We’re back with another episode in partnership with Insignia Ventures Academy. We went on call with another mentor who not only has been helping out with the program, but has also been a participant of the first cohort: startup advisor, angel investor, ex-Bukalapak and Amazon engineering leader Mohammed Alabsi. We talk about his journey […]

Mohammed Alabsi, angel investor and startup advisor, Insignia Ventures Academy mentor and Cohort 1 alum

S03E30: From ex-AWS Engineer and ex-Bukalapak SVP of Engineering to Full Time Angel Investor, Tech Due Diligence, and Emerging Tech Trends in Southeast Asia with Mohammed Alabsi

We’re back with another episode in partnership with Insignia Ventures Academy. We went on call with another mentor who not only has been helping out with the program, but has also been a participant of the first cohort: startup advisor, angel investor, ex-Bukalapak and Amazon engineering leader Mohammed Alabsi. We talk about his journey from Seattle driving cloud services and microservices for AWS in the late 2010s to leading engineering at Bukalapak and now angel investing. He shares highlights from his experience at Insignia Ventures Academy, advice for aspiring angel investors, and his views on tech due diligence and hot tech topics including AI, cybersecurity, no-code platforms, and DeFi. 

Highlights and Timestamps

  1. 00:27 Paulo introduces Mohammed Alabsi;
  2. 01:21 The multiple hats of Mohammed; “I have multiple hats. As a consequence of that, I’m very fortunate to interact with and work with very capable founders on a daily basis, where I get a chance to work on impactful, interesting problems.”
  3. 02:27 How the emergence of cloud and microservices led him to AWS’s early days in Seattle and then Bukalapak in Indonesia; “During that course, I got exposed to two concepts that were pretty early on at the time…now they’re quite massive in the technology space. The first is the cloud and the second is the microservices architecture.”
  4. 05:34 Biggest challenges and contributions as VP of Engineering at Bukalapak; “… it was a time when Bukalapak was transitioning from a startup that was maturing to a startup that is mature. So it was very critical to identify areas of evolution…”
  5. 07:41 Becoming a full-time startup advisor and angel investor; “Although things were a bit slow at first, with time as I was able to figure things out more and expand my network across founders and the VCs, the ball began rolling.” 
  6. 09:07 A day in the life of Mohammed as angel investor; “In this role, [having] a network is important, making sure that you have some sort of funnel when it comes to finding deals as well as sharing critical information.”
  7. 10:07 Mohammed value-add as an angel investor; “My experiences in building teams, products and technology helped me understand what it takes for teams and organizations to be successful as well as to be able to build a desirable environment and viable product.”
  8. 11:36 Most common pitfall of early-stage startup teams from a tech POV; “There’s always a balance between doing the right thing from a radical technical standpoint, and also on the other hand, being pragmatic [and] doing what is right with the business, in what puts the business in the best place to be successful.”
  9. 12:54 Highlights of Mohammed’s experience in Insignia Ventures Academy; “I would say the best part of the program for me was the people. I met amazing entrepreneurs as well as investors, and I learned so much working with them [through] the hands-on experience in sourcing, evaluating, and pitching startups.”
  10. 14:32 How the Academy influenced Mohammed’s investing; “It was quite effective in, I would say, completing this skill set that I had prior to the Academy.”
  11. 15:17 Sneak peek into Mohammed’s Tech DD session; “I would say the most common misconception is that there is an assumption that tech DD is not very important for very early stage startups.”
  12. 17:19 What Mohammed is excited for 2022 Southeast Asia tech; “I’m pretty excited about NFTs and play-to-earn games…I’m excited about property tech, particularly solutions that make it easier for people to find, buy, as well as rent houses.”
  13. 18:08 Mohammed’s thoughts on AI adoption in Southeast Asia; “…as products mature and as the market matures even more, to be able to differentiate your product and offerings, there becomes a stronger and stronger need to adopt AI…”
  14. 19:26 Cybersecurity for early-stage startups; “[Security] is a concept that is ingrained in the software development lifecycle.”
  15. 21:47 Advice for engineers and tech operators becoming angel investors; “Definitely feel comfortable to go outside of your comfort zone. I know the pivot from an engineer or from a tech operator to an investor will require understanding certain topics and concepts that are not technical in nature…”
  16. 22:52 Investing in Dishserve; “The ideas or the businesses like Dishserve where it’s a platform that creates value for all of the parties involved is something that I’m very excited about.”
  17. 23:59 Rapid Fire Round;

