startups that we think about today are very much based on that US DNA. So for example , there are so many waves of startups in the US that were focused on digital business productivity, right? Because, the cost of labor in America is high, i.e., the GDP per capita, but also the cost of labor has continued to rise in America over time, right? Tremendously due to type immigration, due to like subsidies and inflation. And because of that, the push and incentive for companies to further digitize has been accelerating. And so B2B SaaS continues to be a very strong requirement for companies, and therefore a great wave trends for startups be funded in the US whereas I think Southeast Asia is similar to other emerging markets on the midst of the world, right? In the sense that there are low. And I think a great way to look at this is really at the GDP per capita, right? And so I think what we are looking at is when we're about, say for example between say five to $10,000 GDP per capita, for example. There's often I think a very good way to start looking at it. Stage by stage then to 20, to 40 to 60, right? These different stages are often in small inflection points for when companies actually start getting interested, for example, in the cost of labor and how they become more effective with the labor, right?

Which means bringing in productivity tools. So for example, if the economy is very low, then you're probably thinking about much more fundamental problems. You're probably thinking about water, food, agriculture, right? These very fundamental problems that you have, right? And you're not thinking about B2B SaaS. You're not thinking about artificial intelligence, those are all different applications that you have, right? But as you climb up the GDP per capita, the national income, the master hierarchy of needs, the, you know, productivity of your companies, then different aspects go there.

For example, in Southeast Asia, obviously, Singapore is as rich as the US and it's actually richer than the UK, on a GDP per capita basis. And Malaysia and Thailand are not far behind, as well as highly educated as for those markets, obviously there are requirements in terms of startups are similar to some extent, because of their domestic requirements, but also they have the ability to build teams that are looking at global problems because global problems, the teams can be based anywhere, right?

So adding, there's the two types of companies that happen there, whereas for example, in Indonesia, in the Philippines for example, then there's, you can actually even break it out, right? I think there are richer parts of, Indonesia and there are poorer parts of Indonesia, right? And so the type of problems between the urban rural divide are very different, right? And fundamental. So I think the trends of startups as a result of Southeast Asia, I think I would say are really two categories, three categories.

The first category obviously is similar problems that US startup are going for global problems because teams can come from anywhere. They just happen to be based in Southeast Asia. The second category is companies that are helping Southeast Asia companies become more western or globalized, so there's that tier of catch or localization, you can call it cloning as well, but there's some, copy-paste, but there's also some inversion and acceleration of a known future. But the third I think that's really interesting is that there's a whole bunch of founders are brooding for very deep local problems that the US never had to solve, right? So for example, in agricultural tech, for example, in the US, the way that America solved it with productivity for example, was this, mechanized it. And then they built irrigation systems with pipes, right? And then they bought and structured the land very systematically to make them commercial, right? Whereas now in Southeast Asia, for example, agriculture, hasn't, a lot of it has not even gotten to that basic level.

And so now they're being forced to skip pipelines, for example, and trucks and hardware. But maybe they have to go all the way to drones, right? so they have that generational shift. But the problem is a fundamentally very, solve problem that no American startups really going for because they never had a deal of that local market problem. By that we definitely see in Southeast Asia. So, those are the three types that we're seeing.

Roohi Kazi: (23:54)

So I think my biggest takeaways from what you've shared today are the three categories. So the first category is the simple, similar problem and global as well. The second one was companies helping Southeast Asia, and the third was deep local problems. So it was an absolute pleasure and an honor to host you on the podcast today. You're always welcome, and it was an absolute pleasure and an honor to have you on the on the podcast today.

Jeremy Au: (24:19)

Thank you so much. I appreciate hearing from you. It was an absolute pleasure and I'm really glad that we got to chat. For folks who want to hear more into some of these conversations, for example, we recently talked about who we think are the biggest winners and losers for this coming years, tech news and our predictions for it, and our contrarian beliefs, that was a really fun episode that we had, for example, with, the managing partner of Hustle Fund, Shiyan Koh, and the other tech leader portraits that we do as well.

So if you're interested in joining the community, feel free to go to for transcripts, resources, and community. So thanks so much!