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  • Leading Change in Emerging Health Markets

    7:53 am on May 8, 2013 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , collaboration, , health, ifc,

    About a month and a half ago, I was in Istan­bul attend­ing a global pri­vate health con­fer­ence hosted by the Inter­na­tional Finance Cor­po­ra­tion (IFC) and John Hop­kins Med­i­cine Inter­na­tional. The event brought together global lead­ers in the pri­vate health indus­try to have share ideas, knowl­edge and lessons in the indus­try. Par­tic­i­pants were mainly senior management/CEOs across the health value chain from health ser­vice providers to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal & med­ical tech­nol­ogy man­u­fac­tur­ers to investors in emerg­ing mar­kets. On top of the con­fer­ence, my team orga­nized a sep­a­rate panel ses­sion for health providers in sub-Saharan Africa.

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    I just wanted to share some of my notes and key take­aways from the con­fer­ence as I was really struck by the dis­cus­sions of the world’s lead­ing health providers and how it feeds into my work as an investor in emerg­ing mar­kets. Essen­tially, how I should be look­ing at the over­all mar­ket and types of deals I should be focus­ing on. There were two pre­sen­ta­tions in par­tic­u­lar that I would highly rec­om­mend going through, which is Credit Suisse’s Cap­i­tal Mar­kets Per­spec­tive on the health­care ser­vices sec­tor and IFC’s lessons from invest­ing in hospitals.

    • Health is a major dri­ver of GDP growth in OECD coun­tries aver­ag­ing approx­i­mately 7.3% as a per­cent­age of total GDP.
    • There is an upward trend of life sci­ence tools and med­ical equip­ment providers in terms of performance
    • When com­par­ing trad­ing val­u­a­tions (EV/EBITDA), EMEA and RoW com­pa­nies sig­nif­i­cantly out­per­form Amer­i­can com­pa­nies in terms of rev­enue growth, par­tic­u­larly in Acute Care provision
    • Banks are shrink­ing their lend­ing port­fo­lios par­tic­u­larly in SSA
    • M&A activ­ity will con­tinue to increase in a frag­mented mar­ket with pri­vate equity play­ing an impor­tant role in sec­tor consolidation
    • Health­care ser­vices are trend­ing from inpa­tient to out­pa­tient, inva­sive to non-invasive, and from treat­ment to prevention
    • The global finan­cial cri­sis slowed growth rates of com­pa­nies in IFC’s port­fo­lio, but none expe­ri­enced a drop in sales — indi­cat­ing that hos­pi­tal busi­nesses are resilient but not immune to the global finan­cial crisis
    • IFC’s rev­enue pro­jec­tions were rea­son­ably close to actual, on aver­age erring 5% lower than actual (which is impressive!)
    • The health mar­ket in SSA is an SME mar­ket, hence a need for smaller deal sizes, or a con­sol­i­da­tion of deals for increased access to financing

    Over­all, the con­fer­ence left me feel­ing uplifted, but also a great sense of urgency in terms of the work that I am try­ing to do. The con­fer­ence was IFC’s 5th annual health­care con­fer­ence and am already look­ing for­ward to the next one.

     
  • Responsibilities of an (Impact) Investor

    3:02 pm on December 6, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , collaboration, , , investing, , venture capital

    For the past few months, I have been reflect­ing a lot on my role as an investor. Busi­ness plans and pro­pos­als come across my desk and as I shift through them, it really struck me on how large a respon­si­bil­ity investors play in accel­er­at­ing trends, shap­ing a com­mu­nity or even country’s econ­omy, but yet how lit­tle this respon­si­bil­ity is spo­ken about in the invest­ing cir­cles. We place so much empha­sis on find­ing the right busi­ness, the right man­age­ment team, the right social impact, that some­times we get lost in our own capac­ity to rec­og­nize what really is inno­v­a­tive and what truly deserves to be funded. So, from my expe­ri­ences, here’s what I think an investor’s respon­si­bil­i­ties are on top of the typ­i­cal invest­ment work:

    1) Investors need to live in the future. 