About our guest

Mohammed Alabsi, angel investor and startup advisor, Insignia Ventures Academy mentor and Cohort 1 alum

Mohammed is a technology leader and angel investor active across both sides of the Pacific, based out of both the East Coast and Jakarta, an advisor to several startups here in Southeast Asia, and part of the XA Network. Previously he was Senior VP of Engineering at Bukalapak, and a Senior Software Development Manager at Amazon in Seattle. He is an alumnus of Insignia Ventures Academy’s first cohort and also helps the program as a mentor.

Transcript

Paulo: To kick things off, we’d love to get a sense from you, given all these things that you’re active in all these different startups that you’re helping out, of what excites you about your work these days as an angel investor and startup advisor.

Mohammed: Currently, like you said, I’m a full-time startup advisor and an angel investor with 14 startups in my portfolio at the moment. I’m also an advisor for Insignia Ventures, as well as a mentor for Insignia Ventures Academy. So I have multiple hats. As a consequence of that, I’m very fortunate to interact with and work with very capable founders on a daily basis, where I get a chance to work on impactful, interesting problems. Those problems could range from working at building cloud kitchens to empowering retailers and warungs to building cross-border logistics networks, building platforms and marketplaces for buying and selling collectibles, fabrics and textile marketplaces, just to name a few. So the variety and the scope of the potential impact is something that I’m very excited to work on.

“I have multiple hats. As a consequence of that, I’m very fortunate to interact with and work with very capable founders on a daily basis, where I get a chance to work on impactful, interesting problems.”

Building cloud and microservices applications in AWS

Paulo: It’s pretty clear that you’re really working across different industries, and we’ll definitely talk about how to balance and manage that portfolio as an angel investor. But, first I want to dial back and go back to your time in Seattle at Amazon. How did you decide to go to Amazon with their engineering team and then transition all the way to Indonesia?  

Mohammed: It all started when I was in grad school. I took a course in the [formal] methods in software engineering. And during that course, I got exposed to two concepts that were pretty early on at the time. They didn’t really catch on yet, but now they’re quite massive in the technology space. The first is the cloud and the second is the microservices architecture. This is back in 2006 when only Amazon at the time was working on building a cloud platform and they’re still in a fairly early stage and microservices by itself didn’t really gain that much traction. 

But during my experience in that course, I enjoyed the topic so much that I ended up extending on and building upon my course project to include it as part of a thesis of a PhD student and the professor that I was working with. As part of that project, I became a strong believer in the value and the potential of the cloud, as well as the microservices architecture.

And that passion motivated me to apply for jobs at Amazon Web Services. And I was fortunate to get an opportunity to join them after graduating. I had a fantastic 10 year tenure at Amazon. During that time I got a chance to work on key AWS services like EC2 and I was also a founding member of two of Amazon’s large businesses in Amazon advertising as well as in Amazon business.

But Amazon was my first company to work for after grad school, so I was very curious about what else is out there. And that curiosity drove me to look for something new and something different. Because of that, I took a sabbatical during which I did some travelling and volunteer work. The time that I spent in Indonesia at the time, as well as the region, opened my eyes to the pace and potential of technology innovations in the region and the amazing possibilities that came with that, coupled with the fact that there’s the very nice weather, the delicious food, and the really nice nature, [which were all really] strong selling points. Then at the same time, I was fortunate to get introduced to the folks who were at Bukalapak, which became the beginning of a wonderful journey.

Paulo: Just before I get into your experience at Bukalapak, I also wanted to ask, since you had already seen the emergence of cloud services and microservices back when you were in grad school, how has that influenced your view today as an angel investor?

