Fady Abdel-Nour: Antler Partner ($285M AUM) Outlook, Naspers & Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Learnings and India vs. China vs. Southeast Asia VC - E429

· Podcast Episodes English,VC and Angels,Southeast Asia


“It's a really great time to be deploying capital. There are candidly fewer opportunities than there might've been years ago, but I think there's also fewer ‘silly opportunities’ and less temptation to do some things that I think a lot of us in this industry had done in 2020 and 2021. And so, I'm pretty excited about deploying capital over this year and the next year. I do feel this market is starting to turn. There may be the arrival of some international investors looking to these markets as well. So maybe it's not the same ilk of US investors, but I think these markets still have very strong growth. And I think there'll be people willing to deploy capital in these markets, which will lead to a good outcomes in the medium term.” - Fady Abdel-Nour


“It was a really interesting time because you could take a look at those business models and really invest based on what was happening forward. It was almost like you had a crystal ball. At the time, I was still pretty early in my career. I didn't really appreciate how good we had it because now, in Southeast Asia, China, and India, a lot of these business models are starting to innovate and leapfrog the the things happening in the US. Back then, there were years between developments in the US and China, allowing for benchmarking and comparison. Now, you have weeks, maybe months before these business models are replicated. You just know that it's attractive venture funding and it's grown well.” - Fady Abdel-Nour


“We talked about penetration thesis. Although we're in a world where trends get replicated a lot more quickly, when you have regulated businesses, sometimes that's harder. You need to get licenses. You need to deal with local regulators to allow you to execute what you want to do. So I think we spent a lot of time on payments and alternative lending in the space because these markets had massive gaps in terms of digital payments and credit. And so, we spent a lot of time on India, specifically on financing companies and payments, and watching digital adoption trend grow.” - Fady Abdel-Nour

Fady Abdel-Nour, General Partner at Antler, and Jeremy Au, talked about three main themes:

1. Naspers & Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Learnings: Fady shared his career path, starting in investment banking during the peak financial markets of 2007. He then transitioned to Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, focusing on long-term and solution capital investments. There, he led Ontario Teachers’ first private deal in China with Ganji and worked on JD.com. Later, at Naspers, he specialized in FinTech, leading investments and M&A, particularly in payments and alternative lending in India, Brazil, and Indonesia, with notable investments including PaySense (acquired for close to $200 million), and a digital mortgage company in Brazil (valued at $4 billion during its last round). These experiences helped Fady develop a keen understanding of the importance of strategic geographical diversification in investment.

2. Antler Partner ($285M AUM) Outlook: Fady was impressed by founder Magnus Grimeland's rapid scaling of Antler and helped launch the Elevate growth fund that closed at $285M USD. Fady discussed the current favorable conditions for deploying capital, noting that while there are fewer opportunities compared to 2020 and 2021, the quality has significantly improved. He highlighted a reduction in less promising ventures, making the market more attractive for serious investors. He also was optimistic about the market's potential to improve and attract international investors, e.g. Japanese investors increasingly exploring Southeast Asia.

3. India vs. China vs. Southeast Asia VC: Fady discussed that China is becoming less investable to global LPs due to geopolitical tensions, while India continues to show rapid innovation and strong domestic and global business potential. He explained how he sees diverse markets in the region with significant growth potential, e.g. Indonesia and Singapore which are emerging as FinTech hubs with companies like PayPal and Stripe establishing a presence, thus creating a fertile ground for new ventures.

Jeremy and Fady also talked about his reflections on moving from larger organizations to a more entrepreneurial setting, China’s leading role in digital transactions, and the rise of digital adoption in different markets.

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(01:27) Jeremy Au:

Hey Fady, really excited to have you on the show. You've actually had such a great global career on the capital side. Really excited to have you share that story. Could you share a little bit about yourself?

(01:36) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Thanks a lot for having me on, Jeremy. Excited to be here. So my name's Fady Abdul-Nour. I'm currently a partner at Antler Elevate, which is the growth fund of the Antler platform. Have been in investing for most of my career with stint at Naspers before this leading FinTech investing and worked at Ontario teachers doing kind of late stage pre IPO investing before that.

