Embracing Change: From Venture Capitalist to Venture Builder

Wright Partners
6 min readJun 14, 2023

If you only have a minute:

  • After four years as a Venture Capitalist (VC), investing in over 20 startups, I made a career pivot to become a Venture Builder (VB) at Wright Partners, drawn by their unique equity-focused approach to venture building.
  • In light of current economic and technological challenges in Southeast Asia, we see increased interest in corporate venture building, hinting at potential for greater collaboration between VCs and VBs to tackle unsolved problems and innovate new market solutions. We are having conversations with multiple VCs to explore this partnership
  • As a former VC, I understand and defend the often-misunderstood commitment VCs have towards their portfolio companies. Although VCs have to make tough decisions considering the whole portfolio, their ultimate goal is to boost long-term potential, which benefits everyone involved.
  • VBs bring unique value from day one, deeply understanding the venture’s problem, solution, and market, while actively engaging in daily operations, strategy, and business model refinement, providing an intimate level of support for founders and VCs alike.
  • Wright Partners’ equity stake model creates strong, long-term partnerships that align the interests of entrepreneurs, VCs, and VBs. This collaboration could build an ecosystem for innovation, mentorship, and growth, and I believe the merger of VC and VB worlds can drive significant innovation in Southeast Asia’s tech landscape. If you’re a VC or corporate partner interested in such collaboration, let’s join forces.

Reflecting on my tenure of just over a year with Wright Partners, I find myself revisiting my career journey through the dynamic landscape of early-stage technology.

I spent four years as a venture capitalist (VC) with a sole focus on identifying promising startups and supporting them financially. I had the pleasure of investing in and working with some incredible founders at the likes of eFishery, OY!, Glints, Bazaar, and many more. During this period, my last investment as a VC was to back Pitik, a venture built by Wright Partners. Here, I was introduced to Ziv, his talented team, and a sophisticated venture building model that had a focus on equity alignment. Their approach was a revelation and sparked my interest in exploring a more hands-on role.

Shortly after that investment, I made a career pivot, transitioning from a VC to a Venture Builder (VB) at Wright Partners. Today, I team up with corporate partners and entrepreneurs to construct ventures addressing real-world issues.

Southeast Asia’s tech landscape is currently facing a tough phase. With several slugging economies, underperforming IPOs, and scarce early-stage investment opportunities, it’s a challenging environment. But, Wright Partners is seeing more interest than ever in corporate venture building, which begs the question: Is there potential for closer collaboration between venture builders and venture capitalists? Let’s explore that!

Collaborating to Address Unsolved Problems

VCs are known for spotting and investing in promising, disruptive startups. But sometimes, they can’t find a startup or build conviction around a team that matches their vision in a market with unsolved problems. I had often experienced this as a VC — I’d understand a market really well, and meet relevant startups, but never found one I was confident enough to back.

This is where venture builders, or VBs, like myself come in. We aim to build ventures that tackle these untapped problems in collaboration with our corporate partners using a design and build approach that prioritises revenue and contribution margin.

By teaming up, VCs and venture builders can use their skills to pair investment with innovation, making new market solutions a reality. In fact, we are currently in talks with a number of VCs to further explore this partnership. We’re excited about the opportunity to create even more ventures that deliver unique solutions where they’re needed.

Defending VCs: The Often Misinterpreted Commitment

I should address a potential misconception before proceeding further. It is not uncommon to hear criticisms that VCs don’t really care about their portfolio companies or aren’t particularly helpful. But as a former VC, I can say we absolutely do care about the success of the companies we back. I deeply cared about their success and believed in the potential of their ideas and the growth of their teams.

But it is crucial to understand that VCs and entrepreneurs have different goals and time restrictions, which can sometimes create these misconceptions. Entrepreneurs focus on growing their company everyday, while VCs need to think about their whole portfolio. Their primary objective is to deploy and focus capital, generate attractive returns for their investors, which necessitates making tough decisions at times. They may require a business to change strategy or look for a buyer. These decisions are made with the goal of boosting the venture’s long-term potential and benefiting everyone involved — not for a lack of care or of commitment.

This is where VBs bring unique value to founders, VCs, and their ventures through their involvement from day one. Unlike other stakeholders who may join later in the process, VBs are present from the inception of the venture. This deep familiarity with the problem, solution, and market allows us to provide valuable insights and guidance throughout the entire journey, leveraging our knowledge and experience to support the founder’s vision.

Additionally, since our main business is problem solving and our “portfolio” is much smaller, we have the advantage of being able to focus our time and attention as dedicated sparring partners for the founder. We actively engage in the day-to-day operations, working side by side with the founder to navigate challenges, make strategic decisions, and fine-tune the business model. This focused involvement enables us to be nimble and responsive, providing real-time support and contributing to the founder’s growth as an entrepreneur.

Looking Beyond: Cultivating an Ecosystem of Innovation

A collaboration between VCs and VBs goes beyond individual ventures. They build an ecosystem that encourages innovation. This ecosystem, full of resources, connections, and expertise, becomes a hub for business growth, something crucial in today’s challenging economy.

VCs offer market knowledge, investment experience, and financial resources, while VBs add their entrepreneurial spirit, operational know-how, and execution skills. This partnership of this nature could create a cycle where successful ventures inspire more ideas and attract more investments, which helps the ecosystem grow.

This ecosystem also thrives on mentorship. VCs and VBs help identify issues, build solutions, and support entrepreneurs. They offer guidance, strategic advice, and connections. By actively helping entrepreneurs and providing resources, they create a place where startups can thrive.

Aligning Interests to Build Strong Long-Term Partnerships

What sets us apart in the venture building space is our unique approach of taking equity stakes in the ventures we build. This approach aligns our interests closely with those of entrepreneurs and VCs alike, creating a foundation for strong, long-term partnerships. By sharing in the risk and reward, we become true partners invested in the success of the venture.

This alignment of interests fosters a collaborative and supportive environment where both VCs and VBs work together towards a common goal. Through this collaboration, we would provide not only financial resources but also strategic guidance, operational expertise, and a vast network of industry connections. By leveraging our collective strengths, we empower entrepreneurs to thrive and overcome the numerous challenges that arise during the early stages of a startup.

The transition from being a venture capitalist to a venture builder has been a fun, challenging, and deeply gratifying journey for me. It has allowed me to combine my passion for entrepreneurship with true problem solving. I truly believe that VCs and VBs bring together two worlds that, when merged, can drive significant innovation and tackle previously unsolved problems. Through aligned interests and long-term partnerships, VBs like Wright Partners can actively contribute to the growth and success of a Southeast Asian tech ecosystem where innovation can thrive.

If you are a venture capitalist or corporate partner interested in exploring the potential of collaboration with a venture builder, give me a ring/ping. Together, we can create ventures that push the boundaries of innovation and unlock new opportunities in the ever-evolving landscape of technology entrepreneurship. Let us join forces and shape the future together.

Curious about building your own corporate ventures with the help of AI? Get in touch at contact@wright.partners.

Author:

Ajay Taunk, Senior Venture Architect at Wright Partners

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