This transcript was originally published as part of JP Morgan's Hands-On China Series.
Private equity is helping reshape the business and investment landscape in China. Private equity and venture capital is helping launch new companies, grow regional players into national competitors, and improve the governance and strategic know-how of companies across China.
In this JPMorgan panel discussion from the JP Morgan China Conference 2008 recently held in Beijing, Shaun Rein (Managing Director, China Market Research Group CMR); Robert Theleen (CEO, ChinaVest); Joel Kellman (Managing Partner, Granite Global Ventures), and Brandon Lin (Partner, SAIF Partners) examine the opportunities and risks for private equity and venture capital investors in China.
Shaun Rein – Managing Director, China Market Research Group [CMR]
Our three panelists are people who have really been the leaders and the pioneers building up private equity in China over the last three decades. The world capital markets have had some problems, with buyouts dropping tremendously in the United States because of the credit squeeze. In the second quarter of 2007 in the US there was just over US$200 billion worth of buyouts. By the end of the year there was only an additional US$20 billion; a 90% drop. China however seems to keep growing.
The panel topic is whether or not it makes sense to invest in China through venture capital and private equity. It seems that our panel is fairly optimistic. 1) The Chinese Government is supportive if you are bringing value added capital and where you are not investing in polluting companies and where there is technology transfer. 2) Entrepreneurs are much more excited to work with top-tier firms that bring expertise as well as capital, and 3) the middle class led by Chinese youth is still buying despite inflation and the volatility of the A-share market. So it seems that the panel is fairly optimistic about venture capital and private equity going forward.
Robert Theleen – Chairman, ChinaVest
As senior citizen of the panel I ought to talk a little bit about past, present and future. ChinaVest started in the venture capital industry back in 1982 and we have invested about half a billion US over a long period of time. Today ChinaVest is a merchant bank headquartered in Shanghai. Our work is investing our own capital as well as doing M&A advisory work or buy-side M&A for US and European clients as well as Chinese clients. The view that we have is simply that the evolution of the venture industry has taken on a lot of different forms. I just want to talk about a couple of trends quickly. The industry has gotten sophisticated, robust and very, very textured.
But I want to talk about a few trends that I see in the VC industry that are relatively new. First of all, the rise of the domestic venture capital industry: I think the 2008 model venture capital fund may very well be a RMB based fund. The players are firms that are able to move currency, both US dollars as well as RMB, into the industry.
One more trend is simply the evolution of strategic investors that are starting to invest money for financial reasons. I am thinking of pools of capital from multinationals, IBM, Cisco, Intel, that are not necessarily investing any more just strategically. They are sophisticated financial investors that add a lot of texture and a lot of variation.
Joel Kellman – Managing Partner, Granite Global Ventures
I am with Granite Global Ventures or GGV, as we are about to be known. We were started in the year 2000. We have about US$1 billion under management in three funds. We were originally a TMT fund, technology experts. A thing that may be a little different about us, I have seen a lot of writing about models for investing in China. We have people who are on the ground in North America and people who are on the ground in China and nobody works for the other. Everybody votes on every deal and we try to bring to bear, in each investee company, the power of both sides of the Pacific.
I have always been the starter of things; I started a law firm with some other people, Fenwick & West in the early seventies. I saw the early stage of Silicon Valley. I helped start another couple of venture funds along the way, Utah Ventures and KLM Capital. Then in the year 2000 I came to be a venture capitalist for the first time and helped start Granite Global. The one last thing I would say about myself and Granite Global is we are expansion-stage investors, which is basically that we do not do the early stage; we have our own detailed definition you can see on our website. One of the things that is really important to us is to work with entrepreneurs together to help them build a great company.
Brandon Lin – General Partner, SAIF
My name is Brandon Lin; I am General Partner at SAIF Partners. We currently manage US$2.2 billion over three funds and we are also in growth-venture capital, so late stage in expansion investments. We are one of the largest independent venture capital funds here operating in China. We focus about 80% of our funds in China and almost everyone is located in Asia, specifically greater China.
We have profitably exited or IPO’d about ten companies so far in our young history, six over the last 12 months and including one A-share IPO. So we are watching that market very carefully as well. When we do IPOs we typically exit very little or even try to buy more shares of the IPO, because we really do feel very strongly about the growth potential of our portfolio companies. Hopefully some of the public fund managers in the audience have made some money along with us in names like Shanda (SNDA), Perfect World (PWRD), and China Digital TV (STV).