(01:56) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. So how did you first start out your career?

(01:58) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, so I started my career off in investment banking. I went to an undergraduate degree in Business in Toronto. And it was one of those things where actually, at the time, thought I was going to be a lawyer and so went in, for, to do something before I went into law school because you have to do a few years before that.

And so I thought I would do a degree in something practical. I briefly considered a stint in, in math. Actually, I got into a Mathematics program, but I said math that's gonna be completely useless. So anyway, hindsight's 2020 on this kind of stuff, but went into a business program in Toronto, entered that kind of business program and thought I would spend time on accounting. I really liked economics. I really liked numbers and so that seemed interesting. I ended up joining the investing club very early on, learned about markets and thought that was, that was pretty fascinating. So instead of specializing in accounting I went into finance and then I learned about this magical thing called investment banking. And we're like, Oh, that sounds kind of interesting. You get to be involved with all these companies. Oh, they'll pay you how much to do this, to make slides. That sounds not so bad. And so I went into that and I did my investment banking career for a few years, instead of going into accounting or instead of going to law I think it was great, a phenomenal training ground.

It was part of the M&A group there. So really got to work on a lot of deal experience. I actually did my internship in investment banking in the summer of '07. So it was really kind of the peak of the financial markets. And I got lucky because I think there was a lot of deals going on. And so I remember working on what we call the LBO machine where we had these very simple models. And even as an intern, they would give it to us and say, Hey, try to figure out which of these deals or which of these kind of public companies would make good LBO targets. So even as an intern, I got some interesting experience and it wasn't just, making slides and things like that as I joked. That was actually a really good time to start off my career and I think was, was a positive experience. And it's part of the reason I kind of went back after my summer.

(03:53) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. And what's interesting is that you went on into the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Could you share a little bit more about why you decided to work there?

(04:01) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, so I think I always knew that banking was going to be temporary. I did enjoy my time there, but I always thought I didn't want to just be an advisor. I wanted to be someone who had skin in the game and kind of putting capital to work. In Canada, the pension funds are kind of pretty dominant. They control a lot of the capital markets. And so, there's a handful of private equity firms but most people kind of went off and work at some of these Canadian pension funds after they'd left the sell side. And so I joined Ontario teachers as kind of one of the opportunities there. I actually joined in a group called long-term equities, which sat between our infrastructure group and our traditional private equity group. So we had a lot of assets and infrastructure that were regulated assets toll roads, ports, things like that. And then we had our private equity group that was kind of more traditional LBOs five years and exit.

And as a pension fund, we thought there should be a group of assets that you could hold for a long time, 10, 15 years that may be generated, teams, IRRs but that were lower risk than what would be in the private equity group. So I joined that and it was, good deal experience to start. We looked at towers, we looked at parking lots. We actually had an interesting asset, which is called Camelot, which owned the UK national lottery. So some interesting stuff there, but I find myself, basically just testing how many of these companies were defensive recession proof. Can this company consistently grow 3% to 5% a year? And well, I completely recognized the need and the use of this asset class within the pension system, it just, wasn't getting me up in the morning. I wasn't really excited by it. actually, an opening came up around the corner from where I was sitting at a group at Ontario Teachers called "Relationship Investing" which tells you absolutely nothing about what the group actually does but it was kind of one of the first crossover groups and what we did what we called kind of solution capital so most of what we did was pipe financings for companies and that we're looking to buy companies.

We did companies that were over levered and they needed some capital to de-lever but then we also did some block trades. There was even a little bit of catalyst event driven trades, but we also did a lot of pre-IPO financing. And that was really my introduction to the world of tech investing because we had this, again, this traditional private equity group, but they were really focused on buyouts. They wouldn't do, buying 2%, 3%, 5 percent of kind of companies that would IPO in the next few years. And that's really where I got pretty excited by some of the stuff that we were doing this kind of private asset class where a lot of the deal flow ended up being technology-related.