    This is a point I feel very strongly about. If you’re an investor: VC/PE and par­tic­u­larly if you play in the startup and impact invest­ing work, (as Fred Wil­son pointed today in his blog post and what Paul Gra­ham said):  you should live in the future and see what is miss­ing. So well said. I’m cur­rently in an envi­ron­ment (yes, I rec­og­nize that I am in Africa — so feel free to shower stereo­types), where I know investors who are still using yahoo mail, inter­net explorer and Win­dows 2003 (true story!). Not to say that there are any­thing wrong with the prod­ucts, but more so — I think it’s so impor­tant to be keep­ing up with the trends in the world, tech­nol­ogy being one of them. How can you expect to iden­tify an invest­ment that is ‘ground-breaking’ if you’re not even fol­low­ing the newest trends in your sec­tor? Tak­ing this a step fur­ther, if you are fol­low­ing these global trends vs. local trends, it is then our respon­si­bil­ity to seek out entre­pre­neurs who can close this gap and fur­ther ele­vate the devel­op­ing world, or the devel­op­ing world would for­ever be play­ing ‘catch up’.

    2) Don’t be a sheep. 

    This respon­si­bil­ity is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant in the impact invest­ing space. Given that we’re play­ing in a field that is largely uncharted, risk is high and typ­i­cally, most investors are unable to size up a new mar­ket and end up rely­ing on the opin­ions of other investors. aka. I’ll invest if some­one else will too aka. a sheep. Impact investors say that they are risk tol­er­ant, but few trans­late this tol­er­ance into sign­ing along the dot­ted line. A very chicken and egg sit­u­a­tion. Hence, I have to con­stantly push myself to under­stand what is the right bal­ance of being a mar­ket leader but also not be a reck­less investor. Bal­ance is key.

    3) The need to close and dis­burse faster

    There are a lot of delays that occur in [impact] invest­ing. The court­ing of investors and [social] entre­pre­neurs, the dance between find­ing the right termsheet, the issue of mak­ing sure that the social impact actu­ally has an impact, and [insert your tra­di­tional delays in invest­ing here]. This is the norm. This is my chal­lenge to investors: rec­og­nize that the longer the delay, the big­ger the strain on the business/organization. From an entre­pre­neur per­spec­tive, you’re con­stantly watch­ing your ‘run­way’ aka. how much money do I have before I run out, and a delayed clos­ing round and dis­burse­ment is to the [social] entrepreneur’s dis­ad­van­tage as well as to their cus­tomers. If we’re really stand­ing with the poor, then deals need to close quicker with clear and sim­ple terms, as the longer the delay, the more peo­ple are miss­ing out on poten­tially expe­ri­enc­ing the product/service.

    This is by no means sup­posed to be an exhaus­tive list of respon­si­bil­i­ties, but instead ones that I feel are most impor­tant given my expe­ri­ence. As investors, we are in a priv­i­leged posi­tion to start/continue or end trends. I think it’s time that we started think­ing a lit­tle harder about where our respon­si­bil­i­ties lie.

     
  • Storytelling & Four Shifting Forces

    2:27 pm on October 22, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: collaboration, , , , , , technology,

    Back in New York, I attended one of the best Cre­ative Morn­ings ses­sions, a cap­ti­vat­ing talk deliv­ered by Jonathan Har­ris on the sto­ry­telling. I’ve blogged before on decon­struct­ing the power of sto­ry­telling, and if you’re look­ing to under­stand more about this, Jonathan Har­ris’ projects are absolutely remark­able. They have ranged from doc­u­ment­ing an Eskimo whale hunt to cap­tur­ing human emo­tion on the inter­webs to inter­view­ing Tibetans on hap­pi­ness. Here’s his Cre­ative Morn­ing talk and my visual notes from that day:


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    So my notes couldn’t quite cap­ture the tail bit of his talk (I basi­cally ran out of space!), but essen­tially, he high­lights key trends that he is observ­ing in our evolv­ing world of tech and storytelling:

    1) Rise of Social Engi­neers: Never before has there been such a small sub­sec­tion of soci­ety ( aka. soft­ware devel­op­ers in tech star­tups who are hav­ing a big effect of mil­lions of human through design of software.

    2) Urges & Out­comes: All tech extends some pre­ex­ist­ing urge. What is the urge within humans that needs to be enhanced?

    3) The Ethics of Code: How can we reg­u­late soft­ware? Could there be a self-directed eth­nics from the cre­ators of soft­ware? This ties in back to point 1 on the respon­si­bil­i­ties of a social engi­neer, given their wide-spread influence.

    4) Heal­ers & Deal­ers: Star­tups are basi­cally falling into two buck­ets: heal­ers and deal­ers. Heal­ers: mar­ket­place com­pa­nies that con­nect peo­ple. e.g. kick­starter. Deal­ers: Atten­tion economies that take up your finite resource aka. time by con­vinc­ing peo­ple to spend time on their product/sites. e.g. facebook.

