[00:00:00] Maggie Chui: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have an exceptional guest with us. His name is Khailee Ng. Khailee is a managing partner at U.S venture capital firm 500 Global and its 500 Southeast Asia family of Funds. 500 Global is a venture capital firm managing over $3 billion.
[00:00:17] Maggie Chui: Khailee has led more than 180 seed investments in Southeast Asian tech startups, including unicorns, grab carousel, PAC Carum EDS, and other regional champions before 500. He was the founder of groups, more acquired by Groupon and Malaysia’s largest online media company, says.com. He listed it on the Malaysian stock exchange as new technology and evolving consumer landscapes continue to disrupt industries.
[00:00:42] Maggie Chui: Khailee focuses on discovering patterns of economic opportunity and backing the entrepreneurs who realize them. His investment activity and commentaries on industry trends have been featured in the financial times, Bloomberg, Tech Brunch, Wall Street Journal, and Fortune.
[00:00:56] Maggie Chui: Khailee, welcome to the show.
[00:00:57] Khailee Ng: Thanks for having me, Maggie.
[00:00:59] Maggie Chui: We’re very excited to have you on the podcast, Khailee, so we would love to jump into it. Tell us where you were born and raised and talk about what it was like for you growing up because I have read in a couple of articles that you’ve always had a very creative spirit as a child.
[00:01:14] Khailee Ng: Yes. I was born in Malaysia and spent my entire upbringing over here up until only college.
[00:01:20] Khailee Ng: Then, I managed to escape, find myself in Australia, then, the U.S. Growing up in Malaysia and the upbringing, it’s unique because, like growing up, I didn’t. I think this is the same for many of your guests and yourself. It’s hard to know and feel what it’s like in a relative term because you grew up there. So for me, I just grew up in Malaysia.
[00:01:37] Khailee Ng: All I knew was growing up in Malaysia. There’s no relative comparison. Hey, was it great? Was it not right? Oh, am I rich? Am I poor? It’s kind of hard to tell fully. Then, only, later on, you’re like, oh, okay, so that’s what it was like. It was that I needed to backtrack a little to paint the picture.
[00:01:52] Khailee Ng: I had a very humble upbringing. My dad and mom are like the parents of a junk ship in China. Mom’s parents landed somewhere in Singapore, and my dad’s parents landed in Johor, south of Malaysia. My dad’s family grew up in a rubber estate, where my dad’s ten older siblings had their life savings saved up so my dad could go to college. And so when my dad did, he saved up, so his younger brother could go, but more importantly, he bought computers for me. My older brother, a younger brother, and I just had computers growing up.
[00:02:24] Khailee Ng: We had Apple Two E, Atari ST, and a lot of machines in the house until today. My dad doesn’t know how to operate a single machine, but he’s just ensured we had that. Even though we didn’t have too much growing up, my mom and dad were very frugal. I believe they were more affluent than they made us feel, strictly looking at everything else.
[00:02:39] Khailee Ng: But we had computers, and I think a lot of that helped me express my creativity. You mentioned a little bit about creative stuff. I drew so much. I write a lot, whether it’s poetry or short stories. I created a lot of music.
[00:02:51] Khailee Ng: When I was eight, there was a little show about Intel in school. I performed new kids on the block, the right stuff alone with no music. I liked singing and dancing. It was like the weirdest thing. Looking back on all those experiences, I’m like, what would possess an eight-year-old to embarrass himself like that? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
[00:03:09] Khailee Ng: But the internet and computers became the ultimate creativity tool. And so, you and I are on this podcast right now. So many of us are part of the creator economy as an extension of that unlimited creativity that technology allows us to do, and of course, we can talk a bit more about how that ended up in the world of business, but upbringing was beautiful.
[00:03:28] Khailee Ng: I loved growing up in Malaysia, and it was a cozy little place, but it was an excellent playground for me.
[00:03:33] Maggie Chui: Wow. That’s amazing. It’s awesome to hear, just like your childhood and how it shaped you into the person you are today. I’ve listened to podcasts before, got on a podcast, recorded with you today, and read so many articles.
[00:03:46] Maggie Chui: I’m telling you, there are endless articles about you. I know that many people say you are a successful entrepreneur investor. All of that, you’re highly humble, as well. You never like to say it, but seeing how far you’ve come is amazing.
[00:04:00] Khailee Ng: Maggie, I’d love to bounce on that a little bit when we talk about success, right?
[00:04:04] Khailee Ng: It’s not about, let’s put aside concepts of humility and, or braggadociousness if that’s even such a word, but I’ve been reflecting a lot on what success means and how to build a healthy relationship with that concept. I hit out a tweet a couple of weeks ago called success is a timestamp.
[00:04:20] Khailee Ng: And I say that because I think that it’s my latest iteration of what that means of my concept around success. At the time, I think many of us turned just short twelve months ago. Crypto was huge, right? Anyone who’s building web three projects would feel incredibly successful.
[00:04:36] Khailee Ng: Anyway, anyone early in crypto before this would feel immensely successful. Twelve months ago or six months ago, anyone raising a spec and successfully listing a spec to any company 12 to 18 months ago felt incredibly successful. At one point, many unicorns were raising massive money from the SoftBank Vision Fund, and Tiger was very successful. But in a lot of those feelings of success at that moment, on those time stamps, like you can hit pause on the YouTube video of success of your life story, or for a moment and be like, hey, I feel so successful.
[00:05:07] Khailee Ng: And then, you can kid play and continue that thing, but on a different timestamp. You’re like, oh wow. I’ve put all this effort into this spec. Now, I wouldn’t even dare to list it because the market will not accept it. Or you would say that like I’ve just left my company.
[00:05:22] Khailee Ng: I left my job, so a big company joined this Webre company, and they can’t even pay me anymore, or the payment in the mix of X and Y cryptocurrencies isn’t worth as much or whatever. You can get hit play. You can hit forward and hit play again. And maybe two years from now, you will be like a billionaire or something.
[00:05:35] Khailee Ng: And then, you hit play again. I feel like we can look into our past so often like you hit rewind on that YouTube video of your life or hit forward in a YouTube video in life. You can have moments of success. And then, you realize that success is so much timestamp dependent, then you’re like, hey, wait a minute.
[00:05:51] Khailee Ng: Maybe I’m not that attached to that story in the first place. Maybe I don’t care as much about tracing success, or maybe I care a little more about those timestamps and how they create a more extended narrative of your life. That’s meaningful to you. Anyways, I just wanted to bounce on that point.
[00:06:06] Maggie Chui: Yes. That’s a really good point. Many people who become successful realize that success can be taken away at any moment. It’s not guaranteed. And so, I think that’s why many people are so afraid of failure. Fearful that the success that they’ve achieved will be taken away from them at any time, but you’re right.
[00:06:24] Maggie Chui: Those can come in waves. You can become successful in one year and not be successful in another year, but two years later, down the road, maybe it will change again.
[00:06:34] Khailee Ng: And then, there’s the relative who can feel FOMO, like you feel like, oh, you’re on top of the world. Or maybe like Asian hustle network is killing it in this podcast.
[00:06:42] Khailee Ng: Somebody else has this other podcast that ballooned past, and you try to learn from them. You respect and learn from your competitors and their actions or other references that inspire you.