(06:24) Jeremy Au:

And what's interesting is that, you were seeing the technology wave at that time. What were the kind of things you were seeing, technology-wise, or in terms of the startups and companies?

(06:33) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, it was a super interesting time. I started my career in Toronto and I did that for a few years and the deal flow there was a lot more traditional. We looked at things like know, we did a pre IPO around and Michael Kors, which I had worked on. And we did a pipe financing for a Canadian company called Hudson's Bay to buy Saks Fifth Avenue. I then started spending a lot more time on deals internationally and started spending time on Asia and eventually I actually got asked to move out to Asia and start the office in Hong Kong. And that's really when I started seeing a lot more of this deal flow. I worked on Ontario Teachers' first private deal in China, which was actually an online classifieds business called Ganji that we ended up selling to 58.com. I worked on a business called a JD.com, which is now a large public company, which was our second investment in China, our second private investment in China. So it was this really interesting time because capital in China was, it wasn't easy to come by. But really, it was kind of this first wave of penetration pieces investing. We had seen Amazon, we had seen Facebook, we had seen some of these large players emerging in the West. And now we are getting these businesses coming out of China, India, Southeast Asia that were replicating what was happening in the West.

And it was just a really interesting time because you could take a look at those business models, take a look at those analogs and really kind of invest based on what was happening forwards. It was almost like you had a crystal ball in those times. And I think honestly, at the time I was, still pretty early in my career. I think I didn't really appreciate how good we had it because right now you sit in Southeast Asia and especially in China and India, a lot of these business models are now starting to innovate and leapfrog the stuff that's happening in the Us. And of course, the pace of innovation is much, much quicker. And so then, you had kind maybe years between the what was happening in the US And what was happening in China. And so you could really kind of take your time and see what happened there and kind of benchmark and compare. Now, you have weeks, right? Maybe months before these business models are replicated, if they're really good business models and you actually don't have the ability as much to see what the actual outcome will be. You just know that it's attracted venture funding and it's grown well, right? You don't have the benefit of saying this is five years ahead. And so I think that was, really interesting learning that I wrestle with today as I look at some stuff in these markets compared to, when I was looking at this, a decade ago in China and India.

(08:44) Jeremy Au:

And what's interesting is that after that you moved to Naspers, which was much more focused on this as well. Could you share more?

(08:48) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, so I spent a lot of time at Ontario Teachers and I think there, even though I was a generalist and I was doing public and private I really gravitated towards this pre IPO stakes think a lot of it was also a function of just the maturity of the capital markets. This kind of solution, capital pipe financings didn't exist as.

As in an as robust fashion in these markets as they did in the West, know, maybe a little bit of Japan maybe Australia, whatnot, but that Australia, those markets weren't necessarily where the growth was, and then at the same time, I also gravitated a lot towards technology because that was the majority of the deal flow and also what I found exciting. And so I wanted to go to a place that was really focused on technology investing. And so this opportunity came up at Naspers. I actually moved out to Dubai for a year to be part of that team. It was in the FinTech investing team and I had thought, Hey, I'd done consumer internet investing. FinTech's basically the same thing without financial services. financial service investor would be a better place to do some of the stuff than a consumer internet investor, but it was, it was a great learning experience. I had this dual-prong role as leading MNA atPay-U, which is a big payment gateway that was wholly owned by Naspers.

Did a lot of M&A, which is actually not what I had expected as well as leading fintech investing for for Naspers and process so did everything from Series A investing, you know a million dollar check all the way up to worked on buyouts of several billion dollars. So ran the whole gamut and really became a sector-specialist in fintech and today, even though, you know I'm a generalist. I still spend a lot of time on that area because I think it was just such a formative part of kind of the deal flows. I

(10:20) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. And what were some of the interesting things or companies or trends that you observed while at Naspers?

