Home  Contact Us
  Follow Us On:
 
Search:
Advertising Advertising Free Newsletter Free E-Newsletter
Magazine
  
      2017       2016       2015       2014       2013       2012       2011       2010       2009       2008

COVER STORY: Building Confidence and Building Business, Interview with Rui Ma, Venture Partner
Share to

Building Confidence and Building Business

Interview with Rui Ma, Venture Partner

By Mike Cormack

Rui Ma 01
风险投资领域作为今年非常令人着迷的行业吸引了很多成功人士加入,这不仅帮助更多有想法有能力的个人与团体实现了自己的梦想,也帮助投资者本身赢得了财富。在众多投资人中,马睿女士受邀在本期对话栏目与大家共同分享她转行风投的点点滴滴。


马睿女士在美国度过了十八年时光,后被摩根斯坦利派驻中国工作,父母都是工程师的她在大学时学习电子工程与计算机科学。马睿感受到早期投资的魅力,那是在2013年,企业加速器并不多,天使投资人也主要是那几十个人,马睿选对了时机。而如今市场上已经有成千上万的天使投资人,无数的天使资金,2013年马睿遇到的投资人现在已经在管理数亿美元的资产投资。


在对投资深入了解学习驾轻就熟后,马睿启动了校园投资计划,她在其中寻找并培养可以成为天使投资人的有潜力的学生。目前该计划主要在台北与厦门开展。马睿不仅在其中担任创始人,还是学生们的导师,她帮助辅导了很多优秀的学生,并与他们分享自己的经验。


关于风投领域的工作经验,马睿也与我们慷慨分享。她提到在风投界理财能力是至关重要的,良好的谈判技巧与高附加值都可以帮你赢得胜利。马睿曾在电子商务、软件、媒体、教育等多方面进行过成功的投资活动,展望未来时,马睿看好人工智能领域。


在工作之余,她也担任咨询师,并开展自己的项目。她并不相信工作&生活平衡这一说,因为工作与个人的界限并不那么明确。马睿热爱运动、艺术与阅读,她认为这些爱好与工作都是深度整合并互相关联的。


Rui Ma is a venture capitalist, start-up promoter and mentor, who has been a partner with 500 Startups in China and now shuttles between San Francisco, the mainland and Taiwan helping young entrepreneurs with Rookie Fund campus investment program. With a heritage combining the US and China, tech and finance, she helps young entrepreneurs bridge the gap between China and Silicon Valley and between an idea and a viable enterprise. She spoke to Business Tianjin about building confidence and building businesses.

Rui Ma 03You describe yourself as "China born, Silicon Valley bred" - what attributes would you say you have derived from each?


I consider myself pretty equally bilingual and bicultural although I am a better writer in English. I've probably got a more individualistic, status-quo-challenging and action-oriented temperament that is more influenced by Silicon Valley culture but I'm very connected to the Chinese side of me, in that I am slightly more inclined to appreciate Chinese history, art and have a keen sense of humor.


You initially worked in the US before moving to China with Morgan Stanley - did you always intend to come back to China, or did it just work out that way? How long had you been in the US and how had China changed?


There was a confluence of factors that led me to move to China in 2007 but probably the most important was my feeling of being very Chinese. I had been in the US for about eighteen years. China was unrecognizable to me for most part, mainly because I had grown up in rural China, so my memories revolved around pet chickens, dirt roads and playing with stones. It was like immigrating to a new country where I spoke the language and had some historical knowledge of the culture but was effectively encountering everything for the first time.


Rui Ma 16After you'd been working in M&A, what led you to the startup world? What was the scene like at the time?


My parents were both computer engineers working for tech companies so that's what I've known my whole life and also why I majored in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS) in college. I thought it would be fun to be in very early stage investing and so took a job with an accelerator and seed fund, which was a pretty new concept at the time. In China in 2013, there were no real accelerators beyond an attempt from Innovation Works (now Sinovation), and probably only a dozen institutionalized angel investors. So my timing was good because it was very easy to meet them. Now there are thousands of angel investors, hundreds of angel funds and many people that I met in 2013 manage hundreds of millions of dollars.


You then became a partner at 500 Startups for the Greater China region and launched the 500 Rookies campus investment program. Can you explain your role at 500 Startups and describe what you learned along the way?


I spent four years there, and I am very thankful for my experience because I learned how to build a company and personal brand on minimal resources, fundraise and make some investments. Most people don't get to do much fundraising or brand building because that's typically reserved for very senior members of a fund and I'm lucky that I got to be in charge of some of those efforts. I learned how to do everything very cheaply and effectively and I also learned what I like and don't like about investing - for example, I dislike sourcing but I really like working in depth with management.


