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Meet The ‘Shop King’: How Tang Shing-bor Became A Billionaire Flipping Hong Kong’s Derelict Properties

Tins Plaza was an eyesore, a run-down, abandoned plastics factory in the Tuen Mun district when Tang Shing-bor first spotted it. To Tang, though, it was a gem, one of many forgotten industrial buildings sprinkled around Hong Kong, well worth the roughly $36 million he paid for it in 2005. But even he couldn’t have foreseen that just two years later he would triple his money on it.

It was by snapping up derelict industrial properties like Tins Plaza, flipping them or redeveloping them, that Tang went from the verge of insolvency in 2003 to billionaire in 2016, when he first made the list of Hong Kong’s richest. Now at 86 and No. 14 on the list with a net worth of $5.7 billion, Tang is making one of his biggest contrarian bets yet.

Despite months of protests casting a pall over the city’s property market, Tang has embarked on a shopping spree of Hong Kong’s industrial buildings, spending $700 million last year. He ranks as the biggest buyer of Hong Kong industrial properties in 2019, according to data from New York-based research firm, Real Capital Analytics.

This is the best opportunity I’ve ever seen,” says Tang in a rare interview, held at one of his buildings in Hong Kong’s bustling Mong Kok district, just blocks from where some of the most violent scenes of unrest have taken place. During the interview, Tang is multitasking, juggling phone calls from brokers, developers and lawyers. He is negotiating his next purchase, a dilapidated building next to the city’s old Kai Tak airport, which the government is auctioning off for redevelopment. To Tang, Hong Kong’s political turmoil is only creating better bargains. “We will move on from this,” he says.

Property is only the latest of Tang’s several incarnations in a career that traces Hong Kong’s own development.

At his side is the youngest of his five sons from two marriages, Stan Tang Yiu-sing, 34, chairman of the holding company he and his father established in 2013 and named Stan Group. Tang Sr., whose title is honorable chairman, remains very involved, and the two meet twice a day. Stan oversees new businesses and redevelopment of properties. Tang still cuts the property deals. “I make the final decisions,” says Tang in a booming baritone that belies his age.

Known in Hong Kong’s real estate circles as “Uncle Bor,” property is only the latest of Tang’s several incarnations in a career that traces Hong Kong’s own development—from neon bulb maker in the 1950s, to 1970s restaurateur, to earning the moniker “shop king” for his string of retail spaces—a foray that almost broke him.

Today, Tang is renowned for his knack of spotting remnants of Hong Kong’s bygone days as a manufacturing hub, its disused factories and warehouses, in areas poised for gentrification. That expertise is attracting eager partners, including Hong Kong’s Chinese Estates Holdings and Yangzhou-based Jiayuan International, which have both set up joint ventures with Stan Group to redevelop its industrial properties. “He’s very effective and experienced in converting these building sites,” says Joseph Lam, associate director of industrial services at Colliers International.

Tang has never feared failure. His father died when he was 5 and he was raised by his mother, who took a low-paying job in a factory to support them. “I had to come up with creative ways to survive,” he says. Tang recalls loitering outside restaurants when he was hungry, waiting for handouts. Growing up poor gave him grit: well into his 70s, he kept in shape with dawn swims beyond the shark net off Hong Kong’s shore. “There’s always a way,” he says. “There’s never a problem that can’t be solved.”

With only a primary school education, Tang became an apprentice in 1950 to an electrician making neon signs, and in his 20s opened his own store catering to then-booming demand for the bright storefront marquees that remain one of Hong Kong’s hallmarks. Neon success enabled Tang in 1970 to open a dim sum eatery with friends. That led to a string of restaurant investments, including a seafood restaurant in Sydney, that Tang would in 1982 consolidate as the East Ocean Gourmet Group, which is still thriving today. The 1980s saw Tang branch out into a flurry of new businesses, including a used car dealership. But it was buying and selling shops where Tang made his mark. “Looking after the restaurant exposed him to news of nearby shops,” says Stan. One of his most notable investments in the following years would be the purchase in 1990 of an old restaurant building that he would transform into the renowned Mongkok Computer Centre.

“I’m optimistic about Hong Kong’s future,” says Tang. “I’ve seen ups and downs. There are opportunities out of risks. This is my chance—my turn.”

Tang Shing-bor

By 1997, Tang had amassed more than 200 shops worth roughly HK$7.3 billion ($942 million) and began planning an IPO, only to be thwarted by the Asian financial crisis. Hong Kong’s property market fell 70% between 1997 and 2004 as the crisis was followed by the outbreak of SARS in 2003. By 2004, with HK$4 billion in debt, Tang began selling most of his portfolio, including his prized Mongkok Computer Centre.

More from Forbes: Hong Kong’s New No. 1: Lee Shau Kee Edges Out Li Ka-Shing As City’s Richest Person

What he didn’t sell, however, was a smattering of industrial space he began buying in 1996 to hedge against volatile retail rental yields. And Tang knew just where to buy. Hong Kong had decided in 1990 to close Kai Tak and build a new, larger airport on Lantau Island. So Tang focused on Tuen Mun, a neighborhood directly across a bay from the new airport and connected by road to Hong Kong’s nearest neighbor in mainland China, the fast-growing city of Shenzhen.

Tang starts drawing a rough map: “Let me tell you about the factories on San Hop Lane,” he says as he sketches out the streets and buildings around his first purchase, Tuen Mun’s Oi Sun Centre. Tang bought the former factory in foreclosure for HK$42 million in 2004.

Up the street was Tins Plaza, the retired plastics factory named for its former owner, chemical tycoon-turned-philanthropist Tin Ka-ping. Tang picked up the building in early 2005 for HK$280 million, putting HK$28 million in cash down and borrowing the rest from banks using another of his buildings as collateral.

Six months later, Tang says he received a call from an industrial property unit of Australia’s Macquarie Bank, Macquarie Goodman, offering him HK$500 million for the building. By October, he had a second offer, for HK$520 million, from Singapore property investment fund Mapletree. “But that’s not even the best part,” Tang says.

Faced with rival offers, Tang chose neither. Commercial property commands a higher price than industrial property, he reasoned, so he had Tins Plaza rezoned as commercial. Two years later, Tang found himself in an elevator to Macquarie’s offices in Hong Kong’s International Finance Centre to meet an executive who had flown in from Sydney with a new offer. “The gweilo [foreigner] boss was a handsome man,” Tang says. “He was very straightforward and asked me whether I’d be willing to sell for HK$850 million.” Macquarie in 2008 sold its stake in Macquarie Goodman to its joint venture partner, Goodman Group. Both Macquarie and Goodman declined to comment on the deal.

Tang’s prediction had come true: demand for Hong Kong’s old industrial space had indeed rebounded—not, as he foresaw, because of the new airport, but because of surging demand for the data and fulfillment centers needed to provide cloud services and e-commerce. “There are new technologies like data center users going into warehouses,” says Samuel Lai, senior director at property services firm CBRE in Hong Kong. Tang sold Macquarie Tins Plaza, earning HK$570 million on his HK$280 million investment. “Tins Plaza was the most memorable transaction I’ve ever made,” he says.

But Tang wasn’t resting on his laurels. After seeing the offers roll in for Tins Plaza, he set about buying another former factory down the street, the Gold Sun Industrial Building. Unlike his previous two deals, Gold Sun had several owners, each requiring separate negotiations. Tang bought the first of the building’s eight stories in 2006; he wouldn’t manage to clinch the eighth until 2014. “I bought it floor by floor,” says Tang.

Tang’s timing proved impeccable. Eager to boost the supply of property for offices, hotels and shopping, Hong Kong’s government in April 2010 implemented incentives to redevelop disused industrial properties. The so-called revitalization scheme lifted restrictions on how large a building developers could build on land converted from industrial use. The result: Factory prices surged 152% between the policy’s launch and early 2016, when the government ended the incentive. “The best initiative that came out and led to a lot of transactions was the relaxation on the plot ratio,” says CBRE’s Lai.

Tang got another lift in 2013, when the government announced the start of construction on a tunnel linking the new airport and Tuen Mun. Tang combined his Oi Sun Centre and Gold Sun Industrial Building into a single development, One Vista, a two-tower office building and shopping complex. In May 2018, he bundled One Vista with two other Hong Kong properties and sold roughly 70% to Jiayuan International for HK$2.6 billion.