(10:26) Fady Abdel-Nour:

So I think, I'll bring it back to some of the conversations we had earlier about this penetration thesis, right? So although we're in a world where trends get replicated a lot more quickly when you have regulated businesses, sometimes that's that's harder, right? You need to get licenses. You need to deal with local regulators to allow To allow you to, and so I think we spent a lot of time on payments and alternative lending in the space because these markets had massive gaps in terms of digital payments and massive gaps in terms of credit. And so we spent a lot of time on on India specifically financing companies and payments. And watching that, that data.

Digital adoption trend grow, and now I think it's it's a well known fact for people spending time in these markets that India has, UPI, one of the strongest real time payments. Networks in the world. And, know, I was investing in, in FinTech at a time when India went through demonetization, right?

So you kind of woke up one day and for a period of a week, cash on in India, when you had e commerce, something like 70 percent of it was paid cash on delivery. So someone would show up and you'd pay them the good. But for this week after demonetization, it had flipped like 70 percent of the transactions were actually digital. And so it kind of was this aha moment of this can actually happen in the country. And it wasn't that there was a massive kind of fall off in the number of transactions. There was some, but it wasn't a drastic fall off. So that was just a really interesting moment in time when we saw that happen and saw that India could become a country with kind of massive digital adoption.

Now it's still behind a lot of other markets, but I think that potential stays there. And then we start investing in those trends and in other countries in Brazil and Colombia and Indonesia, and I think that was pretty exciting. And then, of course, we know now I think China has leapfrogged the US In terms In terms of digital penetration, and there's, I think, a higher percentage of non cash transactions in, In China versus versus the U S which I think is kind of fascinating. So these levers do matter and do have strong impacts over time.

(12:18) Jeremy Au:

And, you're working across, different geographies and countries. So you mentioned you've seen these different trends. How did you think about it from kind of like strategy and prioritization

(12:27) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah. So I think that's actually something that I learned very well at Naspers. It was this, I think a lot of people from the outside view this organization as know, investing in a lot of things, pretty diverse, taking, a lot of wide variety of bets, but from the inside there was actually a pretty disciplined process in terms of how you would bring things to committee. One of the, the first things I worked on was this strategy paper that I still kind of referred to today on, on credit strategy. And so we would take a look at which markets have the largest gaps in, in credit penetration and then which markets Are the largest, right? And so we actually started to focus a lot on Brazil and India to start with as very large markets, but still markets that were very, very underserved.

Then we kind of prioritized which models do we want to go after? And so started looking at consumer lending to start. Anthenem. We went at looking at SME lending later. And so Is this really kind of macro view to start with? And then we just met as many companies as we could in those spaces. We ended up making a couple of investments in India, in consumer lending, one of them was a business called pay sense that we initially funded this year's aid of 13 million valuation.

We ended up actually acquiring the whole thing later at close to 200 million. I guess we liked what was happening there. And the founder rolled over most of the stake and actually has, since I left been taken out the rest of the stake at, close to a unicorn valuation. There was another business that we funded in Brazil, still, know, one of the best business I've seen, which was a digital mortgage company. We ended up I think co leading the series B with, with IFC at the time that 32 million valuation, and then lots of other investors came after it. I don't know what the current markets, but I think the last. round was, was it a 4 billion valuation or something like that?

It was this business where people were using credit cards to fund their mortgages, right? People that should be getting mortgages and the banks in Brazil were just so conservative that these guys basically stepped in and lent them for their houses in, in, in other markets, something that would be a no brainer, but because of the interest rate environment, they were still paying, call it 18 percent interest rates on a secured product.

That would have been something like a 65 percent LTV with very, very little NPLs because it's secured. And so it's, it's, it's a really crazy business. Cause I remember the founder telling me. I could stop originating tomorrow and I would still have cash flows for eight years, right?

Because of the duration of that product. I think we just saw some really interesting trends at that time. Look, of course it was a low interest rate environment and these businesses were a lot easier to back and a lot easier to fund. But I think in prioritizing these markets and looking for large outcomes, we were able to, Really find some some exciting businesses.

(15:00) Jeremy Au:

And what's interesting is that after that you went on to work at Antler. Could you share more?

