“Founders need to have a grander vision earlier on and be able to convey that and not just focus on we're going to be the best in Malaysia, but we're going to be the best in Southeast Asia. That mentality switch shows the strength of ambition that is necessary in order to get an investor. There are a number of options that are out there and available. Many of them are big time wastes where you may be able to get a little bit of capital out of it, but you'll spend months and months trying to get 50k. There's a little bit of caution to be played as far as where your time is being spent. And then, not all advice is created equal. Do not take anybody's advice as I need to do this exactly as this person said. Take people's advice, work it into your own framework.” - Kevin Brockand
“The bigger point is that Malaysia has not yet gone through the strength of generational cycles that you see in some other markets where you have instances of a second time, third-time founders. You don't have many of those and you don't have many stories of employee number three now spinning off to start their own startup where they experienced hyper-growth. You have that in Singapore. You now have that in Indonesia as well. We're lacking some of that component in the maturity of the ecosystem in that respect. We need to do better in normalizing the pathway of entrepreneurship. I've worked in Latin America and in many parts of the world and there's a stigma around entrepreneurship where you need to go get that steady paycheck. It's stable. It's consistent. It's reliable. The expectation is that you're going to go the family pathway. So you need all of that stability. We need to normalize entrepreneurship and that it's okay to take those risks. The combination of that would go a long way towards improving the ecosystem.” - Kevin Brockland
“First, we can't be so obsessive around the jurisdictional domicile of the location because if we're going to pool capital, it needs to be where those other capital providers are willing to put their money, which generally, there were 5 destinations: US, Delaware, Singapore, then came in BVI. It used to be Hong Kong, but politics have changed. So I don't know what constitutes the 5th anymore. We have Labuan, but it's just not here. Second, we recently had a program that did just that. There were 4 or 5 investment funds that came out of that matching program. The problem that I have with that is that they all went late-stage and so it wasn't really addressing any of the areas where I believe that there's a true funding gap. It's not at the A, it's not at the B, it's not at the growth stage. We really need to try and do those matching programs at the earlier stage of going after seed funds, maybe companies, maybe ones that still do, but definitely not beyond, because again, the larger the check, the more international the capital, and it's just not the pain point.” - Kevin Brockland
1. Founding Indelible Ventures: Kevin sheds light on his early journey and shares the pivotal moments that inspired him: having young kids, prior investment pursuits, and his ambition to further embed himself in the venture landscape. Kevin articulated the process of choosing a focal geography, crystallizing an investment thesis, erecting a robust network, and pooling resources for the fund. He emphasized the potential he observed in Malaysia, especially within the pre-seed space, and discussed the thrill of spotting and nurturing nascent ventures that have the potential to reshape industries.
2. Elevating Malaysia's Startup Ecosystem: Kevin and Jeremy examined the nuances of Malaysia's startup landscape in comparison to its regional counterparts. Kevin contrasts Malaysia against its regional peers, pinpointing areas like capital formation, legal policies, corporate domicile, and local nurturing that need augmentation. He highlighted the importance of fostering an ecosystem that doesn't just focus on current founders but paves the way for the next generation. This includes building a robust educational foundation, instilling entrepreneurial mindsets from a young age, and ensuring that budding entrepreneurs have access to resources, networks, and opportunities to turn their visions into realities.
3. Navigating Fatherhood: Kevin and Jeremy shared personal stories about the unanticipated joys and challenges of becoming fathers to two girls. Kevin reminisced the days leading up to the news of his impending fatherhood and how it caught him off guard. Despite the initial shock, he emphasized that life's unpredictability often brings the most treasured moments. He drew parallels between the entrepreneurial spirit and parenthood, explaining that there's never a "perfect" time to start a family. Rather than seeking a precise blueprint or waiting for the ideal moment, the key is to embrace the journey, adapt to the changes, and cherish the learning along the way.
They also discussed the interplay between professional acceleration and personal evolution, the tips on forging genuine and long-lasting professional relationships, the dynamics of networking in the region, the invaluable support of a business community, and balancing work and family.
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 www.ringkas.co.id
(02:00) Jeremy Au:
Hey, Kevin. Really excited to have you on the show. It's been awesome hanging out with you and you're an expert on Malaysia and especially on the venture capital scene. So really excited to have your perspective. Could you please introduce yourself real quick?
