Some time ago, I found myself preparing to share podium time with some of the region’s best-known China investment experts. We were to discuss investing strategies at a weeklong conference for members of the Institute for Private Investors, a high powered New York-based group (40% of IPI members have a net-worth above $200 mil. USD). I was to speak first, followed by Ronnie Chan, CEO of the Hang Lung Group, the real estate developer of Shanghai Plaza 66. The following days would feature Vincent Lo, CEO of the Shui On Group (developers of Xintiandi), Andy Xie, chief economist for Morgan Stanley Asia-Pacific, and US Ambassador to China Clark Randt.
Put in musical terms, it was like heading on-stage to open for Pavarotti. Frankly, as I waited for my turn amid the unabashed magnificence of the Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental, I was wondering what exactly to say.
What happened after I started speaking came as a surprise. I was to talk for 15 minutes, sharing the lessons my company, Inter-Asia Venture Management, had learned from 32 years of operating as a venture capital firm in Asia and 12 years in China. But soon after beginning my speech, I was interrupted for a question by a distinguished, white-haired gentleman from the southern United States, “I’ve been burned in China,