Tang has left Mong Kok to head downtown to his East Ocean Lafayette restaurant overlooking Victoria Harbor. Nibbling on fried turnip cake dipped in spicy Cantonese seafood sauce, he is closely shadowed by two lawyers sipping tea at the next table and waiting their turn to update him on his deal near Kai Tak. Uncle Bor has already managed to buy 73% of the buildings near the old airport, just 7% away from the threshold at which he can legally compel the remaining owners to sell. Redevelopment of Kai Tak stands to boost property values around the area. And a new revitalization scheme, launched last year, has lifted limits yet again on how big developers can build on converted sites. If and when Tang clinches ownership, he and his partner for the property, Chinese Estate Holdings, will be able to knock down the existing building, and build a new one with 14 times as much saleable space.

“I’m optimistic about Hong Kong’s future,” says Tang. “I’ve seen ups and downs. There are opportunities out of risks. This is my chance—my turn.”

After returning to Hong Kong from university in the U.K. 15 years ago, Stan Tang Yiu-sing opened an ad agency with friends. Soon, though, he was working with his father, Tang Shing-bor, learning the real estate business and building property management and leasing firms. In 2013, he and his father set up Stan Group to integrate the family’s real estate investments with his service offerings. Stan now chairs the group and oversees the conversion of the older buildings his father buys into modern retail and commercial properties.

“Pure property investment is no longer our only single investment direction,” says Stan, who has joined the shift among Asian property executives from asset-focused development into service-oriented offerings—hospitality, co-working spaces and incubation hubs. Stan Group now operates six hotel brands with a combined 3,500 rooms. In 2016 it launched an innovation hub for entrepreneurs, called “The Wave.”

Stan has also steered Stan Group into financial services, a private members’ club, and serviced apartments catering to the elderly. “The government has given us policies that present us an opportunity to reposition ourselves,” Stan says, echoing his father’s confidence in Hong Kong’s future as part of the greater bay area comprising Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The 34-year-old plans to list five of the group’s companies by 2023, though the property representing 90% of Stan Group’s assets will remain private, he says. Stan says his aim is to grow non-property businesses to someday represent at least half of the group’s total assets.

Pamela covers entrepreneurs, wealth, blockchain and the crypto economy as a senior reporter across digital and print platforms. Prior to Forbes, she served as on-air foreign correspondent for Thomson Reuters’ broadcast team, during which she reported on global markets, central bank policies, and breaking business news. Before Asia, she was a journalist at NBC Comcast, and started her career at CNBC and Bloomberg as a financial news producer in New York. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and holds an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo, USA Today, Huffington Post, and Nasdaq. Pamela’s previous incarnation was on the buy side in M&A research and asset management, inspired by Michael Lewis’ book “Liar’s Poker”. Follow me on Twitter at @pamambler

Source: Meet The ‘Shop King’: How Tang Shing-bor Became A Billionaire Flipping Hong Kong’s Derelict Properties

An interview with Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing. In this interview Li Ka-shing discusses his early interest in business, why cash flow is the most important thing and building his companies, CK Hutchison Holdings and CK Property Holdings. Li Ka-shing also talks of his foundation, Li Ka Shing Foundation, and the philosophy behind it. Like if you enjoyed Subscribe for more:http://bit.ly/InvestorsArchive Follow us on twitter:http://bit.ly/TwitterIA Other great Entrepreneur videos:⬇ Larry Ellison’s in depth interview on his Life and Success: http://bit.ly/LEllisonVid Jeff Bezos on Amazon, Business and Life/Work:http://bit.ly/JeffBezosVid Bill Gates on Business, Microsoft and Early Life: http://bit.ly/BillGatesVid Video Segments: 0:00 Introduction 1:50 Careful with cash flow 2:25 Is cash flow the most important thing? 3:03 How did you educate yourself? 5:13 Beating the competition? 6:27 Yangtze river metaphor 7:33 Management style 8:52 Always half an hour early 10:27 Rich before 30 but unhappy 13:00 Leaving money to a foundation 13:47 Building the Tsz Shan monastery 14:40 Combining western and buddhist influences 17:05 Inequality in Hong Kong 18:47 When are you retiring? 21:46 Will it be the same without you? Interview Date: 29th June, 2016 Event: Bloomberg Original Image Source:http://bit.ly/LiKaShingPic Investors Archive has videos of all the Investing/Business/Economic/Finance masters. Learn from their wisdom for free in one place.

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Warren Buffett Is Selling His Newspaper Empire After Lamenting Industry Is ‘Toast’

Warren Buffett attends the Forbes Media Centennial Celebration at Pier 60 on September 19, 2017 in New York City.

Warren Buffett is getting out of the newspaper business. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. agreed to sell its BH Media unit and its 30 daily newspapers to Lee Enterprises Inc., which owns papers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for $140 million in cash. Lee has been managing the papers for Buffett’s company since 2018, and Berkshire is loaning Lee the money for the purchase.

Buffett, who got a job delivering papers as a teenager and invested in the industry to capitalize on its one-time local advertising stronghold, lamented last year that most newspapers are “toast.” BH Media, which owns papers across the country, has been cutting jobs for years to cope with declining ad revenue.

“We had zero interest in selling the group to anyone else for one simple reason: We believe that Lee is best positioned to manage through the industry’s challenges,” Buffett said in a statement Wednesday.

In 2018, Buffett acknowledged that he was surprised that the decline in demand for newspapers hadn’t let up and that his company hadn’t found a successful strategy to combat falling advertising and circulation. That same year, U.S. newspaper circulation dropped to its lowest levels since 1940, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Lee sale will include Buffett’s hometown Omaha World-Herald and Buffalo News, a paper he’s owned for more than four decades, along with 49 weekly publications and a number of other print products, the companies said in the statement. Lee’s shares jumped on the news, more than doubling to $2.78 at 9:51 a.m. in New York.

Lee Loan

Berkshire is lending Lee $576 million at a 9% annual rate for the purchase and to refinance other debt. Excluded from the sale is BH Media’s real estate, which Lee is leasing under a 10-year agreement.

It’s a rare move for the conglomerate as Buffett has long said that he prefers to hold onto businesses. The newspaper deal, however, is Berkshire’s second divestiture in less than a year, including the sale of an insurance business in late 2019. Berkshire has held onto other old-fashioned businesses, including door-to-door vacuum-cleaner business Kirby Co. and encyclopedia publisher World Book.

Aside from a few bright spots, such as the largely thriving New York Times Co., the newspaper business is in crisis across the U.S. McClatchy Co. — which owns about 30 newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Charlotte Observer — is fighting to avoid bankruptcy as it contends with pension obligations and debt. The Salt Lake Tribune became a nonprofit last year, after failing to find a profitable business model.

As print advertising has cratered in recent years amid the rise of social media, Craigslist and search ads, private equity firms and hedge funds have swooped in to take advantage of newspapers’ steady though dwindling revenue streams.

New Media Investment Group Inc., controlled by private equity firm Fortress Investment Group LLC, bought USA Today owner Gannett Co. last year to form the largest U.S. newspaper chain. The deal spurred apprehension in journalism circles given New Media’s reputation for newsroom layoffs, though the new Gannett leadership pledged to avoid widespread job cuts.

––With assistance from Gerry Smith.

By Katherine Chiglinsky and John J. Edwards III / Bloomberg

January 29, 2020

Source: Warren Buffett Is Selling His Newspaper Empire After Lamenting Industry Is ‘Toast’

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As Angola Accuses Billionaire Isabel Dos Santos Of Fraud, Her Empire Begins To Unravel

SPIEF 2019: Russia's President Putin meets with management of foreign companies

Isabel dos Santos amassed an empire worth more than $2 billion as the daughter of Angola’s former longtime president. Now it looks like that empire is beginning to crumble.

On Wednesday—as the Attorney General of Angola held a press conference to provisionally charge Isabel dos Santos with embezzlement and money laundering, according to the BBC—a bank in Portugal where she has been a significant shareholder issued a statement saying that Dos Santos’ stake is being sold.

