Der Shing Lim: Founder to Angel Syndicate Leader, Disrupting Yourself & Shifting Identities - E315

· VC and Angels,Southeast Asia,Singapore


“Shao Ning and I still want to support the ecosystem because being a founder has taught us a lot. It influences every part of our lives, even when it comes to how we deal with our family, our children, and each other, for the better. We want to help pay it forward by sharing all these experiences by giving talks and then engaging with the founders after that. What has changed is how systematic we go about in terms of finding and picking deals, how we do asset allocation, how we decide how much to invest and when to follow on, and what are all the factors we look out for. Those are the things that are being refined, but the underlying reason and philosophy, is still the same. We just want to share our knowledge, keep learning, and stay relevant. We believe in our ecosystem. We hope to get a return from it because when we cashed out, then we have no more stake in the ecosystem. We want to still have our chip in the game, but of course, we participate with a different role now.” - Der Shing Lim

“The biggest change would be the quality and quantity of talent we are getting both at the founder and employee level. That's most important because the people drive tech businesses. When we started back in 2000, there was one boom, but it died very quickly, and even then, the great talent was still going to the banks, the consultancies, and the investment banks. Now, we routinely see very good quality talent from Ivy Leagues, or for mid-careers who want to start a business, or who are willing to join a business. That's the single biggest differentiating factor. It's both a consequence and a reason for why the ecosystem is where it is now because the more successes you get, the more stories of people coming out and doing well, and the more people going in.” - Der Shing Lim

“It’s tricky. There's no hard and fast rule. Founders need to look at their own business and figure it out for themselves. Is their company a winner? Take all. Is there already a winner that has taken all? If they truly are in a blue ocean and brand new, then yes, by all means, carry on the great way, because there will be people who will find you because there's always risk capital that way. If you can't find it, that means there's there's something off. You better figure out what's off. I think most businesses think they're that kind, but they're actually not. So you have to decide if your business belongs to the category that needs to hunker down and scale down dramatically, and then preserve the options for what you’ve built rather than relying on your VC funding because if they decide not to fund you, you're in trouble.” - Der Shing Lim

Der Shing Lim, Cofounder and Partner at AngelCentral, and Jeremy Au delve into entrepreneurship, investment, and personal growth. The discussion focuses on three main themes:

1. Early Journey as an Engineer and Founder: Der Shing reflects on his early years as an engineer at Sembcorp Industries, and how his obsessively competitive nature drove him to building Job Central with his then-girlfriend, Shao-Ning Huang. Rather than rushing into markets as a first or second mover, he talks about the strategic advantages of being a 'third mover'—carefully observing the landscape, learning from others' mistakes, and then making his own move. His self-described obsessive and competitive nature served as a catalyst in this phase, pushing him to strive for nothing less than the best.

2. Identity Shift, Angel Investing and Parenting Philosophy: Der Shing speaks about his evolution into an angel investor and how his focus areas extend beyond business into parenting and social contributions. He shares insights into the emotional and intellectual shifts that come with these different 'hats,' especially his commitment to education and volunteering. His approach to parenting mirrors his business ethos: not just about success but about raising good humans and future leaders.

3. Technical Advice & Historical Perspective: Der Shing shares technical advice for budding investors that he has learned from being a VC fund LP and decades-long experience in the Southeast Asian landscape. He emphasizes the nuances of early-stage investing and the importance of not just looking at metrics but understanding the story and vision behind a startup. He delves into the trends in investments, like the rise of tech startups and e-commerce platforms. He also shares a retrospective view on the region’s startup scene and pivotal moments that signaled the region's potential.

They also talk about how setbacks and failures are crucial learning points in the founder journey, the importance of fostering genuine human connections in the digital era, and the significance of networking in the entrepreneurial world.

Supported by Ringkas

Ringkas is a digital mortgage platform aiming to solve the access to financing problem for home seekers in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Ringkas currently collaborates with all major Banks in Indonesia and the largest Property Developers across more than 15 cities. Ringkas vision is to democratize home ownership and create more than 100 million homeowners. Don't just dream about owning a home. Make it a reality. Explore more at

Jeremy Au: (01:17)

Hey, Der Shing, really excited to have you on the show. You are of course a great angel investor in Southeast Asia, one of the OGs. But also I've been following your blog for the past half a year, and I think it's a very fascinating I think analysis obviously of angel investments and VC startups, but also I really appreciate everything that you shared about your personal life and family life as well. So I thought it was a really interesting blend. So I got to plug it is So you still have that but I would love for you to introduce yourself real quick.

Der Shing Lim : (01:45)

Yeah. Okay. Hi. Hi, Jeremy. Yeah. Thank you for inviting me for the podcast. So as viewers know, my name is Der Shing, so, 48 this year. Gee, another one of your interview Shao Ning is my other half. I met her back in Michigan when I was. 21. So that's a good 27 years, married. We have four children age 21 to nine. And I think our call to fame is that Before we were angel investors, we used to run our own job portal. So it was one of the original drop portals that started back in 2000. It's called Job Central. And then we built it for 14 years, and at the 11th year, we actually sold it to a career builder.