We believe actually China is still a relatively young industry for profitable venture capital firms. We started in 2001 and I joined as part of the founding team of SAIF. We became independent and owned and managed by the seven General Partners, including myself, in 2004. We are recognized as one of the top venture capital firms in China with recognition last year by Zero2IPO as the number one venture capital firm in China. We are consistently one of the most active investors here. Over the last 15 months we have deployed about US$700 million over 23 deals, mostly in China. We continue to see great opportunities in the market here. We are now actually even actively looking at public company investments as well. Given the current market turmoil we do see a lot of interesting Chinese companies are undervalued.
We continue to be one of the pioneers so we set up the first RMB fund in a joint venture format with a government entity in Tianjin. Now we are actually raising an RMB fund as well. A pure RMB fund with pure domestic investors that will continue our leadership in this region.
Shaun Rein: I want to draw upon your idea of the RMB fund for the next question. We have heard throughout this conference that there is a lot of money flowing into China right now and the government is worried about having too large a foreign currency reserves. Are they still supportive of bringing in private equity money even with concerns of too much money flowing into China that is largely speculative?
Bob Theleen: At local, municipal and regional level, government is very much supportive of the PE industry. At national level things become more complex for the reasons you mention.
On the other hand the contradiction is there is not a mayor or a governor that I have ever met that does not say, my city needs capital; it needs growth capital and I want to support local entrepreneurs. Since the covenant of Beijing with regional government is you are more on your own, that regional government has to fend for itself. I think you will find that contradiction, that Beijing has to accommodate local government and it has to accommodate and support the PE industry, but how do you separate that out from issues like controlling the aggregate capital in a high-inflation market? That is a problem that China faces.
Shaun Rein: Brandon, do you have any thoughts because you are doing more earlier stage than Bob is?
Brandon Lin: Right. So we are not doing buyouts. I think typically buyouts and SOE control transactions are more suspect and governments have learned from the examples of the Japanese and the South Koreans, of getting a lot of pushback later on for selling state assets on the cheap.
So on the venture capital side what we found is it has been nothing but encouragement for firms like ourselves. We are bringing a lot of R&D, encouraging technology transfers and we are making minority investments into high-growth companies, so encouraging that job engine growth, which is very important as a priority for the government.
Certainly for the local governments it is a no-brainer to support this industry and bring in good venture backed companies with best of breed corporate governance and experience to help their local economies grow as well. So, on that avenue we have seen nothing but support. There are increasing government regulations to encourage more of the venture capital firms to invest domestically in the form of JVs and there are more regulations to make it easier for RMB funds. So we see a gradual evolution of the government to try to support these more home-grown efforts but nothing to suggest that they are discouraging foreigners from participating.
Shaun Rein: Perhaps for the larger investments that might affect more the national level, there is a frosty climate, but when you are doing early stage and it is higher intellectual content, bringing a value-add to the economy, the government is still supportive.
I wanted to ask you, Joel, about the rise of the domestic Chinese funds that Brandon has touched upon. You have been incredibly successful here since you were founded. How do you find going forward entrepreneurs want to work with you, versus working with a domestic Chinese fund? Is that going to change the investing landscape? Do you find more entrepreneurs are going to work with local firms or is that not an issue because you have so much more expertise and track record?
Joel Kellman: I know there is not total agreement on our panel but let me put out a couple of themes that I think are true. One thing that is true is that China is a different place than America and there are certain ways of doing things that are different here. It is also enormously dynamic and there is a lot of change. I am historically a lawyer and regulation is just breathtaking in the way of changes. However, I do not share the philosophy of some national press that there is some kind of bad guys or there is a conspiratorial plan to push us in a certain direction. I think it is for good people to figure out how to access the system and how to add value and not try to be too tricky. So I think the challenge is to do the fundamentals right; to dig deep and to be high-quality people, add value to companies. I think if you can do that you will do well.
Shaun Rein: What about if there is pressure from the government side with the entrepreneurs saying that too much of the best investments are going to foreigners? So in Korea, Lone Star has had some problems. MBK was able to get into deals because they are viewed more as a local firm.