(15:05) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, So I think at the time I was starting to look at opportunities outside corporates and large organizations. I had been at Ontario teachers, a 200 billion plan, Naspers or process 100 billion market cap companies, working on a hundred million transactions, if not kind of transactions of several billion dollars.

And so I had never really worked at somewhere that was kind of smaller and more entrepreneurial. And so I was looking for that. At the same time I was based in Hong Kong and look, I think a lot of the listeners will understand the political environment in Hong Kong. So I was looking to leave there and and come to Singapore.

And so I had. Spoken to a few folks in Singapore that were funds and then met Magnus, who is the founder of Antler. And it was just really, really impressed with his vision, his scale, what he was building, how rapidly he would scale this this business. And I was able to enter partway through the fundraise for this Antler Growth Fund that we were putting together. And so it's not often you get to join one of these platforms really at, at the ground floor. And so that to me was, was really exciting. The ability to take a lot of what I'd learned at these other organizations. I, I was pretty confident in myself in the ability to kind find, pick, win deals especially as part of a platform.

But I thought, at least the first two I could do as well as part of a smaller organization. I realized I'd probably have to hustle a little bit more to, to win deals. But I think that was something I felt comfortable backing myself on. But there was a whole range of of things such as kind of, building a team around it, managing the firm kind of really being part of a platform that we're building that I think was, was excited to me and I was, really excited to, to have that challenge.

So joined that platform, I think about nine months later we ended up closing the fund at a 285 million fund, which we were quite happy about for a first time growth vehicle, especially in this market environment. I've got great partners in London and New York and a great team. And so pretty excited by what we've built and the opportunity to do that.

(16:58) Jeremy Au:

And when you said that you were excited by the vision, what would you say is the vision?

(17:02) Fady Abdel-Nour:

So it's, it's funny because it's actually a continuation of some of the things that I've been talking about where entrepreneurship is not centralized, right? Of course, there's a ton of unicorns that come out of the US It's, the world's best venture market. But there's also this great ecosystem that exists in Silicon Valley that just doesn't exist in a lot of other places in terms of giving support to entrepreneurs.

And I think still to today we look at businesses In other markets and see, what the differences are. Try to share with our entrepreneurs kind of learnings from other markets. We have a great business in our portfolio called Aura which is like a hymns and hers of Southeast Asia for folks that are familiar with that, for those, not it's, it's effectively a business and then subscription Medication platform, but you know, some of the lessons that we've seen on this business and public markets, like their pivot to weight loss medication or Ozempic and whatnot are things that we're now sharing with, with this founder.

And he's very plugged in and, and paying attention to it too, but we can really underwrite to a lot of those trends and see how that can play out in markets like Malaysia and the Philippines the same way it's played out in, in the US, So I think this vision of just glow globally distributed entrepreneurship and enabling the blossoming of new technology ecosystems in places they didn't exist before it was part of the antler vision I think that really resonates

(18:14) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. What's interesting is that in your previous roles, you are principal or global head, and this time around you're a GP of a smaller fund. Could you share a little bit more about what that change in role?

(18:25) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, I think it's interesting because here, on a day to day basis everything you do kind of contributes to the success of the vehicle, right? And even at Process Naspers, I was leading fintech investing or leading corporate development as part of this payments platformPay-U, but it's still to some extent a lot of the strategy was being driven by what the investment committee would approve what people would say yes to and so you weren't always necessarily free to invest in anything you wanted to. And I guess i'll i'll tell the story now it's it's been a while, but I think one of the things that really got me thinking about about making a move was this credit business that we had in brazil Creditas, we were looking to lead the series C, which would have been at, a few hundred million valuation.

