Kent Ho Has Invested In A String Of Billion-Dollar Start-Ups. Here’s How He Does It

Leadership

September 14, 2017 | BY Hong Kong Tatler

The Hong Kong venture capitalist on what he considers when looking for investments

A badge of honour in the world of venture capitalism is the ability to say you’ve backed a unicorn, a start-up that has reached US$1 billion in market value. Kent Ho has invested in a number of these elusive beasts, including archiving app Evernote and Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com. 

Kent’s early-stage venture capital fund, Spectrum 28, invests in a wide range of pioneering tech companies. While there's obviously no guidebook to follow for 'unicorn spotting', we think his recent interview with Hong Kong Tatler was packed with insight into why he's batting well above average. Here are five quotes from Kent that shine a light on the process of trying to find Hong Kong's next GoGoVan.

Find opportunties for impact investing

“Our investments go across the spectrum but the one thing that I’m always striving for is driving impact. I’m a big believer that tech will improve society and drive productivity, and that’s ultimately what I really care about.”

Photography: Nic and Bex Gaunt

Visualise the possibilities ahead

Given the market for unmanned aerial vehicles will be worth US$100 billion within four years, according to Goldman Sachs, drone technology may seem an obvious investment for any venture capitalist. Rather than trying to make flying gadgets, however, Ho is thinking much bigger, and much further ahead, than that.

“The reality is that drones can also be used in ways that are not helpful to society,” he says. “These devices can be extremely dangerous because they can carry chemical weapons and explosives.” Spectrum 28 recently invested in Airspace Systems, a company developing a drone security system. It is the only solution capable of identifying, tracking and autonomously removing rogue drones from the sky.

Find a market that’s ripe for a shake-up

Kent is currently looking to disrupt the banking sector, and he’s doing so via an investment in a start-up called Earnest. “There is a huge opportunity globally to rebuild the consumer experience in banking from the ground up. Given Hong Kong’s position as a fintech hub, I hope we see some of this innovation in our local banks to improve customer experience.” 

Photography: Nic and Bex Gaunt

Always keep an eye on China

“I think there are some extremely innovative business models, products and designs coming out of China,” says Kent. "China and companies like Alibaba and Tencent have done a much better job of expanding horizontally.

"People always say China is just copying the US, but there is actually a lot to learn from both sides. What’s really exciting right now is the number of entrepreneurs coming out of the big companies to do start-ups. And in Beijing, Tsinghua and Beida, two great universities, are driving talent and that is a critical piece of a tech ecosystem.”

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Kent Ho

Tech guru; founder of Spectrum 28 Capital; co-founder of Harbor Pacific Capital; son of Charles.
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