EuroBic, a small privately held bank in Lisbon in which Dos Santos has owned a 42.5% stake, issued a statement on Monday that it was severing its business relationship with Dos Santos and the entities related to her. On Wednesday EuroBic announced that Dos Santos had decided to sell her stake in the bank, which has about $8 billion in assets. Forbes recently valued Dos Santos’ 42.5% stake at around $200 million.

Dos Santos has come under intense scrutiny this past week after a number of media outlets, including the New York Times, the BBC and The Guardian, published articles based on the “Luanda Leaks”—a cache of some 700,000 documents related to Dos Santos’ allegedly corrupt business dealings that were released to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Dos Santos was appointed to head Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, in 2016, when her father was still president of the country. (He retired in 2017 after ruling Angola for 38 years.)

According to an article in The Guardian, while Dos Santos was heading up Sonangol, she allegedly arranged for a transfer of $57 million on one day in November 2017 from Sonangol’s bank account to a Dubai company, Matter Business Solutions, run by Paula Oliveira, a woman who The Guardian says is apparently a close friend of Dos Santos’.

It turns out that the Sonangol bank account from which the funds were transferred was a EuroBic account. In its statement severing ties with Dos Santos, EuroBic also said that the payments ordered by Sonangol to Matter Business Solutions “respected the legal and regulatory procedures formally applicable . . . between this bank and Sonangol, namely those related to the prevention of money laundering.”

The BBC is reporting that an employee of EuroBic who managed the Sonangol account, Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, 45, was found dead in Lisbon on Wednesday. A police source told the BBC that “everything points to suicide.”

Dos Santos issued a statement on Thursday saying, “The allegations which have been made against me over the last few days are extremely misleading and untrue,” and adding that “I am a private businesswoman who has spent 20 years building successful companies from the ground up,” and that “I have always operated within the law and all my transactions have been approved by lawyers, bankers, auditors and regulators.”

Forbes first dug into the murky origins of Isabel dos Santos’ fortune, with help from Angolan investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, in an in-depth investigation in 2013. In late December 2019, an Angolan court issued a freeze of Dos Santos’ assets in Angola—assets that Forbes estimates are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Most of Dos Santos’ fortune—which Forbes estimates at $2.1 billion—lies in assets held outside of Angola, primarily in Portugal.

The natural question: Will other Portuguese companies in which Dos Santos is a shareholder follow in EuroBic’s footsteps?

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I’m a San Francisco-based Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on wealth. I edit mostly, but also write about how the richest get wealthy and how they spend their time and their money. My colleague Luisa Kroll at Forbes in New York and I oversee the massive reporting effort that goes into Forbes’ annual World’s Billionaires List and the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list. The former gets me to use my rusty Spanish and Portuguese. In 2014, I won an Overseas Press Club award for an article I wrote about Saudi Arabian billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal; I also won a Gerald Loeb Award with co-author Rafael Marques de Morais for an article we wrote about Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s President. Over 20 years my Forbes reporting has taken me to 17 countries on four continents, from the slums of Manila to palaces in Saudi Arabia and Mexico’s presidential residence. Follow me on Twitter @KerryDolan My email: kdolan[at]forbes[dot] com Tips and story ideas welcome.

Source: As Angola Accuses Billionaire Isabel Dos Santos Of Fraud, Her Empire Begins To Unravel

How This Entrepreneur Raised $1 Million and Is Leading an Energy Revolution Before Age 30

The path of the entrepreneur is a bold one. At every stage of the journey, you continually make bold decisions and take bold risks.

This has certainly been the case in my journey as a founder. We started a smart home company (in 2013) when everyone said we were crazy. We saw the vision and moved toward it in the face of uncertainty and risk.

When I was starting, I identified other leaders who were making bold decisions. It helped to feel like I was not alone along the path. I followed entrepreneurs accomplished their goals, and other young leaders blazing a new trail. I recently encountered an inspiring story that demonstrates just how bold we can be.​

Ugwem Eneyo is the co-founder and CEO of Shyft Power Solutions, an energy technology company that’s working to enable an energy revolution for underserved consumers in emerging markets. Eneyo, a graduate student at Stanford University, and a member of Forbes 30 under 30, has secured more than $1 million in funding from investors and participated in the 2019 Ameren Accelerator program. GreenBiz named her a 2019 VERGE Vanguard honoree to recognize her dedication to helping advance Nigeria’s energy infrastructure.

Personally, I feel inspired by Eneyo’s bold ambitions to create solutions in an emerging market with a nascent entrepreneurial system – especially in an industry as demanding as energy. I interviewed her to learn more about her role in energy, Shyft’s path to raising money and how accelerators can be a beneficial platform for entrepreneur success.

1. How did you get interested in energy technology?

Ugwem Eneyo: My family is from the Niger Delta, a region that suffered negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts as a result of the extractive industries. After directly seeing the challenges and how they affected my family and communities in the region, I became keenly interested in the nexus of energy, environment and development.

I actually spent years working as an environmental and regulatory advisor in the oil and gas sector, trying to mitigate the impacts and drive change from within the organizations. I eventually left to pursue my M.S. and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, still focused on the theme. Shyft Power Solutions is a byproduct of my work at Stanford.

2. How was your experience in your industry different as a Nigerian-American?

Eneyo: There’s an increasing interest within the industry around solving energy challenges in Nigeria and, more broadly, emerging markets. The local knowledge is often an overlooked critical asset in doing so.

My previous work in the industry, and in emerging markets, shows that it’s often non-technical issues that cause projects to be delayed or fail. The intimate local knowledge allows for an understanding of people’s values, culture and thought processes, and that can better inform how we solve problems and how we deliver solutions. This has certainly been the case with Shyft Power Solutions.

3. What approach did you take when raising money for your business?

Eneyo: In the early stage, I leveraged grants and non-dilutive capital, given the longer and more capital-intensive development timeline for building industrial-grade hardware. We also raised traditional venture capital, as well as funding from strategic corporate investors.

The corporate venture capitalists played a key role in our fundraising strategy, as they often had more market knowledge and connections, which complemented the primarily U.S.-based traditional venture capital. And Shyft Power Solutions received $100,000 in seed capital through our participation in the Ameren Accelerator this year.​

4. How did your experience with the 2019 Ameren Accelerator program advance/benefit your business? What’s your relationship with Ameren and the accelerator now that the program has ended?

Eneyo: The Ameren Accelerator, alongside the Ameren employees who served on champion teams as mentors, provided important technical and business development expertise that offered valuable and unique insight into how Shyft’s platform can add value to utilities at scale. Part of our longer-term planning required Shyft to have better insight into utilities, and we were able to leverage Ameren in the process.

Although the accelerator has ended, my team and I have remained in contact with many of our technical champions, who still provide advice and references. Additionally, the accelerator program team has remained supportive, still introducing us to valuable startup resources.​

5. How do you see the energy technology industry changing? What changes would you like to make?

Eneyo: In emerging markets, there will be a leapfrog over traditional central energy infrastructures; instead, we will see digitization and decentralization of energy infrastructure that may work alongside whatever central grid is available. The flexible and intelligent use of distributed energy resources will be necessary to make this possible, and Shyft is developing the technology to do so.

I want to see clean, reliable, and affordable energy for all — urban and rural — and want to see energy demands being met by rapidly growing emerging markets. I’m excited to be leading an organization that’s at the forefront of this energy transition in markets like Nigeria.

By Andrew ThomasFounder, Skybell Video Doorbell

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Source: How This Entrepreneur Raised $1 Million and Is Leading an Energy Revolution Before Age 30

This London Tycoon Harbors A Surprisingly Shady Past

Tej Kohli’s name is up in lights in Paris, flashing on the walls in giant, bold type inside the new high-ceilinged headquarters of French e-sports Team Vitality, a 20-minute walk from the city’s Gare du Nord train station. Some of Europe’s top video game players, influencers, journalists and sponsors have arrived on this November day to buoyantly pay tribute to Kohli, a U.K.-based, Indian-born entrepreneur, now heralded as the lead investor in the e-sports team. Team Vitality has raised at least $37 million and scored partnership deals with Adidas, Renault, telecom firm Orange and Red Bull, with a stated goal to become the top team in European competitive gaming.