And since then we officially retired in 2014, and then went through a pretty long nine year journey of trying to find a new career, a new purpose that perhaps it's not so consuming, like being a founder of a startup. And what we hit on was angel investing, as you rightly pointed out. So, since 2015, 2016, we've been very active angel investors almost 50 companies. Almost 10 million of our own money into different startups and VC funds. Most of it all in Southeast Asia. So that's how we see ourselves now at least for myself. The purpose is really just to give back to the ecosystem. Of course, you want to make some money along the way, be as useful as I can while watching my children grow up.

Jeremy Au: (02:59)

Amazing. And how did you first enter entrepreneurship? You were an engineer in the early days, but how did you enter the space of entrepreneurship.

Der Shing Lim : (03:06)

Yeah, that's a really old story. So we started, I started a business. I started in Michigan. I studied there Electrical Engineering from 96 to 99. So that was the first Dotcom boom if you, if listeners remember. And so when we came back, we said, Hey, we really want to start a business. And then at that time, Shao Ning was my girlfriend and then we it's so cool to do it together as boyfriend girlfriend. That's another story. But then we started it and then we were lucky that we pick an area that is quite profitable almost from day one.

You know, job portals are always profitable if you run it well. And then also I think my personality helped a lot because back then I was ultra competitive. I think that's one major defining trait of a good entrepreneur. And then I was also very determined that I know I, I want to be free from people telling me what to do as soon as I can which almost means that for certain, I cannot have a boss. It just doesn't work, even though I was a scholar. So I decided to break my bone and then start jobs factory back then with Shao Ning, and then we brought on two more partners along the way. So that's the inception story that actually Google it is all over the place.

Jeremy Au: (04:04)

You said there's another story about what's it like to build a business with Shao Ning, right? Your then girlfriend, so I got to ask. She's been on a podcast before she shared about her journey, but I'm so curious what that story is.

Der Shing Lim : (04:14)

Yeah. So, it's very hard to work with your spouse until you hit onto a really deep understanding of each other and not just your strengths, but your temperaments, your real needs and your real ones. If you don't do that, then as you grow, a lot of potential for division, a lot of potential for big arguments and, you could end up losing the relationship and then the business may still go downhill. So I think it's a lot of learning in terms of trying to understand what drives my spouse, what she's interested in and I have to say that part is actually far more challenging than running a business because business is actually just be obsessive, do everything right. If you're smart enough, if you assemble the right team you probably pick the right space.

You probably can make some money. Of course, it's different from building a unicorn versus building something that just makes a few million profit. So building a few million profit just needs those factors, or unicorn need a lot more stuff Yeah. But try to understand your spouse so that you become a good husband or a wife and at the same time be good business partners. I think that one is very difficult to do it well. So that's why I say that one is a lot more challenging and you meet many husband and wives teams. Wow. The dynamic is always very interesting to watch.

Jeremy Au: (05:23)

I mean, you see them all the time, because you're an angel investor. You see a lot of husband and wife teams, especially in Southeast Asia. And I met my wife while we were both volunteering together and we also had some of that similar tension as well, but of course we were volunteering. So it's quite different from running a business right from that point of time. So do you have any advice for people who are building with their husband or wife? What advice do you normally give them?

Der Shing Lim : (05:42)

Okay, so I'm not a big guy on advice, if you know me. So I actually believe very much in share a story. The other person needs to be sharp enough to figure out the learnings from their story, whether it applies to them. So I can only speak from my own experience. So my own experience, what I would've done differently was to actually understand my wife's motivations much earlier.

And subordinate that crazy desire to just win for the first 10 years. So for the first 10 years of my business, I really just wanted to make it, I just wanted to prove a point that the idea is worth the effort. My team is worth the effort. We can reach fast enough. We don't have to care about anybody's opinions anymore in terms as a boss and I assume that my other half is willing to subordinate everything, alongside me the same way. I think it would've been much wiser if I figured out what she really wants and what she really dislikes and then incorporate that into the drive. It probably will still, the business will still at work actually.

There are many ways to skin a cat, especially for business cat. It doesn't have to be the only way, that my way is the only way. So, if I have any learning, I think that would be the key learning. Spend more time aligning my other half so that it's not do everything exactly the way I want it or it doesn't work, kind of attitude. So I learned that later, only after we sold the business and then I stopped paying, I stopped being obsessive about the business, so once I start being associate of business, then the rest of my personality kicks in.

Jeremy Au: (06:59)

What's the rest of your personality?

Der Shing Lim : (07:01)

Oh, I'm actually a very chill guy. Okay, this is just my viewpoint. I think maybe other people can do it differently. But for me, to make a business work, I have to be obsessive as in 110% obsessive. I leave and breathe the numbers. I just think about it all day long. I think about how every single thing, whether it can be done better or not. And I'm always thinking about what the competitors are doing. Who are the potential ones? How can I win them? Every little edge counts because you must remember I started with no funding and I started as a third layer, have a natural two-sided network that's being built as the fall runner or the second runner, right? So really, the way we win is by really just outthinking and out executing every small step they add then it builds a momentum. But to do that, I ignore everybody else and everything else which is I think that's what it takes for many people to succeed. But I'm not sure. It's something the wisest you asked me about what would I, what I would advise.