(02:13) Kevin Brockland:
Sure. I am the founder and managing partner of Indelible Ventures based here in Kuala Lumpur. Also the host of the podcast, Sea of Startups, which focuses on this founder stories here in Malaysia as well. And then I run a number of events, series and also recently relaunched Founder Institute, a pre-seed accelerator here in Malaysia as well.
(02:36) Jeremy Au:
Amazing. Yeah. I was part of your demo day. That was just a few weeks ago and I thought it was just really heartening to see a lot of young founders still very early, definitely pre-seed and I think there was a handful that kind of like we're on the right track and I think investors were engaging much more deeply with them. But overall, I thought it was a great facilitation by yourself for them.
(02:53) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah, I think it's a necessary component. I've long thought and the reason why I did it in the first place of relaunching Founder Institute was we have this big gap in the very early stages, when you think about developing an ecosystem, you have to layer up from the bottom. And so getting that pre-seed accelerator serve is a necessary component so that we can grow companies that graduate up to a seed stage, which is where Indelible focuses. So there is a benefit of perhaps maybe I can create some pipeline for myself. But overall the ecosystem, the only way to build large companies is to start off with small companies that get bigger.
(03:28) Jeremy Au:
Right. Boo. I just want to harvest the big ones. Why do all this work? Why, Kevin? So why have you been nurturing startups for such a long time? Could you share a little bit more about your early journey?
(03:40) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah, so obviously I'm not Malaysian. You can certainly tell that one, but I came to Malaysia maybe about seven years ago now. I was working for another investment fund where our mandate was, they called it Asia, but it was really just South and Southeast Asia. So it was relatively narrow. The investment mandate was relatively narrow as well. Most of my time was spent in the high volume markets, which would be India and Indonesia. But because I was living in Malaysia, I got quite involved into the startup ecosystem and I was volunteering my time as a business coach, as a mentor for a variety of programs that function here and I kept on seeing a similar sort of story where there was a lot of potential. I think a number of the programs that are here they're operating not from the startup ecosystem sort of standpoint, but more of like administrative agencies that are looking to develop things and they lack some of that developmental skill set towards that sort of 0 to 1 problem that companies have.
And so over that time period, I recognized that there was an issue there. And then as well, the funding ecosystem has a very gaping hole. That is a big challenge to its overall development, which is seed stage. You can find angels perhaps for getting the pre seed and getting off the ground, getting off the ground. And as the check size gets larger, you can tap into international markets. Certainly our Southern neighbor of Singapore, where you're at is the primary source where people go to, but when you're trying to get to that point at that seed stage, there's really not very many options. You can count the available options on less than one hand, and that does not bode well for the ecosystem. So that kind of triggered me into action and about two years ago, decided to launch Indelible Ventures. That was intended to bridge that gap, albeit we have a specific thesis around looking at B2B companies. But it was still to see that identify that funding gap and one to plug that in, and that just snowballed into wanting to do more in order to support the ecosystem as well.
(05:48) Jeremy Au:
Amazing. So what have you noticed about the pre-seed and seed, the early stage for startups in Malaysia? You and I have talked shortly before about how it compares against the US but also how it compares against Southeast Asia so what are your perspectives?
(06:02) Kevin Brockland:
So there's a number of things that I could comment on, but I think that probably the bigger point to make is that Malaysia has not yet gone through the strength of generational cycles that you see in some other markets where you have a couple instances of second time, third time founders, but you don't have very many of those and you don't have many stories of employee number three now spinning off to start their own startup where they experienced hyper growth. And now they kind of have that knowledge set that then they can go on and start their own new startup and endeavor upon a new venture. You have that in Singapore. You now have that in Indonesia as well. And I think we're really lacking some of that component in the maturity of the ecosystem from that respect.
I think as well, we need to do better on normalizing the pathway of entrepreneurship. I've worked in Latin America. I've worked in many parts of the world and most parts of the world, there's a stigma around entrepreneurship where you need to go get that steady paycheck. It's stable. It's consistent. It's reliable. The expectation that you're going to go the family pathway. So you need all of that stability. We need to normalize entrepreneurship and that it's okay to take those risks. And I think the combination of that would go a long way towards improving the ecosystem.