Joel Kellman: Two things: one, I think venture is different; it is much smaller, it is less impactful and one thing I neglected to say is it certainly matters to have people who are on the ground. As we look at the competitive landscape it seems increasingly local funds are doing better. I think the reason is not because they are buddies or they went to the same school, I think that is important for the first meeting. I think they understand the ground better; they are more intense about their involvement in these deals, they understand it better, and once you are in you can build. So that is the way I would look at it.
Shaun Rein: Brandon, do you have any thoughts on this? I know you are the only non-mainlander on your team, right?
Brandon Lin: I have been here forever as well. I think it is the right balance. I think there is a right balance of local background and connections, plus best of breed international education and experiences. I think among the six General Partners who are Chinese, including myself, the vast majority of them grew up and went to school, college, Masters Degree in China, before going overseas and getting a Masters Degree from Princeton or working for several years before coming back.
So it is kind of the balance of being able to identify and develop local presence, being able to work with the entrepreneur and know exactly what their issues are or what they need help on, in order to clinch a deal, but also having the international experience and expertise to add value to the portfolio company as well. So it is kind of the right balance among the background and the expertise and experience.
Shaun Rein: Are you finding that entrepreneurs are willing to be coached? I think the amount of money raised for PE investment in China last year was $12 billion, 40% over 2006. So there is a lot of money that is just floating around here right now.
So that brings up two issues: one, are valuations out of control? Two, will entrepreneurs take money from you and be coached or do they want to say, you know what, I just want money and just get out of here. You do not know China; I do not want to be bothered, do you see that happening?
Brandon Lin: Absolutely. There are entrepreneurs who do not need us. We have learned that in the first meeting, and some of them have a great company, we say go your own way and good luck to you. But there are also other entrepreneurs who have already achieved, our best type of target company are companies already making US$5 million to US$10 million of net income a year. So these are already very good operational companies but they also are entrepreneurs who are thinking about the next step. They want to get help so that they really put in the right corporate governance, the right management team, an international management team or an experienced management team so that they can go IPO and become the next Disney of China.
So these are really far-sighted entrepreneurs who have a big goal in mind and they do see value in a private equity or a venture capital fund like ourselves who have a great track record of helping companies get there. But there are other entrepreneurs who do not see that. For them, fine, we look for the right partners to work with.
Shaun Rein: I want to ask the same question to both of you, because I know you have experience with Jack Ma at Alibaba when they were first starting and you Bob, I think you are the only foreigner on the board of a state-owned enterprise? Is that true?
Bob Theleen: Beijing Enterprises.
Shaun Rein: Yes, Beijing Enterprises. What are your experiences of trying to coach some of these companies or entrepreneurs moving up? Are they listening to your expertise?
Bob Theleen: I think in later stage there are three objectives that any entrepreneur has. Number one, I want to sell my product or my service beyond China; that is an aspirational goal. Number two, I want better technology and certainly know-how that expands my horizons. Number three, I want to develop a brand. I think those three aspirational goals of companies in China really come together and those who can offer value added, such as Joel and Brandon, with firms that deliver technology and know-how are winners. But I would also say there are many different paths to private equity. As I said earlier I think local private equity is developing because so much of the trend today is about the consumer.
This whole conference, in many ways, is about the consumer in China. Do you really need US dollars to develop a business when your cost structure is in RMB? I think just in terms of the funding requirements and the amount of liquidity in RMB, I think competitively we are going to see a very formidable industry develop quickly as the consumer businesses require RMB funding, not necessarily US dollars.
But on the other side of it, I see multinationals that are really developing horizontal, sophisticated distribution strategies in China that Chinese companies are emulating and they are working to develop what I call horizontal China. Chinese infrastructure is one of the great stories of China. China’s highway system is about the same size as the United States interstate highway system. It is 46,000 miles long compared to 48,000 miles in the United States.
That has knit together businesses that when you look at deploying a national strategy, all business in 1982 was local. Today I think more and more investment themes are about knitting together national business strategies and rolling out businesses beyond a local level.
Shaun Rein: That is an interesting point and I want to hear more from you on that, but I just want to quickly ask Joel about coaching and Jack Ma and building up and then I want to get back to some of the drivers for growth in private equity in China.
Joel Kellman: I am coaching. I have been involved in coaching. I was in the early days of Silicon Valley. We worked with Apple Computers and Oracle Systems and other companies. The thing I would say is that coaching is a question of whether a CEO is willing to listen, because for companies doing really well, and I will come back to that with Alibaba, you do not want a coach. A good CEO that is doing a good job, you just want to be smart enough to keep your ego in place and stay out of the way.
