Target Global expands to Asia with first hire
Our first ever recruit in Asia joins us after a whirlwind career that has included founding a startup in New York that put her on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, human rights advocacy at the United Nations in Geneva, and helming Straits Clan Singapore, a private members club of the region’s leading entrepreneurs, creatives, and civic leaders.
Cynthia grew up in Jakarta in her parents’ family business that published English-Indonesian dictionaries, moved to California when she was 11 amidst the Asian financial crisis, and made it full circle back to Singapore after a decade of working across Europe and the United States.
Cynthia joins us to plant the flag in Asia for Target Global as we grow our footprint. She recently sat down with us to share some of her perspectives and a few of her favourite things.
1) What made you want to join the world of VC?
A lot of people forget that VC is an asset class that’s about taking big bets — bets that are big enough to fundamentally change the way huge swaths of people live. I love having the mental freedom to think about the kind of world we want to live in, and having the opportunity to support the entrepreneurs bold enough to shape it.
2) What do you think makes the Asian VC scene so unique?
South East Asia in particular is made up of very distinct economies and societies, and that means entrepreneurs haven’t done as much “looking to the West” for best practices or copycats; they’ve had to build unapologetically Asian businesses that resonate with consumers and businesses in a super diverse landscape. That’s interesting in itself because of the “ways of operating” that these startups have developed, whether it’s extreme scrappiness or quickly building leadership when entering a new market, etc. Then, on a more macro leadership note, I’m excited to see what these newly minted startup leaders will bring to the table culturally as they hit the global stage.
3) What’s the biggest transformation that Asia is currently going through and how do you think this might affect entrepreneurship?
Consumption is skyrocketing, so every startup is going to have to deal with or take advantage of the resource constraint situation. Everything from logistics and last mile delivery (think NinjaVan) to sharing economy platforms (Carousell, Style Theory), to food tech (Shiok Meats, Winnow) will have to consider how they can usher us through this once in an era challenge. Even seemingly neutral platforms like Lazada or Shopee will have to think more broadly about the looming resource constraint. There’s tons of opportunity to build startups that leave a major legacy, and I’m confident the region will deliver.
4) What are you most proud of in your career so far?
I’ve always had strong conviction, even around themes that are too early for people to digest. When I launched my luxury ethical fashion brand in New York, ethical fashion wasn’t part of the mainstream vocabulary. Over the years, all the noise brought by challenger brands drove cultural consciousness around sustainability and ultimately moved major global brands. Always have the chutzpah to believe that you can move the needle.
5) What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?
Decide wisely which rules to break and which rules to follow (the best advice is always from your mom, right?) I moved countries frequently, and this advice has helped me progress really quickly whenever I land and build a really authentic yet seamless life. The very best entrepreneurs understand when to run wild and when to just get with the program.
A few of my favourite things:
Book: Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-hour Workweek M by Dutch economist Rutger Bergman
Restaurant: My favorite Hainan Chicken Rice Stall at Maxwell Food Center in Singapore (DM for exact location)
Unicorn: Rent the Runway. It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s one of the first women founded unicorns and I still think there’s a lot of potential in the sharing economy space.
Band: Cocomelon. I’m a mom of a toddler. It’s now valued at $3B and I’d like to think we’ve played a small part in that.
Holiday: Chinese New Year (although it’s loss-making for me now)
Sport: Wushu. I used to compete and once choreographed a piece for a youth production of Mulan.
Quote: A venture capitalist must: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”