(07:31) Jeremy Au:
Very true. I think what's interesting, why you dropped my memory is that Malaysia, as well as Thailand, actually have really high GDP per capita in ASEAN. And actually I would say Indonesia and Vietnam are both one tier lower in terms of GDP per capita and Singapore is top of that. So what's interesting at this conversation here is that, it doesn't link right in a sense. Like, you know, it feels like Indonesia and Vietnam are already starting to have that generational side. I think they're on a second generation now, but it doesn't feel like Malaysia has really come, had that click. Do you think there's a fair assessment from your perspective?
(08:03) Kevin Brockland:
I do. And I normally say that Malaysia is starting to fall behind its neighbors. When I arrived into the region, it would be fair to say that Malaysia was kind of the number two market, second to Singapore. But now it's well fallen behind, in my opinion, to Indonesia, not just in the amount of capital or the number of deals, but the maturity of the market is moving forward pretty rapidly. And the same can be said about Vietnam. And now we're starting to see movements in the Philippines and in Thailand. So that opportunity window here is shifting. Now, if we kind of try and make some assumptions on why did that happen? I think part of it is the force of the movement of capital, because when we started seeing the floodgates open on capital going into Indonesia, it really had, not to use this term in a derogatory manner, but there was really kind of this spray and pray approach where a lot of money went to seed a lot of companies, they were able to experience a lot of fast paced growth. And it is a large population market. And oftentimes in the early stages of a startup ecosystem, the majority of the companies are going to be more B2C-focused because they're solving those consumer problems. And if you're going B2C, you need mass market. And so, there's a logical understanding of why did it occur in those markets in Vietnam, albeit it's not the size of Indonesia.
It's still a large population market, and there is strong preference for locally developed. So there is a good justification for moving into that market, along with the high talent bar and all of that as well. Malaysia has a different characteristic, so we can't necessarily expect to follow that same path. But I think the area where Malaysia can compete on is to recognize that it has historically been the number two rank in regards to a regional hub for corporate entities. Using Malaysia as the hub for treating with ASEAN countries, whether it's a multinational, the locally developed ones, so we can leverage on that kind of positioning base. And I think that there's a big opportunity for the B2B segment to leverage Malaysia, and that's kind of where I'm staking my thought process on, in regards to where the startup ecosystem should evolve here.
(10:22) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, that's totally fair. And I think the point about capital formation as a function or driver of a startup ecosystem is really important, right? Historically a lot of people are like, okay, there aren't a lot of startups here. Therefore there isn't going to be a lot of venture capital here. But I think what we've seen from a lot of ecosystems is almost the other way around, which is that, when you are able to bring capital into the country, whether it's foreign direct investment, in this case, private assets, in this case, venture capital, then you have a crop of investors that are busy coaching, nurturing and inspiring founders to take those larger moonshot ideas with accelerated timetable.
So I think we saw that with Singapore. We also saw that a little bit with Indonesia and Vietnam rather accelerating that capital formation. I want to talk a little bit more about that then, in terms of Malaysia, what do you think is the pace of capital formation? You mentioned as a very key part from your perspective.
(11:11) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. The big challenge is on one side. A lot of this sources of capital, look at it and say, I can handle it from Singapore because it's so close and it's basically less than an hour flight to get from one point to another. And so there's this perception that you can simply treat it that way, which is fine when it comes to the larger size companies, but when you're talking about building those initial layers of having the ground game to see who's coming up for through the pre-seed ranks and who's cut graduating into the seed ranks that requires a little bit more of a physical presence in order to be able to do it justice and actually be able to spend time because otherwise it can become a costly affair to constantly be hopping onto that plane to come in and visit the market.
(12:01) Kevin Brockland:
And so it just doesn't make as much sense. Now, the challenge there is that in order to establish a physical presence in a market, there needs to be sufficient enough volume to justify that physical presence. So, when you think about some of these other markets that have benefited, Singapore is a bit different just because the capital was already located there because of its history as a financial sensor, and it oftentimes gets treated as the kind of the capital of the region. I know some people are going to not like me phrasing it that way, but it kind of has that sort of characteristic where.
(12:37) Jeremy Au:
Happy National Day, Singapore. There we go.