[00:06:52] Khailee Ng: But, 5% of you, what did I do wrong? Why is my podcast, for example, not as fast-growing as that or hit that at the same time? Do you know what I mean? And so, I think it’s easy to feel FOMO or have this relative comparison, especially in a world where we’re surrounded by successful media all the time.
[00:07:06] Khailee Ng: It’s easy for us to use relative benchmarks to value ourselves suddenly. But in absolute terms, like we’re at a point in history where in society, a lot of us can win and have the opportunity to win more than we ever have in absolute terms. Yes. We can triple-click on this as much as you like and we can move on to other topics too.
[00:07:25] Maggie Chui: Yeah.
[00:07:26] Maggie Chui: Let’s talk about your journey, Khailee. Our listeners would love to learn about your trip after you leave Malaysia. You say you moved your way to Australia and then to the States to pursue your dream. I know you envisioned breaking into the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem.
[00:07:41] Maggie Chui: You were brought on as a 500 startup entrepreneur in residence. I want to know how old you were at that time and what it was like working in Silicon Valley.
[00:07:51] Khailee Ng: Okay. So here’s the thing, right? And this is for many people who did not grow up in America, especially if they come from a smaller country like Malaysia or something else.
[00:08:02] Khailee Ng: I feel that many of us have grown up, including myself. I grew up with the feeling of, oh and so thing, you can do it in the U.S. You can order a book online and have it delivered to you, or you can do that in the U.S, and you feel like all this distant magic happens somewhere in the U.S. And so, of course, you would be all right.
[00:08:18] Khailee Ng: I want to go to the U.S and see what this is all about. Of course, in this day and age. My younger brother would instead go to Korea than the U.S because Korean media influence him. If you’re influenced enough by American media, you would imagine that this better world is out there.
[00:08:32] Khailee Ng: So, for me, doing the student exchange to the U.S for me was like my first immersion. I was in San Francisco that year. It was fantastic. That being said, I was also pretty inspired to see how the internet could proliferate throughout Malaysia because everything was mainstream in the U.S at the time.
[00:08:50] Khailee Ng: I didn’t think that it would not become mainstream in Malaysia. I didn’t know that it would not become mainstream in Indonesia, Singapore, or anywhere else. I feel, and looking back like it is America’s internet population. The U.S internet population is like 4% of the world’s internet population.
[00:09:06] Khailee Ng: Everything will inevitably become mainstream elsewhere. So going back to Malaysia to build those two companies was just a natural extension. And at the time, like a lot of my peers would make just about anything. You would achieve some degree of success.
[00:09:20] Khailee Ng: If you worked hard at it and you’re willing to be a complete misfit and be misunderstood by your parents for about ten years. But if you go through that, like at the time, you are like an early innovator and adaptor enough. But naturally, after building and selling those two companies, you asked about age; I was 30 years old.
[00:09:37] Khailee Ng: It was just like a magic number. It was plus or minus 30. I was after building and selling two companies. I had more money than I had targeted, at least with my low ambitions at the time.
[00:09:50] Khailee Ng: Like a very special conversation point with my dad where I told him, I said, hey, look, this money that has been made, like it’s because your brothers and sisters, you had the life savings going for you to go to school.
[00:10:03] Khailee Ng: And so, he bought me those computers. My dad’s been working his ass off. My mom liked it, too, for her entire career. To think that in his twenties, the money made from technology companies is more than the life savings of multiple generations. It’s just the concept was just mind-blowing.
[00:10:19] Khailee Ng: It made me believe that other people could also have this chance to write about that rollercoaster. Building generational wealth in a few years inspired me to become an angel investor. So before I went to Silicon Valley, I just wanted to surround myself with people who had the same hustle, who had the same energy of wanting to obsess for a couple of years, and willing to feel like a complete loser for a bunch of years, just to build something they believed in. And so, I was angel investing and helping other companies and people get started. I was incubating new startups in my living room, and at some point, I wanted to be good at this.
[00:10:56] Khailee Ng: I want to learn from the best. And then, it rekindled the idea to go back to the U.S. So, buying a plane ticket and landing in the U.S in Silicon Valley, meeting with VCs, I had meetings with some of the top names. I was very grateful. They made time to meet me, but that was when I learned a few actual harsh realities. The first one was that, at the time, Silicon Valley had not been very aggressive about investing in the rest of the world, and for a good reason, I think the opportunity cost was too high. And actually, people may not want to extend into an area where it’s not their genius zone. Like you just need a higher, more reason to do. So most of Silicon Valley was focused on Silicon Valley first.
[00:11:39] Khailee Ng: It would encourage the best of the best global ten to come to Silicon Valley to build the companies. All of that was incredibly rational. Number two is that, while I thought that Silicon Valley would have liked more talented entrepreneurs if anything.
[00:11:50] Khailee Ng: When just revisiting, I realized that most Silicon Valley entrepreneurs weren’t even from Silicon Valley. I was like, speaking of Viv Wawa, who wrote this book, the immigrant Exodus, like he said, according to this data, 60% of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, like they weren’t from the valley.
[00:12:05] Khailee Ng: They went from the U.S, and thirdly, as I discovered that a lot of people who were from the U.S are not from the U.S. They’re just as innovative as anyone anywhere else, and so I think that, but what was very different was, of course, the density of the network and the density of access to capital.
[00:12:20] Khailee Ng: And so I thought, okay, we’ll just have to bring the density of the network and access to capital elsewhere. That’s the way to do it. I was a bit naive. But I was also disheartened because nobody thought I was rational about that. So on my last flight, the very last day before, I would leave completely disillusioned.
[00:12:36] Khailee Ng: I met with some people at 500 Global back then. They were called 500 startups. They were like two years old, I think. They were also a ragtag bunch of misfits. They were actively investing in the rest of the world. They could speak to the best, shisha was in Haji lane.
[00:12:49] Khailee Ng: At the time in Singapore, they could talk about the difference between what is Manila, vs. Makati City. They were so well-traveled and had cut investments in all these different parts of the world. I was particularly impressed that they had invested in Vicky out in Singapore when an early kind of K drama Netflix-type company sold to Rakuten for 200 million.
[00:13:07] Khailee Ng: I was so impressed, I told myself. These are my people. I told myself that I would work with them, and we would build for other people in the world who also felt the same way about their potential. It took me a while to earn their trust, but I worked hard. I volunteered to be an entrepreneur and resident just to be there.
[00:13:28] Khailee Ng: I say, hey, I work for free. Then, please let’s pay you something, some stipend or whatever. And then, I took some loose pocket change and was actively mentoring camp. Next thing, I was actively mentoring companies in the Southern Valley.
[00:13:37] Maggie Chui: That’s amazing. There are so many points there that I agree with because, coming from someone who grew up in San Francisco, I was born and raised in San Francisco.
[00:13:46] Maggie Chui: You’re right when you’re saying no one in San Francisco is actually from San Francisco or Silicon Valley from Silicon Valley. Every time I would take an Uber, and they asked me if I knew where I was from, I would say, I’m from San Francisco. They would never believe me.
[00:13:58] Maggie Chui: Everyone who lived there in SF or Silicon Valley was transplanted. They were not natives.
[00:14:03] Khailee Ng: At least, that vast majority of them, the truly local folks, are hiding somewhere, I guess!
