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Temasek’s Vertex Ventures Head of Communications, former TechinAsia’s Editor Anh-Minh Do: “If you’re a young startup you should SHUT UP, keep your head down, and shouldn’t do any PR!”

About Vertex Venture, many of you might not know about them, even their role is not that small in the region. Let’s see what they’re telling about themselves on their website:


Temasek's Vertex Ventures
Temasek’s Vertex Ventures Mobile & Internet portfolios

“With teams based in Singapore, Taiwan and India, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India is part of a global venture fund network, under the auspices of Vertex Venture Holdings, one of the longest operating venture capital firms in Asia and a member of Temasek Holdings. In addition to SE Asia/India, the Vertex Global Network comprises Silicon Valley, China, and Israel, providing a unique platform for our portfolio companies to realize their full potential by leveraging the combined experience and resources of our extensive network of our partners globally.”

For Southeast Asia, Vertex is paying attention on 3 key areas: Mobile/Internet, “Tech-Enabler”, and Services. Mobile/Internet startups counts for more than half of their firm porfolio. Let’s chat with Anh Minh Do – Head of Vertex Venture Communications, former TechinAsia Editor, also one of the sharpest writers of the tech portal, and take away some lessons for your startups.

Can you share a brief about your role at Vertex?

So my role at Vertext is mainly Director of Communications, which mean that I focus on global communications for all of five funds and internal communications among partners, media, content communication and thought leadership in the tech industry.

Your life and career path seems special and very different from the norms: grown up and studied Zen – Buddhism in the US, then have lived one and a half years in a Vipassana meditation center. Why and How have they had impact on your life?

I’m very interested in the deep question about life: What is the perfect mind? what is the Universe?… And i find that in term of practice Buddhism is very practical, focuses on behaviors and techniques that help a person develop themselves. Every day I meditate and develop self-awareness, my mind. and I found that this allows me to understand circumstances of life and society in way maybe uniques from other people who don’t have that kind of practice. I think that most people react to circumstance and they blame the external world for their emotion.

Buddhism and practice of meditation give me some perspectives, allow me to take a step back from my own ideas and thoughts so I can approach my thoughts and ideas with temperate mind.

This maybe the unique perspective of my personality and it’s a big part of Buddhism in my life.

Can you share Vertex’s process of investment, especially for early stage and series A?

Generally we invest between two and fifteen million dollars into a company, we do early series A to C, we don’t do seed stage. We’re looking for regional champion, global champion, companies that could become billion dollar ones. We are not interested in me-too products, we really look at market size, we look at technical advantages that company has. We look at the team a little bit, obviously we must be obsessed about team.

But generally market size, competitive advantages, business model are the three key factors we first look at a startup.

A average company we invested in is usually about two years old but we also invested in companies haven’t launched yet. So we can be very risky but we also consider ourself to be quite carefully to diversify from home services, ecommerce consumer Internet to Software as a Service… So our interest is wide but any companies in our portfolios has to be very strong in technology.

What do you think about the mobile commerce trend in the region in the next five years?

Alibaba and Amazon are exaggerating the ecommerce space in Southeast Asia. Some people are trying to do niche market of ecommerce like Carousell, Shopee, I think still very early for mobile commerce, since investors are cooling a little bit about ecommerce. Mobile has not been fully covered, it’s not dominating the field. It’s growing very quickly but not 90 or even 80 percent of population are using mobile. It’s a long term game. I see that the players who are very well funded, with long term view, technical advantages, and regional plans, they will likely do very well. And some local players will be successful as well. As Ecommerce will be protected by local governments.

You used to be an Editor/Journalist for TechinAsia, started several startups in Vietnam and now in charge or communications for a VC in Singapore. Therefore you have a lot of experience interacting with startups from different perspectives. What are your advice for startups to do their public relations better?

An illusion about PR

In term of PR especially for young startups, mostly if not all startups should not do any PR. In general what we see in in Asia now they are kind of an over indexed and over emphasized in media and PR because there are not many stories.

From a lot of young people perspectives, appearing in media is some kind of success, but I think that an illusion and a wrong approach. I think that if you’re a startup founder and you’re very young, you shouldn’t do any PR actually. Should not do any interviews, shouldn’t even blog, should focus only on your product.

Face the “FACE” issue

If you will be successful everything you did will be correct, if not then PR will be a big problem. And in Asian perspective where face is quite a big deal you could protect your face even better.

Anh-Minh Do: “You should shut up!”

If you’re a successful startup, a company like VNG, Garena you could go out there, you should do PR, support startup ecosystem, inspire other startups.

If you’re a young startup or even less than two years old you should shut up, keep your head down, develop your product, develop your team.

Whenever you’re successful. The first success for you is reaching break even, maybe a certain amount of KPIs. But you have to be very reasonable about that, right?. Only then you can consider looking at PR.

The more PR you do the more you raise a high expectation for who you’re. Now you set an expectation for who you are as a special thought leader, and then when you fail you will be never a thought leader.

Raising fund announcement

But when you do go out and hear very clear advices, raised significant amount of money, two or three millions or at least half a million. When you announce it, you should announce it carefully. You need to choose the correct media, ideally you are choosing all media and consider, most of startups don’t know it and they’re kind of choosing the wrong media.

When they choose the wrong media they position themselves, they position themselves incorrectly. Ideally you choosing as many media as you can and you send press releases to them at the same time and they will all write the piece at the same time so you will have power on publicity and SEO.

Define your PR campaign’s purpose

But honestly before putting your PR out there you need to consider what you gonna achieve with that. If you’re going to the media, unless they’re consumer media, you are not going to get much users. If you wanna get users and you are going to have your news published on TechinAsia, all readers of TechinAsia are tech guys and investors, people in the tech industry they are not gonna be real users for you. So you need to do research carefully. I think this a thing a lot of startups are missing.

Note from Minz Buii: EcomEye has just published a new section Guest Posts so if you’re a founder you can have your startup Press Release published here. But remember to consider Anh-Minh Do’s advice before sending your press releases to my blog!