He calls it the shoe box on wheels, because that’s what it looks like. It’s basically a square minivan that looks like a cross between a soccer-mom van and a Fast and Furious street racer.
Although it may look ridiculous, it’s probably one of the most comfortable cars to ride in. It’s like a guilty pleasure… you don’t want anyone to see you getting in the car, but once you’re inside, it’s the best ride ever.
Anyway, Jay and I took the shoe box on wheels from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. After a relatively quick border crossing, we soon made our way to the mid-level of an enormous skyscraper in the Tencent technology park.
We were joining a small group of about fifteen insiders who were getting dinner and swapping stories.
In this group were the Asian representatives for some of the largest VC funds in the world. I won’t mention names, because of what I’m about to tell you, but I can guarantee that you have heard of them.
One of the funds can’t invest any less than $15,000,000 USD in a single company. In just one year they deploy hundreds of millions of dollars across a variety of early stage startup companies.
Before we were served dinner, everyone in the room took turns standing up to introduce themselves. Each introduction was followed by an “ask” by that person. As in, “I’m asking anyone in this room who can help me with XYZ.”
Most of these “asks” were pretty general, like, “Hi, my name is Cody and we’re looking for fellow investors who are in search of the same opportunities as we are.”
Now, this may sound pretty normal. The dinner was just a way for everyone to strengthen their network. This is common practice in any industry to have gatherings with those who work in the same field.
But, it was a little different in this situation…
Many times when you meet people who work for different companies, you consider them your competitors. You’re cordial and friendly, but you don’t disclose your ‘secret sauce’ to them.
That’s how companies differentiate themselves from one another. They have to have some sort of competitive advantage that makes them standout.
However, in this small gathering, there was nothing secret. There is a fire hose flow of investment opportunities available in this part of the world. So, instead of competing, these funds are co-investing all the time.
That’s why we were all there at the dinner. To hear about what everyone else was up to and to make sure there was nothing someone was seeing that others weren’t.
So, as we’re going around the room introducing ourselves (this is the part that is important, and why I’m not naming names) an older gentleman stands up. You can just tell that he’s the kind of guy that knows what he’s doing.
He’s outspoken and animated, yet humble and respectful. He gives off that vibe where you just know that he’s had massive success and will continue to do so.
Before he stands up, he starts poking fun at some of the other people in the room. Not in a rude way, but in a fun, joking way. That’s because he is representing one of the largest VC funds around and he has co-invested with many of the other people in the room.
Once he finishes making his lighthearted jabs, he turns serious and says to the room, “You know, I’ve been in this game a pretty long time – since the mid-1980’s. And in the VC tech world, that’s like an eternity! I’ve probably been investing since before most of you were born!”
Everyone in the room laughed, because he was right.
He continued, “I’ve been involved in two very important time periods, which really have been my main focus for the past couple of decades. The first was the internet boom in the 1990’s and the second was, and still is, the incredible developments coming out of Silicon Valley. I was a part of both of those two booms from the beginning.”
Everyone was listening intently, because it’s not often that you meet someone who has been at the forefront of two of the biggest investing opportunities of our lifetime.
Then he said, “I can’t say for certain, but I have a feeling about this area of the world and what’s going on here. I think this area will be the third big boom that I’ll see in my lifetime. And I think it’s going to be even bigger than the first two that I was a part of.”
Everyone was quiet for a little bit. What do you say when you hear that? Especially from a guy who not only has more experience than almost anyone around, but is also responsible for the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Then he made a couple more jokes and sat down to let the next person introduce themselves.
When we finished eating our dinner, everyone started to say their good-byes. The drive back to Hong Kong is normally about 2 hours including the border crossing, so we didn’t want to leave too late.
Remember, we were driving in the shoe box on wheels, which, in addition to being comfortable, also holds a lot of people. So, Jay offered to give a ride to two others who also needed to go back to Hong Kong.
Before I tell you about those two people, let me remind you why I was in Hong Kong in the first place.
Several days earlier, myself, Jay, and dozens of Explorer Partnership members had come to Hong Kong to explore for hidden investment opportunities. We toured Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen where we had several private dinners and went to two different pitch competitions.
I mentioned the pitch competition the other day and how we were blown away with the talent that presented their companies.
But, I didn’t tell you about the private dinner we had at the exclusive China Club. During this dinner, we heard from several different companies and investment professionals. Two of the companies that presented are close to becoming tech unicorns.
Now, going back to the two people who rode back to Hong Kong with us…
Who do you think they were?
Well, the first guy was an early investor in one of the companies that presented to the Explorer Partnership at the China Club… one of the ‘almost unicorn’ companies. He had plenty to share with us about his next moves.
And the second guy? Well, the second guy runs the accelerator that we had visited with those amazing companies. He also had plenty to share with us.
I’m sure you can read between the lines here. Because I know that you understand how private investing works. It’s all about who you know. That was the whole reason why that dinner was scheduled. And that is why those major VC funds continue to show up at small private gatherings.
So, what’s the moral of the story here?
Always pick the shoe box on wheels.