[00:14:07] Maggie Chui: Exactly, and building Asian Hustle Network, I can’t agree more when we have conversations with entrepreneurs outside of the U.S. There’s this really big misconception that entrepreneurs in the U.S are better than everyone else, better than entrepreneurs in other countries.
[00:14:24] Maggie Chui: I think that we just get more exposure. We just have this limelight that tells everyone else in the world that people in the U.S are the best. We have the best resources, and it’s only because we get more exposure. We get more help because the funding and the opportunities are here.
[00:14:39] Maggie Chui: It’s not because we’re any more competent. When talking to entrepreneurs in Asia, Australia, Canada, and other countries, they’re way faster in many ways than we are. I would say, if not the same, if not more, at least the same pace. But I would say, there are so many entrepreneurs outside of the U.S that don’t get enough attention because we’re so focused on entrepreneurs. In the U.S are the best; we have the best talent out here.
[00:15:08] Khailee Ng: There’s enormous media momentum and media machinery.
[00:15:11] Maggie Chui: Yes.
[00:15:11] Khailee Ng: That makes it more convenient to profile different entrepreneurs of a particular type. But it’s media organizations like yourself in many ways that Asian Hustle Network surfaces alternative narratives. at 500 Global, that’s what we also care to do.
[00:15:24] Khailee Ng: I’ll give you an example. We now manage about 3 billion U.S dollars in assets under management. We’ve invested in 3000 companies in 80 countries. In terms of region coverage, we’re talking about 400 companies in the Middle East. We’re talking about over four to five companies in Latin America.
[00:15:39] Khailee Ng: We’re talking about over 300 companies in Southeast Asia, so and so forth. Not about half of our companies are still Silicon Valley and American companies, but we’re covering many other markets. But I’m genuinely proud that we’ve got fifty-one of those companies that have become unicorns.
[00:15:54] Khailee Ng: And of those 51 unicorns, half of them are non-U.S., non-China, non-India. To the rest of the world, unicorns, and from those stories, we learn from each other, we start to see the kind of ways that the rest of the world innovates. It gives us a front-row seat to tell those stories as well.
[00:16:11] Khailee Ng: You’ll see a lot more for 500 Global in the coming years as we also flex some media muscle to be able to offer alternative narratives. I’ll also say one other thing as well, right? It’s something that we try to learn to do better. We also want to succeed in our own game, and it isn’t because we’re from the rest of the world or we’re a minority or this or that; it’s our mission that is beside the point.
[00:16:32] Khailee Ng: It’s not about us, where we are from, or who we are. It’s what we offer to the world. What are we building for people? And I think the general thesis is that if we have different backgrounds and upbringings and a lot of diversity, we’ll be able to build more for other people.
[00:16:47] Khailee Ng: We’ll be building for the rest of the world. It would be more likely someone from the rest of the world or global first citizens, as I call it, would be able to build for more parts of the world. I think that will be a beautiful thing.
[00:16:59] Maggie Chui: Yes. So you saw the potential in Southeast Asia and established the Southeast Asia Division at 500 startups called 500 Durians, which I love the name bite of.
[00:17:11] Khailee Ng: Yes. At the start, that was the fund name. We’ve recently calibrated that. It turns out that different people have an appreciation for fruits. So we’ve calibrated that to now become just 500, Southeast Asia, back to a more descriptive name. Because otherwise, it would be like a two-step explanation, like, oh, cool. And then, talk about which countries they were, but hey, look at Southeast Asia. That’s a good conversation starter, though. So I think, with find jet Southeast Asia, it was 2014, right?
[00:17:35] Khailee Ng: Eventually, after the EIR stint, I worked with 500 to say, look, let’s create a platform for local news emerging VCs to launch funds. And then, we can support them with what I would call a fund in a box. And then, you will do fund in the box, like you get legal finance, you get playbooks. We access the data, we will learn, and we will share.
[00:17:54] Khailee Ng: There was the original idea that helped perpetuate ourselves to 30 funds as of this year. But for 500 Southeast Asia, it was the second fund in that iteration. The first-ever sub-fund, if you will, or our regional focus fund was acceptable in Mexico. I wasn’t sure actually if I would be a VC. I wasn’t sure at all like at the time I was 30 years old and liked discovering a lot of new things. I wasn’t ready to come in at the time but I wanted to be part of it.
[00:18:21] Khailee Ng: I wanted to do something, but you must remember venture capital funds. They’re like 10-year vehicles, mostly. And that’s like a long commitment to say, hey, look, I’m going to just do this at 30. I will be done by 40. That’s a big commitment. I wasn’t sure. So I spoke to Santiago, who made that leap to do 500 Mexico, and he was already operating his fund, and he had his momentum; New Mexico sat down.
[00:18:41] Khailee Ng: I remember we had a burger in mountain view, and he was like, why would you do it, Santi? Why don’t you just continue to do your own thing? Why not build a company? He’s a software engineer. He’s a successful entrepreneur. You can make companies and do whatever you want, man. Why do this? He said, Khailee, there’s only once in a while.
[00:18:55] Khailee Ng: I have come across an opportunity to change the trajectory of my country and my region, so that’s why I’m doing it. I was like, okay, and so 2014, right? I said, okay, let’s raise this Southeast Asia Fund response. We were like, hey, how’s the internet access over there?
[00:19:09] Khailee Ng: The credit card penetration is super low. Internet penetration is super soft. Many of those markets are no series A, B, or C investors. It makes zero sense to do a fund in Southeast Asia. There were some folks within the firm who, like, maybe, you can concentrate on some other regions.
[00:19:24] Khailee Ng: The ultimate conclusion was that if there weren’t people to start seeding companies, you wouldn’t kickstart that virtuous cycle of having series A firms B from C firms. That ecosystem wouldn’t even emerge. Someone’s going to make that first move.
[00:19:38] Khailee Ng: There’s no chicken, no egg, and just shit to get done. So we’re like, okay, let’s just get a couple of irrational believers, and let’s do this. We raised like a small pocket of money, and in 2014, the year we launched a fund, from July 2014 to December, we made 21 investments today.
[00:19:55] Khailee Ng: I’m proud to say that from the 21 investments, we have five unicorns. Three of them are public Grab, Bach, and Prix, a Hong Kong company that had Southeast Asia penetration at the time. And then, we have Carson and Carousel, who are unicorns, who might go public at some point relatively soon.
[00:20:13] Khailee Ng: So five out of 21 of those companies completely defy the odds. No credit card, who cares. Grab probably pays more. More people are perhaps in Grab, paid in credit cards, right now. I don’t know the exact data, but I’m guessing.
[00:20:25] Khailee Ng: No internet connection who gives a crap. Bupa has ten right now. They’re probably at 14 million Mitras, these offline stores that reach all of Indonesia and the rest of Indonesia.
[00:20:37] Khailee Ng: Being able to sell them goods and services, there is a convenience that people in the city would have, right? You don’t need old-world infrastructures to build a new world order. I feel like these first 21 investments we made and five of these companies prove it beyond doubt. And to think, the rest of our 300 companies were 2015 vintage; we’ve got companies like E fishery.
[00:20:58] Khailee Ng: He’s like a slum. He’s like Lebron, the founder is like a true slumdog heir. Let me go deep into his story because it’s so damn inspiring. He grew up in an Indonesian Jakarta slum. He and his best friend had a shot at getting a scholarship to Bay ITB, which is a local, very good school.