    ***

    All in all, I was very struck after the end of his talk with this question(s): what kind of pres­ence do you want to have in this world? Am I a healer or a dealer? As our world’s lan­guage con­tin­ues to trend towards a technology-based one, how do we posi­tion our­selves to become cre­ators once more, instead of just cura­tors of information?

    For now, I sup­pose I am sat­is­fied with being a Healer in the invest­ment world. The big­ger pic­ture of all of this, is won­der­ing, as an investor, what trends in soci­ety do I want to help accelerate…

     
  • My Week's Discoveries: Malaysia

    9:17 am on August 31, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , collaboration, , , , , , , , , ,

    So, I’ve been in South East Asia for the past three weeks, namely Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore. The trip has been long time com­ing as I haven’t been back to my home coun­try in over five years, and boy — am I ever glad I did. I have never been so inspired, hum­bled and proud of my fel­low coun­try­men for the incred­i­ble work that they are doing in South East Asia. If you have the priv­i­lege to be involved with their orga­ni­za­tions or have a cof­fee with these remark­able indi­vid­u­als, I assure you that it will be time well spent. Also, given that today is Inde­pen­dence day in Malaysia, thought it would be timely to share a few of my dis­cov­er­ies with you.

    1) Malaysia Social Enter­prise Alliance

    This is a Malaysian orga­ni­za­tion for social enter­prises and entre­pre­neurs with solu­tions to some of the most urgent social prob­lems in Malaysia and glob­ally. One of their more notable endeav­ors is Change­Week­end, a 9–10 month pro­gram as a facil­i­ta­tive plat­form that would equip orga­ni­za­tions with design think­ing and devel­op­men­tal skills. Even more incred­i­ble is the dri­ving force behind all of this is a won­der­ful lady, Ellynita Lamin, who has a heart of gold and is trail­blaz­ing her way in this part of the world. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what one of the local news­pa­pers has to say about her work too!

    2) Teach for Malaysia 

    Teach for Malaysia (TFM) enlists Malaysia’s most promis­ing lead­ers to improve edu­ca­tion in Malaysia. It mod­els after Teach for Amer­ica, where it is a two-year, fel­low­ship pro­gram where fel­lows are placed in local schools. Besides the fel­low­ship, the team has not only enlisted an incred­i­ble amount of sup­port from pri­vate and the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion, but clear strat­egy and vision in how fel­lows can trans­form Malaysia’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem from inside out. Change is on the hori­zon. This ini­tia­tive is par­tic­u­larly close to home for me as I went through the pub­lic edu­ca­tion sys­tem in Malaysia (yes, just like the adorable kids in the video!) and to get a glimpse of what TFM is up to, check out the video below.

    3) Week­end: The Week­end Movement 

    This is a com­mu­nity of peo­ple that is cre­at­ing a week­end move­ment where they come together to build projects, cre­ate solu­tions and bring great ideas to life. So far, their week­ends con­sist of Hack Week­end, Make Week­end and Change Week­end, and I’m sure it doesn’t stop there. The week­ends are designed to kick­start inno­va­tion and new projects. If you ever are in Malaysia for a week­end that coin­cides with one of their work­shops, def­i­nitely don’t hes­i­tate to check it out!

    4) Malaysia Design Archive 

    This is a beau­ti­ful project com­bin­ing design, his­tory and preser­va­tion of cul­ture. The project traces, maps and doc­u­ments the devel­op­ment of graphic design in Malaysia to pro­tect our visual his­tory. Malaysia’s his­tor­i­cal design influ­ences are par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nat­ing as this is a meet­ing point and cul­tural cross­ing of the East and West — from ornate Islamic texts, to Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy and Euro­pean engrav­ings. As you browse the site, the graph­ics tell a won­der­ful story of Malaysia’s cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion. I highly rec­om­mend you start here.

    5) Other notable mentions:

    • SOLS 24/7: edu­ca­tion pro­gram in Cam­bo­dia, Laos, East Timor, Malaysia and Thai­land that has edu­cated over 80,000 youth.
    • Gawad Kalinga: Build­ing com­mu­ni­ties through tourism, social enter­prise, dis­as­ter relief, recon­struc­tion and devel­op­ment to end poverty.

    Thanks to Ellyne, Shie Haur, Nicole, Tas­nim and John for inspir­ing this post.