E-sports, Kohli proudly tells Forbes, “encompasses the entire spectrum of business … [and is] not very different from other things we do in technology.” His wavy mane of dark hair stands out in the room like a beacon, as he beams amid the buzz and recognition.

London is home to 55 billionaires, with more on the outskirts, and they generally fall into two camps: those who completely shun publicity, and those, like Richard Branson and James Dyson, who enthusiastically embrace it. Kohli, who lives in a multimillion-dollar mansion in leafy Henley-on-Thames, aspires aggressively to the latter. In April, Kohli told the FT’s How To Spend It supplement that, “Sometimes in business it’s important to show you can sell yourself by way of your lifestyle.” His website describes him as “Investor, Entrepreneur, Visionary, Philanthropist,” with photos of an apparent property portfolio, with about half a dozen apartment buildings in Berlin, one in India and an office tower in Abu Dhabi. He claims to be a member of two exclusive London private clubs, 5 Hertford Street and Annabels, and publicly gives tips on “foie gras … roast chicken” and places where “the steaks are huge.”

Kohli has employed a large coterie of PR consultants and actively courts the media, pushing grand visions that back up this image. In a 2013 article he wrote for The Guardian, he offers advice on how to get a job in the tech industry (“Learn to code”). In 2016 he told a Forbes contributor: “The one mission that every entrepreneur has, as a person rather than as an entrepreneur, is to extend human life.” And his Tej Kohli Foundation Twitter bio brags that “We are humanitarian technologists developing solutions to major global health challenges whilst also making direct interventions that transform lives worldwide.” A press release issued in mid December boasted of more than 5,700 of the world’s poorest receiving “the gift of sight” in 2019 at Kohli’s cornea institute in Hyderabad, India.


Kohli also aspires to be validated as a billionaire. Over the past two years, his representatives have twice reached out to Forbes to try to get Kohli included on our billionaires list, the first time saying he was worth $6 billion—more than Branson or Dyson—and neither time following up with requested details of his assets. (Kohli’s attorneys now claim that “as a longstanding matter of policy,” Kohli “does not, and has never commented on his net worth,” suggesting that his representatives were pushing for his billionaire status without his authorization.)

There may be good reason for his reticence. It turns out that Kohli—who in a July press release describes himself as “a London-based billionaire who made his fortune during the dotcom boom selling e-commerce payments software”—has a complicated past. Born in New Delhi in 1958, Kohli was convicted of fraud in California in 1994 for his central role convincing homeowners to sell their homes to what turned out to be sham buyers and bilking banks out of millions of dollars in loans. For that he served five years in prison.

Kohli then turned up in Costa Rica, where he found his way into the world of online gambling during its Wild West era in the early 2000s. He ran online casinos, at least one sports betting site, and online bingo offerings, taking payments from U.S. gamblers even after U.S. laws prohibited it, according to seven former employees. He was a demanding, sometimes angry boss, according to several of these employees.

A spokesman for Kohli confirmed that he ran an online payments company, Grafix Softech, which provided services to the online gambling industry, between 1999 and 2006—and that he acquired several distressed or foreclosed online gaming businesses as a limited part of the company’s portfolio. “At no point was any such business operated in breach of the law,” Kohli’s representative said in a statement.                   

Though his representative claims that Kohli has had nothing to do with Grafix since 2006, Forbes found more than a dozen online posts or references (some deleted, some still live and some on Kohli’s own website) between 2010 and 2016 that identify Kohli as the chief executive or leader of Grafix Softech—including the opinion piece that Kohli wrote for The Guardian in 2013.                        

Even in a world of preening tycoons, this juxtaposition—the strutting thought leader who actively gives business advice while he just as actively tries to stifle or downplay any sustained look into his business past—proves eye-opening.

According to Kohli’s back story, he grew up in New Delhi, India, and he has told the British media that he’s the son of middle-class parents. Per his alumni profile for the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (about 300 miles southeast of New Delhi), Kohli completed a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1980 and developed “a deep passion for technology and ethical and sustainable innovation.”

At some point, he wound up in California, and set up a “domestic stock” business called La Zibel in downtown Los Angeles. Kohli still uses the Zibel name for his real estate operations today. By the end of the 1980s, Kohli was presenting himself as a wealthy real estate investor who purchased residential properties in southern California to resell for profit. The truth, according to U.S. District Court documents, was that from March 1989 through the early 1990s Kohli, then reportedly living in Malibu, had assembled a team of document forgers and “straw buyers” to pull off a sophisticated real estate fraud.

Source: This London Tycoon Harbors A Surprisingly Shady Past

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It Took Canva a Year to Make Its First Technical Hire. Now It’s a Hiring Machine

Plenty of entrepreneurs adhere to the mantra of “hire slow, fire fast” and for good reason. Then there’s Melanie Perkins, the co-founder and CEO of Sydney-based design software company Canva. She spent a year trying to find her first technical hire.

While Perkins didn’t intend to spend so much time filling her first engineering position, looking back on it now, she wouldn’t have done it any other way. The year-long quest informed how she’s made every other hire since. And it’s hard to argue with the results: With 700 employees, Canva is a hiring machine, and it’s been doubling in size every year.

In an industry that sees engineers switch jobs with frightening speed, many of Canva’s early technical hires are still with the company. While Canva won’t discuss revenue, Perkins, the company’s co-founder and CEO, says the company has been profitable since 2017. Canva has 20 million monthly users in 190 countries. In October, Canva announced an $85 million investment, with a valuation of $3.2 billion.

This is going to be bigger than yearbooks

When Perkins started the predecessor company to Canva in 2007, she was just 19. She was frustrated by how hard it was to use design software. When she started teaching design at university, she noticed that her students were similarly frustrated. With her boyfriend (now fiance), Cliff Obrecht, she built a website called Fusion Books that helped students design and publish yearbooks.

It did well–becoming the largest yearbook company in Australia and moving into France and New Zealand. Perkins quit university to work on it full-time. By 2011, Perkins and Obrecht realized Fusion Books could be much more: an engine to make it easy for anyone to design any publication. But to build that more ambitious product, they’d need outside investment.

Perkins headed to San Francisco to visit angel investor Bill Tai, who is known for making about 100 investments in startups that have yielded 19 initial public offerings. She’d met him in Perth a year earlier, where she had collected an award for innovation. “If you come to California, come see me,” he remembers telling her. “Without me knowing exactly what she was doing, she engineered a trip. She’s a very ballsy woman, if that makes sense. And I’m thinking, you know, I should help her. I know hundreds of engineers.”

Early in her San Francisco visit, Tai introduced her to Lars Rasmussen, the co-founder of the company that became Google Maps. Tai told her that if she could hire a tech team that met Rasmussen’s standards, he’d invest. “I didn’t realize at the time what that meant,” says Perkins. She bought an Ikea mattress, and planted it on the floor of her brother’s San Francisco apartment. “Obviously, that was free rent,” she says. “I had food to get by and I felt safe.”

Perkins set out initially to hire by doing the obvious: She went to every single conference she could get into. She’d speak if the organizers let her. Tai invited her to his MaiTai Global networking event in Hawaii, even though, for most attendees, a big draw was kitesurfing, which she’d never attempted. “It was great fun,” she says gamely. Then, “I really don’t like it. I have the scars to prove it. I’ve … retired from kitesurfing.”

Back in San Francisco, Perkins passed out flyers, trying to pique people’s interest. She cold-called engineers, and approached suspects on buses. She scoured LinkedIn, but Rasmussen wouldn’t even deign to meet most of her finds. “He didn’t think they had enough startup gumption or experience with a world-scale company, or with complex technology,” she said. She says fewer than five LinkedIn finds ended up interviewing with Rasmussen. He’d give them a problem-solving challenge that, inevitably, they flubbed.

After a year of this, Perkins was thoroughly frustrated. Surely it’s better to at least make some progress, she told Rasmussen, than to continue to do nothing. But he was adamant.

The perfect candidate and the bizarre pitch deck

That same year, Rasmussen introduced her to two candidates that he thought might be a good fit and recruitable. The first, Cameron Adams, a user interface designer who had worked at Google, was busy trying to raise money for his own startup. The second, Dave Hearnden, a senior engineer at Google, initially said he wasn’t interested. In 2012, both had a change of heart.

