A Conversation with Joel Lou

Joel Lou

5 takeaways from our conversation with Joel Lou on startups, Blue Cloud Ventures and giving back

Joel Lou, started off as a software entrepreneur at JustCommodity, a trading and risk management software solutions company based in Singapore. Having raised over $5 million in funding from the likes of Leslie Loh, Infocomm Investments, OWW capital and other high net worth investors, Joel grew the company and led it to a 2015 acquisition at a valuation of over $20 million.

Having achieved “the first true blue exit in the enterprise software space in Singapore in recent years”, Joel and his comrades at JustCommodity — whom he affirms are, are his “friends more than anything else” — saw a great opportunity to monetise and commercialise their combined knowledge and connections.

He went on to be a co-founder of New York-based Blue Cloud Ventures (“BCV”) which mainly invests in late-stage companies that specialise in cloud-computing and SaaS. Interestingly, Joel explains that BCV’s intention was never to expect “home-runs, or 10 to 20x returns on their investments”, but rather to adopt a “last money in, first money out” mentality while delivering consistent returns on every deal and maintaining a laser focus on core markets.

Naturally, Joel is passionate about seeing Singapore’s startup ecosystem grow. In terms of his personal investments in startups, outside of BCV, he likes to look at local companies, because it “feels closer to home and allows for a wider connectivity in terms of mentorship and guidance”. An active investor for several years now, when it comes to evaluating them, Joel is always on the lookout for a company’s growth opportunities and potential to scale up.

But what should businesses look out for? We sat down with Joel for a chat and here are our top five takeaways:

1. “Having legs, and an in depth-knowledge of market sizing”

When it comes to launching any form of investment, Joel believes that “having legs and an in-depth knowledge of market sizing” are two critical indicators to look out for. Especially because of the limited size of the domestic market he believes that “it all boils down to the ones that can truly scale and serve beyond the region”.

2. Showing tangible growth from the get-go

Joel can’t say enough about how quickly businesses must prove measures of growth from the get-go, as high burn rates would lead any prudent investor to question the sustainability of a startup in today’s climate. Being a true blue entrepreneur, Joel doesn’t always assess deals through a standard playbook. He sometimes relies on his “acumen and gut-feel” to suss out a business’s potential.

3. The support of great mentors

When it comes to fostering entrepreneurship, Joel sees value in finding great mentors. When speaking about some of his own, he fondly mentions his mentor, Leslie Loh of Red Dot Ventures, from whom he has learnt many insights.

4. Giving back to the startup community

Joel believes in returning favours to the community where he got his start. On the side he mentors and advises startups on a pro bono basis, and gives back through his professional affiliations with SCS, TiE and SiTF. Without his mentors, he says, his business’ growth “wouldn’t have accelerated so quickly”.

5. A “golden ticket”

These interests led Joel to become a lead investor at FundedHere, which he views as a “golden ticket for investors and a great avenue for alternative investments, as it provides exclusive market access.” He envisions that FundedHere will be “a de facto platform that is poised to grow as it provides individual investors access to a significant amount of deal flow”.