I think Vostok ended up leading in the end. So another kind of great fun. And because we didn't have a strong business in Brazil, our payments business Pay-U we got told by our investment committee that, you don't have any synergies with this business. You really don't have a right to play there. And so, it's not something that you could be doing. And so we couldn't really be looking at these financial outcomes. And I couldn't really make a decision just based on something that I really, really believed was, was a great business. Whereas right now, our investment community, it's me and and two other partners. So if any of us has strong conviction, we kind of bring it to the table, have the discussion and really put it in the book. And it gets to spend basically all day right now with entrepreneurs learning about trends, learning about their businesses. And I think that's just, it's such a fun job, right? That every day you wake up, you meet a handful of folks that are doing something that they're incredibly passionate about things that, sometimes, know, a little bit about it, sometimes, nothing about. I tell this story sometimes, but. I spent a bunch of time with a business that came out of our Southeast Asia, early stage fund called Biogenes out of Malaysia and it was doing something called Aptamers and I had, I'd never even heard the word Aptimers before I spent time on this business. And they're basically synthetic protein.

So instead of, killing mice and experimenting on mice, you can, in a lab, create this synthetic protein to test on. And it's, pretty innovative technology that I just didn't even know existed. And so I'd spent a couple months of of my life learning about that. We, we never ended up doing the deal for, for other reasons, but I think it was just an exciting time to learn about things that were just not even on my radar before.

So I count myself very lucky to have a job where I can every day go in Meet founders, learn new things, but also have an impact and where I really believe on something, I can, I can make that decision and make an impact.

(20:49) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, amazing. And from your perspective, you've obviously looking at Southeast Asia as a market and Asia as well. I think obviously you also feel like you've gone through several booms and busts, right? You have the Asian financial crisis in your career. You have seen the dot com crash as well. So what are your thoughts from your perspective?

(21:07) Fady Abdel-Nour:

I think right now is a really interesting time for Southeast Asia because a lot of the investors that had invested in these markets historically just aren't here, the likes of, you know, even the tigers of the world and whatnot, which are spending a lot of time in Southeast Asia and these other markets looking for growth are increasingly focused on developed markets and really increasingly focused on the US. And so, it's good and it's bad. I mean, I think we look at businesses and I think there's less capital. So it means some of the metrics in the businesses you're looking to back No, not as strong as you might've seen years ago, but when you see a good business, know, it means it's a very resilient business and in a more boom market, I think we'll do even better than it's doing today.

So I think it's a really great time to be deploying capital. I think there are candidly fewer opportunities than there might've been years ago, but I think there's also kind of fewer silly opportunities and less temptation to maybe do some things that I think a lot of us in this industry had done in 2020 and 2021. And so I'm, I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to be deploying capital over this year and the next year, even . I do feel this market starting to turn. And think with that, there may be the arrival of some international investors looking to these markets as well, we're starting to see actually a lot of investors from markets like Japan come to Southeast Asia, look for opportunities. So maybe it's not the same ilk of us investors, but I think it's, these markets still have very strong growth. And I think there'll be people willing to deploy capital in these markets, which will lead to a good outcomes in the medium term.

(22:36) Jeremy Au:

When you look at, Southeast Asia, you also have some exposure to, kind of like a China and India story as well. How do you think they stack up? The joke they often say is India is the next China, Southeast Asia is the next India, everybody's all equals to each other. How do you think about that?

(22:51) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah. I think they're all actually very different. And I think right now they're actually more different than they have been historically. I think China, because of geopolitical tensions is uninvestable for a lot of folks. And so I think China and India are two markets where they're big enough domestically to have large unicorn outcomes, but a lot of folks are just not, touching China. And if they are it's an offshore structures or they're investing via public vehicles. I think you're going to see very little, international capital touch domestic Chinese startups.

So that opportunity set, I think is just one where folks that invested in historically Can't or aren't accessing right now. And so I think it'll be exciting for us to see, some of these businesses that end up growing and getting very large because we actually might not have seen them at their early stages, the same way we might've seen them in years before, because probably just not looking at them for because of, LP pressures or political pressures or whatnot. But I think you will see some very interesting businesses coming out of that market over the next decade or so.