Mohammed: It’s definitely a pretty interesting experience in a sense that it made me appreciate the fact that we were looking at an idea that hadn’t caught on yet to understand: What is really the core problem that that idea is trying to solve? What’s the value that [it’s] trying to create [and] the value that it’s trying to add to all the parties involved? And is that something that has the possibility to become a long-term trend, and be able to create a sizable market?

“During that course, I got exposed to two concepts that were pretty early on at the time…now they’re quite massive in the technology space. The first is the cloud and the second is the microservices architecture.”

Leading Bukalapak into engineering and technology maturity

Paulo: Yeah, it’s really great that you’re able to see that trend go from the academe all the way into Amazon and now, clearly even here in Southeast Asia, AWS is pushing to really open up the cloud to a lot of different SMEs and businesses. So it’s really come a long way.

But going into your experience at Bukalapak, definitely it must’ve been a transition. Obviously you had already been traveling, as you mentioned during that sabbatical, you had already fallen in love with the weather and the food in Indonesia, but what were the biggest challenges having to transition into working at an Indonesian startup, leading up, I presume already like a sizable engineering team as well, as VP [of engineering] And then later on Senior VP.

Mohammed: I guess at a macro level, there are obviously differences between the market in the Bay Area or the US and the market in Southeast Asia, and those differences present a lot of opportunities, but they also present a good deal of challenges as well. I had to first, be able to identify and then to be able to figure out how I could potentially tweak or change how I operate as an individual, to be able to get the most out of the resources that are available, but also the same time, to better understand dynamics in the market, as well as the needs of the local customers. 

But at a micro level, I joined Bukalapak at a time where the business was growing like bonkers. Mitra was pretty much in its infancy. [The] ecommerce and the fintech businesses were growing very, very quickly, but also at the same time, it was a time when Bukalapak was transitioning from a startup that was maturing to a startup that is mature. So it was very critical to identify areas of evolution: how we define our products, build technology stacks and technology operations, and structure the team and define our roles, to put the team in the best place to be successful, and doing all of that while having to deal with technical debt and addressing the various needs of the business.

Paulo: What would you say was your biggest contribution to Bukalapak in your time there? 

Mohammed: I would say my contributions are identifying those opportunities in terms of organizational structure and processes and technology strategy, that provided the team with the focus and the structure that was needed to kind of evolve, and address the growing needs of the business. But more specifically, I would say the migration from our data centers to the cloud was a massive project that took us about two years to complete, and it was a massive success.

“… it was a time when Bukalapak was transitioning from a startup that was maturing to a startup that is mature. So it was very critical to identify areas of evolution…”

Becoming a startup advisor and angel investor

Paulo: So again like that whole theme of cloud comes back again to your experience. As I mentioned earlier in your intro, [you’re a] full-time startup advisor and angel investor, [so] what made you decide to make that transition? It’s once again a totally different role. [and] I mean you’re still active in Southeast Asia, but it’s obviously a different dynamic as well from being an operator and leading up an engineering team. 

Mohammed: Absolutely. I would say my experience at Bukalapak kind of increased my level of passion for startups and the startup scene. And I wanted to be more involved [and] in some ways I wanted to learn more about the startup ecosystem and there were also a number of industries that I didn’t have a lot of experience in that I was keen to learn more about.

So when I left [Bukalapak] early this year to pursue my Executive MBA at the Kellogg School of Management, I began exploring opportunities for advisory as well as angel investing. And although things were a bit slow at first, with time as I was able to figure things out more and expand my network across founders and the VCs, the ball began rolling. 

I would say that from my personal experience then joining Insignia Ventures Academy first as a member and then as a mentor has been a great experience in sharpening my toolbox when it comes particularly to angel investing as well as growing my network among founders and senior operators.

“Although things were a bit slow at first, with time as I was able to figure things out more and expand my network across founders and the VCs, the ball began rolling.”