Jeremy Au: (07:49)

Yeah. And based on that, after that, you said that you were able to sell a company, the rest of your personality emerged, and then I think that's roughly when you also started entering angel investing as well. So could you talk a little bit more about how you started Angel

Der Shing Lim : (08:00)

It all comes together because as an angel investor, we are cheerleader, we are counselor, we are cheerleader. We are more, technically, we are sometimes board director, but it's all subordinate roles. It's all cheerleading roles, side roles. It's not the main actor, it's all supporting cast. So being a supporting cast, you have to be far more conscious about the emotions, the motivations, and how you go about doing your supporting. So I think having, allowing the not so my way or highway everything is do or die at the deal that the entrepreneur needs. It's very different from, as a supporting cast, what I need is actually more of a nurturing, paying attention, trying to nudge.

And of course then, I mitigate my own risk because I have 50 investments. If you don't want to listen, it's fine. It's one out of 50 and who knows, you may be right anyway. So the, it all comes together. Having a personality there, pays more attention to other people trying to find consensus, trying to counsel, trying to coach, actually fits a lot better for a angel investor than as an entrepreneur.

Jeremy Au: (08:57)

Yeah. And you mentioned that there also was a personality shift, or at least, got to open up the other side of your personality, other than the obsessive side that you described. Do you feel like that fits with you better?

Der Shing Lim : (09:06)

Yeah, it's not just obsessive. It's obsessive and very hard nose. It's very ruthless, because that's what it takes to win. But especially for a winner, take all types of dynamic. Some markets, you don't have to be like that because there can be 20 profitable players at F&B, but not for two-sided network that there's only room for three.

Jeremy Au: (09:22)

Yeah. And When you set out angel investing, obviously, that was quite some time ago. And then, you know what I really appreciate about your blog is you document your learnings. You document your learnings as you went up. And then you also document, I think the recent downturn and I think you did another update because now it's been what, a year? One year into the downturn, so there's an update you wrote recently, so I think it could see you integrate those learnings. But I'm just curious between when you started angel investing and where you are today, I'm wondering what's difference in your own angel investing philosophy or approach is?

Der Shing Lim : (09:50)

I think the thesis is still the same, Jeremy, so I discuss a lot with Shao Ning. That's why I said that when you interview her, actually a lot of the things you know would be covered. So the thesis is the same. We still want to support the ecosystem because being a founder has taught us a lot. It influences every part of our lives, even when it comes to how we deal with our family and our children and each other for the better. And so we want to help, pay it forward by sharing all these experiences. So of course, we can share just by giving talks, but there's a better way to share by putting our money where our mouth is, and then actually then engaging the founders after that, so that hasn't changed.

I think what has changed is the way, how systematic we go about in terms of how we find deals. How we pick the deals how we do the asset allocation, how we decide how much to invest, how we decide when to follow on, what are all the factors we look out for, the relative weightage of those factors. Those are the things that are being refined. But the underlying reason and philosophy, I think it's still the same. We just want to share our knowledge. We want to keep learning, we want to stay relevant. And of course, we believe in our ecosystem. We hope to get a return from it because when we cashed out, then we have no more stake in the ecosystem.

So we say, Hey, let's take out five, $10 million, put back in the ecosystem, see what happens. And it's quite a sizable chunk for us, right? I didn't cash out for a few hundred million, so this still quite sizable for us. So we want to still have our chip in the game, but of course we participate now with a different role.

Jeremy Au: (11:14)

And during this time, you're seeing the evolution of the ecosystem because you've been doing this at the frontier of these early stage companies, but you've done this over so many years now. Obviously there's all this theoretical market reports about how the ecosystem has changed, but for you personally, what do you think? What do you personally feel has been the biggest change from your perspective?

Der Shing Lim : (11:31)

Oh I think the biggest change would be the quality and quantity of talent we are getting both at the founder and employee level. And that's most important because the people drive tech businesses. So, it's a world apart, right? When we started back in 2000, there was one boom, but the boom died very quickly. And even then, the great talent at that time was still going to the banks, the consultancies, the investment banks. Right now, actually we routinely see very good quality talent from Ivy Leagues or for mid careers who want to start business, or who are willing to join a business. I think that's the single biggest differentiating factor.

And that also accounts, it's both a consequence and a reason for why the ecosystem is where it's now, because the more successes you get, the more stories of people coming out and doing well, then you have more people going in. So it's a virtual cycle and I think we are onto that cycle. If I were to critique, the only thing missing is exits. And unfortunately this last two years, it hasn't helped that, because this last two years deferred all the exits. There was supposed to be quite a few specs from Kredivo, from Ninja Van from ShopBack even. So all of them got help back two years. So that doesn't help because all our money becomes locked up another two years, so we need more exits and if I have to have another critique, it will be that the test now is for the bulk of our founders to learn to make real positive cash flow and profits.

Der Shing Lim : (12:55)

That is the real test on the table now because this last 10 years of cheap money has actually worked quite a lot of people to think that revenue is the main metric, but I think now it's changed that EBITDA and profit matter as much, depending on which sector you're in, how fast it's growing and all that, but by and large the importance has spiked up. And I think a lot of people still don't really understand what it means that you, every dollar you sell, you should be keeping 10% or 20 or 30 or 40% profits. And how do you run a business at that size? You can't have a lot of fat. You must be willing to take pain. It's because the investors are not willing to use our cash to take away your pain for you anymore. Yeah, I think that one is a very big point. If interest rates stay this level, another one year or two years, I'm very sure you'll go back to the old days, pre this boom in 2009 and 10 August. Yeah. But if it doesn't, if the interest get cut, then maybe you'll go back to ADA days again.