[00:21:13] Khailee Ng: It’s like the MIT of Indonesia. And then, his best friend disappeared. He couldn’t find his best friend, but he got a scholarship, and he went on. So while he was on a scholarship, it wasn’t a full scholarship, he lived at the local mosque because he was semi-homeless.
[00:21:25] Khailee Ng: He was just crashing at the mosque. He was eating one meal a day to get through school one day. He was so hungry. He fainted; he didn’t know how long he had fainted. He was woken up by someone at a mosque. He doesn’t want to be poor. Being poor sucks. He’s like, I got to hustle and make some money.
[00:21:39] Khailee Ng: He just eats one meal a day, so he decided to become a fish farmer while he studied at school. He decided he liked doing classes. He needed to attend his fish farm. He created some technology to help him feed the fish in an automated, timely manner. And after he graduated, he developed technology for fish farmers.
[00:21:56] Khailee Ng: So who would want to be back on the technology of a fish farmer, right? Who would’ve thought that would become a thing after working with Giron? And eventually, we massaged the idea to give the exchange the technology away for free to the fish farmers. The IoT would know how many fish are in the farms and would be able to feed them and know how big they will be.
[00:22:15] Khailee Ng: We can predict how much fish they will have. And as a result, we can sell the fish back into the market, the last 12 months’ revenue Maggie. We’re talking about 400 million U.S dollars in revenue.
[00:22:25] Maggie Chui: Wow.
[00:22:25] Khailee Ng: We’re talking about 11% abida. This is a profitable company with $400 million in revenue and growing like crazy.
[00:22:31] Khailee Ng: We’re talking about them penetrating only two to 3% of the total fish sales in Indonesia. They are launching in multiple regions. This company will be so big and Giron himself bumped into his friend, not too recently, me. He told me the story. He was like, he bumped into his friend who disappeared.
[00:22:47] Khailee Ng: He said the friend was pushing a pushcart, selling stuff on the street. And so he said, ” Hey dude, where have you been? Oh, my mom’s house burned down, so I had to quit school and work to take care of my family. Now, it hit pause on that success as a timestamp for a moment.
[00:23:01] Khailee Ng: Think of that relative difference. That one little thing can make where your brand eventually becomes. What your brand’s finally doing versus his friend? Now, we press play on this YouTube video of the narrative of Giron and fishery and can see in the future will. Giron will more likely empathize with all the other slumdog millionaires worldwide. Giron will more likely reinvest his wealth into elevating people like him and his upbringing.
[00:23:29] Khailee Ng: And then, we press pause on that future timestamp because this is a movie we’ve watched. We were the first investors in Canva. That’s a female-founded company from Australia, and they’re so big that they launched their endowment. They created their endowment. Cliff and Melanie created their endowment.
[00:23:46] Khailee Ng: It’s $12 billion. It’s one of the most prominent charitable organizations in all of Australia. Like why would someone do it like that? Can you imagine the world of billionaires we can create from the rest of the world that would go on to reinvest that wealth and redistribute it and create more opportunities for others?
[00:24:02] Khailee Ng: This is the moment where we look at that YouTube narrative and say, hey, wait a minute. This YouTube narrative is not just a Maggie train narrative. It’s not Khailee Ng’s narrative. It’s not a Gira narrative. This is our narrative, like our histories are so intertwined. We and success are so shared.
[00:24:16] Khailee Ng: When you start realizing that success isn’t just yours, there’s this sense of shared success in communities. You’re building an Asian Hustle Network. You hear success stories from your network all the time. You would listen to them because like their stories are your stories.
[00:24:28] Khailee Ng: Okay. I don’t know what we talked about, but that was good. But this is real talk, you know what I’m talking about? This is real stuff.
[00:24:35] Maggie Chui: Yes. And I thank you for sharing that story. It’s fantastic to see you have that mindset shift. You went to your colleague and asked Santi, like, what makes you want to have this plan or go with it for ten years, and you might not even know what it will turn out to become.
[00:24:52] Maggie Chui: Yes, it’s easy to start a startup. Yes. It’s easy to start a company, but you might be only attacking one demographic. You might be only solving a problem for one demographic, building a fund. You’re serving a whole region, you’re able to change the future and change lives for a whole region and make so many dramatic changes and impactful changes for that entire Southeast Asia region.
[00:25:15] Maggie Chui: Incredibly, you were able to come to that conclusion and push yourself to be like, hey, let’s just do it.
[00:25:22] Khailee Ng: Yes, I’m happy to be a part of it, but Given branded all the work. My colleagues at 500 and all the founders Anthony from Grab, Karaza Zaki, and Fo and C from Alba.
[00:25:32] Khailee Ng: These are real people working, obsessing, and trading off like a decade of their lives actually to get that work done. I’m a small part of it. I appreciate your kind words, but I think it’s essential for all venture capitalists not to take too much credit simultaneously. We’re a small part of it, but I want to play a more significant role in ensuring these narratives affect people because here’s what we don’t want right now.
[00:25:54] Khailee Ng: We’re very dangerous like the precipice of whether or not venture capital as an industry gets shot on and vilified, or whether or not it can have the air cover. To continue doing good work, let me tell you what I mean; check this out long ago, lawyers, suitable? Legal systems in every single country around the world were erected.
[00:26:17] Khailee Ng: Now, legal systems are like code, literally. They are like codes. There are different acts. There are other things, and I don’t even understand these codes. If you were a lawyer trained as a lawyer, you would understand the principles and say, oh, you have to go to jail. Oh no, you don’t go to jail. You must pay this percent, $20 million in compensation.
[00:26:36] Khailee Ng: Lawyers had a lot of power because they quickly understood the codes. A lot of lawyers earned a lot of money very quickly. Many people look at these lawyers and say they’re evil. And suddenly, lawyers become the butt of party jokes.
[00:26:49] Khailee Ng: So people didn’t like lawyers. The next wave of this phenomenon was banking and finance, right? Lotus 1, 2, 3, and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets were created, and spreadsheets allowed a lot of people to push the world of finance forward because they lowered the barrier to entry of people to run the kind of financial analysis they needed now. That, in other factors and the evolution of banking systems, propelled wall street to rise.
[00:27:15] Khailee Ng: And suddenly, you had bankers making a lot of money, and many people didn’t understand why. But because the bankers understood the financial codes and how to refinance, how engineer, create different financial instruments and extract a lot of money for themselves.
[00:27:29] Khailee Ng: We should have blown up, and some people were like, oh, the bankers got their bonuses, but shit blew up on us. And now, we’re broke. A lot of hatred went toward bankers. Suddenly, Wall Street is vilified.
[00:27:37] Khailee Ng: What is happening with tech today? You see where I’m going with this. Now, these startup founders, or startup roles or whatever it is that understood how to be super geeky. This hoodie and instant liking is multis and awkward with freckles and pimples; whatever stereotype you can imagine, it’s that we’re seen to be good people.
[00:27:55] Khailee Ng: They went against corporate machinery. They were disruptors. They were celebrated, but not anymore. They’re being called to Congress. They’re being blamed for all kinds of things. They have a part to play. They have a responsibility as well.
