A peek at investable tomorrow's human-technology interface, today.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Catalyst

I had joined CommerceNet Singapore more than 5 years now. To think about it, one of the best part of CommerceNet is that we played an active role in many risky but visionary ideas. After simple due diligence, we invest and also arrange for investments into many types of endeavours, often taking a strategic equity stake in companies in return for the resources we supply.

These catalyst investments allow "ignition starts", where the small amount of money and generous assistance help the entrepreneur move beyond the "budding idea" stage, to having a business plan, working prototype and viable team. Many times, we are not looking into immediate returns. Most of the ventures we get ourselves into need rather long maturity period. We usually take on a 60-months timeframe view for each initiative that we support.

Often, the biggest problem is the lack of ideas... yes. Really. Lack of good ideas. So, we have a unique situation where there are many who are willing part with their money, seeking good early investments - but sadly, lacking a match. And I am not talking about Singapore alone.

In the course of duty, I had to chase emerging new ideas from Egypt to Mauritius, from Pakistan to Korea. It not not so easy to organise resources from the industry, plans and executes key strategies all at the same time. The constant need to be actively on the look out for initiatives that pioneer and advance tomorrow's technology today is getting more difficult. This is especially when we also have to keep up a strategic role as a key influencer, encouraging innovation and driving progress not only within the business and research communities, but also with governments' officials in the region.

I am coming to terms that more and more, CommerceNet have to become a VC - the 'Vulture Capital' variant, looking at visionary but failing ventures that are already invested by someone else. The ability to turn them around, match them with other players in the ecosystem, recycle their IPs and creations back into the ecosystem is becoming really important. This simple move may be more important now than the original idea of jump starting new ventures. Now it is more about ongoing ventures needing a 'catalyst' to succeed. And we will be there.