Jeremy Au: (13:45)

Potty days again. Yeah.

Der Shing Lim : (13:46)

It got a bit too crazy. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (13:48)

Yeah, got crazy, super crazy. And I think part of that craziness or so is I think founder, in the early days, it was not, it was a job or profession, in that sense. But now it's also there's a lot of like hero, status, role model. And so I meet a lot of young folks, teenagers who really want to be a founder, because they see, I guess the TV series, the movies, the press. I'm so curious about what you think, because you're a father of four, and so I'm just curious about that.

Der Shing Lim : (14:11)

Yeah. So I hang out with a lot of non-tech business owners. They can be running hundred over $200 million businesses, they're very profitable. Actually that to me, that is business as much a business as any tech business. And to me, the purpose of business is to serve a need and make a profit in the process.

You can be bigger than maybe you have loftier goals for your business as fine, but by and large, most businesses, is you serve a good need. You do a good legal service. To me, ideally don't harm people, don't do the sin stock stuff, but by then, make a profit in the process. So I think it's good to have role models. But the role models need to include non-tech role models, and then you synthesize for self for yourself what kind of business you want to build, and what kind of man or woman you want to be. So I've been telling our portfolio companies, don't look at Grab, look at Sea because Sea put their money where their mouth is, right?

They take their $1 salary, they cut all flights, all business class flights cut costs so dramatically that even I hear even cleaning contracts are being renegotiated. And it shows up in the numbers. Yeah. And if you look at the fan stocks, they are far more like Sea than they are like Grab. So the answer is that you have to be profitable on the revenues and the gross margins that you have. If not, it's still not a solid business.

Jeremy Au: (15:21)

Yeah. I think that's the tricky part that you mentioned about solid businesses. How I think a lot of founders are like feeling quite stuck, because they're like, okay, how do I build a solid business, but I also need to fundraise and have a very good story about the kind of like growth rate. How do you share stories with them about how to think about it?

Der Shing Lim : (15:36)

Yeah, so this one is tricky. There's no hard and fast rule. Every founder needs to look at your own business and figure out for yourself. Is yours a winner? Take all. Is there already a winner that has taken, all? If truly you are in something super blue ocean and brand new, then yes, by all means carry on the great way. Carry on because there will be people who will find you because there's always risk capital that way. And if you can't find it, that means there's something off you. There's something off. You better figure out what's off. But I think most of the businesses, they think they're that kind, but they're actually not.

For example, a lot of the e-commerce retail stores, I mean, I don't want to name the names, but I'm actually indirectly invested in one. They'll never worth five, 10 times their revenue in the first place, so you have the right size, your entire outfit if you really care about your business, you should right size the whole thing to fit what you're doing. And to me, look less at Shein and all that, but look more at Charles and Keith. The guy is super profitable. He's probably a billionaire by now. What's wrong with building something like him? He's got tons of B2C sales, right? Yeah. So sometimes I feel, I mean, the time for a lot of fluff to raise money and then keep rolling, it is over.

So you have to decide, does your business belong to the category that I need to hunker down and scale down dramatically? And then so that I preserve the options for what I've built rather than relying on my VC funding me. Because if they decide not to fund you, you're screwed, you know?

Jeremy Au: (16:53)


Der Shing Lim : (16:53)

Yeah. But of course some people, their business truly is that kind of blue ocean. Then to me, of course, by all means, those have always existed, but there have always been very few. It shouldn't have been so many.

Jeremy Au: (17:05)

Yeah. I think it's the self-awareness about whether this is really the one that can go all the way And then the capital should fit that business approach.

Der Shing Lim : (17:12)


Jeremy Au: (17:13)

But it's hard to say.

Der Shing Lim : (17:14)

And be realistic. Like you have to be honest with yourself. It's very hard to be very honest with yourself as a founder. So I think this is where, this is one we see as one of our roles. So we, I mean we have 50. So some of them are pretty large. They are worth a few hundred million. So we try to tell the founders our side, our viewpoint with data. You can show them comparable, show them data. The interesting thing is because I do a lot of listed market stuff, so I always compare to a listed market, and I think sometimes it's a wake up call because sometimes the founders, they surround themselves, especially the larger ones, the board is off ready to them, especially after the last 10 years. So when you talk to the board members, it's a bit of an echo chamber. And sometimes the board people are not entrepreneurs, they are actually representatives of large institutional funds so their way of thinking is also very different.

So we try to give the extra viewpoint and then we leave it to the founders to decide. And that's also why I don't know whether need share, we will never invest more than two, 300K per company because I know at the end of the day, the founders are the boss. So they decide and they can always ignore what we are seeing, right?

Jeremy Au: (18:13)

And what's interesting is that you talk a little bit about your own comparison of the public markets versus I think what you're seeing today. And actually that's what I really appreciate about your analysis. I think there's very little technical analysis of Southeast Asia ecosystem. And I think your blog does a really good job comparing and also talking about the insights. So how do you read, what do you compare? Are you reading like the prospectus for the IPOs? How do you compare, and how does that approach, how do you write one of your blog up post? Or it just, because you already think about it all the time?

