I started my career in banking in New York and Asia doing tech-related growth investments. This basically meant working with investment companies that were trying to do country manufacturing, semiconductor chip design. I must say Internet was not a big focus at that point. Right around 1999, a group of Ivy League and Stanford graduates got together, including myself, to start two start-ups – one after the other. Both were for Internet.
If I didn't have that start up experience, I probably wouldn't know that I would be interested in entrepreneurship. I'm actually better suited as an investor - combining my banking and my growth capital investments experience, with my appreciation for how hard it is to build a start-up. If I didn't have the 8 to 10 year experience in investment, finance and as a founder, I wouldn’t know that VC would be the right career for me.
But to get into VC, I still had to come back to the US, go to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for graduate school and then join Bessemer Venture Partners. It was at Bessemer that I learnt how to be an 'American VC', but with appreciation for what was happening in China. I'm very grateful for my ex-colleagues at Bessemer for giving me the opportunity.
Once I was in China, I could see that this was a market that’s about to take off. I proceeded to build up my VC career in China over the next 8 years. It was also good timing, because between that was between 2005 and 2013. I was at Qiming Venture Partners and subsequently at GGV.
That period witnessed a massive growth of 3 billion smartphone users, and the China economy also really took off. All in all, there was a huge impact on Chinese growth in a way that none of us thought was possible back in 2005.
To get into VC, one needs some kind of consulting or banking background, and ideally some start-up experience or product management experience so that you have appreciation of what's it like to be inside of a start-up.
- Hans Tung, Managing Partner, GGV Capital
To get into VC, one needs some kind of consulting or banking background, and ideally some start-up experience or product management experience so that you have appreciation of what's it like to be inside of a start-up. What kind of issues that founders go through, what kind of challenges they have to overcome, in order to succeed? What kind of lessons can be learned from all the mistakes that start-ups inevitably will make?
When you have a sense of pace and rhythm, and an appreciation for banking and consulting analytical skills, you can marry the two, and be much better prepared, to head into a VC environment.
This answer first appeared on an Ask Me Anything session (AMA) with Hans Tung. Do you have a burning question of your own? Submit yours here.