And probably, as I mentioned, businesses that leapfrogged and the stuff that's happening in other parts of the globe, we're seeing a lot of Deep tech being happening. We were seeing a lot of deep tech happening in China these days, but we're also seeing a lot of Chinese founders appreciate this trend and kind of moving offshore, moving to Singapore, moving to the Middle East and building large global businesses because the tech talent in China is still very, very strong. I mean, one of the first deals, actually the first deal I had done in Southeast Asia, back when I was at Ontario teachers was a business called Garena, which is now C, which is a very large public company. I probably should have just stopped there it can't get much better in Southeast Asia, but I think one of the secrets that they had was Forrest had built a team in Shanghai, which was a very strong tech team, instead of kind of leveraging some of the engineering talent in other markets, which at the time wasn't as strong as what was happening in China. And I think that let him really scale much quicker than other competitors in the region.

So we know China has massive tech talent. And I think right now we're seeing founders do a variation of that trend where they're building globally, but maybe leveraging the resources in China. Sorry, I know that's a lot of time on China and it's actually a market I don't spend that much time on today. So I can move on. But I think India is a market I have spent a lot of time on. Historically, it's a market that I continue to be quite excited about. I think the pace of innovation there has really accelerated, and we're seeing a lot of businesses that are really exciting. And know, we have a business in our Antler India portfolio that's a space tech business, right?

I mean, not many markets are capable of creating kind of space tech businesses. And so there's really some really interesting, innovative, strong technological foundations in India that's quite interesting. And so not only do these businesses have the ability to be strong domestically, but I think they have the ability to export globally as well. We're spending time on another business as well that is copying a little bit of the, the Freshworks playbook, which is leveraging talent in India to actually sell into the U S and target companies in the U S because of the strong talent there, as well as a little bit of the, of the cost advantage in that market.

So I think we're starting to see the export of these SaaS businesses out of India, which is a trend that I expect to continue and something that that's pretty exciting. And we're also seeing the emergence of some AI businesses in India as well. So I think a lot, it's a market that I continue to be excited about both for its domestic prospects, but as well as its ability to export into large global outcomes. And then I think Southeast Asia is exciting as well. I think this won't a surprise to anyone who spends time in this region, but it's, it's not one market, right? I mean, I think Singapore is very different from Indonesia, different from the Philippines. So it's a market that we spend a lot of time on, but we're really spending time, I think, on these individual markets.

You can invest in Southeast Asia and not spend time on Indonesia. I think Singapore is starting to be a hub in FinTech, especially because you have companies like Rapyd or Thunes even PayPal and Stripe have put senior folks on the ground here. And I think some of these people are leaving and starting businesses in FinTech, which are large, which have large potential outcomes because they just happen to be based in Singapore but are selling globally. So I think that's a theme that I'm pretty excited about as well as the large domestic markets. Look, not to be cliche, but especially in Indonesia, 300 million people. It's not a market that you can ignore.

(26:56) Jeremy Au:

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

(26:59) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, so I think earlier talked about that I moved to Asia, a long time ago. I probably just mentioned it briefly, but I think it was actually a little bit more complicated than that. I had actually put my hand up for international assignment when I was at Ontario Teachers. We had an office in London, we had an office in New York, and I was in finance thinking I've got to go to one of these major hubs if I'm going to really, make it in finance.

So I got pulled aside one day and said, Hey we're thinking about opening an office in Hong Kong and we'd like you to move out there. And that wasn't something that was on my radar at all. I had lived at home during university. When I started investment banking, I moved, but like downtown 20 minutes from my parents. I had really only started traveling internationally for work. I think I had, since my parents moved to Canada, I hadn't been on a plane, like the first time I've been on a plane was in university or something like that. I hadn't had extensive travel then. And this will be funny for people to hear because my friends that know me know I'm now on a plane, every other week.

So I think I'm compensating or making up for lost time, but I really had no desire to to move out to Asia. So when they first asked me I actually said no know, that's not what I had in mind if you want me to move to New York You know really excited about that, but I think hong kong wasn't something I wanted to do And so I think my boss at the time, to his credit, said, you know what, you don't have to decide right now. We, we were doing this investment in, in JD. com. I was going out to Beijing for a diligence trip. He said, know, go to Beijing and then why don't you go to Hong Kong for a little bit and see what you think, spend the weekend there on us, feel it out. And I had actually had a few friends that had moved over to Asia at the time.