Paulo: Before I talk about Insignia Ventures Academy and your experience there, [I have] a couple of questions about your life as an angel investor. [The first] is, as an angel investor, you’re pretty much your own boss, so I want to know and I’m sure our listeners, especially people out there who are maybe thinking about becoming full-time advisors and angel investors [are also curious], what’s a day like for Mohamad as an angel investor?

Mohammed: Great question. And I think it’s a combination of three main activities. First is my responsibility as an angel investor is not just providing the financial support [to] startups that are in my portfolio, but also providing them with guidance as well as technical expertise. So a chunk of my time goes to supporting the startups that I’ve already invested in and making sure that I put [them] into the best place possible. 

The second bucket of time is taking a look at opportunities for more startups to potentially invest in [and] having a lot of conversations with the founders, that could be either in terms of sourcing or in terms of…negotiating. 

And then finally there’s still a pretty good deal of networking that’s involved. I think in this role, [having] a network is important, making sure that you have some sort of funnel when it comes to finding deals as well as sharing critical information. 

“In this role, [having] a network is important, making sure that you have some sort of funnel when it comes to finding deals as well as sharing critical information.”

Paulo: You talked about that first bucket of really putting your startups in the best position to succeed, [so] having been an engineering technology leader for more than a decade, how does that impact the way that you, not just invest, but also do portfolio management as well? Maybe you can share some experiences or case studies that you’ve gone through. 

Mohammed: Generally speaking, I’m a builder at heart. My experiences in building teams, products and technology helped me understand what it takes for teams and organizations to be successful as well as to be able to build a desirable environment and viable product. That’s something that I try to leverage quite often in my current role.

A pretty good example of that I think is — there was a startup that I invested in pretty early on. They didn’t have a CTO at the time. They had a fairly small team of, somewhat junior software engineers and I think they needed a pretty good degree of help in terms of identifying [an] engineering and product leader who could take the team to the next level and help grow and support the team in a full-time capacity, but also at the same time, provide them with feedback around system design [and] technology choices, as well as some of the operations that have to either enhance or adopt to make sure as they grow — and they had been growing over a hundred percent or approximately 90% month over month in the first 12 month — so it was pretty critical that they built a team and products they can scale. And I think that experience was a lot of fun for me, but also at the same time, I liked that I was valuable to them. 

“My experiences in building teams, products and technology helped me understand what it takes for teams and organizations to be successful as well as to be able to build a desirable environment and viable product.”

Paulo: Having worked with a number of startups, already helping them, just as you mentioned in your example, really scaling their tech specifically and making sure they’re ready to take on more users or more data or whatever digital assets that they handle, what would you say is the biggest pitfall or the most common pitfall that you see in terms of technology when it comes to the startups that you invest in or advice?

Mohammed: I would say most of the startups that I have invested in are startups that probably didn’t have a strong technical co-founder, so what ends up happening is that, there’s always a balance between doing the right thing from a radical technical standpoint, and also on the other hand, being pragmatic [and] doing what is right with the business, in what puts the business in the best place to be successful. 

And I think, sometimes early stage startups that don’t have that strong technical leadership can either put a lot more weight on addressing the short-term needs of the business that from a long-term standpoint they’re not making the right technical choices in some key and critical areas, or they focus so much on building the perfect technical product that it takes away some of the opportunities for the business to succeed and grow quickly. So to be able to find that balance is very important.

“There’s always a balance between doing the right thing from a radical technical standpoint, and also on the other hand, being pragmatic [and] doing what is right with the business, in what puts the business in the best place to be successful.”

The Insignia Academy Experience

Paulo: [It’s all about] having a healthy level of pragmatism, and being realistic about what can be done from a technology standpoint. Now I’d like to move to Insignia Ventures Academy and talk about your experience there, and since you were already a startup advisor or angel investor prior to coming in, why did you decide to take this 12 week course in terms of investing, and what was the highlight of this experience from your perspective?

Mohammed: It started when I got approached by Gail, who’s one of my favorite people ever at Insignia Ventures Academy to give a session on tech DD. During that conversation, I got to learn more about the program and I got super excited about it, so I asked if I can apply and then [after the] application, and then I was very fortunate to join. 