So when we first started investing in China in 2000 and in 2001, most of the entrepreneurs we dealt with were very difficult to approach. Over the last couple of years I think we have had three or four companies where CEOs have been replaced and they have been replaced bloodlessly. Early on we were told one does not do that in China and this comes back to my other theme. Good people sort of migrate to the good business models and somebody who is truly ambitious and wants to see a company succeed – there is one we are involved in together – supports the search for the CEO to replace him, and finds a role for himself that will help the company create value and become a good sized company.
On Alibaba, that in the later stages was a company that really did not need any help and at the point that we invested Granite Global, I mean at the margin we were helpful, but it was a great team. But as a lawyer I helped them in the early stages and the thing that they did not know how to do, oddly enough, was raise money. So somebody told them that the way to raise money is to find a Silicon Valley lawyer and that lawyer will help you raise money. So that is what I did. That was my involvement with them.
Shaun Rein: It seems that entrepreneurs are much more willing to take some of your money now and be coached than before. I want to get into some of the drivers of like what is exciting to you to invest in? What sectors? We have heard a lot about the emerging middle class in China the last couple of days. What are the general themes that you think are driving good returns? Is it the middle class? Is it that Chinese companies are now able to go global and they just need a little bit of capital like what TPG did with Lenovo? What are some of your thoughts, Brandon, and maybe it is that you are trying to invest in companies that are trying to capture China and they just do not care about the rest of the world right now?
Brandon Lin: Actually we do focus on companies that are tailoring to the domestic China market and it is one of those, especially right now with all the pressures of the RMB and export, potentially protectionism and costs rising. So this cost-plus model is a more difficult arena to play in. What we like and what we know is the domestic market. Companies are already doing quite well targeting the domestic market that we can help with. There are some industries that we are currently targeting. What we do as a fund and what we believe is necessary as a fund to do, is to always spend a lot of time thinking about the next industry or the next trend in terms of the investments area, so that we stay ahead of the competition and can still get into deals at reasonable valuations.
One of the targeting industries that we are spending a lot of time on right now is actually in the consumer-branded food and beverage products. We really believe as the Chinese consumers get more affluent they do care more about food quality and beverage quality. So last year I led an investment into Runtian Bottled Water. They are a regional player in Jiangxi but with aspirations for national brand building and expansion, especially in the spring water arena.
Shaun Rein: Are they strong at branding? I mean some of the other speakers in the last two days have said Chinese firms, they just cannot do branding, they can only compete on price. Do you find that?
Brandon Lin: Yes, we would definitely disagree with that. I think there is room for branding. It is probably harder now to do branding, but for the right company positioned the right way, we believe strongly in the ability to differentiate themselves both on a brand level and on a quality level and we have done that. So in addition to this company we have also invested in a frozen corn company which is also an organic rice company. These companies we feel kind of really target the basic needs of the consumer. So we are very high on this arena.
Other areas we have invested in include hospitality. Hotel chains right now is a very big area of growth. Media and advertising, we have done investments into in-hospital advertising, such as Yanhuang Health Media, Baitai Media which is in hotel room advertising, and Longfan Media which is in outdoor advertising predominantly in Shenzhen but also going abroad.
Joel Kellman: I cannot imagine people saying that in the next 5 years with the rising middle class in China Chinese companies will not have developed their own brands. It just seems impossible to me.
Bob Theleen: I think that one of the challenges of any brand development is the right side of the balance sheet and one of the things that we notice is that with bank reform, one instrument is private equity but very quickly what we try to do is deploy different types of capital and debt. Because I think that the greatest challenge to a branding strategy is creating a business that is able to look beyond that six month and that twelve month horizon.
So I think one of the challenges is getting the right side of the balance sheet in a decent position. So debt, RMB debt and other forms of capital sourcing is a way forward to develop that branding strategy. You are not going to do it with just private equity in my opinion. You have got to really deploy a more sophisticated source of capital.
Shaun Rein: Is it hard right now for entrepreneurs to get capital?
Bob Theleen: I think it is very hard. It is harder because of credit tightening.
The good news is that our regional city banks are providing more and more debt. The aggregate savings of China, pools of RMB are accessible today through trust companies, through other financing sources. But that is an important component of making all of those kinds of business strategies effective.
