The Early Days of The Accidental Venture Capitalist (Part 1/4)

13 Oct 2010 in Interviews

Singapore’s Entrepreneur-turned-”Accidental” VC, Nicholas Chan: The Early Days from John Exley on Vimeo.

It’s 1995.
17-year old Nicholas Chan is about to make a decision to capitalize on his technical skills and fight for his life. The serial entrepreneur turned “Accidental” venture capitalist (more on ‘accidental’ in segment 3) started an IT solutions company and never looked back. SCN Technologies was born with just $500 Singapore dollars worth of seed capital. Nicholas went on to start 5 companies, a non-profit, and become a venture capitalist (accidentally).

His story is unlike any I’ve been told. Throughout my 4 segment interview, he takes some thought-provoking and controversial stances on entrepreneurs attending events, talkers (particularly bloggers) who flap their gums and aren’t “doers”, and startup founders boasting about their “fancy education” when pitching him.

Currently, Nicholas (Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn) is the 31 year-old Founder & Executive Director of Singapore-based early stage venture capital firm Azione Capital. In this segment, Nicholas talks about how he got his start by founding his first company out of a need for survival.

A few years later (after very nearly going bankrupt), Nicholas didn’t give up. Instead, he took the real-world lessons that most ‘normal’ young adults haven’t experienced and started another company. And boy had he learned a lot. That company was a technology consultancy called iFoundries, and he started it with several other co-founders. In the interview, Nicholas explains how iFoundries was profitable within the very 1st month.

UPDATE: How did Nicholas win over mentors as a teenager? Watch segment 2 here.

Wanna get Nicholas’ attention? Email him:

Below are a few notes I took:

1. Nicholas believes entrepreneurship in Singapore is getting softer. The media and bloggers are making the general public view the only entrepreneurship as technopreneurship.

2. iFoundries (Nicholas’ 2nd startup) is a consultancy for small and medium enterprises in Singapore that specializes in design, programming, technology, and marketing.

3. In the first month after founding iFoundries, Nicholas and his co-founders closed 8 deals, generated revenue and reached profitability.

4. iFoundries acquired several companies in its first year. They used some investment capital and the company’s profits to carry out these acquisitions.

5. Azione Capital, Nicholas’ early stage venture capital firm and startup business incubator, invests in the entrepreneur first. Azione was one of the first 3 business incubators that were approved under the microfunding scheme of Singapore’s Media Development Authority, which is a part of the Interactive Digital Media Programme Office.

Special thanks to my friend Lai Wing Sheng for filming the interview!

QUESTIONS: How important is college/university to starting and growing a sustainable company? If you believe that what you learn in undergrad is valuable (I think it is), what is the best lesson you’ve learned so far?