So I went there for the weekend, met a few friends, scoped it out. And look, I was, He's hanging out in Hong Kong for a weekend, I think they knew I was going to have a tough time saying no. So I think I came back from that trip really excited, both by the opportunity I saw in China, what was happening at JD. com. I remember actually on that trip had met some folks from Tiger who we were co investing with in that. Round in JD. And they were just extremely excited by the opportunity, both in China and India, and then met my friends that were just absolutely having a blast in Hong Kong. And so I went back and I kind of negotiated.

It's silly at the time like, how long do you want me to go out there for? Maybe I could do a year and see what I feel like. And my boss was like, look, it doesn't make sense. You've got to sign up for at least two years. And it's funny. Actually, my parents were having a bit of a tough time with this as well. They'd never thought that I would move away. And so I remember getting this, this email from my dad saying Hey what about 18 months? Can you negotiate? And I said, look, I think between 18 months and two years, it doesn't really matter. And so I remember getting this touching email saying Hey, even if it's two years, I think it's a good opportunity.

And now I've been in Asia since 2013, so more than a decade later. So it seems silly to, in retrospect that I was thinking about one or two years. But I think. They treated me well they gave me lots of opportunities. I moved out to Hong Kong with just two other people one guy doing funds, one guy doing buyouts. And I was basically doing all of Ontario teachers, a minority private investing in the region, like in, in my mid twenties. And so that was really exciting. That's how I got to work on Ontario teachers for steel in China, for steel in India, for steel in Southeast Asia. So I think it's really been formative to my career, but it's funny to think about decision that I eventually said yes to that I originally had said no to.

(30:10) Jeremy Au:

And, let's just say there was a time machine, right? And you could go in it and you could go back from today back to that point of time where they, or when you were deciding whether to raise your hand for this Asia stint. What advice would you give to your younger self?

(30:23) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Yeah, I will answer that, but I, I remember sitting down with a friend of mine who had given me advice about whether to move or not and he had lived in Beijing for, for a number of years and we were having dinner, I think it was two years into my stint, he goes, remember when You asked me whether you should move or not. And I said, yeah, I was like, wasn't that the dumbest question you could have asked? I was like, yeah, it actually worked out quite well. And so I think the advice would be just, this is a really exciting time. I think you don't realize how good an opportunity you have in this market right now.

Just, just go and make the most of it. And I think I really, Did do that. So I don't know if it needs to be very, very strong advice, but I think there was a lot of for the first, year feeling things out. And, know, am I going to stay? Am I going to go? How how long am I going to be here? Do I need to keep my ties back to Canada? And I think just kind of saying, Hey, go in, jump in with, two feet. You know, this is a really exciting place to be. There's lots of opportunities is the advice that, that I would have given Fady from 11 years ago.

(31:19) Jeremy Au:

Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. On that note, I'd love to kind of like, summarize three big takeaways for me. First of all, thank you so much for sharing about your early experience at Ontario Teachers as well as at Naspers. I think it was fascinating to hear about, your own reflections about what makes a good venture capital ecosystem, but also what are the kind of patterns and startup founders that really get to the next level.

Secondly, thanks so much for sharing about why you moved to Southeast Asia and also why you're focusing on at Antler in terms of the mission and vision to really help the next generation our founders really access that growth capital. And I really appreciated what you shared about the vision about making sure that no matter where they are around the world, that these founders have the coverage and support from a venture capital perspective.

Lastly, thanks so much for sharing your own personal experiences. I appreciate you sharing about why it was scary to move to Asia back then. But also I appreciate some of the humor around it, right? Which is that today feels like such a simple decision, but it was just a personal experience for you.

So on that note, thank you so much for sharing.

(32:14) Fady Abdel-Nour:

Great. Thank you so much for having me on Jeremy.