Der Shing Lim : (18:39)

Yeah, I'm thinking about it all time. So I mean, if you, people don't change that, so, Jeremy, I told you I was obsessed with my business. So what do you think I'm obsessed about nowadays, right? I have to transplant all that love for thinking and digging deep to something else, so I've transplanted it into portfolio management. So, yeah, I read I meet Kylie. I don't know if you know Kylie from, finally. He calls me ACRA man. So I used to read ACRA reports for fun, just to analyze every startup that publishes so that I can see what's the benchmark, what's normal. So if you do the same for listed stocks, for non-listed stuff.

After that, there actually, there are a lot of things to connect. And you start to realize that the capitalist market is very interesting. There's always a rational underpinning for everything, the variance on both sides, between the ultra risk takers who couldn't care less and the super conservative so large, and it just keeps swinging back and forth between the two.

Yeah. So, yeah, so where I get inspiration is because I think about the topic a lot. And I'm invested in so many of them, right? I do this, that stuff. I do unlist that stuff. So it's in my interest to always try to figure out what's fair value, what's potential growth and things like that. right?

Jeremy Au: (19:47)

Yeah. So I'm just curious, has there been like a favorite prospectus that you've ever read, like your favorite report? That you've read of any company.

Der Shing Lim : (19:55)

No, actually I don't read the whole reports. I jump very fast. So I just go to the financials and look at, if it's a listed stock, then the stock charts, not for technical analysis, just so that I know how it's been trading, but I guess I do a simplified one in my head. But it's not easy to, on the list that side. Even though I'm academically very keen, my results aren't great. I mean, I publish, doing 9%, 10% per annum that's beating a CWI, but actually, I could have just bought Q and do much better. So I'm very mindful that I'm not a great investment manager. I like Warren Buffet or Peter Lynch, so I'm very mindful what I'm good and not good at. So, in fact, last 10 years we tried to beat, we failed to beat. So the next 10 years, our understanding is we'll just index most of it, and then I just keep a handful of stocks that I pay attention to. And then, we actually focus more our effort on the non-distance side because the startup side on paper is doing very well. So we want to carry on picking and spending our time there.

Jeremy Au: (20:48)

That's where you have some of the proprietary knowledge and the kind of velocity.

Der Shing Lim : (20:51)

Yeah, I you more edge, right? You got network, you yeah. You know the place. And then first, once you couple with understanding how the listed side works, it helps a lot.

Jeremy Au: (21:00)

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Now that's really interesting and no, thank you for sharing actually your investment strategy shift. Actually, that's something I also think about as well. I also mostly index most of my stuff, and then I focus on Southeast Asia.

Der Shing Lim : (21:10)

That's very wise.

Jeremy Au: (21:11)

I understand Southeast Asia.

Der Shing Lim : (21:12)

Yeah, you can't. Yeah, I've learned that you can't be good at everything, so you'd be very lucky if you can be good at one thing. That's why we always tell each other, that's why I say we were lucky. We really got one business exit. They got good at one thing. So I, we sure we are good at angel then. Then for sure, we can't be good at angel and good at public investing. We're like like God, what kind of, how greedy do you want to be?

Jeremy Au: (21:31)

Just pro at everything, right?

Der Shing Lim : (21:33)

Yeah. I cannot be either.

Jeremy Au: (21:34)

Yeah. And so I think a lot of folks, you talk about being good at angel investing. I think, obviously, there's a lot of rookie mistakes that angel investors make in the early days, et cetera, but what do you think distinguishes maybe a good angel investor versus a great angel investor? How do you think about that skill gap between advance to a professional?

Der Shing Lim : (21:51)

Honestly, I don't know. I don't have an answer to that. I can tell you what separates experience one who probably gets decent returns. Decent means maybe 3x over 10 years. So RRR around 20+ percent. I think between that and a person who just dabbles, because our ecosystem right now, still a lot of people are just dabbling, meaning they do 5, 10 stories, then that's it. I think the difference is that the experience one will create a structure, a system to pick, it's a standard checklist that they adhere to experience. One would've standardized by sizing, not subject to pure emotion at that point. So if I do a hundred, I do a hundred for everyone, and then signals on whether it's worth following or not.

For the next rounds after them and also when to exit that. That's what the experience investor, angel investor, I feel will do. And that will allow them to at least match the market or maybe beat the VC because there's no 2, 20 cost because I think angel should just benchmark to whatever VC does, but remove the 2, 20 and then hopefully a top quarter or at least above the million. So I think a good angel will do all that. Great. I don't know because I read Jason collect this, I mean, locally I met up with him. I've seen what he'd invest. Seems to be a bit of luck. You've got to hit that one super winner and then suddenly everything looks fine. Yeah. So I'm not sure where it sits, where you know it is, or rather, I don't know what makes it great from good.

Jeremy Au: (23:10)

Right. Yeah.

Der Shing Lim : (23:11)


Jeremy Au: (23:12)

Interesting. I think you mentioned a bit about luck, and I think I agree with you. You're structuring the portfolio to give yourself enough surface area for that luck to come true. One interesting question someone was asking me recently was like, " Hey, Jeremy is Venture Capital a viable asset class in Southeast Asia"?

And what I mean by that is it's okay, I think there's a good set of angel returns that makes sense because you're coming at the earlier stage and there are multiple ways to exit at the trade sale acquisition. Maybe even some may go public like Sea and Grab but I think obviously you've been an LP in VC funds as well. And then that's a 2 and 20 structure, but also often, aiming primarily for an exit structure as well. So I'm of curious you think about that? How do you think about the asset class?

