Telecoms entrepreneur Steve Lau eyes blockchain opportunity

July 31, 2018 12:12
Angel investors focused on tech startups need to be well-acquainted with new technologies and emerging businesses, says Steve Lau. Photo: HKEJ

Steve Lau, a telecoms entrepreneur and angel investor in China who founded the Eagles Fund in 2012, is looking to seize opportunities in blockchain-related ventures for his tech-focused fund.

Lau told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that his fund will concentrate this year on investments on blockchain protocols, as he believes the technology will offer big rewardin the next ten years.

After working with Hutchison group in Hong Kong, Lau founded his own company, Fortune Telecom, in 1993 and later saw his firm become the brand agency for several international brands in China, including Nokia, Samsung, Philips and Alcatel.

He took his company public in seven years since its founding, listing it in Hong Kong. In 2012, Lau founded Eagles Fund and became one of the leading angel investors for tech startups in China.

Lau told HKEJ in an interview recently that he had invested in nearly 200 projects across mobile internet, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other areas so far, with an average investment of US$500,000.

Investing in entrepreneurs and startups is always a risky proposition, since as many as 90 percent of startups fail in the first five years.

As an experienced entrepreneur and angel investor, Lau admitted that he also made some mistakes during his journey.

"I once invested a six-digit sum in a startup that helps brands to operate e-commerce platforms. As I put in my money, it turned out that the startup was unable to get a strong brand aboard, and it had to be switched into a self-operated platform,” he said.

"I decided not to pour my money into it anymore, and the company was finally over."

Learning from his experience, Lau points out that angel investors need to be well-acquainted with the new technology and business. As for Eagles Fund, the team usually focuses on one specific innovative technology area each year. For 2018, it's the blockchain technology.

Determining the right timing for early-stage ideas is important for angel investing, Lau says.

"if you start investing in blockchain startups next year, it could be way too late in the cycle that you could only join in the Series A round or later for the startups, and the cost will be much higher.”

In May, Lau was appointed as the chairman of Nuggets, a blockchain-powered payments and ID platform, which offers blockchain storage service for users’ personal and payment data, helping them in e-commerce payments and other transactions.

Lau will play an instrumental role with Nuggets' China-based team, focused on localization and in introducing information into Chinese markets.

Combining his expertise in investing and corporate strategy, Lau said he picks his projects carefully.

"I take a look at the [startup's] founding team, to see whether there are blockchain experts, and how they would use their technology to solve the problem in the market now.”

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 31

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal