November 15, 2012

Vinnie Lauria — Bridging Silicon Valley and Asia

“It’s totally okay to fail. Most entrepreneurs have at least one failure behind them. But they keep moving forward.

Vinnie Lauria
Golden Gate Ventures

Golden Gate Ventures is a Singapore-based early-stage investor in technology companies across Southeast Asia.  Silicon Valley veterans, their vision is to advance and deepen the ties between the Silicon Valley and and Southeast Asia entrepreneurial technology communities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learning from failure leads to success.  Most successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have failed before becoming successful.  They later used what they learned to create successful companies.
  • Co-founders lower your probability of failure.  Being an entrepreneur is a lonely road.  It’s best to have someone on the journey with you.
  • Co-founders should be clear about expectations.  Co-founder relationships run into trouble if the founders aren’t clear from the start about responsibilities and expectations.

If you have a technology idea and you’re looking for early stage funding, contact Vinnie at

If you liked this interview, help me to thank Vinnie by sending a Tweet!

Chris: Hi. I’m Chris F. Harvey in Saigon, Vietnam. With me today
is Vinnie Laura, a Silicon Valley veteran and co-founder of Golden Gate
Ventures, an early stage investor and accelerator based in Singapore. Hi,

Vinnie: Hey Chris.

Chris: So Vinnie, when we first met, you shared with me a really
interesting story about how you came to Asia and why you decided
to start Golden Gate.

Vinnie: Yeah. So, I feel kind of fortunate in terms of path of how I
ended up here, was that I wanted to just take a little time off,
traveling, exploring. My wife and I left San Francisco with the
idea we were going to go around the globe, come back to San
Francisco, kind of in an unforeseen timeline. Ended up starting
in Korea, and then went to China, spent about three months in
China and realized that Asia, especially China, is so different
than anything that we had experienced.We decided to spend a year
traveling around, about a month in most countries.
Vietnam, we toured from south to north, had a great
time. Ho Chi Minh, I met up with a bunch of people who I
actually found off one of the local, I think it was a barcamp
mailing list. I did that in a bunch of cities, like
Bangkok, here in Singapore. So I ended up, just kind of
accidentally researching the scene and seeing a lot of great
activity and a lot of smart minds and people building cool
things.That got me excited and so at the end of the trip,
decided to settlein Singapore and basically help bridge some
knowledge and some financing between the Valley and Southeast Asia.

Chris: Wow. Great. So you’ve felt like there was really a dynamic
start up community here in Asia?

Vinnie: Yeah, very dynamic. It’s young, ripe. There are passionate
entrepreneurs. I guess I do see differences. In terms of like
knowledge or familiarity, with maybe some cutting edge or
leading edge best practices, that’s kind of where I saw in an
opportunity. That in the Valley, you just kind of absorb that
through osmosis. Outside the valley, it takes a little longer to
maybe read about that or see that or find people that are doing
it. So I kind of saw that I could offer some value in terms of
bringing my past experiences and what I’ve gone through and
lessons I’ve learned with the whole idea of fail a little faster
and make mistakes quicker. Because all entrepreneurs, we’re
stubborn, we’re crazy. We don’t really listen to reason. We have
to go through it ourselves.

Chris: So if there are Vietnamese entrepreneurs watching this video
and they’re interested in getting seed funding or be joining an
accelerator, should they contact Golden Gate?

Vinnie: 100%, yeah. They should definitely contact me probably in
Vietnam every two to three months. Drop me an e-mail. Let me
know what you’re doing and, at least, with investments, our
approach is more informal. We like to get to know the people
we’re working with. We really invest in teams because it’s so
early stage. So, feel free for anybody to drop me an e-mail and
let me know what you’re doing. I can give you my e-mail so you
can post it online.

Chris: Okay, great. I’ll do that. Cool. Vinnie, we met recently in
Singapore when you hosted a Fail Con which means failure
conference, all about failure. What gave you that idea? I
thought that it was an unusual topic.

Vinnie: So, it’s actually a conference that’s been going on in San
Francisco for a few years and it’s gotten quite popular and the
concept of failure in the Valley is almost a badge of honor.
People wear it on their sleeve, “This a past failure,” because
there’s usually a lot of lessons learned. There are teams that
are formed. Sometimes, teams break up.

But, I think outside the Valley, that concept of respecting past
failures isn’t as widely admired. So being that that is the
natural part of being an entrepreneur, I kind of wanted to
highlight that, bring it on stage and bring another Valley
concept or mentality here, and let people know that it’s totally
okay to fail. Most entrepreneurs have at least one failure
behind them. But they keep moving forward.

Chris: So would you say that failure is necessary to success?

Vinnie: I would. I would. I think you basically would get very,
extremely, extremely lucky to basically have a major success
without a failure behind you. I think that’s a natural stepping
stone. That’s the whole thing, what does failure really mean? It
might mean that you tried an idea, it didn’t work, and you went
back to the drawing board and started up again. But hopefully,
you met some really great people. You formed a team. You tried
something out. You learned some lessons. So, in the end, over
your career, it’s not necessarily a failure.

Chris: It reminds me of a quote. If you want to double your success
rate, double your failure rate.

Vinnie: There you go.

Chris: Yeah. Okay, good. I’d like to talk a little bit about co-
founders now. This is partly for me and partly for some of my
viewers. If you have a business idea, any kind of business idea,
but we’re talking about technology too, do you need a co-

Vinnie: You don’t need a co-founder, but I think you’re basically
trying to lower your – you want to lower your failure rate. So,
I think having a co-founder can help with that because it’s
somebody to bounce ideas off of. Somebody to keep you in check.
Somebody to motivate you when things are not going very, very
well. So, I think having a co-founder is actually a really
positive thing, if you’re doing a web, internet, mobile-based
startup which is different than running like a restaurant or a
bar or something like that.

Chris: Okay. How do you choose a co-founder? How do you find one if
you don’t know someone?

Vinnie: So, a great question. I think the best way is, hopefully, it’s
somebody you know already you have a relationship with. You’ve
worked with them, went to school with them, longtime friends. I
think those tend to be the stronger teams because you know how
each other work, but that’s not always an opportunity. So,
events are a great way to meet potential co-founders.  Conferences
are another great way, startup weekends.

You may work together on one idea and that’s not what you take away
from the weekend. It might be the people you worked with and you
start something new with them.

Chris: Okay, and what kind of conflicts have you seen between co-
founders and what might someone do to prevent conflict like

Vinnie: I guess number one is assumptions and expectations, so be
pretty clear up front in terms of – let’s just say there’s three
people and two of them have a business background. So, who’s
going to be the CEO? Who at the end of the day is really calling
all the shots? But at the same time what is the expectation in
terms of how decisions are being made? Are they fair? Or are
they mutual?

This is why if it’s somebody you know and have a relationship with,
it’s much easier because one of the common reasons that startups
do fail is because of the founding team. They just don’t work.
They don’t gel well.

Chris: Okay. Yep. They don’t work together. Okay. Usually, in a tech
company, there are two kinds of founders. There are two kinds of
skill sets. You’ve got your technology skill set and you have
your business skill set, and almost never are they the same
person. So, a technology person might need a business co-founder
and a business founder might need a technology co-founder. So,
what should a business founder look for in a technology found
and vice versa?

Vinnie: Number one for both sides, again, personality-wise do you just
click? Do you gel and trust each other? I think that’s number

Chris: Okay.

Vinnie: Number two, I think it’s do you complement each other, just
like any relationship? So, I think for a lot of tech co-founders
and somebody who’s a former techie, who’s earned an engineering
degree, does development for many years, you tend to think, “I
can do it myself.” But the reality of it is that for a startup,
you have to stay very, very focused.

So if you’re on the tech side, you want to be 100% on that. You’re
business co-founder, he or she is going to be the one
fundraising, getting those first few customers, kind of
validating the market. So there is a lot of work and that’s why
you want to make sure it’s somebody that can complement you

Chris: Okay. So complement and trust you would say is the most

Vinnie: Yes.

Chris: Okay, great. Well, those are all the question I had. Vinnie, I
want to thank you for joining us today. I encourage anyone who’s
watching, if they have a cool, interesting business idea with
technology, to contact Vinnie at Golden Gate Ventures.

Vinnie: Cheers. Thanks, Chris. Thanks, everybody.

Chris: Thanks, Vinnie.

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