Der Shing Lim : (23:50)

Yeah, I think they have done whatever we expected. Shao Ning and I started investing the first funds as early as 2030, right? That means during Fund I, Monk's Hill Fund I. Jungle Fund I, so, back then, our thesis was the ecosystem would grow and we do very well because we could see that we are off the cusp, probably, and it turned out to be true, right? Maybe the only part that is not true is the deep tech side. Then one came later, still work in progress. I think what we didn't expect was that the exits would take so long because and I think it's a function, a bit of greed or solar, right? Everyone was holding out to make sure that I get my billion dollar exit. No one wanted to exit earlier at the sub 1 billion. So by then, when Covid hit, and then, all the things that happened after that, the inflation, then interest rate going up, I think that kind of did everything by two years, which then would make all the IRRs quite a lot worse.

So now, it's really up in the air. thesis is correct. The performance to date is actually not bad. My VC portfolio's performance is not bad. It's two point in something TVP, which is quite decent as a plan. But the biggest issue is where is the DPI now? Where's the distributed capital? And if that doesn't happen, then I think our ecosystem has a big problem. But I still, I actually feel quite confident it will happen now in another one, two years time. It's not blind confidence, it's because we can see some of the winners in the portfolio are already at the billion dollar mark and they just need to scale a bit further, or they need public markets to turn positive a bit more.

Jeremy Au: (25:13)

Yeah. I think it's interesting also you talk a little bit about mark to market, mark to book in terms of the assets that's out there in your prior analysis. And I think what's interesting is that you did the past 10 years and now you're looking down the pipe for the next 10 years. And I'm just curious what you think about the next 10 years looks like right from your perspective? I mean for me, for example, I was in Manila over the past week, so it's interesting to see the Philippines. 10 years ago, nobody was talking about the Philippines. Now people are starting to explore, be curious about the ecosystem. So I'm curious what you see, like when you look at the next 10 years, 2030s, what do you think about that?

Der Shing Lim : (25:46)

Yeah. I mean, we are capitalists. So fundamentally I believe in enterprise as a way to create value and to meet people's needs. So I think that won't change, but the world is splitting. So this split between the Western world and China is quite disturbing. And you can see you are showing up in all the trade restrictions they're giving to each other. It's showing up in stock prices of Chinese stocks. So I think that will be one big trend that will determine a lot of how Southeast Asia can grow, though some people will say we are poised to benefit either way, which is there's some truth to it, but, too much of a conflict between the two sites would necessarily give us problem, especially if Taiwan gets invaded. So I think that will be true. Everything will crash for a while. And you can see any, right? The West states, China is uninvestible. That's why the stocks can't move, because all the capital has been withdrawn a lot of it.

Der Shing Lim : (26:37)

Anyway, so to me, our region is fine. We've got good demographics. Singapore strategy of being the governance and fundraising center of Southeast Asia is working very well. And our government is a competitive advantage, but I think the factors that are of our control are the two big blocks, how they resolve and handle their differences.

I think that will affect us a lot. Other than that, the other, the more positive one would be I think the whole use of generative AI and AI is large. When we saw it, we quickly arranged quite a few experts who come and speak to all our members because we wanted to figure out what can we buy, and then we realized that, this is different from the first boom. The first boom created Amazon, created Google, created Facebook or Facebook later, but it created new giants that conquer the Western business world. But this one, after a lot analysis, we actually think the winners will be the existing giants and will also be the existing big firms that can take advantage of digitization and the AI boost to digitization.

So that means buying more SPI and Q, because these are the biggest firms that will benefit once they implement generative AI. Yeah. But I do think that was a multi-year trend because we invest in some startups that do more basic machine learning, AI as applied to specific use cases.

It's really quite a game changer. You are improving how humans do things by many false productivity. In some, you find things that humans don't do anyway. So it's quite cool. Yeah, I think that's a very big one. It's probably as big as the mobile when the iPhone came out with the mobile ecosystems, and then of course, the very first boom of the internet itself. This third one of AI, I think is equally big.

Jeremy Au: (28:10)

Yeah, I think it's a big boom as well. I think recently, my mom had a wallet stolen, at a yoga studio, and then I had to help her write a complaint letter, and then I used ChatGPT.

Der Shing Lim : (28:19)

It's changing.

Jeremy Au: (28:20)

Draft it up. It's put out details. I mean, obviously I converted a whole complaint letter myself and then I just finished it in about, I don't know, say 15 minutes including edits.

Der Shing Lim : (28:28)

Yeah, definitely. It's not just generative AI, right? That's the one that takes everyone's imagination, but it's happening everywhere because I'm involved in a lot of volunteer work also, and you know, I can see schools are looking at AI to, to grade students' essays.

They're using an AI to check that the students didn't use AI. There's actually such a software being sold already. they have AI for zoom learning to make sure the students are paying attention. So many use cases apply to almost everything. So how can that not be transformative? Confirm it will transform a lot of things.

Jeremy Au: (28:55)

Yeah. And I think what's interesting is that obviously, you are a parent as well, right? And I'm thinking about my kids as well, like when they grow up, they're going to live in an age of native AI. They're going to be AI native in the sense that I grew up mobile native because I always had a mobile phone, and it a bit of a head scratcher because also, I'm getting a lot of advice my, my kids should be screen free for as long as possible, as much nature time, et cetera. So I don't know what the right balance is. What do you think?

