Ann Winblad views Asia as "opportunity field"
By Anita Devasahayam
Friday, April 28 2000
SINGAPORE—US-based venture capitalist Hummer Winblad Venture Partners sees all of Asia as an "opportunity field" and that location, in the Internet arena, is not an issue.
Co-founder Ann Winblad said the San Francisco-based company would be interested to invest in Asian start-ups who are involved in communications infrastructure, platform development tools, wireless applications, business applications and emerging B2B opportunities.
"Sometimes entrepreneurs are not in the places you expect them to be. Many of our contacts are directly from graduate students at universities," she said, adding that entrepreneurs usually contacted them directly rather than Hummer Winblad shopping around.
"We have not set aside specific funds for Asia, but have plenty of funding at our reach should opportunities arise," said Winblad, in an email reply to Singapore.CNET.com.
She acknowledged, however, that the globalization of the entrepreneur is a reality and everyone is expanding their opportunity reach.
Winblad revealed that the firm’s focus is still on companies in the US but is about to embark on its first pro-active meeting of entrepreneurs abroad.
"My partner John Hummer and I will be in Scandinavia in May to meet with thousands of entrepreneurs in the wireless area. We are hopeful such entrepreneurial events will take place in Asia as well," she said.
Winblad, who once reputedly dated Microsoft’s Bill Gates, co-founded Open Systems Inc in 1976 with a US$500 investment and parlayed that into a top-selling, profitable software company which was sold for over US$15 million.
She co-founded Hummer Winblad in 1989 with Hummer, a venture capitalist who also spent six years playing professional basketball for the Seattle Supersonics and the Buffalo Braves.
Winblad currently serves as a director of various Internet start-ups and public companies including eHow, Dean & Deluca, Liquid Audio, Net Perceptions, Rivals.com, The Knot and MyPrimeTime.com
Prior to Hummer Winblad, she served as a strategy consultant for clients such as IBM and Microsoft, and also co-authored the book Object-Oriented Software.
Winblad said pull factors in Asia for venture capitalists were the emergence of exchanges and systems for orderly public offerings of emerging growth companies.
"Availability of capital for start-ups in Asia is increasing. But criteria for funding investment is still the same: large markets, great teams of entrepreneurs and unique business models and a clear route to orderly markets for IPOs. If all these criteria are met, location is not an issue."
Winblad conceded that some venture funds may be too American-centric because investors tend to invest in "what they know."
"That is why we are looking out for strong investment partners in the region who understand cultures for employee recruitment, retention, local market issues and other influential factors such as the dominance of computing platforms and devices," she said.
Winblad sees culture and better education systems as a plus for Asia. "The value placed on higher education is greater in many of the Asian countries. Culture is also a competitive advantage."
Winblad stated the company’s current investment strategy in Asia was to go in with partners with strong regional presence such as Softbank and Trans Cosmos.
"Many of our companies are creating separate corporations in Asia. Liquid Audio created Liquid Audio Japan which is now public and Liquid Audio Korea. Many of our other companies are globalizing fast such as wedding services site, The Knot, which just announced The Knot Brazil. Asia is a great area for this company as well. We also may invest in some of these entities as they are created," she said.
Published in CNET Asia, April 28, 2000