[00:28:04] Khailee Ng: But many people like, hey, all these kinds of tech folks, San Francisco, you’re from San Francisco, like you can see the divide.
[00:28:10] Maggie Chui: Many people blame tech folks, gentrification.
[00:28:12] Khailee Ng: Absolutely. My wife and I contribute greatly to a great organization called Code Tenderloin. The founder of code Tenderloin Dell Seamer grew up in the Tenderloin District and talked a lot about crossing the market, meaning crossing the market street.
[00:28:26] Khailee Ng: But just across the market street, you got Salesforce Tower, this and that, and everything and Nintendo lines on the other side. But he’s not saying that with any Ng’s, he’s, hey, let’s bridge this, let’s cross-market, so people from the tenant learn can get jobs in Salesforce Tower and elsewhere.
[00:28:38] Khailee Ng: He’s been so successful at that. We will talk a bit more about that later. But the point is that tech has a lot of work to do. VC startup founders have a lot of work to do, not just to report on how much money they’ve raised. That doesn’t impress anyone. No one cares; only other tech people tend, and who’s raising more money?
[00:28:55] Khailee Ng: And so forth, the rest of the world is like they’re looking at their cousin having upgraded to a Tesla. They’re driving a beat-up Honda civic. And they’re like, Hey, where’s the fairness in this? And you’re getting angry, so I think there’s a lot of work that venture capitalists like me do. And also, 500 and a lot of peers in the industry have to say, look, let’s tell different types of stories that are more holistic.
[00:29:16] Khailee Ng: We need to surface the work that gets done. The real sacrifices that get made to serve people and the kind of farmers that get served. The sort of rural audiences that get filled by venture capital. Not just having ramen delivered two minutes faster by yet another company that looks the same as this other app that you’re trying to get AMMO code off.
[00:29:32] Khailee Ng: Do you know what I mean? Okay. But with this in point, crypto is the perfect extension of that, right? I think that many of these stereotypes of crypto are not remarkable because a ton of women make money in crypto as well.
[00:29:43] Khailee Ng: There is also that sense of people understanding something that’s quite crypto. They know the codes to unlock that cash, which brings a lot of tension. But I just want to again, press pause and then press forward on this video because we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it before in investment banking and finance, and now we’re seeing it again with technology.
[00:30:01] Khailee Ng: We know how this story will be, so let’s make decisions today. Do the stories different?
[00:30:07] Maggie Chui: I love that. So I want to rewind a little bit because you mentioned that when you entered the market for Southeast Asia, there was no use and no credit cards. They didn’t have any infrastructure.
[00:30:18] Maggie Chui: And so, I want to know, what is the state of the startups in Southeast Asia today, and how have you seen it change throughout the years?
[00:30:26] Khailee Ng: Yes, so for Southeast Asia, the different markets at different stages of maturity, I would say, I think that Singapore continues to be like a hub for investment, activity, and a lot of good talent and sophistication.
[00:30:39] Khailee Ng: It hits a particular stage where Singapore’s an excellent place to attract. If you’re building a multi-billion dollar company, there are a lot of folks who prefer to be an ex-pat in Singapore. I think Singapore’s cornered that market to some degree. A lot of people who are bringing outside capital and creating funds and setting up funds and hiring people also do it in Singapore for some of those reasons.
[00:30:55] Khailee Ng: And then, naturally, Singapore, there’s a ton of excellent startup activity, is a good spot for deep tech, which is another chapter of tech that we have to fast forward to the future, as well.
[00:31:04] Khailee Ng: Indonesia is getting more mature as a market. It’s attracting a lot of new entrants. There’s a bit of hype sometimes for Indonesia, and some of the companies deserve all the promotion, and some companies don’t. Some sectors deserve it. It really should be more invested.
[00:31:18] Khailee Ng: Some sectors are overinvested, and that’s a natural thing that happens with markets like Indonesia. That being said, Vietnam is up. The Philippines is rising. Malaysia has always played an integral role in the trifecta of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. And so, a lot of regional champions are born in Malaysia.
[00:31:34] Khailee Ng: The two founders of Grab are from Malaysia. Most of the founding team are from Malaysia, as well, and many more companies like that. A lot of the regional champions have a lot of Malaysian blood. So Malaysia’s kind of like part of that. That golden triangle of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
[00:31:47] Khailee Ng: But, yes, so Southeast Asia, that’s like how we see it. There are a ton of opportunities. We’re still in the early innings. I’ll sum up Southeast Asia. One other thing, if you look at generational developments in internet time when China had the B.A.T, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. That was a considerable step change since B.A.T.
[00:32:04] Khailee Ng: when we ran our unicorn research, and we do this once a year, we saw that it is 40% of Chinese unicorns. At the time, we ran a research investment by Alibaba in 10. So when you look at things like the PayPal mafia, the Facebook mafia, the Google mafia, or ex-Google network or whatnot, like Silicon Valley at 60 years of generational compounding effects.
[00:32:25] Khailee Ng: Southeast Asia now is the GSG grab; go to and see limited. So those three tech giants are, of course, winged by Buka Laak and other companies that are also public, but this new generation of public tech companies in Southeast Asia kickstarts the first step for talent. People will create many excellent companies for validation and a new wave of startups and innovation. So that’s what I’ll say, stay tuned.
[00:32:50] Maggie Chui: Yes, I’m sure it’s going to be even more in the next five years.
[00:32:54] Khailee Ng: it will be even more significant.
[00:32:55] Maggie Chui: The market’s going to be even more significant, and we’re already moving fast in Southeast Asia. I feel like it’s not even an emerging market now. It’s like it has already emerged.
[00:33:04] Khailee Ng: Yes, it’s very emerged. But I’ll say this: let me draw the line because I think that we covered a little bit of the past and present, and we draw the line, the future.
[00:33:12] Khailee Ng: Here’s where things kind of land with the state of the internet and investing for Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. There are about 8 billion ish people in the world right now. There are about 4 billion ish people on the internet. We don’t have exact numbers on this, but speaking with a couple of folks, 400 million people on chains actively involve crypto.
[00:33:32] Khailee Ng: Right now, 4 billion internet users will become 8 billion users, faster than the first 4 billion did because smartphones from so many brands are so cheap and a lot of smartphone financing, and telco networks, 5g, satellite, you name it. We’ll see another 4 billion internet users come online within our lifetimes and definitely within the decade.
[00:33:54] Khailee Ng: We’ll see many of them come online to a new version of the internet. They could come to the latest version of the internet if the folks building internet platforms today care about disrupting. Even with Facebook, TikTok, Google, and what else, there is new ground to rethink or build new building blocks for the knicks building people coming online. This is why I work with and when 500 works with many folks on the web for free.
[00:34:20] Khailee Ng: We were the first backers in Solana in 2016. Infini was part of an accelerated program in 2017 in Vietnam. We’ve been part of early companies, but they were never called projects. People say, Khailee, you invest in Webre projects. Say I invest in companies, it’s like, I want to build stuff of people that will compound across a decade. It will become like an empire and foundation for so much more things. Suppose it starts at a project, great. But let’s talk about what it looks like as a company. And so, I think with that in mind, if a lot of builders today can build new infrastructure for not just for the existing on the chain, people in 400 million, but you make for the rest of the 2.6 billion people on the internet. But not yet on chains or even better, let’s build the internet for another 4 billion more people in the rest of the world.