(12:40) Kevin Brockland:
Exactly, but like the same way that you would look at it and say, San Francisco is the center of gravity for the startup ecosystem in the US. Singapore has historically been the center of gravity. Now, new centers are coming along. But when it comes to Malaysia, we need to be able to produce more and consistent volume. And the second part of that consistent volume is another area where we've lagged of being able to have consistent quality. And so I think we need to much better improvement on the available resources to incubate and accelerate the startups that are coming up here. And I think part of that, if I'm being perfectly honest on some of the scenario here, the startup ecosystem is very much kind of I don't want to say overwhelmed, but it's basically the majority of the action that's going on is going through government entities and it's not necessarily always public, private. It's mostly public.
(13:47) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, I think it was interesting because there have been successful companies that Malaysian or Malaysian founded. Right. So we want to name a few of them off the top of your mind. I think Grab is a big one.
(13:57) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah that's the big one. And that's always the touchy point for having a conversation in Malaysia, because the history of it starting off as my taxi then it got funding from one of the government entities, Cradle, and then as it started to grow, it needed more capital and incomes to mass and says, I'd love to give you money, but let's relocate your headquarters over here. I'm sure there's details that I'm summarizing and leaving out with that, but the fact that 1 of the largest tech companies in the region left its home country is a very touchy point in Malaysia. That being said, at this point, Malaysia has just one unicorn company, and that's CARSOME.
It's still based in Malaysia, but at one point, it changed its holding company structure, because as a company raises more and more money, it's necessary in order to put a holding company on top that kind of goes with what international investors are looking for, whether it's a Singapore, it's a British Virgin Islands, or maybe it's US Delaware, something that has the level of familiarity with legal, tax, regulatory, et cetera, eventually that becomes necessary. So you do have that example with that company and there's a handful of what they've been calling the soonicorns which I'm not a big fan of the terminology, but yeah, centaurs and the, all of the mythical animals and some non mythical, the zebras, the cockroaches we love to basically create a zoo of terminology in the space. But we have other companies that have raised pretty good amounts. It was last year, RPG raised like 30 million. We have a number of other companies that are kind of in that a or B sort of range right now. So it'll be interesting to see as they accelerated along their pathways, whether or not we see some of them end up becoming the big names of the future.
(15:44) Jeremy Au:
And we will see if they move to Singapore, I guess.
(15:46) Kevin Brockland:
That's a good question of whether or not it will happen. I think the whole co- sitting on top is inevitable and chances are, I don't know the details on all of those companies of whether or not they've done it, but it's kind of a standard practice at some point, and it happens with the Indonesian companies. It used to happen with India companies as well, where they create the Singapore hold co it's the natural aspect, if you're living, if your country of domicile is outside of one of these kind of standard internationally recognized, I can put 50 million in this jurisdiction sort of places and Singapore because of its history as a financial sensor and a number of other reasons, it sits at that place. It's got that reputation at how it holds that title.
(16:28) Jeremy Au:
Right. So how should the Malaysia ecosystem improve? I think you mentioned a few of them implicitly. One of them is legal structure, for domicile companies and whole codes. Two is capital formation. Three is more nurturing of pre-seed and seed startups. But I'm just kind of curious. Is there a fair list? Is there more? Which is the most important?
(16:50) Kevin Brockland:
So to be honest with you, I think the legal aspect of it is more of a long term. I know recently they've wanted more VC funds to domicile in Malaysia, prioritizing that at this point in time just doesn't make sense. What we need to be more concerned about is, I don't care where the fund is domiciled. I just want the capital to be invested in this home market and so they should really be working on the incentivization to be agnostic for domicile, but very conscious about where the deployment of that capital is going. Currently, they do have some tax incentives. Does it make sense? The domicile focus on the destination of the capital is definitely an aspect. There is still remains a bit of a crowding out effect because of the size of government involvement. It becomes much more public versus public-private, and we need to start weaning that away so that it becomes much greater on the private participation.
Without private participation, you start lacking the ability to bring in expert knowledge, experience, et cetera. Unfortunately, government entities across the globe, it's not unique to here. They generally just do not have, because if you have that knowledge set, generally you're in the private sector because it pays a whole lot better. And so, there's that aspect and definitely as I referenced before, we need to layer up the ecosystem. So we need to really focus on those earlier stages. I oftentimes disagree when I see some of the efforts getting steered. A lot of times, they say that the biggest problem is more on the A and B stages. I don't see that being the case whatsoever because the larger the check size, the more international the capital is. It doesn't really matter as much anymore. So if we want to focus on getting more of those companies, we needed to focus on starting from the beginning and layering them up to where they can succeed.