I would say the best part of the program for me was the people. I met amazing entrepreneurs as well as investors, and I learned so much working with them [through] the hands-on experience in sourcing, evaluating, and pitching startups. And to do that on a weekly basis was extremely valuable. 

And I would say, in addition to that, we were doing those weekly leadership conversations and leadership exercises with my group. And those exercises helped me learn a bit more about myself as an individual, as well as a leader, but also to be able to tap into the experience of people in my group to be able to learn more.

I was really lucky to work alongside fantastic investors and operators like, Andy Hwang, who I co-invested in a startup with, Ho Yeung, Anurag Murali, as well as a passionate founder in Sara Sofyan. 

“I would say the best part of the program for me was the people. I met amazing entrepreneurs as well as investors, and I learned so much working with them [through] the hands-on experience in sourcing, evaluating, and pitching startups.”

Paulo: It’s really that network, and as you mentioned, you’ve already begun co-investing with some of them as well, so they just add on whatever you bring to the table already. And speaking of bringing things to the table, how did the Academy influence your own view on investing?

Mohammed: I think it was quite effective in, I would say, completing this skill set that I had prior to the Academy. I had a lot of experience as an operator of technology and product, but didn’t really have a lot of experience in terms of sourcing startups, identifying potential opportunities, evaluating the startup in terms of founders, in terms of strategy, in terms of the competitive landscape and then doing, all sorts of valuation techniques as well. So there’s that kind of skill set that I thought was very important. And then in addition, to go through all of the activities and exercises to be able to learn, that was extremely valuable. 

“It was quite effective in, I would say, completing this skill set that I had prior to the Academy.”

Paulo: So definitely adding more layers to that whole investing process. And speaking of layers, one of those is definitely tech DD, a session which you have been doing since the first cohort and now with the second cohort as well. Maybe you can give our audience a sneak peek into what you share in that session, and share with us what’s the biggest thing that people often misunderstand or have a misconception about when it comes to tech due diligence?

Mohammed: When it comes to investing in technology startups, you’re partially in a way investing in the technology stack as well as tech IP, [that’s all about just] the potential capability and building on top of that, so the tech DD allows you to understand what are the tech capabilities that you’re going to be able to acquire or invest and at same time, to be able to understand that potential going forward.

But then on the flip side, it [also] helps you understand what are some of the possible risks [for those] services in terms of technology strategy, technical debt, processes or in the personnel themselves, and depending on the stage of the startup, there are [certain] expectations and certain things that we typically do.

I would say in terms of misconceptions, I would say the most common misconception is that there is an assumption that tech DD is not very important for very early stage startups. And although there is some truth to that, in a sense that very early stage startups that you could think about, pre-seed or seed, might not have a lot of tech and therefore the possible risks from a technology standpoint might be somewhat limited, the technology can still reveal some of the possible challenges in terms of personnel, tech strategy, et cetera, that may not be problems now, or that might not be substantial risks now, but they could grow to become substantial as [the startup] grows.

So it’s definitely understanding the potential challenges and potential risks early on because it helps you as an investor work with the startups to help them address and mitigate those challenges.

“I would say the most common misconception is that there is an assumption that tech DD is not very important for very early stage startups.”

Tech Trends, AI, and Cybersecurity

Paulo: It definitely goes back again to the whole point about risks. And I think that the risks aren’t necessarily meant to dissuade you from investing, but more of really having a perspective of, again, the level of risk that you’re taking on making this investment and really building up your conviction if you really want to push through with it. 

And speaking of technology, I want to use this time to also get your thoughts on some trends, tech trends for Southeast Asia. What are the top three tech trends in Southeast Asia for next year that you’re really excited about?