Shaun Rein: So it seems to me Brandon and Joel, you both originally started looking at technology plays but it seems you have shifted away to be more consumer oriented. Is that correct?
Joel Kellman: I would say historically TMT is our strength, mostly out of the Silicon Valley, still our strength. But one of the things that is left unsaid is we find it very hard and challenging to make money and to find good investments and to get them at the right prices and to find like minded people. So we spend most of our time thinking about this, so this is the challenge. First there is the TMT, still our core competence, we deal with it. We recently had join us, a group primarily from the urban growth segment of the consumer sector; people with deep experience, notably in Shanghai who were wonderful people, very successful people, different from us. We think this allows a very great opportunity for us because as we were edging into consumer growth, now we are in it full bore.
The last thing that has not been mentioned today is the area of healthcare which in my judgment is clearly emerging in China and offers interesting opportunities.
Brandon Lin: Yes, actually healthcare is one of the areas we are also focusing on. We actually now have two professionals including one partner who has a medical background focusing and scouring for deals in this area. We have one investment already in a medical product IT company as well. So it is a huge area and there are regulatory issues, but we feel with the right amount of effort and resources devoted to this, this is a great area.
Shaun Rein: I wanted to bring up the ideas of regulatory issues here. The government has its hands in everything. Do you only invest in sectors that the government supports or do you just say the macro economics are there, the consumers are demanding it and we are just going to go forward and we are going to work everything out.
Brandon Lin: Yes. As an international venture capital fund, the first priority is return for our LPs. So we focus on industries which we believe are going to be producing, the companies that are going to make the most returns for our LPs at the end of the day. We then figure out how we do that. In some industries frankly you have to have RMB from domestic investors to be able to invest in that industry. So then how do you structure and be at the forefront of efforts to raise an RMB fund for example. The regulatory landscape is something that we actually believe we understand and we see the direction very well and that is part of the landscape and you have to navigate with or around it.
Bob Theleen: Remember that the regulatory sector of China is about six years old. The regulatory China was created as a result of the WTO entry. Before that you had a micro-managed economy. Ministries represented old China, represented a sectoral disciplines and running industries in the old system. The regulatory China, which are the commissions of China essentially; NDRC, CBRC, CSRC were all created in the last seven or eight years. If you look at the battle lines, it is whether or not regulation which means rules and laws, will govern the economy of China.
Or whether ministerial China, which is still there, which is essentially a micro-managing part of government, will win out.
That battle, which is an interesting one, that tension exists day to day it is one of the reasons why the opaqueness and the complexities of regulation are not straightforward. So those are battles that are evolved every day and I think Beijing is wrestling with does law trump micro managing industries and sectoral disciplines. There is no simple answer to that. It is a process that will continue.
Shaun Rein: What do you think about exit strategies?
Joel Kellman: On the theme of exits, we have been pretty eclectic in the exits we have done thus far. We have two public companies in Singapore. We have one public company in Hong Kong that is done very well. It is a Chinese based company. We have many Chinese companies on NASDAQ.
The deal that was interesting was Alibaba, because we were investors in the Alibaba group so I hope there are some lawyers who can stay with me for this one. What they did is they had a large foreign company, Yahoo, invest a limited amount of money because they did not need that much, they encouraged the bunch of us to have ourselves partially bought out. Anybody who wanted to be totally bought out got bought out. It was a very spectacular valuation; it seemed like a spectacular valuation at the time of $4 billion.
So Yahoo threw in their Chinese business. Is that an acquisition? Well, it can not be an acquisition because the Chinese company is the one that ended up on top. A Yahoo executive became Vice Chairman. So it was really interesting in the way the exit came. The future of exits I think are the local exchanges in China. We have not done one of those but we have an RMB fund and we are certainly expecting in the future to address the local markets.
Brandon Lin: We are also relatively agnostic in terms of which exchange. It is really figuring out for the particular industry that the company is playing in, where the investors expect the comparables for the company to exist. For example we have had two home-runs in online gaming and that is an industry that now US investors understand quite well. So both Shanda and Perfect World are listed in the US. It makes more sense probably to be closer to the home market so Hong Kong would be a great exchange.
