500 Startups is rebooting its efforts in Greater China after it hired a new head of business for the region, which covers mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Edith Yeung, a former executive with browser firm Dolphin Mobile, is taking up the reins.
The VC firm had been without a recognized setup in China for some time after former lead Rui Ma relocated to the 500’s U.S. operations last year. 500 doesn’t have a China fund, but it has made some 35 investments in the region, Yeung told TechCrunch in an interview.
She admitted that the firm, which has a sprawling global presence across North America, Europe and Asia with over 1,000 investments, “is thinking about” creating a dedicated China fund. For now, though, it will continue to make investments through an array of funds, including 500 Durians in Southeast Asia, the global 500 Startups vehicle, and the $10 million ‘Mobile Collective’ fund that Yeung herself leads. That kind of loose arrangement is not entirely uncommon at the firm. It is the same in India, where it said tax issues scuppered a prospective $25 million fund first announced a year ago.
Among her primary focuses, Yeung is tasked with finding a place where 500 can sit in China’s crowded and competitive investor ecosystem and a message that is relevant and meaningful to prospective startups, many of whom, Yeung admitted, are happy to work with local organizations. Also, on a more practical level, she needs to pick a base and build a team. Right now, her first port of call will be a return home to Hong Kong in March.
Already though, Yeung’s strategy appears to be based upon leveraging 500’s international presence, particularly in North America, and pushing a cross-border agenda. She explained that she will work with existing portfolio companies that want to explore or expand to China, and seek out deals where 500 can use its presence in the U.S. and links to its portfolio, which includes Twilio, one of last year’s top performing tech IPOs. Deals-wise, Yeung said that she is initially attracted to B2B prospects, and is putting her attention to scouting out education and health-related startups because they represent areas where Chinese consumers are willing to spend.