If a company is at B round and unable to raise capital, it's not necessarily a factor of that country market. It could be the industry has fallen out of favor. Or maybe they're just not competitive to the pool of global options that are out there. There's many different factors. Maybe they need to focus on being just plain profitable. There's a number of reasons why you may not graduate from B to C. That doesn't mean that it's not a good business. It just means that it may have fallen off the VC path.
(19:13) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. I like the nuance here which is that I think it wasn't obvious to me honestly a year ago but it's become much clearer, is that if your series C, series D, everybody is there, right? And all the global investors know who you are. They have you on Pitchbook. They have an automated trigger that goes on and says, let's make sure we talk to them every year, every six months, and let's see where they are, right? All the companies are being kind of like tracked from a global, if not regional headquarters that can service the whole of Asia, the whole of Southeast Asia, for example. And I think, obviously, Series B, Series A is that gray zone, which I think is fair, it's in between there's a mixture of local funds, there's a mixture of regional funds. But I think that definitely the pre-seed and seed are very much, a lot of work needs to go there to make it happen.
(19:58) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah, it's much more localized when it comes to that. And it's very much attributed to the amount of groundwork that you need to do in order to be able to surface that amount of deal flow, because, the size of a portfolio of what constitutes a diversified portfolio, it's much larger at the seed stage and much lower in the later stages. And so in order to be able to accomplish, you need a good ground presence. And that's one of the things that we simply lack here is because we're often, they're oftentimes focusing on the later stages as opposed to the earlier.
(20:29) Jeremy Au:
Let's kind of like double click a little bit on that. So how do you envision this early help groundwork to be done. Sounds, feels like a lot of work. So one is Founder Institute. Obviously, there's demo days, there's exposure. And I think it was good because you actually bring in a good set of regional investors to be part of the demo I think the feedback that we gave help, you know, you could see founders take a step back and just be like, okay, this is the feedback I'm getting right about what needs to be done, but what else do you think needs to be done from your perspective?
(20:55) Kevin Brockland:
So, in my opinion, when an ecosystem still remains early on, I think that there's a higher necessity for a value out approach where you need to spend a little bit more time dedicating into knowledge, transfer, value , all of those aspects which they don't really fit for a portfolio of 100. There's still a need for those types of players out there. But it's generally co-investing alongside of each other, where you need more value add players so that you can skill up the entrepreneurial talent within a market. Some people may end up disagreeing where they say, Hey, I only want to invest in the founders that don't need any help which is a valid point, but if you're talking about,
(21:40) Jeremy Au:
It's a valid investment strategy. Yeah.
(21:42) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. I've never met a founder that doesn't need some sort of assistance. No matter how good a founder is, there's always something that somebody needs. Nobody has a hundred percent of everything that is necessary.
(21:56) Jeremy Au:
The argument would be that, they don't ask you, they ask someone else.
(21:59) Kevin Brockland:
(21:59) Jeremy Au:
Because they're good enough at asking, right? So they do need help, but they figure it out.
(22:03) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. But I think we need more boots on the ground. So there needs to be more incentivization in order to get people spending more time looking at Malaysia as a destination. And really, the only way that's going to happen is if we start producing a greater volume. So we need to be able to do better at some of the incubator and accelerator stages of it. And that was really the intention of launching Founder Institute here was so that we can start participating and creating some of that volume. As that volume develops, then we'll start seeing more companies capable of getting into the seed stage, which the funding gap will still exist. Hopefully we can plug that at least from the Indelible side and leveraging some of our own personal networks, be able to connect them with a network of angels.
And otherwise that can end up bridging that gap. But over the long run, if we keep on plugging away and being able to consistently produce more volume, and we end up showing some of those success cases. We'll end up having more of these funds that say, you know what? We now have a Jakarta office. We have a Ho Chi Minh office. Let's set up a KL office.
(23:09) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. Well, in that case, the airport needs to improve.
(23:13) Kevin Brockland:
The airport does need to be improved and it's very far from the city as well, so.
(23:17) Jeremy Au:
The train is not so bad.
(23:18) Kevin Brockland:
(23:19) Jeremy Au:
But I think the immigration.