Most of the investments that we are doing now actually are domestic JVs because of the RMB regulations we have no other choice. So for those companies they are targeting to Asia IPOs and we have had one in the past 12 months, Eternal Asia, that is trading still quite well and we have three or four IPOs targeting towards the Asia market in the next 12 months as well. Eternal Asia is in logistics services, which is actually another terrific industry that we are in.
Bob Theleen: Logistics is an area that we like too. We just made an acquisition of two wholesaler companies that actually serve the beverage industry in Shanghai and Yangtze River for $20 million and they serve 10,000 Chinese restaurants in terms of beverage distribution. So I think there are lots of plays in logistics and supply chain management that are regional businesses that really have a scope to go beyond regions and develop a national distribution strategy.
Bob Theleen: Our average deal is about two to four years in terms of whole periods. It is an average; there is nothing magic about that. But certainly if you are going to look at a company that you are going to expect to grow in a marketplace like China, I think the gestation period is going to be somewhere around there. I think we are agnostic as well about markets and exits.
Joel Kellman: We target 18 to 36 months and that does not mean we will get out, but that is what we are sort of looking for; we will stay as long as it takes. That is how we define expansion stage and part of it is roughly US$10 million in sales. The CEO, the management team is largely in place. The product is identified and works. We usually try to have an idea of what the exit is before we enter. So the reason I did not mention trade sales in China is we have never done one. In the US, we have had about 20 exits and I would say more than half are acquisitions. So we certainly know about that. That has not been a bit part of our career in China.
Shaun Rein: What progress do you see on intellectual property? If progress is clear and discernable what effect would that have on JVs?
Bob Theleen: I have been in Asia a long time. Every major Asian country that deals with technology has had an IP problem. Japan was a horrible violator of IP rights; this is also the case with Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. But what changes it is not enforcement, it is the maturing of the industry and I think that China is certainly making progress in that area. But I think it will be the sophistication of Chinese companies that will change that; not the enforcement of law.
Shaun Rein: To the extent that you invest in not an offshore SPV but rather a domestic company in China and you look to do an Asia listing, after you have done your Asia listing, how do you get your money back in dollars to your LPs?
Brandon Lin: Actually before we can invest domestically we need to go through a lot of the government approvals, typically at the local level. So we make sure all the T’s are crossed and all the I’s are dotted, so that we get at the time of the investment all the approvals and all the paperwork done so that the government can trace what exactly we have done.
At the time of the Asia listing or afterwards when we sell down our stake, with that paper trail, actually the government is more concerned about money staying in versus legitimate money going out. We believe there should be absolutely no issue with conversion of that into US dollars and repatriating it outside. There is some taxation issue, which we are continuing to work with the government on, but it should be to minimize tax in our view for that profit.
About Shaun Rein
Shaun Rein is the Founder and Managing Director of the China Market Research Group [CMR], www.researchcmr.com.
Before founding CMR, he was the Chief of Research for venture capital firm Inter-Asia Venture Management. He also was the Managing Director, Country Head China for e-learning software company WebCT, where he also ran the company's Taiwan and South Korean operations. He also served as the Assistant Director of the Centre for East Asian Research at McGill University.
He is a columnist for BusinessWeek's Asia Insight column. He has been widely published, written about and quoted in newspapers worldwide including Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, Dow Jones' MarketWatch, TheStreet.com, Investor's Business Daily, IHT, Finance Asia, the Wall Street Journal, and Barron's. He is regularly interviewed for National Public Radio's Marketplace and CBS News.
Consulting Magazine named Shaun one of the "Top 30 Consultants Worldwide Under the Age of 30". He also won an award from Harvard University for "Excellence in Teaching" and is a frequent guest lecturer at universities worldwide, including Stanford's Graduate School of Business, the University of Pennsylvania, Fashion Institute of Technology, London Business School and INSEAD. He speaks at major business conferences around the world such a JP Morgan's China Conference, Asia Society's Corporate Conference, and the China Institute's Executive Summit.
Over his decade in China, he has assisted hundreds of Fortune 500, SMEs, private equity firms and hedge funds determine how best to take advantage of the growing opportunities in China.
He sits on the Board of Advisors for ad: Tech China, Alexandria Learning Technologies, and the Castle. He is Senior Advisor to VC firm China Metropolitan Ventures and is on the Board of Advisors of Pacem Production's Building China Modern series of PBS documentaries. He previously served as the Secretary General of the Asia Society's China Board, Form Director for St. Paul's School, and sat on the Advisory Committee for Shareholder Responsibility to the Harvard Corporation.