Mohammed: I’m pretty excited about NFTs and play-to-earn games. I think we saw a couple of startups in 2021 that have been gaining pretty good traction in this space. And I think there’s still plenty of opportunities there. I’m excited about property tech, particularly solutions that make it easier for people to find, buy, as well as rent houses. I think it’s such a large market, and there is a need for potentially a market that’s quite [ripe] for disruption. And I would say, in 2022 chances are, we will still be in a COVID world. So there will continue to be a need to help people work remotely as well to be able to meet their needs.

“I’m pretty excited about NFTs and play-to-earn games…I’m excited about property tech, particularly solutions that make it easier for people to find, buy, as well as rent houses.”

Paulo: I would love to get your thoughts also on, since in this season of the show, we’ve been able to talk to a couple of startups that are pushing out AI based solutions or Incorporating AI into their services to automate things at scale or really reduce the risks, that otherwise manual operators would have on certain processes. So what are your thoughts on AI adoption here in the region for tech solutions? 

Mohammed: I agree with that, I think there’s amazing potential, and there’s definitely a lot of value that a lot of startups and firms [have]. If they adopt AI for the right reasons and the right problems, I think there’s definitely a lot of value there to create and capture. I’ve seen AI used in product recommendations, voice bots, and forecasting, which has been quite exciting. 

Typically the trend when it comes to building products is that firms start with a simple version of a V1, and in a lot of cases you can kind of go by and build the early stage or the early version of your product without the need of having a lot of AI, but I think as products mature and as the market matures even more, to be able to differentiate your product and offerings, there becomes a stronger and stronger need to adopt AI, and I think in the next few years, we will see that adoption.

“…as products mature and as the market matures even more, to be able to differentiate your product and offerings, there becomes a stronger and stronger need to adopt AI…”

Paulo: It’s definitely early stages, but we’re seeing a lot of new use cases, which is very exciting. And another trend I think that we’ve been seeing, not just here in the region, but globally is a lot more attention is being paid to cybersecurity because obviously as you have more digital assets, as you have more digital highways, there’s also a lot more risks, security risks as well. And people [have maybe] heard about different breaches and hacks all over the world. So what are your thoughts for technology companies and what are the things that you tell your own portfolio when it comes to cybersafety?

Mohammed: Fantastic question. And this kind of goes back to finding that right degree of pragmatism. I’ve seen in many cases that startups, especially early stage startups, are really focused on building that great product, that great experience, and they’re so focused on that [that] security, unfortunately, doesn’t become a strong focus until a security incident actually takes place. 

And I want to say maybe one of the biggest misconceptions here is that, security is only important when we’re about to launch the product. I would say if that’s the strategy around security chances are that your products can be suboptimal from a security standpoint. Security starts from when you identify the product and come up with the requirements. The requirements have to be designed to give the best chance possible to provide a secure and safe experience. When coding the product or coding the services that provide that experience, it’s extremely important that you design the…system and build the code in a secure and safe fashion as well.

Then again, before you obviously deploy the product, do some of the security checks to make sure that the product is in a good place. Then post-launch make sure that you have a security monitoring place, such that you can detect any potential security issues, attacks, or vulnerabilities before the blast radius becomes too big.

[Security] is a concept that is ingrained in the software development lifecycle. And I think startups that understand that, that apply that, and then implemented in a way where they follow a healthy degree of pragmatism are in the best place possible to provide a secure experience.

“[Security] is a concept that is ingrained in the software development lifecycle.”

Advice for Aspiring Angel Investors, Co-investing with VCs

Paulo: I think that also ties back to what you talked about, with startups having to invest in tech talent early on, to have that person to actually tell the company that this is what needs to be done in terms of technology security, and if not, if they can’t afford to find, or are having difficulty finding somebody, at a very least getting a tech advisor or some capacity of that, to be able to guide them in that way. 

And speaking of tech advisers and angel investors, what is some advice that you have for tech operators, like yourself previously, or engineers who want to become angel investors, especially here in Southeast Asia? 