(23:21) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. I get the benefit because I have a long-term visa, so I get to go through the automated gates that the locals get to go through. I would love to see the automated gate like that Singapore has, although every time I go through that gate in Singapore, there's always this sign that says, look here because it wants to do the facial scan. And if I look away, it works. If I look directly where it's saying, look here, it like goes through this loop of constantly asking me to look here. But still it's 10, it's hundred times better.
(23:48) Jeremy Au:
That's a blessing in today's AI. Everybody's getting facially tracked these days, but if it turns out that your faces can't be focused on, that's like a superpower, like one of those minor superpowers. Okay.
(24:01) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. It also sometimes asks me to remove my face mask and I'm like, it's just a beard. It's not a face mask.
(24:10) Jeremy Au:
When the apocalypse happens, we know what the resistance needs to do. We all need to grow beards in order to survive the apocalypse, the facial tracking drones. There we go.
(24:22) Kevin Brockland:
Certainly some improvements there could go a long way. Yeah.
(24:25) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, think here's the point that you had, which is, you said public crowding out, right? I think what we saw, for example, in Singapore is that a lot of that decision was made to do it from a matching perspective. So the match investments or the seed and invest in VC funds that would then go on and of course return some capital back to the government eventually. I think the decision there was kind of saying like, hey, we want to see the formation of these allocators, but we don't want to be the ones doing the allocation itself, because these allocators bring their own knowledge, their own coaching, their own perspective. What do you think about that? How do you think that's the right approach in Southeast Asia and Malaysia?
(25:00) Kevin Brockland:
I do I do. I think that's a great approach. I think that there are 2 things that I would say on that is, the 1st that we can't be so obsessive around the jurisdictional domicile of the location because if we're going to pool capital, it needs to be where those other capital providers are willing to put their money, which generally is going to be, there's really like 5 destinations, which it's US, Delaware, it's Singapore came in BVI. I guess it used to be Hong Kong, but politics have changed. So I don't know what constitutes the 5th anymore. But it's just not here. We have Labuan, but it's just not here. So that's the 1 thing.
The 2nd thing is, we recently had a program that did just that. So there were 4 or 5 investment funds that came out of that matching program. The problem that I have with that is that they all went late stage and so it wasn't really addressing any of the area where I believe that there's the true funding gap. It's not at the A, it's not at the B, it's not at the growth stage. We really need to try and do those matching programs at the earlier stage of going after seed funds, maybe company, maybe ones that still do, but definitely not beyond because again, the larger the check, the more international the capital and it's just not the pain point.
(26:18) Jeremy Au:
Yeah, and if you're a fund that's targeting later stage, then you're also going to not just be looking at Malaysia, you're going to be looking to deploy that capital across the region anyway, because again, you can service and look at all the late stage companies across the
(26:29) Kevin Brockland:
Exactly. Exactly. And if you're going to have a diversified portfolio, it can, at that point, it can't have just one country focus, but at seed stage, you can have a single country focus.
(26:41) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. When you think about all this, if you're a founder in Malaysia, I guess, or an aspiring founder obviously sounds very like, okay, you know, I've gotta vote. Right? There's the only way I can change, or create a government action for why it's worth. But if you are a Malaysian founder and you're looking to build, or you're looking to scale and fundraise, how and what would you recommend them to really focus on?
(27:02) Kevin Brockland:
So I think that there's a couple of things on that. From my experience with founders here, they need to have a grander vision earlier on and be able to convey that and not just focus on we're going to be the best in Malaysia, but we're going to be the best in Southeast Asia. We're going to take over the world. And I think that mentality switch shows the strength of ambition that is necessary in order to get an investor like myself or some other VC really excited because you need somebody that has big aspirations because it's an outlier business. If somebody tells me that their grand ambition is to make 10 million in revenue, I'm like, well, that's not necessarily the pathway that is suited for most VCs. And so I think that's one thing.
The other aspect is, there's a number of options that are out there and available. Many of them are big time wastes where you may be able to get a little bit of capital out of it, but you'll spend months and months trying to get 50k. And so there's a little bit of caution to be played as far as where your time is being spent on whether or not the capital that's going to come out of it is actually worth the time that you're spending.