“We were absolutely over the moon,” says Perkins. Adams came on board first, as a co-founder. Hearnden, on the other hand, started to have second thoughts: Google wasn’t happy with his leaving, obviously, and was trying to get him to stay. He worried that his project would be abandoned without him, and he didn’t want to disappoint his team.

At this point, Perkins sent him something that has since become known as the Bizarre Pitch Deck. In 16 slides, the deck tells the story of a man named Dave, who longed for adventure but was torn by his loyalty for Google. In the pitch deck, as in life, Dave eventually joined Canva. It helped that Google had already poached his replacement.

In 2012, Perkins was able to raise a seed round of $1.6 million, and got another $1.4 million from the Australian government. Tai finally agreed to put in $100,000. “It was really hard for her to raise,” he says. “You’ve got a young girl in her 20s from Australia who had never worked at a company, with her live-in boyfriend as COO. People would say to me, What if they break up? I didn’t have a good answer.” Now, things look much different: Tai says Obrecht is Canva’s “secret weapon,” and that “Cliff has just blown me away.”

Keeping the bar high, hundreds of hires later

While Tai drove her nuts at the beginning, Perkins appreciates his stubbornness now. “We’ve been able to attract top talent across the globe,” she says. “It wouldn’t have been possible without setting such a high technical bar early on.” Tai says he hasn’t made exactly this condition with other startups. But he’s done it in reverse: He’s backed highly technical people without knowing what, exactly, the business opportunity would turn out to be.

The experience also showed her, the hard way, just how much effort she’d have to put into hiring if she wanted to build a successful tech company. By Canva’s second year, the company had a recruiting team. “We knew we needed to invest heavily in hiring,” she says. Now, each open position gets a strategy brief. That document lays out the goals for the person in that role and the project they will be working on. It also identifies the people who will be involved in the hiring process. “Getting everyone on the same page is really critical,” says Perkins. “It sets that person up for success.”

And like Rasmussen looking for the first technical hire, Canva asks each candidate to take a challenge. Candidates have a choice of doing a four-hour challenge or a one-hour challenge. “Maybe they’re working parents and they can do it in an hour,” says Perkins. “Other people prefer to have a longer time and work at their own pace. We’re looking for people happy to take on challenges and who get a real buzz out of being able to solve hard things.”

In in-person interviews, someone on the Canva team will almost always ask the candidate, “How would your previous boss or manager talk about your work or rate you?” Perkins says people are “surprisingly honest” in their responses. The answers help her get a window into what type of leadership allows a particular candidate to thrive. Some people require a lot of structure or hierarchy, she says, and Canva doesn’t have much of either.

“One of the things I believe quite strongly is having a really strong idea of where you’re going,” says Perkins. “I have this visual metaphor. Plant 100 seeds. Until eventually one flowers or sprouts. For most people, if you’re rejected, you feel really hurt and don’t want to continue. The reality is that you have to push through. If I had given up quickly, I certainly wouldn’t be here today.”

By Kimberly WeisulEditor-at-large, Inc.com

Source: It Took Canva a Year to Make Its First Technical Hire. Now It’s a Hiring Machine

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A behind the scenes look at the amazing team behind Canva, hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we enjoyed making it!

Singapore Startup: This HR Tech Firm Worth $100 Million Is Ready To Conquer Asia

In the dizzying world of technology startups, it’s easy to get lost in the hype of hot trends such as AI, blockchain, VR/AR and machine learning. What is often forgotten is the fact that some of the best startups in the world solve the simplest of problems.

This is exactly the approach that Pascal Henry, who is the CEO and cofounder of HReasily, took when he identified the fundamental needs of rapidly growing SMEs–to manage their human resources more efficiently.

Henry launched his Singapore-based HR firm in late 2015 as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business that enables companies to increase productivity by using technology to streamline traditional processes such as payroll processing, leave management and expense claims.

When I was running my first startup in Singapore, I had to do a lot of the manual processes myself. I felt the pain and the drain of it,” explains Henry. “It was taking up a lot of my time and energy, when I should have been focusing on building my business.”

Today In: Asia

 

Improving productivity and efficiency

HReasily’s mission is simple: To innovate and automate HR throughout the world. As one of the fastest-growing cloud-based HR SaaS companies in the region, their simple modules and features aim to transform many of the legacy HR processes and automate them to be accessible anytime and anywhere. Currently the company offers seven modules including payroll, staff leave, employee contracts and attendance. As HReasily grows, it continues to add product lines aimed at empowering companies to scale faster.

Previously, many businesses used solutions that each looked after a particular silo of an HR department. So you’d have one system to manage your payroll calculations, one for leave and others for other functions.

“What happened was you had to log in and out of many various systems, and these systems cost a huge amount of money,” says Henry. “What we’ve done is build a solution that is very affordable that integrates with all the functions on a unified platform.”

A simple but elegant business model HReasily runs a subscription-based revenue model. Starting with payroll, which is at the core of every traditional HR office, the company offers premium versions that run on monthly or yearly subscriptions, with add-on modules available such as staff leave and time attendance. This past summer at the RISE 2019 conference in Hong Kong, Henry and his team unveiled their latest benefits management module which will soon allow customers to acquire group level insurance, healthcare and even apply for credit cards or loans.

HReasily says its competitive advantage lies in its customer base, which is mostly SMEs. By initially focusing on the fundamental needs of this particular segment, the company has earned the support of larger banking and government agencies and has become known as an “SME champion.” Not surprisingly, as the company has grown it says that it began to attract larger corporations, publicly listed companies, multinational corporations and even payroll outsourcing firms.

“As we grew we acquired a more diverse customer base,” Henry says, “because a lot of larger companies are tired of the older and expensive solutions because they need to be installed on premise and they require a refresher every year when rules and regulations change.”

Partnerships are the key to rapid growth

Being based in Singapore has allowed HReasily to capitalize on the rapid growth in Southeast Asia. SME’s account for 97% of all the enterprises in the region, and employ half of the workforce, according to data from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). HReasily’s growth has been nothing short of impressive. With nearly 30,000 companies on their platform and more than 100 new companies onboarding every day, HReasily is said to be growing rapidly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Some of HReasily’s notable customers include Love Bonito (in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong), Sambat Finance (Cambodia), OnlinePajak (Indonesia) and TechInAsia. As the company looks to complete their coverage of Asia, the next major market they look to tackle is mainland China followed by Taiwan, Japan, Myanmar and Australia.

Investors have taken notice of the company’s growth as well. Fresh off a pre-series A funding round of $5 million from Envy Capital, HReasily is currently estimated to be valued at more than $100 million. Henry admits that the company’s rapid growth in the region has only been possible with the early support from their key strategic partners.

HReasily has been working with Citibank, Mazars and Stripe. The partnership with Mazars, which was a lead investor from the startup’s first round of funding, gives them access to a global audit, advisory and payroll outsourcing firm with 300 offices in 100 countries. Henry says it allows HReasily to localize its solutions to each individual market.

Today, building a solid ecosystem of strategic partners is very important because you come from different angles, but you all serve one customer, which is the SME or the business,” says Henry. “By coming together, we collectively create a great end-to-end experience for them. There’s strength in numbers.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Jay Kim is a full-time investor and the host of the popular podcast The Jay Kim Show, Hong Kong’s first dedicated podcast on entrepreneurship and investing in Asia. Inc. Magazine has named The Jay Kim Show one of the top three podcasts from Asia which are inspirational and useful to entrepreneurs. Jay is an avid supporter of the start-up ecosystem in Asia and frequently consults with leaders in local government on topics related to technology, entrepreneurship, early-stage investing and startups

Source: Singapore Startup: This HR Tech Firm Worth $100 Million Is Ready To Conquer Asia

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Is your administration work taking too much out of your time? HReasily provides HR solutions for payroll processing, leave and claims management, employee scheduling and time attendance, so that business owners can focus on growing their businesses.

 

Meet Wall Street’s Best Dealmaker: New Billionaire Orlando Bravo

Orlando Bravo discovered his edge early. In 1985, at age 15, he traveled from his home in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, a small town on the island’s western coast, to Bradenton, Florida, to enroll in the legendary tennis guru Nick Bollettieri’s grueling academy.