[00:35:05] Khailee Ng: That’s going to be great, but here’s the challenge. Here’s what we need to overcome, Maggie. The rest of the 4 billion people that will come on the internet are coming on the internet every day. They have a different background from us, like even you and I. A lot of them are Muslim nations.
[00:35:21] Khailee Ng: Yes, and we can’t have divisive narratives. There are many peaceful people in some of these countries, and they want opportunity too. We are so proud. We had a Palestinian company raise a series. Recently, a female-founded Palestinian company has grown, which is beautiful.
[00:35:34] Khailee Ng: We’ve also invested in Israeli companies. We should do very well like it’s a beautiful thing. But like at one of the years, I think it was last year. One of the most active investors in Africa, like one of our African batch companies, chipper cash, came to our accelerator program. After they graduated, they didn’t get much additional investment.
[00:35:49] Khailee Ng: Then, we all crowded back in again today. They’re a $2 billion company. That’s the most prolific FinTech company in Africa.
[00:35:55] Khailee Ng: I just want to give these real stories because if anyone’s listening here today and you want Asian Hustle your way right into building something big, let’s not hustle for ourselves.
[00:36:04] Khailee Ng: Let’s hustle for the following 4 billion people coming online; who are they? Where are they? What do they need? What can we do for them? When we think like that, you bet you’re going to have a huge addressable market, and you can bet that you’re on the right side of history.
[00:36:17] Maggie Chui: Yes. I love how you put it because I think a lot of founders when they first start a company, ‘re mostly not all of them. I think the ones that don’t get to succeed are the ones who only think about themselves.
[00:36:29] Maggie Chui: But when you’re building a company, you have to think about how this is going to solve other people’s problems. How is this going to change the world? How will this impact a larger demographic other than my community? It can start with caring about themselves or making extra money.
[00:36:44] Maggie Chui: But then, as you mentioned, the limits will be very near, and it will be very clear, like the limits will come very soon. It gives you a starting point, but it’s a limited option. Why not have more options? Why not be unlimited?
[00:36:54] Khailee Ng: Yes, with total empathy, you’ll get many new options.
[00:36:57] Maggie Chui: Exactly. So on that topic, what are some of the key things you look for when investing in a company? For example, what separates a good company from one that gets funding?
[00:37:09] Khailee Ng: Yes, the app, that’s always an important question.
[00:37:12] Khailee Ng: I would say that because today, we invest not just in the seed. We’ve got different vehicles for different regions but support across the board. We can seed. We’ve got a growth fund, as well. We can cut $5 million- $10 million checks. We’re launching vehicles to cut even more extensive bills, 20 million or more.
[00:37:27] Khailee Ng: But typically, we cut 500K checks. Now, the company can be in an idea stage, and we’d be ready to do it, so no company is too early. But we do care about founder market fit, not just product market fit. We care about having founders who feel for what they’re building. Founders have an advantage over other founders trying to build the same thing.
[00:37:51] Khailee Ng: The reason is that whenever you build something worthwhile, you can have eight competitors at minimum. All ventures are doing the same thing, so if you have a unique insight and a unique relation to what you’re building, it gives you an added advantage, and we like that. The second thing is that we are also looking for these days. We’re looking for founders who are willing to build very ambitiously.
[00:38:13] Khailee Ng: I think that the ambition level was calibrated for some point in time to be product market fit. It was like early traction, and it was very traction oriented. That’s all very good. But at the same time, I’ve had to say no to many companies because it has become very myopic.
[00:38:31] Khailee Ng: It hurts them to be overly myopic about solving or for early product market fit and traction without being able to narrate what happens next, and without that ability to tell what happens after, it limits the amount of follow-on capability that can come in.
[00:38:46] Khailee Ng: And so, it does help to be a little bit bolder. Some folks will also challenge this day and age, at least at this very moment when the markets seem a bit soft. We look for companies that can raise money no matter what time of day. What season is it? A lot of that has to do with the founders’ personality being willing not to be overly influenced by other people and by market trends, and they’ll find the money somehow.
[00:39:15] Khailee Ng: I’ll share one last thing related to not just new founders but people who are already building companies today. I’ve started to learn and reflect on companies that have shut down. Through COVID and even without COVID, some companies shut down after raising a lot of money.
[00:39:31] Khailee Ng: I start noticing that many of them begin the dissent. Right from that trajectory, when they start to blame the moment, they’re in a stupid VC. I didn’t do this, the VC didn’t reply, this person screwed me over this deal, or that didn’t come true. They said it’d come true, but they didn’t.
[00:39:50] Khailee Ng: Like, these things are very real things that happen, and I’m not discounting the fact that there are rough and tumblers. Many things do fall true to cracks and even in my personal experience. And even at 500, we had dozens upon a dozen things we would make or break that didn’t follow true.
[00:40:05] Khailee Ng: But that recovery rate is that you can say, okay, let me reflect on that. Hit pause, reflect, let me hit play, and let’s go forward. Like you kind of do that, or you can kindly press play and rewind or press play, and just turn off and kill the tab and ask you this. You can go into an energy loop that will suck you down. For founders of the company, if your energy regulation is not the best in the company, your energy will affect everybody else’s energy. And then, your co-founders and management team don’t need to feel right.
[00:40:33] Khailee Ng: They can sense it, even sense, know what’s happening. Yes, they don’t even know what’s happening. They can sense blame. They can sense bitterness. They can feel defeat. They can sense anger. These are emotions that we reflect on and embrace. But again, how can you transmute that energy during the recovery period?
[00:40:46] Khailee Ng: How can you alchemize that energy to make a comeback? And you come back stronger, pivot, and turn something that seems like a turd into a gem. So, I think some of those skills are things that I like, I will try to do better as a VC. I teach my teams, and I work with my partners. To say, how can we at least lean on that skill?
[00:41:04] Khailee Ng: The turnaround was a little bit. I think that’s very timely today. But I just wanted to signal that to your question because I think some of the founders like this; it’s so hard to know how good you are at that till the shit gets terrible, right?
[00:41:15] Maggie Chui: Yes. Shit will likely hit the fan, and you won’t know how you will react until that happens, but that’s really good insight.
[00:41:24] Maggie Chui: I think many founders can turn their situation into a good one and just come out of it. Recover quickly, or they can start blaming other people, which is the easy thing to do.
[00:41:35] Khailee Ng: We’re running away over time. Let me round this out. I think there is a misconception that people need to learn the harshest life lessons from the most significant mistakes or disasters. And while that is largely true, there is a lot of value in learning from minor things. There’s a ton of value in learning from other people’s mistakes.
[00:41:58] Khailee Ng: Okay, and the equation is this, if you learn, if you make a very big mistake that costs you a lot, the price you pay is high. So even though the lesson value is high, maybe you got a cost of a hundred divided by the value of a hundred. So your lesson value is a hundred, but if your lesson cost is one point, but your lesson value is a hundred, then the value of the whole class is a hundred.
[00:42:18] Khailee Ng: If you learn from somebody else, the cost is zero. So anything you learn from them divided by zero is infinity, right? So as far as this equation is concerned, I bring this up because I encourage founders to build good relationships with their life partners. Their spouse builds good relationships with their parents because overcoming any kind of family and any kind of relationship interaction gives them new skills they can use at work. The skills they use can also have this transferable effect on your personal life.
