Ex-Qiming partner Wong joins AC Ventures, says local funds have upper hand in spotting best bets

Helen Wong

Seasoned investor Helen Wong has joined Indonesia-focused early-stage venture capital firm AC Ventures as senior advisor and venture partner.

Wong, who has over two decades of experience in China and emerging markets, was formerly at Shanghai-based Qiming Venture Partners for eight years before leaving last year to set up a fund. While at Qiming, Wong led the venture capital firm’s investments in Southeast Asia, where its portfolio includes Indonesian fintech firm Akulaku, also backed by Ant Group. Before Qiming, Wong was at global investor GGV Capital.

At AC Ventures, she will leverage her extensive experience working with Chinese and Southeast Asian entrepreneurs. Wong’s role will include advising on the firm’s strategy and development, team training,  investments and portfolio support.

“We’ve always spoken as a firm about how in Indonesia you can look at proven business models from around the world. More often than not, they come from countries like China and India, and these are markets that Helen has been supremely familiar with and therefore can offer a lot of insight firsthand,” said AC Ventures managing partner Adrian Li.

“I will also be looking at some of the portfolio companies to see whether it’s a good time to make bigger bets, and at a later stage of the company,” Wong said. “And I’ll also share my experience from China with entrepreneurs.”

In an interview with DealStreetAsia, Wong noted that homegrown funds have the upper hand when it comes to spotting the best opportunities, even in the face of an influx of global capital to Southeast Asia.

“I think, being the first-round capital, being on the ground so that you can spot entrepreneurs from the beginning, becomes very important. As all the global funds come in with their brands, with their experience, with their playbooks, a company like AC Ventures is very well positioned,” Wong said.

Southeast Asian startups managed to close deals worth at least $5.07 billion with foreign VC funds in the first nine months of 2021, up from $3.15 billion in the same period a year earlier, according to DealStreetAsia’s VC Funds report.

“Especially during COVID, this is kind of where we’ve seen both LPs and these global funds really reach out and develop a deeper relationship with country-focused funds,” Li added.

AC Ventures, too, had worked with global VCs and limited partners in the past. The VC recently closed its ACV Fund III at over $205 million and roped in the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding’s VC platform DisruptAD, among others.

Edited excerpts of the interview with Helen Wong and Adrian Li.

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