     
  • Matters of National Pride: When All is Said and Done

    8:10 am on August 5, 2012 | 6 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , collaboration, , , ,

    I have long since desired to write about this topic to some degree, but it was only after a series of recent con­ver­sa­tions and fol­low­ing the Olympics Games that called forth an unex­pected wave of patri­o­tism towards my country.

    I grew up as a Malaysian, through and through. Born and raised in Sarawak, edu­cated in Malaysia’s pub­lic school sys­tem and seen first hand my country’s polit­i­cal and racial stance. The older I became, the more I came to under­stand the indoc­tri­na­tion of nation­al­ism that the coun­try has imposed on its cit­i­zens, the more I con­cluded that we were made to love! From stand­ing in the equa­to­r­ial heat dur­ing assem­bly salut­ing our “Jalur Gemi­lang”, singing the dif­fer­ent anthems: Negaraku and Sarawak, Ibu Per­ti­wiku on a daily basis to mem­o­riz­ing Malaysia’s geog­ra­phy and his­tory every­day in our pub­lic school sys­tem. The older I grew, the more I ques­tioned the under­ly­ing racial intol­er­ance in our coun­try, the more I heard my fel­low com­pa­tri­ots scheme to “study over­seas and stay there”, that if you could obtain a PR from a first world coun­try, “go for it and don’t look back”, the more I saw a brain drain in my country’s top minds as they throw their hands up in frus­tra­tion at Malaysia’s eco­nomic and polit­i­cal situation.

    Appar­ently, being made to love some­thing is a flawed strat­egy, and right­fully so. As my gen­er­a­tion grew up, our under­stand­ing of the world expanded and we look back and crit­i­cize the flaws in our own coun­try. We tell peo­ple, “I love Malaysian food, but to go back and be dis­crim­i­nated based on the colour of my skin and last name? Why should I sub­ject myself to such treat­ment?” spo­ken some­times out of dis­ap­point­ment, some­times out of dis­dain. When I saw Dambisa Moyo speak at my uni­ver­sity on Dead Aid and devel­op­ment, some­one from the audi­ence asked her whether she would ever go back to Zam­bia to help her coun­try. She retorted that peo­ple often for­get that every human being at the end of the day craves equal­ity, dig­nity and access to basic needs. If Zam­bia could pro­vide those needs for their cit­i­zens, Zam­bians would go back in a heart­beat. I looked around and saw my friends: South African, Iran­ian, Pak­istani, Chi­nese, all nod­ding silently next to me. Appar­ently, I was not the only one who felt this way.

    Now, work­ing and learn­ing in the social enterprise/development space, I come across many indi­vid­u­als who are pas­sion­ate about chang­ing the lives of oth­ers in devel­op­ing coun­tries. Some take a more econ­o­mist stand­point of help­ing where peo­ple need it the most, other are dri­ven by a cer­tain cause/skillset — be it health, finance or human rights. I see oth­ers have a deep drive to help coun­tries that they never even grew up in, and some­times have never even set foot in that con­ti­nent, let alone coun­try. I ask myself: Why? Then, I look at Malaysia and won­der: What good is it that we are made to love a coun­try when our hearts are filled with complaints/disdain for it? I look around again and I see my friends: who have gone back to Peru to cre­ate change in her home­town, who have dreams to advance South African films in the world and who are wait­ing for an oppor­tu­nity to return to Kenya. Appar­ently, I was miss­ing out on con­nect­ing with my birth­place and identity.

    I can finally say that work­ing in the social enterprise/development space, have meant per­son­ally for me, of under­stand­ing Malaysia bet­ter. For its decay­ing polit­i­cal and admin­is­tra­tive struc­ture, for the incred­i­ble courage of Bersih pro­tes­tors, and for new eco­nomic pro­grams that are aimed to improve the coun­try. More impor­tantly, I think I have finally under­stood what it means to love uncon­di­tion­ally, even if I was made to in the first place. To love any­ways despite all of Malaysia’s flaws, because love keeps no count of wrong. It is this choice — To love, not for a tol­er­ance of cor­rup­tion, crime or racism but to love unfail­ingly, stub­bornly, for a beauty of a nation is not in the laws or the rul­ing party at that time, but in the dig­nity and essence of every cit­i­zen who have con­tributed in one way or another to shape our early views of the world.

    So to all my fel­low com­pa­tri­ots and those who have yet to make the choice to love for your own coun­try, when all is said and done, here is my chal­lenge to you:

    If not us, then who? If not now, then when? — Acu­men Fund

     

    Thanks to Kristina, Nan­jala, Cyn­thia and Robert for inspir­ing this post.

     
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