He earned his graduate degree from Harvard University focused on China's economy and received a BA Honours from McGill University. He can be reached at email@example.com
About Robert Theleen
Mr Robert Theleen is Co-founder and CEO of ChinaVest. Founded in 1982, ChinaVest is one of the first American private equity firms in China. Headquartered in Shanghai, ChinaVest is a leading Merchant Bank specializing in M&A advisory, private equity and research for the China market. The Firm has pioneered investments in logistics and supply chain management, information technology and financial services in China. ChinaVest has invested approximately $400 million in China since its inception.
Mr Theleen lives and works in Shanghai. He also serves as a director of Beijing Enterprises, the City of Beijing's State-owned Enterprise and flagship investment company. He is also an advisor to the Central Government of China's National Development and Reform Commission [NDRC] financial services restructuring forum. He also serves as a Trustee of the Asia Foundation, one of the largest NGO's dedicated to Asian development. He is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and is a frequent lecturer on the development of financial markets and investment trends in China.
About Joel Kellman
Joel Kellman is a co-founder and managing partner of Granite Global Ventures. Previously, he was a founder and longtime partner of the Silicon Valley law firm, Fenwick & West LLP. Joel co-managed Fenwick & West's investments in high technology start-ups from 1982 to 2000, when he left Fenwick & West to launch Granite Global Ventures. Joel also co-founded KLM Capital and Utah Ventures.
Granite Global Ventures is a leader in expansion-stage venture capital investments in the United States and Asia. Focused on expanding global innovation, GGV’s highly diverse team manages over $1 billion from its offices in Silicon Valley and Shanghai. The firm invests across a range of sectors in information technology, services and healthcare, as well as the consumer growth sector in China. GGV has provided capital and helped accelerate international expansion for its worldwide portfolio, particularly in the U.S. and China. GGV investments in China include AAC Acoustics (HKSE: 2018), Alibaba.com [HKSE:1688], BCD Semiconductor, Chamate, ChinaCars, hiSoft, Hurray (NASDAQ: HRAY), and Tudou.
Joel has served as GGV's board representative for many of its investments, including Intarcia Therapeutics, Agility (acquired by JDS Uniphase) (NASDAQ: JDSU), QPass (acquired by Amdocs) (NYSE: DOX), 2Wire, Biosensors [SGX: B20.SI], Xenoport (NASDAQ: XNPT), and Oculex Pharmaceuticals (sold to Allergan).
About Brandon Lin
Brandon Ho-Ping Lin is General Partner at SAIF Partners, which is one of the largest and most successful growth venture capital funds focused on China with US$2.2 billion under management including the $1.1 billion 2007 SAIF Partners III, $643 million 2005 SB Asia Investment Fund II and $404 million 2001 Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund. SAIF Partners has invested in over 90 private and public companies in Asia, primarily in China, and its most successful portfolio companies include Perfect World (NASDAQ: PWRD), Shanda (NASDAQ: SNDA), China Digital TV (NYSE: STV), Eternal Asia (Shenzhen: 2183), ATA Testing (NASDAQ: ATAI), SIFY Technologies (NASDAQ: SIFY) and Acorn (NYSE: ATV). Brandon joined SAIF in 2001 as part of the founding team and is based in Beijing and Hong Kong.
Brandon is a Director on the Boards of Directors of SAIF’s portfolio companies NVC Lighting, Runtian Bottled Water, Vienna Hotels, He Jian Semiconductor, MDC Telecom, Mania Technologie (publicly listed), Greensaver Batteries and China WebEDU. Brandon played a central role in the fundraising and establishment of SAIF Partners III and SB Asia Investment Fund II.
Prior to joining SAIF, Brandon was a Vice President in investment banking with Credit Suisse / Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette [DLJ] in New York from 1997 to 2001 where he executed IPOs, M&A and debt transactions for technology companies and worked on LBO transactions for large private equity firms. He also previously worked as an Associate in M&A and securities law with Sullivan & Cromwell in Hong Kong and Los Angeles. Brandon graduated from Stanford University in 1991 with a Bachelors Degree with Distinction and Harvard Law School in 1994 with a Juris Doctor Degree cum laude. Brandon was born in Taipei and grew up in Taipei and the U.S.