And then the third thing I'd say is not all advice is created equal. And so, do not take anybody's advice, whether it's mine or anybody else's, as I need to do this exactly as this person said. Take people's advice, work it into your own framework because there's a quote that I like, and I think it gets attributed to Mark Twain. History doesn't repeat itself, but it definitely rhymes. Where advice is good, but advice is oftentimes based upon a specific experience. So it's going off of as an actual circumstance, whereas it may not necessarily apply in an exact replica to your situation, but it may rhyme. So you just need to figure out how can I take this advice and apply it to my circumstances. I think too many founders oftentimes blindly follow the advice as opposed to shaping it into their particular circumstances.
(29:06) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. Speaking about experiences, have you personally been brave at any point in your life?
(29:11) Kevin Brockland:
I listen to you regularly and I know this question is coming. It's a bit of a challenge in order to highlight a specific one, whether it's career wise or personal, obviously, like launching my own VC is definitely a moment that, that took a lot of courage because I have two small children at the time and there's mouths to feed, it's not a steady paycheck anymore, but I think, if I was being perfectly honest with the thing that scared me the most in my entire life, it was when I got notified when my wife told me that she was pregnant with my first child. And leading up to that, we had no plan to have kids. We actually said that we would never. And so then all of a sudden, I don't want to use the word accident, but surprise comes along that for somebody that had their mindset. Had been married for 10 years, lived a pretty decent length of life leading up to that point. That's a pretty worrying thing. But yeah I think that's probably the closest I would say, of feeling brave and going through something that actually scared me a bit.
(30:14) Jeremy Au:
Oh, I totally get it. I empathize. My first kid was also an accident. And now we have two as well. So, yeah, accident, accidental evacuation.
(30:23) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
(30:24) Jeremy Au:
So, so wait, so let's talk a little bit more about that. So you had a life that you planned without kids. So what was that conversation like? Like you started dating and you were like, let's not have kids. Is that how it came out?
(30:36) Kevin Brockland:
No, it came out later. So like we got married when we just came out of grad school. So now at this point in time, we've been married for 15 years. So we got married rather young. And just over time, we got married when we were living in New York, which is like the Peter Pan city. People just don't want to grow up. It's not necessarily suited for having children unless you move well outside of the city. And so then started having a few international relocations and just years kept on passing by. And as we go from five years married to six years to seven and beyond, just the conversation started evolving that it's just not in the cards for us. And we'd prefer not. When it does actually come, I could not think of ever going back. Now it's just like, I can't imagine my life without.
(31:25) Jeremy Au:
And now you have two. So you went for the second one.
(31:27) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. Yeah. Once you have one, it's we need a play buddy and it's good because the pandemic came. So it was good that she actually had somebody do to hang out with. .
(31:36) Jeremy Au:
In for a penny, in for a pound.
(31:37) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. Yeah. But we're done at two. There's no need for go to go for three. If somebody,
(31:42) Jeremy Au:
Not two pounds. Not two pounds.
(31:43) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah, exactly. I have two daughters. So if somebody said, I guarantee you 100% it's a boy, maybe I'd consider it. But my wife is one of four daughters. Now talk about a scary three, three, maybe four. Ooh, I'd be way outnumbered as the sole male in the house.
(32:01) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. Yeah, I also have two girls. I think it's interesting, right? Because, I think parenthood is obviously a big changing moment. How would you say, and you kind of mentioned this a little bit, but how has parenthood changed you? You said you couldn't imagine it in a different way, but it implies there's some change, right? So what was that change? How have you changed as a person because of becoming a dad?
(32:20) Kevin Brockland:
Well, for one, I don't do as much crazy stuff anymore. So you're not going to see me like hop out of a plane or anything, any of like the adventure activities that I used to enjoy just because now the risk calculus has changed.
(32:33) Jeremy Au:
It's interesting. Yeah, I agree.
(32:34) Kevin Brockland: And so that's definitely changed. There's a lot of lifestyle changes to where it's not like going out hanging out with friends over some drinks and all of that, because you have to wake up in the morning. They're basically going to wake me up at 6, 7 a. m. in the morning. It doesn't work if you've had a long night out and aside from that, vacations and holidays have now changed because going, doing like a beach vacation with small children is so much easier than trying to do some cultural tour through a city, museums. They don't care about museum. They're like three and five. They don't have the same sort of appreciation yet.
(33:11) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. Yeah. I can't imagine that. He's here's a museum for five hours. I'm sure that's going to go down so well.