Bravo would wake at dawn, head to class at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, then return to Bollettieri’s tennis courts at noon. He spent hours warring against peers like Andre Agassi and Jim Courier under the broiling sun. At sundown, after an hour to shower and eat, he would study, then retire to a sweaty, two-bedroom condominium in which players bunked four to a room like army barracks. Then he would do it all over again, six days a week, for a full year. “It was the tennis version of Lord of the Flies,” says his former roommate Courier.

The brutally competitive environment helped Bravo climb to a top-40 ranking in the U.S. as a junior. Then he peaked. “It was quite humbling,” recalls Bravo, who’s still fit from his weekly tennis games. “It was a different level of hard work altogether. It became clear I could operate at these super-high levels of pain.”

That grit and perseverance eventually propelled him to the top echelons of the private equity world. Few outside of finance have heard of the 49-year-old Bravo, but he is the driving force behind Wall Street’s hottest firm, the $39 billion (assets) Thoma Bravo.

In February, the French business school HEC Paris, in conjunction with Dow Jones, named Thoma Bravo the best-performing buyout investor in the world after studying 898 funds raised between 2005 and 2014. According to public data analyzed by Forbes, its funds returned 30% net annually, far better than famous buyout firms like KKR, Blackstone and Apollo Global Management. That’s even better than the returns from the software buyout firm Vista Equity Partners, its closest rival, run by Robert F. Smith, the African American billionaire who recently made headlines by paying off the college debt of Morehouse College’s entire graduating class. Since the beginning of 2015, Bravo has sold or listed 25 investments worth a total of $20 billion, four times their cost. His secret? He invests only in well-established software companies, especially those with clearly discernible moats.

“The economics of software were just so powerful. It was like no other industry I had ever researched,” says Bravo, seated in his office in San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid. He wears a tailored purple dress shirt and enunciates his words with a slight Puerto Rican accent. “It was just very obvious.”

Bravo’s firm has done 230 software deals worth over $68 billion since 2003 and presently oversees a portfolio of 38 software companies that generate some $12 billion in annual revenue and employ 40,000 people. Forbes estimates the value of the firm, which is owned entirely by Bravo and a handful of his partners, at $7 billion. Based on his stake in the firm and his cash in its funds, Bravo has a $3 billion fortune. Not only does that make him the first Puerto Rican-born billionaire, it’s enough for Bravo to debut at 287th place on this year’s Forbes 400 ranking of the richest Americans.

Like a good tennis player who’s worked relentlessly on his ground strokes, Bravo has made private equity investing look simple. There are no complicated tricks. He figured out nearly two decades ago that software and private equity were an incredible combination. Since then, Bravo has never invested elsewhere, instead honing his strategy and technique deal after deal. He hunts for companies with novel software products, like Veracode, a Burlington, Massachusetts-based maker of security features for coders, or Pleasanton, California-based Ellie Mae, the default system among online mortgage lenders, which the firm picked up for $3.7 billion in April. His investments typically have at least $150 million in sales from repeat customers and are in markets that are too specialized to draw the interest of giants like Microsoft and Google. Bravo looks to triple their size with better operations, and by the time he strikes, he’s already mapped out an acquisition or turnaround strategy.

The pool of potential deals is growing. On public markets, there are now more than 75 subscription software companies, worth nearly $1 trillion, that Bravo can target, versus fewer than 20, worth less than $100 billion, a decade ago. Investors around the world clamor to get into his firm’s funds, and lenders have checkbooks ready to finance his next big deal. “The opportunities today are the biggest I’ve ever seen,” Bravo says. “Right now we are in a huge, exploding and changing industry.”

Orlando Bravo’s isn’t a rags-to-riches story. He was born into a privileged life in Puerto Rico in the Spanish colonial city of Mayagüez, which for decades was the port for tuna fishing vessels supplying the local Starkist, Neptune and Bumble Bee canneries.

Starting in 1945, his grandfather Orlando Bravo, and later his father, Orlando Bravo Sr., ran Bravo Shipping, which acted as an agent for the massive tuna-fishing factory ships entering the port in Mayagüez. It was a lucrative business. His parents moved him and his younger brother Alejandro to what’s now a gated community in the hills of Mayagüez, where the brothers attended private schools and tooled about on the family’s 16-foot motorboat.

After taking up tennis at age 8, practicing on the courts of a local university and a Hilton hotel, Bravo and his family began making the two-and-a-half-hour drive from their home to San Juan on weekends to allow him to train against better competition. “What I loved about tennis was the opportunity,” he recalls. “I’m from Mayagüez, and I’m going to come to the big city and I’m going to make it,” he says. “Let’s go! The underdog!”

He quickly became one of Puerto Rico’s top players, which landed him at Bollettieri’s academy and then on Brown University’s tennis team. “I was so scared I wouldn’t make it through,” Bravo says of the Ivy League, so he took most classes pass/fail as a college freshman. But he quickly found his footing and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1992 with degrees in economics and political science. That helped him get a prestigious job as an analyst in Morgan Stanley’s mergers and acquisitions department. There he paid his dues, clocking 100-hour weeks under the renowned dealmaker Joseph Perella.

“I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again. It was too painful.”

Bravo’s Spanish fluency put him in front of clients as other analysts slaved away in data rooms. Working on Venezuelan billionaire Gustavo Cisneros’ 1993 acquisition of Puerto Rican supermarket chain Pueblo Xtra International opened his eyes to the world of buyouts. But mostly he says he learned he didn’t want to be a banker.

Bravo eventually headed west to Stanford University. He’d already been accepted into its law school, but he also wanted to attend the business school. He called insistently and eventually got accepted to pursue both. He worked during a summer at Seaver Kent, a Menlo Park, California-based joint venture with David Bonderman’s Texas Pacific Group that specialized in middle market deals. Upon graduation in 1998, Bravo wasn’t offered a position there or at TPG, and he spent months cold-calling for a job. After about a hundred calls, Bravo’s résumé caught the eye of Carl Thoma, a founding partner of the Chicago-based private equity firm Golder, Thoma, Cressey, Rauner (now known as GTCR), and they hit it off. “The biggest mistake Texas Pacific made was…that they didn’t make him a job offer,” says Thoma, 71, who Forbes estimates is also a billionaire based on an analysis of public filings.

One of the pioneers of the private equity industry in the 1970s, Thoma is a tall and mild-mannered Oklahoman whose parents were ranchers. Thoma and his partners practiced a friendlier version of the buyouts popularized by Michael Milken, preferring to buy small businesses and expand them using acquisitions. When Bravo came aboard in 1998, Thoma and partner Bryan Cressey had just split from Stanley Golder and Bruce Rauner, who later went on to become governor of Illinois, creating Thoma Cressey. Thoma sent Bravo to San Francisco to hunt for investments and eventually expand the firm’s Bay Area presence.

Bravo’s first few deals, struck before he turned 30, were disasters. He backed two website design startups, NerveWire and Eclipse Networks, just as the dot-com bubble popped. The two lost most of the $100 million Bravo invested. “I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again,” Bravo says. “It was too painful to live through.” Thoma Cressey was also struggling elsewhere, with underperforming investments in oil and gas and telecommunications. It was among the worst performers in the private equity industry at the time.

“Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us.”

But the failure led to an epiphany that soon made Bravo and his partners billions. He realized his mistake was in backing startup entrepreneurs, an inherently risky move, when for the same money he could buy established companies selling niche software to loyal customers. With Thoma’s blessing, Bravo pivoted and became an expert on these arcane firms. Coming out of the dot-com bust, the market was littered with foundering companies that had gone public during the bubble and had few interested buyers. Bravo got to work. His first big move, in 2002, was to buy Prophet 21, a Yardley, Pennsylvania-based software provider to distributors in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors that was trading at a mere one times sales.

Rather than clean house, Bravo kept the company’s CEO, Chuck Boyle, and worked beside him to boost profits, mainly by rolling up competitors. When Boyle wanted to buy a company called Faspac, Bravo flew to San Diego to work out of the Faspac owner’s garage for five days, analyzing reams of contracts to see if the deal would work. “Orlando would help not only at the highest level with strategy but also when we got grunt work done,” Boyle recalls. After seven acquisitions, Bravo sold the business for $215 million, making five times his money.