As for the campus investment program, it's now been spun out to be a separate nonprofit but we are focused on finding, recruiting and training high-potential students to become angel investors and to invest in their fellow students. We are now in two different cities - Taipei and Xiamen.


hl dialogueThe VC world is sometimes seen as being overtly masculine, as is the Chinese business world as a whole. How have you navigated your way through that?


I probably have a different perspective because I did EECS in college (around 15% female) and then investment banking (less than 25% female). I don't actually find VC to be too macho as it's much gentler and slower-paced than Wall Street. I focus on being my best self, so I'm happy to take feedback and constructive criticism and actively solicit it, but I also speak up when I observe any behavior that I don't abide by.


Have you acted as a mentor for founders or aspiring founders? What sort of role does 500 Rookies play on campus?


I have informally mentored many people. For five years, I have set up rural scholarships in China where we sent 100 kids to high school every year and they sometimes ping me for career or life advice. For those students in the Rookie Fund who are interested in this space, I am happy to give very concrete advice and share my own experiences.


How does one get into the VC field anyway? What tips do you have for people interested in the field?


Most of the time, the question is "How do you become skilled at helping to manage money?" In venture capital, because the transactions are privately held and very early stage companies, it is really helpful to have a large and high-quality network of founders, current or prospective. That's usually the most important thing in getting deal flow. You then need to be able to figure out which deals are good. This takes practice - meet hundreds of companies, get mentored by an experienced investor, have a good knowledge of people, technology and business. Finally, you need to be able to win the deal by having good negotiating skills and high value-add. Then you need to be able to manage the deal.


For beginners, I would say you need to meet as many talented potential and current entrepreneurs as you can, spend a lot of time with the ones you think are great and figure out for yourself what it is that you can help with and be great at dealing with people.


Rui Ma 18What sectors are your areas of expertise? What startups have you invested in that have been most successful?


I have historically been a generalist, with successful investments anywhere from ecommerce (Eloquii), software-as-a-service (Shopline) and enterprise (Microbenefits) to media (TheNewsLens) and education (FrontRow). Going forward, I'm most interested in artificial intelligence, specifically as it can be applied to consumers in wellness and education. After looking at so many sectors, you figure out that actually it's impossible to spend your time on all of them and that you will ultimately be the best at the intersection of your passions and available opportunities.


What qualities (in business and in founders) do you look for? How often do you find them, and what is your own success rate for those you back?


I'm constantly learning about how to evaluate businesses and founders and so these have changed over the years. Today, I spend most of my time trying to understand how the founders define problems, how they go about trying to assess their severity and how they come up with solutions.


I'm looking for founders who spend 90% of their time really researching problems, potential customers and existing options, before spending the remaining 10% synthesizing this into a coherent solution.


Founding teams who are endlessly curious, low-ego, truth-driven and action-oriented generally do well and work well together.


hl dialogue2Can you explain what Rookie Fund is? What outcomes are you looking for and how do you interact with universities?


Rookie Fund is an on-campus venture fund network. We recruit, interview, select and train undergraduate and graduate students in Asia to make angel investments of about $10,000 in their fellow students. I looked to the US-based Dorm Room Fund as inspiration and started it because it's something I would have loved to be part of when I was in school. It gives students hands-on experience in investing that no class can ever teach and it gives them an extra source of capital.


Why did you relocate to San Francisco?


I moved to San Francisco primarily because my family is here and I'd been gone a long time, almost eight years in China. I actually travel less and less these days, partly because there are so many people coming to visit from China that I don't really need to go there to see them and partly because I think that in the knowledge economy, an investor has to rely more on fundamental business insights than simple information gathering. There is so much information online now in both public and private channels that mere connections are less valuable. The greatest impact is going to come from thoughtful analysis and interpretation and that's something one can do anywhere.

Rui Ma 17
Outside of work, how do you spend your spare time? Do you have a decent work/life balance?


Currently, I am consulting part-time for a variety of projects and working on my own initiatives such as Rookie Fund. I personally don't believe in work/life balance but instead in work/life harmony. I don't have very clear boundaries between professional and personal, but that is because everything I work on I consider as being an expression of myself. I enjoy running, making art and reading, and so I spend a lot of time on these activities, but I don't feel that's at an expense of my professional life. Instead, I see these as deeply integrated and interconnected.


---END---

    Subscription    |     Advertising    |     Contact Us    |
Address: Magnetic Plaza, Building A4, 6th Floor, Binshui Xi Dao.
Nankai District. 300381 TIANJIN. PR CHINA
Tel: +86 22 23917700
E-mail: webmaster@businesstianjin.com
Copyright 2017 BusinessTianjin.com. All rights reserved.