Der Shing Lim : (29:19)

We also don't know, but what Ning and I do is we do allow screens, but only from a certain age onwards to have their own iPhone. We control their downloads so that only after 16,17, then you can download whatever you want. I think balance that, because the human is analog thing. So that we want our children to still know what it means to go play in the garden and to go run to play basketball.

At the same time, we also don't want them to be ludite that they don't know how to use software cannot be that. But I think yeah we want well balanced kids that Right. how old are your kids actually?

Jeremy Au: (29:48)

I've got one three year old girl and one one year old girl.

Der Shing Lim : (29:51)

Oh, okay. That's really early. The three year old, our youngest started using screens at three, four years old, because by then it's a losing battle already.

Jeremy Au: (29:59)

Yeah, she's always watching us and then she uses our phones, so she always takes Lego, her blocks and pretends that she has a handphone pretending she's doing a selfie, pretends she's taking camera videos of other people.

Der Shing Lim : (30:10)

I do want to share Jeremy a bit about, because I know I deal a lot of founders, a lot of founders are like me last time. We just think of making the business work, selling it, and then, that's it. Done.

Jeremy Au: (30:19)


Der Shing Lim : (30:19)

Actually it would be helpful to also work out with your co-founders, right? How do you all want to exit? And how do the numbers look like? And then personally, each person should try to think about what they're going to do after that, especially if you're doing it young. I mean, if you end at 60, it's fine. You can join all the other retirees, travel around the world, look after grandchildren.

But if you stop at thirties or forties, it is helpful to actually apply the same rigor that you applied to your business and apply to what will you, what activities, and what purposes you want to do after you retire. Just apply the same level of rigor or half the level of rigor. You'll probably have a great plan for retirement already. Just don't do it blind. Most people do it blind. That's the interesting thing. It's you run a marathon and you finally cross the finish line. You pocket your 15 mil or whatever. Then you say, it's like suddenly there's a huge emptiness. It doesn't have to be that way if you are more thoughtful about it in the last one, two years.

Yeah. That's what I want to say to the audience because a lot of founders, I mean, I also won't set talk about these things to my founders until I know they're near exit or they happen to ask me.

Jeremy Au: (31:21)

Yeah. And I think you mentioned there's something that, you want to share, right? It's about how to plan or how, what's it like to be on the other side because you, once that raise is done right, What do you want to share about what's it like to be on that side?

Der Shing Lim : (31:31)

Yeah, so I think a lot of, I think a lot of it's about identity. So I think if you read me, and we are both quite thoughtful people. We debate a lot and we are quite balanced. We are not those very unbalanced individuals that do really great businesses actually. But we are very balanced people. So I think what shocked us was that we didn't expect that the loss of identity to be such a big problem. Even though it academically, you can read about it. So it's actually very important that if you, we did the first few months. Of course you can take it easy.

Don't anyhow invest in stuff. The one, everyone can tell you that it's almost always true that don't anyhow buy stuff because almost sure lose money in the beginning of it. And almost certainty you'll be over optimistic. So, then after that, actually the key thing is to think carefully to start to get yourself exposed to different activities.

So it would be great if you already had activity before. Sale, but highly unlikely. If you are truly obsessive entrepreneur, chances are you're no activity. You can't really be a building a super giant and then, having too much CCAs that a possible but rarely. So you need to try, you need to be mindful that suddenly the world will not care about you. The world will not care what you've done. They're just another rich guy, and there are plenty of rich guys and ladies out there. So then how do you carve out a space for yourself?

So for me and Ning, we tried a lot of volunteer work. We tried starting another business. She started one. I started one all field volunteer work, still doing quite meaningful. Then you try to find a team. So some people can find a team in sports. For me it's education. Education and entrepreneurship. And this is after a few years we decided to collapse all the volunteer work, plus even the AngelCentral work into it has to fit into one of these two teams right then. Then it also helps because when consolidate your thoughts and your efforts in a team, then assuming you do a good job, more and more people know about you, then they'll call you to do more and more on this topic.

Then after a while it becomes like, oh, you follow a new second identity. So like for me and Ning, it becomes like we found a new identity as, oh, we are angel investors, but not just that, but we teach people how to angel invest and we make it to something. And then from actually government's point of view is I'm quite involved with a lot of MOE stuff, right? So they see us as, oh yeah, Der Shing cares a lot about education, so you don't volunteer work education, you call him. And he cares a lot about startups. So sometimes they call me about that also. So you try to build, Yeah. And it can be, none of these things, it can be something else altogether. Some people go farming, right? Go build a farm.

Jeremy Au: (33:48)


Der Shing Lim : (33:48)

Go hack it off, fly to Bali, buy organic farm and do, yeah.

Jeremy Au: (33:52)

Yeah. Yeah.

Der Shing Lim : (33:53)

But it's hard to do nothing at all. That one doesn't work.

Jeremy Au: (33:55)

Yeah. Hard to do nothing.

Der Shing Lim : (33:57)

Yeah. I just want to say that a lot of people think you can do nothing. I think it's very hard.

Jeremy Au: (34:00)

Yeah. On that note, could you share about a time that you personally have been brave?