Software quickly became Bravo’s sole focus, and Thoma Cressey began to thrive. By 2005, Bravo and Thoma had recruited three employees, Scott Crabill, Holden Spaht and Seth Boro, to focus on software applications, cybersecurity and Web infrastructure. All remain with the firm today as managing partners.

Bravo’s big opportunity came during the financial crisis when Thoma put Bravo’s name on the door and split with his partner Bryan Cressey, a healthcare investor, creating Thoma Bravo. From that moment on, the firm invested only in software, with Bravo leading the way.

A string of billion-dollar buyouts followed—Sunnyvale, California-based network security firm Blue Coat, financial software outfit Digital Insight of Westlake Village, California, and Herndon, Virginia’s Deltek, which sells project management software—all of which more than doubled in value under Bravo’s watch. The firm’s inaugural 2009 software-only fund posted a 44% net annualized return by the time its investments were sold, making investors four times their money and proving the wisdom of discipline and specialization. “Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us,” he brags.

It’s late May, and Orlando Bravo’s 20th-floor offices overlooking the San Francisco Bay are filled with dozens of tech executives from its portfolio companies. Folks from Houston’s Quorum Software, which makes technology systems for oil and gas companies, mingle with cybersecurity experts from Redwood Shores, California’s Imperva. They juggle their rollerboard suitcases and thick financial books as Thoma Bravo partners map out corporate strategies on dry-erase whiteboards. Those on break hammer away at keyboards in small workrooms or demolish chicken sandwiches in a no-frills kitchenette.

This is one of Thoma Bravo’s monthly boot camps for new acquisitions, grueling daylong sessions that are critical to its success. Partners regularly buzz into Bravo’s spartan glass-walled offices, while in the background the drilling and hammering of construction workers making room for 13 new associates disturbs the peace.

With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest, Bravo is now eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions of tech giants.

After two decades studying software, Bravo recognizes clear patterns. For instance, when a company pioneers a product, its sales explode and then inevitably slow as competitors emerge. Often a CEO will use this cue to stray into new markets or overspend to gin up sales. Bravo calls this “chasing too many rabbits.” To fix it, he and his ten partners work alongside 22 current and former software executives who serve as consultants. They begin tracking the profit-and-loss statements for each product line and pore over contracts in search of bad deals or underpriced products. Critically, by the time a Thoma Bravo acquisition check clears, existing management has agreed that this rigorous approach will help. Bravo calls it “making peace with the past.”

There are also layoffs. Those can total as much as 10% of the workforce, for which Bravo doesn’t apologize. “In order to realign the business and set it up for big-time growth, you first need to take a step back before you take a step forward. It’s like boxing,” he says. “These are unbelievable assets with great innovators, and they are usually undermanaged.”

Mark Bishof, the former CEO of Flexera Software, an application management company outside of Chicago that Bravo bought in 2008 for $200 million and sold for a nearly $1 billion profit three years later, has a succinct description for this wild success. “He just kind of cuts all of the bullsh*t,” Bishof says. “It’s refreshing.” Flexera’s profits rose 70% during Bravo’s ownership, largely thanks to four major acquisitions. “Orlando’s like the general in the foxhole with his sergeant. You know he’s knee-deep in there with you,” Bishof gushes.

Under Thoma Bravo’s watch, companies on average saw cash flow surge as margins hit 35%, as of 2018, nearly triple those of the average public software company at that time. “It’s like training for the Olympics. . . . You have a finite goal to make it [in year four], and you make it very, very clear,” Bravo says. Today’s roaring market adds potency to the playbook. Lenders are now gorging on software debt, and stock market multiples for these businesses are surging.

“I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career.”

A recent example is Detroit’s Compuware, a decades-old pioneer of software applications to manage mainframe computer systems. In 2013, this Nasdaq-listed giant was all but left for dead and up for sale. There was minimal interest, other than from Bravo and partner Seth Boro, who were keen on Dynatrace, software that helped companies move databases to the cloud, which Compuware had acquired in 2011. Thoma Bravo used $675 million in cash and raised $1.8 billion in debt to buy Compuware and then split off Dynatrace as a separate company. The pair began to move Dynatrace from selling database licenses, once the bulk of its business, to cloud subscription services, now 70% of sales. This past August, Dynatrace went public, and Thoma Bravo’s 70% stake is now worth over $4 billion, with the remainder of Compuware worth nearly a billion more. “I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career,” says Dynatrace CEO John Van Siclen.

With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest for its 13th fund raised in 2018, Bravo is eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions from today’s technology giants. But thanks in part to the success of his firm, he now faces more competition. Heavyweights like Blackstone and KKR are increasingly sussing out software deals, not to mention his longtime rival Vista Equity. And he’s not immune to mistakes. Bravo’s $3.6 billion 2015 acquisition of San Francisco-based digital network tracker Riverbed Technology is currently struggling because of slowing sales and too much debt. He isn’t worried. “There are bigger and better companies to fix than there were ten years ago,” Bravo says.

His biggest challenge these days is likely back home in Puerto Rico where it all began. Bravo announced in May that he is contributing $100 million to his Bravo Family Foundation that will be used to promote entrepreneurship and economic development on the island.

This new foundation was birthed by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island two years ago. Bravo was in Japan raising cash for yet another massive fund and frantically calling San Juan trying to locate his parents, who were living in the capital. They were fine, but the island wasn’t.

Five days later, he flew his Gulfstream jet with 1,000 pounds of supplies—water, granola bars, meal kits, satellite telephones, diapers, intravenous tubes and hydration pills—to Aguadilla, near Mayagüez. When an airport worker opened the door of his plane, Bravo says, the look of fear on his face was unforgettable. “All you could say was ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you.’ ”

He returned two weeks later in a larger plane with 7,000 pounds of supplies. Then he came in a massive DC-10 cargo plane before ultimately chartering two container ships carrying 600,000 pounds. “It was just like cold-calling for deals,” Bravo says of rounding up all the donations. He personally put in $3 million in just the first 30 days, and committed $10 million altogether.

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency became fully operative there, the island’s richest native turned his attention to Puerto Rico’s future. Though 44% of Puerto Ricans live below the poverty line, Bravo believes in the potential to foster entrepreneurship, citing that a tenth of the population has tried to build a business.

Armed with his money, his foundation is looking to back Puerto Rican technology entrepreneurs, even ferrying them to Thoma Bravo’s offices for training. Bravo admits to being tired of the debate over Puerto Rico’s statehood and holds his tongue when asked about President Trump’s performance during Maria. “My passion, which is the same as with companies, is to move beyond the strategic, long-term pontification, and into the operational and tactical moves that make you move forward today,” he says. “Economies go down, companies miss their numbers, trade stops, product issues happen and people quit. [The question is] do you have a creative approach to problem solving?” Bravo says. “Some people are stuck . . . and some people love putting the pieces together. I just feel like every operational problem can be solved. There’s always a solution.”

Recommended: Read Forbes’ Other Dealmaking Cover Stories

Gentlemen At The Gate: With Trillions Pouring In, KKR And Its Peers Must Build Up Rather Than Break Up

How Billionaire Robert Smith Conquered Private Equity And Technology

Stephen Schwarzman And Blackstone: Wall Street’s Unstoppable Force

Brookfield’s Bruce Flatt: Billionaire Toll Collector Of the 21st Century

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I’m a staff writer at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, M&A and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a part of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

Source: Meet Wall Street’s Best Dealmaker: New Billionaire Orlando Bravo

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Orlando Bravo, managing partner of Thoma Bravo and founder of the Bravo Family Foundation, https://www.bravofamilyfoundation.org/, announced he personally will contribute $100 million to his foundation to promote entrepreneurship and economic development in Puerto Rico, where Bravo was raised, and his family still lives.

23-Year-Old Sophia Hutchins, Jenner Family Insider, Raises Millions For Post-Makeup Sunscreen Mist

Sunscreen and makeup: a game of compromise, imperfection, skin damage and expensive products. 23-year-old Sophia Hutchins, who calls Caitlyn Jenner her “cheerleader,” aims to win that game with Lumasol, the FDA-approved odorless SPF 50+ sunscreen mist engineered to be applied after makeup. With a $3 million seed round from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Greycroft Ventures, she’ll be able to expand her team of 30 employees and bring the product to market in early 2020.