[00:42:48] Khailee Ng: You’re creating an energy cycle where you don’t feel like you’re in a war zone at work and then come home to a war zone at home. You feel like you’re a place of energy at work and power at home. The energy cycle is very conducive, right? So many transferable lessons, so if something small happens, reflect on it a lot.
[00:43:04] Khailee Ng: And then, say, hey, how can I use this when something big happens? How can I use this turnaround? There are a lot of examples, but I don’t think I need to delve into them because, you know, many listeners of this show can probably already nod their heads and relate.
[00:43:16] Maggie Chui: Yes. So I know we’re coming to an end for the podcast, but I have one interesting question that I want to ask you, Khailee.
[00:43:23] Maggie Chui: I learned that you’ve been very vocal about how you decided to change your life on New Year’s Day in 2016 and essentially turned vegan. What led to this decision, and how has that changed your life?
[00:43:36] Khailee Ng: Yes, I think many of the decisions I made in 2016 are part of a larger narrative that I’m trying to build about the ability to evolve.
[00:43:44] Khailee Ng: Many of my close friends know me for changing my wardrobe. Like every couple of years, my hairstyle and trying to redefine my approach and even flex on my personality test. That means I get a particular result if I do a personal test. At some point, I’m like, let me try to be a little bit different from who I am. So I think this type of evolution is something I enjoy as a hobby, just reinvention. But I started to see that’s essentially what a lot of entrepreneurs do like they naturally changed their style. As the company goes from a seed company to a public company, they change how they operate. They change how they think. They rewrite their belief systems.
[00:44:17] Khailee Ng: So for me, the veganism thing you brought up, I noticed at the time that my mind was entering a particular loop that is repetitive, and some of those loops were dangerous. For example, I was in a validation loop where I almost had a dopamine hit. If somebody told me I was smart or something, and then, so I was like, I don’t want to be controlled by seeking validation.
[00:44:37] Khailee Ng: I want to be aware of that and like to rewrite and equip myself with different beliefs so that I don’t need to fall into that loop. That’s a very subtle thing. But shopping was one. At the time, I didn’t know why I just bought a lot of random stuff. I remember reflecting like I was acknowledging this like a salt and pepper shaker.
[00:44:51] Khailee Ng: And then, I was like, oh, this looks like a Fox. Why do I want to buy this shit? It costs like $50 or something. And then, if I bought it, maybe some people would come to the house for dinner, and they would say, ” Oh, this is so cool. What did you get from it? I’m like, what’s this? When this stupid internal conversation is that right?
[00:45:04] Khailee Ng: I put the damn salt or paper. I wanted to just throw the salt and pepper shake on the ground, but I didn’t; I just left it there. I’m like, no, number one. I’m not going to buy this. Number two is that, why am I shopping? What loops are going on in my head that make me get Dom hits, or what kind? I said, no, I’m going to stop shopping for the whole year and see what happens throughout my wardrobe.
[00:45:21] Khailee Ng: Now, at the time, I was, of course, going through some experiments with fitness as well because, through my entrepreneurial life, I didn’t focus on fitness so much. So I was trying to do a bit of a turnaround, so I was going into a lot of body hacking and health.
[00:45:32] Khailee Ng: And then, I saw that I was eating a lot of meat. I was eating a ton of heart and a lot of eggs as part of my increased protein intake. At least, I was on that paradigm at the time. I didn’t feel good. And then, I interacted with someone who was part of this WhatsApp group, who said, hey, who wants to do a five-day vegan challenge?
[00:45:49] Khailee Ng: I thought she was like an exciting person. I wanted to get her attention. So I was like, oh, hey, let me join this. And so, it was in Bali, and we tried a bunch of restaurants. I started to see that I could change who I was in the subtitles concerning diet. To think that all my life, I just wanted to eat more and more meat, and being heart was manly.
[00:46:08] Khailee Ng: I was masculine. I was getting more protein. It’s also like a middle-class thing when my family got more affluent, we went for steaks. I didn’t have salmon when we had salmon until later in my life. What’s this fish, right? So it upgrades your lives?
[00:46:21] Khailee Ng: You see this with a lot of new rich and new emerging markets as well, to consume more protein with the wealthier to get correct and different qualities of protein. So many associations with meat have been embedded. And for five days, none of that mattered. And so I was like, wow, this is such a revelation.
[00:46:37] Khailee Ng: What if I stopped eating any of this forever? And so, I would remind myself every meal I had, you are stronger than this cheesecake. You’re stronger than this, like a milkshake. You’re stronger than this egg waffle or something. You can rewrite any code in your mind. So today, for every meal I have, I take a moment to appreciate the meal because I just understand eating, in general.
[00:47:02] Khailee Ng: I just love eating, but number two is that I remind myself that anything in my mind right now, I choose to change it. I can do it, and I can hit the delete button. I can rewrite it, and I will keep it for the rest of my life, so that’s why I stay with veganism. It reminds me of self-mastery, but of course, the upsides of health and animal cruelty are just like bonuses for me.
[00:47:24] Maggie Chui: Yes.
[00:47:24] Khailee Ng: But of course, the girl who introduced me to the fight vegan challenge has been married for six years.
[00:47:29] Maggie Chui: Aw, congratulations.
[00:47:31] Khailee Ng: She continues to be such a positive influence. She also rewires her brain, and she serves and is wired very differently.
[00:47:36] Khailee Ng: She never had a job. Paid for money. She never worked for money her entire life. She is always just doing social work, and just like watching how she works with animal causes with homelessness is just such a marvel.
[00:47:48] Maggie Chui: Yes.
[00:47:48] Khailee Ng: Yes, so very grateful for all of that.
[00:47:50] Maggie Chui: Her heart is pure, and I agree.
[00:47:53] Maggie Chui: I feel like you constantly have to challenge yourself to make some changes. Otherwise, the only way you can improve is to make changes. You’re just going to stay in the same place when you’re not improving. When you’re not changing, I love that you always look for those opportunities to rewire yourselves and change yourselves so that you can become a more evolved person or version of yourself today.
[00:48:16] Maggie Chui: So we have one last question for you, Khailee.
[00:48:18] Khailee Ng: Okay.
[00:48:18] Maggie Chui: Okay. So what are your goals, and what do you want to achieve in the next several years?
[00:48:23] Khailee Ng: Okay. Thank you for asking that question. Goals. So I’ve never been much of a goal-type person, but I’ve always wanted to stay on a journey I care about.
[00:48:34] Khailee Ng: Have you read Ang Lee’s never-ending dream?
[00:48:37] Maggie Chui: I’ve heard of it but haven’t gotten the chance.
[00:48:39] Khailee Ng: It’s a little essay. It was initially in Mandarin, but it was translated. If you Google Lee’s neverending dream, it’s so heartwarming. It’s a short read.
[00:48:46] Khailee Ng: It’s beautiful. I was so moved. I was tearing up when I read it because I felt understood by what was said. I grew up in a goal-oriented society. I think a lot of people wait for your two goals. But for me, I somehow didn’t fully relate to that so much.