Mohammed: I would say, definitely feel comfortable to go outside of your comfort zone. I know the pivot from an engineer or from a tech operator to an investor will require understanding certain topics and concepts that are not technical in nature, to feel comfortable to do so, and to potentially focus on particular domains or areas where your tech experience or operations experience can add value to the startups that you’re potentially looking at investing in. In addition to that, it also helps you utilize that domain level expertise in evaluating the opportunity that [the] startup is trying to go after, as well as evaluating the competitive landscape. 

“Definitely feel comfortable to go outside of your comfort zone. I know the pivot from an engineer or from a tech operator to an investor will require understanding certain topics and concepts that are not technical in nature…”

Paulo: It’s definitely a more holistic perspective that you start having to adopt as you make that transition, and you definitely have to work with a lot of different people, co-investing in VCs and whatnot. Speaking of that, like before I head into the rapid fire round, I want to also ask since you have co-invested with us in Dishserve. From your own perspective, what did you see in the company and why you decided to invest as well Dishserve and then also become their startup advisor?

Mohammed: First of all, I really liked the founders. I think Rishabh is a fantastic serial entrepreneur. He has a lot of experience building these kinds of startups, definitely has the right mindset as well as values. 

I really liked the market. I think there’s definitely a lot of opportunity there to not only allow the restaurants and the brands to expand their offering quickly and deeply to geographical areas [where they] will probably not be able to have coverage without a platform like Dishserve. 

They also empower a lot of people to be able to be employed inside their homes and to be able to make a pretty good amount of money out of it. And I think the ideas or the businesses like Dishserve where it’s a platform that creates value for all of the parties involved is something that I’m very excited about.

“The ideas or the businesses like Dishserve where it’s a platform that creates value for all of the parties involved is something that I’m very excited about.”

 Paulo: To our listeners out there who are beginning to get curious about Dishserve, we also actually had a conversation earlier in the season, so you can go check that episode out as well.

Rapid Fire Round

Top 3 Skills of an angel investor?

Mohammed: Evaluating founders, in my humble opinion, I would say is the most important thing, [Then] understanding and evaluating markets and possible product market fit in the competitive landscape, that would be two. And then three [is] being able to provide value to the startups besides just cash.

What is the most definitive trait of a founder you would invest in?

Mohammed: I would say finding that balance between [being] stubborn on your mission and [being] pragmatic and flexible on how you want to get there is pretty important because if you’re not a strong believer in the mission, there’s so many challenges that a startup and founding team paces that it’s really easy to just give up. But then on the flip side, because there’s a lot of challenges and there’s a lot of…uncertainty along the way, you need to have that flexibility.

Quick thoughts on no-code platforms?

Mohammed: It’s fantastic, I love it because it pretty much enables more people to become builders and the more builders we have, the more innovations we will be able to create and the faster that we will be able to do that, potentially cheaper and more efficiently. I would say [though] that no code technology’s still in its early stages. I suspect that there is a possibility that in the future using more and more machine learning in no code platforms will allow us to expand those capabilities and be able to build a lot of cool stuff out of it.

Quick thoughts on decentralized tech, DeFi, crypto?

Mohammed: It can definitely help us solve problems in a decentralized fashion, which will translate to solving problems quickly as well as efficiently. I think crypto and blockchain are here to stay, and I think with time, you can see more and more adoption and applications.

If you were to start a company today in Southeast Asia, what problem would it be solving? 

Mohammed: Great question. Generally speaking, I’m very passionate about power platforms, kind of like I mentioned earlier, and then on the flip side, also very passionate in providing economic prosperity, opportunities to be able to do that in a sustainable way, so something within that space would be something that I would [build].

What do you do to de-stress?

Mohammed: I try to exercise as much as I can. I like to go jogging, play basketball or go out for walks. I think that helps me clear my head and reduce that feeling of stress. At the same time sometimes just kind of thinking things through and putting things into perspective can be super super [helpful]. 

Anything you would like to share?

Mohammed: Definitely feel free to reach out on LinkedIn, and always open to chat. There’s a lot of exciting opportunities out there. Whether you are a possible investor or you’re a founder or operator who would like to be a founder and would like to seek some advice or guidance, definitely happy to take the time and chat.

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