“It’s SPF millennialized,” says Hutchins, surrounded by her three-person media team and director of operations in the Jersey City, New Jersey Forbes office. “We are a health and tech company and [sun protection] is an extraordinarily unaddressed health issue that we’re trying to attack.”

Hutchins, who lives in LA, is a first-time founder but no stranger to cosmetic titans. As a close friend of Caitlyn Jenner, Hutchins witnessed the Olympian-turned activist/socialite’s battle with skin cancer in 2018. And because of her closeness with Caitlyn Jenner, she spends significant time learning from Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, who have built billion-dollar makeup brands Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty from Instagram.

“I have a really good relationship with all of them,” says Hutchins. “What Kylie [Jenner’s] done is amazing. I admire that she’s been able to convert fans, likes and shares into buys—and she works nonstop.”

Hutchins transitioned to a woman as a freshman at Pepperdine University and graduated from the University in 2018 with a degree in economics, with the intention of going into investment banking rather than entrepreneurship. During her senior year, she lamented with her friend, the daughter of Kiehl’s founder, about the impossibility of flawless makeup and sun protection.

From that conversation, she was advised by Nick Drake, CMO of T-Mobile and worked with big three consulting firm to develop a sunscreen product for makeup wearers. Lumasol was born, and with her board of scientific advisors from UCSF, the U.S.-manufactured product was approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter product. The recyclable product will protect from 98% of UV and UB rays and will be sold direct-to-consumer via subscription, according to Hutchins.

“You could compare it to Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s,” says Hutchins. “I know this business is going to be a success.”

For Ian Sigalow, founder of Greycroft Ventures, who has previously led the firm’s investments in Venmo, Braintree and Shipt, he saw the potential for the product from the hundreds of dollars his family of five spends on goopy sunscreen every single year. “There’s an opportunity to do what Juul did for the cigarette category by changing the delivery mechanism and changing the formula somewhat to win really big market share,” says Sigalow, noting that the design firm behind Juul also designed Lumasol, as a conscious effort habituate healthy habits after doing the opposite with the e-cigarette giant.

Lumasol will not be the only ‘mastige’ post-makeup sunscreen spray on the market. Semi-premium sunscreen brand Supergoop retails a SPF 50 setting spray product at $12 per ounce. Coola, Kate Sommerville, Shisheido and Ulta Beauty, among others, offer makeup setting sprays with SPF.

So what compelled Founders Fund send Hutchins a term sheet within an hour of her pitch presentation? “Founders Fund invests in founders, first and foremost. Sophia [Hutchins] was such an incredibly strong person when she came in and pitched us on her vision.” says Cyan Bannister, the partner at Founders Fund who led the round. “She’s identified an underserved market and a product that people would want. The fact is that she can leverage her connections to power the distribution behind the product.”

Lumasol’s packaging is also a huge draw for the investors. The bottle changes color when exposed to UV and UB rays, letting its owner know it’s time for another spritz, and habituating reapplication. Additionally, the product’s design and functionality make it highly ‘grammable—a deliberate strategy for Hutchins’ plan to rely heavily on Instagram influencer marketing, with probable Jenner/Kardashian spots, to market the product.

“There’s obviously precedent with the Jenners in the skincare industry. That was not lost on me when we made the investment,” says Sigalow. “One of our theses around next generation brands is: If you attach an influencer with a huge following to a consumer product, it’s like having your own media channel, so Lumasol’s starting on third base—they’re going to take off.”

In preparation for Lumasol’s Q1 2020 rollout, Hutchins is hiring an “extraordinarily experienced CMO,” adding to the “hundreds” of user tests, and developing her influencer, popup and outdoor event event strategy. “I have a social obligation to give people a product that can seamlessly fit into their lives and also save their lives,” she says.

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I’m the assistant editor for Under 30. Previously, I directed marketing at a mobile app startup. I’ve also worked at The New York Times and New York Observer. I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I studied English and creative writing.

Source: 23-Year-Old Sophia Hutchins, Jenner Family Insider, Raises Millions For Post-Makeup Sunscreen Mist

Sophia Hutchins is an entrepreneur at the crossroads of health, beauty and tech. She is both founder and CEO of Luma Suncare Inc. She successfully closed her first round of venture funding in March 2019. She is busily preparing for the launch of her company. Hutchins is an outspoken advocate for women and equality in the workplace. People can often find her speaking to groups within corporate America and her favorite of all groups to speak with are entrepreneurial women. Prior to starting her venture, she served as CEO of the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation.

Singapore’s Richest 2019: ‘Popiah King’ Outfits Factory Buildout For Meat Alternatives

At 70, Singapore’s “popiah king” Sam Goi still has his sights set on expanding his food and property empire. After earning his royal sobriquet—and his $2 billion fortune—making the paper-thin crepes used to wrap spring rolls known as popiah, he is now branching out. He wants to invest in meat substitutes and other special-diet foods, and play angel investor to food startups like the one he started in 1977, Tee Yih Jia Food.

More On Forbes: Singapore’s Richest 2019: At 101, The World’s Oldest Billionaire Has No Plans To Slow Down

Today In: Asia

Goi knows something about building a brand. Privately held Tee Yih Jia (TYJ) today exports Asian food items such as spring rolls, glutinous rice balls and samosas to more than 80 countries. It’s now in the process of doubling its production capacity with a new facility due for completion in 2021.

Goi’s Singapore-listed development company GSH, however, has hit a lull. After a S$75 million windfall in 2017 from its sale of private-equity unit Plaza Ventures, net profits dropped 93% in 2018 to S$6 million on a 9% decline in revenues. That’s pushed GSH’s shares down 13% in the past year, helping pull Goi’s fortune down by $100 million.

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Goi arrived in Singapore in 1955 when he was six years old with little but the shirt on his back after his family fled China’s Fujian province in a small boat. Goi dropped out of high school, but used his training in a repair shop to gain a toehold in the food industry.

With S$450,000 borrowed from a bank and his father, he bought an underperforming food company and overhauled it, increasing production from 3,200 popiah skins a day to 25,000. In 1980, he brought in technicians to design the world’s first automated system for making spring roll pastries at the blistering rate of 30 million a day. He then branched out, pumping out fortune cookies, flatbread and samosas.

More on Forbes: Singapore’s Richest 2019: Daryl Ng Takes His Family’s Sino Group Into The Future With 5G, AI

Goi returned to his hometown in Fujian in 1985 and built his first China factory there, later adding a frozen-food facility, a brewery and a vinegar plant in other parts of China. Goi also snapped up land in China’s second-tier cities long before China’s property boom. Most of Goi’s exposure to property, though, has come through GSH, where he now has a nearly 60% stake.

TYJ also has a subsidiary in Yangzhou focused on developing residential and commercial properties in surrounding Jiangsu province. But Goi’s plans for TYJ are more food-related. Goi’s daughter Laureen, who runs TYJ Food Manufacturing, has been building a state-of-the-art food factory nearly four times larger than the present one in Singapore, with the latest in automation, including driverless vehicles.

The new facility will also have a laboratory developing new products, and TYJ may even invest in and incubate promising food ventures, furthering Goi’s legacy as a foodstuff innovator.

Correction: the original version of this story incorrectly stated Goi’s late son Ben was involved in TYJ’s factory expansion. It is his daughter Laureen. Also corrected is that the new facility is an expansion not a replacement of the existing manufacturing plant.  

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Pamela covers entrepreneurs, wealth, blockchain and the crypto economy as a senior reporter across digital and print platforms. Prior to Forbes, she served as on-air foreign correspondent for Thomson Reuters’ broadcast team, during which she reported on global markets, central bank policies, and breaking business news. Before Asia, she was a journalist at NBC Comcast, and started her career at CNBC and Bloomberg as a financial news producer in New York. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and holds an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo, USA Today, Huffington Post, and Nasdaq. Pamela’s previous incarnation was on the buy side in M&A research and asset management, inspired by Michael Lewis’ book “Liar’s Poker”. Follow me on Twitter at @pamambler

Source: Singapore’s Richest 2019: ‘Popiah King’ Outfits Factory Buildout For Meat Alternatives

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