(33:19) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. Yeah. So those sort of trips, maybe at some point we'll get to it, to where you can appreciate going to an art museum and just kind of sitting on a bench, staring at something for like 10, 15 minutes. At some point it'll get there. But currently, they can't sit still for 10, 15 minutes, regardless of what or where we're at. So we need to have a little bit more open space.
(33:42) Jeremy Au:
And so, what's interesting is that, you decided to start a fund, right? And you had these two young children and I think it's totally fair. There's not much cash in a first fund.
(33:51) Kevin Brockland:
(33:52) Jeremy Au:
Primarily carry and you can't eat carry. You can't feed your kids carry. So anyway, I'm just kind of saying like, do you have any advice for people who are thinking about launching something new, right? Whether it's a fund, a company, but also having kids, young kids, any advice you have for them on reflection?
(34:10) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. To be honest with you it's the same advice that I would give that people gave me when I said that we didn't want to have kids. There was always this comments of it's never the right time. If you want to wait for the right time, it will never come. So it's better to just do it and figure it out afterwards, and I think that's perfect advice for whatever you wanna start. Whether it's a new startup or launching a VC, there's never gonna be a perfect time, so you just need to get the first step going and j and just do it really. That being said, there's a lot of advanced work that can make it a lot easier. So if you do, if there is an exited founder or somebody within the ecosystem that wants to launch their own VC, there's a lot of legwork towards building out your network that will make raising a whole lot easier because in all fairness, especially in this environment, going out and raising capital, whether for a startup or for a VC is very challenging. And oftentimes for a fund one or a fund two, institutions generally won't touch you unless you're like partner at one of the biggest firms on the planet. Generally, in their investment policy statements, they say that they cannot, which means that you got to go patch together the equivalent of a bunch of angel checks.
(35:26) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. Sounds like a pain in the ass.
(35:29) Kevin Brockland:
It can be, I mean.
(35:31) Jeremy Au:
Ah, it wasn't for you. So how did you do it?
(35:36) Kevin Brockland:
It's challenging. It requires being very passionate about what you're doing. And it's a lot easier when you have a solid thesis around what you're talking about. Happy if you're going out and just being a generalist and saying, I'm just going to take any of the opportunities that come along. It doesn't really matter sector or anything. It's very hard to sell that. Whereas if you can, because you're essentially selling a black box, nobody knows what's going to go inside of that box until the entity is operational. So trying to get somebody on board, you have to really sell that vision. And the same way that you would build a startup, you go friends and family. Well, I guess you could say the friends and family and fools, but I try not to have too many fools around.. And then you basically start doing the whole networking of getting into the circles of high net worth individuals, and then going from the high net worth individuals and graduating up to the family offices. And then looking at some of the corporate entities. It's not drastically dissimilar to the way a startup has to go out and raise.
(36:34) Jeremy Au:
Yeah. On that note, thank you so much for sharing. There's a lot of knowledge shared. I'd love to summarize the three big takeaways from this conversation. First of all, thank you so much for sharing about your early journey, about why you decided to set up Indelible Ventures. I thought it was interesting, actually it was not in just one chunk, but across multiple parts. But you talk about the fact that you had young kids, the fact that you had already been doing some investing, but looking to double down, to pick a geography, to build a thesis, to put up the network. So I thought it was a really interesting story about how you put together the fund, but also how you can build a thesis around Malaysia, but also on the pre-seed and seed the earlier side of the ecosystem.
The second thing I really appreciated was you having these points of view about how the Malaysia ecosystem can improve and better nurture the next generation of founders. I think that was an interesting comparison against other countries in the region. Also, we talked about the reasons why in terms of capital formation, in terms of legal policy, in terms of corporate domicile, in terms of the local nurturing and where fund attention and approach is going, right? So I thought it was a really good set of advice about how folks should think about improving the ecosystem especially to help advance the next generation of founders. Lastly, thanks so much for that unexpected aside about us both being new dads and how both of us didn't expect to have kids, but we did end up having kids and both having two girls. So, maybe it is only highly relevant to Jeremy, but I thought it was great to hear a little bit about your life, about how you didn't plan to have kids but you ended up doing, rolling with it. And I would love the advice that you had about how at the end of the day, there's never a right time. So just do it, roll with it, figure it out along the way. So I thought that was a nice story about family. So thank you so much, Kevin, for sharing your story.
(38:18) Kevin Brockland:
Yeah. It was a pleasure. It was a great conversation, Jeremy. Thanks for having me on.