Der Shing Lim : (34:04)

Yeah. When we were talking about this, I think the bravest thing was when we decided to sell the business because it's giving up something that we built for 14 years already. And to say that, oh, okay, then after that I'm going to walk away somewhere I don't stay on. And actually that one I learned because I heard other people, other seniors actually tell me that once you sell, don't have any expectations of what happens next. Because very frequently the new buyer may do very different things. And that actually got me thinking even further, then might as well don't even stay to see it happen.

So after that, we went through a pretty tough year once we exited completely. My mother had cancer. We had a fourth kid. Well, a lot of things happened at one go. So I think it was a correct decision because sometimes you have to disrupt yourself. If you don't disrupt yourself, you can't move on to the next phase. And I've seen a lot of 70, 60 year old patriarchs still holding onto their business, very fulfilled, obviously if you ask them. But I felt that I didn't want it that way. Then my children will also be in the business and all that.

Jeremy Au: (35:00)

Yeah, When you say about disrupt yourself, how do you feel about it now? I mean, at that time was, it must have been quite kind of turbulent to disrupt yourself. But now, you shared about how you have a new identity as well. But looking back on your, life journey, how do you feel about that now?

Der Shing Lim : (35:13)

Yeah, so back then, I think maybe to express it better was, because I'm quite intellectual, so I I told myself I have to be more than just a business. I had to be more than an entrepreneur, right? I don't want to be defined as an entrepreneur, so selling it away and walking away is the best way to break it, prove to myself that I can break it. And of course, I'm not stupid. I make sure it's more than enough money already, so now, where I'm thinking, I'm trying to convince everyone that the next step should be I should uproot and go somewhere else, and stay somewhere else already because my three children are almost grown up. I only have the fourth one. She can study in international school somewhere. Maybe it's time to disrupt our life again because every time you disrupt, you learn a lot of new stuff. It can be turbulent, but you learn a lot of stuff right about yourself, about new area.

In our case, it's angel investing, this whole mindset of how to be a supporter and yet don't lose out. And yet don't get screwed in the process. Yeah, so I actually feel that at 48 it's time to, maybe by early fifties, I should disrupt one more time there. After that, I'll be just like any other retiree at 60 plus.

Jeremy Au: (36:10)

Wow. I think it's quite respectable for you to even say Hey, I want to disrupt myself one more time in the future. Wow.

Der Shing Lim : (36:16)

Also make it part of the fun one Jeremy? Otherwise, you're forever doing the same thing. Unless the same thing is so fulfilling and so purposeful. I mean, if you are a political leader, a minister, then I think you better don't disrupt yourself. Because if you're doing a good job, you are impacting so many lives. But for me, I'm only impacting my own family. The small circle. I can continue to do the same but maybe if I disrupt and do something else, I'll be reaching a new circle doing something else.

Jeremy Au: (36:40)

Wow. That's really a lot of food for thought there. On that note, I'd love to wrap things up and share about the three things that I took away from this. First of all, thanks for sharing about your early journey as an engineer, but also as a founder. And I thought it was interesting to hear about you describing yourself as obsessive, as competitive as the third mover, as someone who's fighting to win. And also I think sharing about how you're building this with shouting, right? Your then girlfriend now wife. And I thought it was really interesting to share about some of the challenges that you faced in those days, but also I think how much you cared about winning and trying to take care of the business, but also still figuring out how to take care of your partner at the same time as well. Thank you for being so honest and frank about your past self.

Secondly, thanks so much for sharing about the identity shift. I think we talked a little bit about how you shifted identity and how you have a second identity in terms of being an angel investor, in terms of being a parent, in terms of how you want to raise your children and also how you care about education and volunteering. And I think it was both a mixture of your own personal stories, but also adding advice to other people about what's on the other side and not to do nothing but to go and do something and don't buy anything expensive in the first few months. All the good advice that's there.

Der Shing Lim : (37:45)

Yeah don't invest in anything expensive.

Jeremy Au: (37:47)

Rent. Don't buy. Yeah. And lastly, I think thanks so much for actually sharing a lot of I think I think honestly I think. I think say a technical advice, but also having a, his historical view over Southeast Asia. Over the past 10 years from a angel investor, but also as a VC fund, LP perspective. So seeing that growth, seeing that dynamic in terms of not just growth in terms of the number of companies not just growth in terms of the countries, but also I think you said growth in the quality and the quantity of the talent that's out there over the past 10 years. So I think it's really great to see that view, but also good to hear about your perspective for the next 10 years, which is about, in the short term, making sure there's exits. Also making sure that there's so much more technology change that's happening with generative AI and so, so forth that you're excited about. And also crazy that you are on a search to potentially disrupt yourself again one more time. I think that was scary to me, but I'm not there yet, so maybe when I'm there, I'm going to ask, I'll ask for some more advice from you at that point.

Der Shing Lim : (38:37)

Yeah, it could be just a classic midlife crisis, because I'm 48, hair all white. So, yeah.

Jeremy Au: (38:43)

Yeah. I'll for sure WhatsApp you when I crossed that bridge or so mething. Thanks so much Der Shing for sharing.

Der Shing Lim : (38:48)

Yeah. Thank you so much Jeremy. It was a pleasure speaking with you and I hope that the interview is useful to everybody. Yeah.