[00:49:02] Khailee Ng: And the never-ending dream is as such. I feel like I’m living this dream that I’ve always led as a creative person, and it didn’t matter if I was dancing alone. I didn’t even know I was singing or beatboxing. There’s no music for new kids on the block, the right stuff. As I was dancing at eight years old, like right now with you, I’m still dancing, Maggie.
[00:49:24] Khailee Ng: I don’t know if what I’m doing is rational or not. I don’t have that concept of rationality. I just want to dance like I want to sing. I want to write. I want to do things that I feel connect to a lot of people. And in fact, I’ve recently got a coach for freestyle wrapping as well, for more avenues of expression, but how it relates to business and the kind of work that I do as a venture capitalist with five global is that 500 is part of a larger narrative where it’s like a worldwide first thing. I talked about wiring up the rest of the world, from 4 billion internet users to 8 billion internet users.
[00:50:00] Khailee Ng: We want to be part of that. We want to be part of that in an accelerated way. There’s a reason why our staff members are distributed across like 20 locations. Our COO Courtney moved her family, her husband, and four kids to live in Riyadh. We want to be in places and immerse ourselves in the rest of the world.
[00:50:18] Khailee Ng: And then, that shuffling of cards doesn’t matter where we’re from, what upbringings are. We’re trying to create a shared future, so I think the first thing is can we wire up the rest of the world? So more people can make, more people can build. We don’t want the rest of the world to be completely addicted to TikTok, and we’re just consumers.
[00:50:37] Khailee Ng: It doesn’t matter if it’s TikTok or Netflix, opium, cigarettes, or alcohol. It doesn’t matter what that consumption addiction is if the rest of the world is just consumption only like we’re going to be slaves.
[00:50:49] Maggie Chui: Yes, it has the same effect. So we want a world where enough of us build for the rest of us.
[00:50:55] Khailee Ng: That’s one of the dreams. Part of this dream is to rewrite those narratives. To tell it at 500, we don’t go around saying that, oh, our co-founder and founder is female and Asian. Christine Sy wouldn’t say, oh, half of our management is female. We don’t go around just something, oh, hey, we’re female. It’s not right.
[00:51:10] Khailee Ng: This is the opposite of what we do. We’re trying to build something meaningful for the world. It doesn’t matter who we are. But if the narrative comes around the fact that, like our CEO and CEO or moms, they raise their kids who are building 500 and the report becomes, if the 1990s to 2010s were the revenge of the nerds, the speckled hoodie, computer nerds, maybe the 2020s onwards would be the revenge of the moms.
[00:51:35] Khailee Ng: We would have Christine and Courtney. If that narrative is like an extension of what’s real and what’s uplifting people and economies everywhere, so be it. There are a lot of beautiful narratives that unite. There are way too many narratives that divide.
[00:51:48] Khailee Ng: There are a lot of signals along the way. It’s Maggie; when you wake up from a dream and have a bit of deja vu somewhere, you’re like, hey, wait a minute. Didn’t I dream of that? These kinds of signals tell you to be on the right track. I see this in the work we did on launching our 500 Istanbul fund those years ago, on the front page of one of the local papers.
[00:52:05] Khailee Ng: Like, in fact, we were having a team retreat, and I remember Rena, the owner, who was driving that at the time. She was late for the team retreat because the Istanbul airport got bombed, so the front page of the news was local. There’s like the Istanbul airport got attacked by local terrorists or whatnot.
[00:52:19] Khailee Ng: And then, on the right side of it, 500 launches, a new fund in Istanbul. So you have this, precisely a signal, a dejavu moment to say, hey, you are on the right track. We need more narratives that unite narratives of hope. That’s what this world needs more of.
[00:52:34] Khailee Ng: And lastly, all this is super connected in this shared dream because Ray Alio, who I respect so much, talks about the new world order with his latest book, as well. He’s opened our eyes to say, hey, the new world order will be very different from the last, and there’s a lot of things we individuals can do.
[00:52:49] Khailee Ng: I’m so inspired by that because in a lot of ways if the new world order is inevitable and life in the past thousands and thousands of years forwards and backward in this super long form YouTube video that we’re watching together, the new world should be at least better than the last, right?
[00:53:05] Khailee Ng: Don’t give us a shitty version, so what is new? What are the features of the new world order? That’s better? Will all the challenger nations, not just the market leader, countries like us or China, and whatnot, get a fair bet? Will the challenger nations be equipped to compete? Will venture capital as an asset class and all these asset classes that return so much money to people be more inclusive? So our grandmothers can invest in venture capital. Our grandmothers can invest in startups that make it big, suitable? Not just public markets and so forth. So, I feel like there are many things that we can dream of in this new world order, and we can do them. I know it’s a bit of a longer answer to my goals, but I hope it gives you the color of what it is.
[00:53:41] Maggie Chui: Oh yes, no, I love it. And I love the mentality that you have. I can just sense, there are a lot of people who do things and want to succeed for the wrong reasons, but I can tell that you wish to see the people in our generation, in our world, have a future, have an opportunity to have a lot.
[00:53:58] Maggie Chui: It’s just so amazing to see the new world order like it is possible. But we have to, like, learn what didn’t work and what worked. And then, that way, we can set that foundation for the new world order.
[00:54:08] Khailee Ng: We pick a little part to play. We’ve laid that brick, and whether we have enough life to lead to see that brick become something more significant than that. It would be great. We’re all laying a little break of foundations for the future. I think that maybe the last thing I will add is to make it crispy, the new world order being global first.
[00:54:26] Khailee Ng: That’s the way to think about it, which is why we rebranded ourselves to 500 Global because when we reflect on what it means to be global first, that will unpack what the new world order will be and who we can be in a world that’s truly global.
[00:54:40] Maggie Chui: Yes.
[00:54:41] Maggie Chui: So, Khailee, where can our listeners find out more about you online?
[00:54:46] Khailee Ng: I haven’t been super active; I shared earlier that I’ve only been part of two other podcasts in my life. I wanted to do this because many friends recommended the Asian Hustle Network. How authentic it is, the audience you serve, and the strength of the community.
[00:54:59] Khailee Ng: I think you and Brian have done a great job. You can follow me on Instagram. You can follow me on LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter.
[00:55:07] Khailee Ng: You can do all of those things. I need all the followers I can get, so please do that.
[00:55:12] Maggie Chui: Okay. We will too.
[00:55:13] Khailee Ng: But I will start to create more content, I will begin to see, and you will give me feedback. Anyone, listen and give me feedback. What’s valuable to you?
[00:55:21] Khailee Ng: What’s valuable to other people? I have a lot of friends who say, hey, Khailee, you should create more content. People need to hear some of these things.
[00:55:26] Khailee Ng: I’m like, here, what? So like you tell me, right? I’ll only do it if it’s helpful to you. But yes, Google me and follow me on all the channels, I’ll try to make more content.
[00:55:36] Maggie Chui: We’ll leave all of that in the show notes, and everything that you said on this podcast was extremely useful, Khailee. I learned so much from you just in this last hour and just wanted to commend you for all the work that you’ve been doing.
[00:55:48] Maggie Chui: Thank you so much for being on the podcast today, Khailee. It was fantastic learning about your story.
[00:55:53] Khailee Ng: All right. Okay. We’ll talk soon. Thank you so much, Maggie.
[00:55:55] Maggie Chui: All right. Thank you.