How These Women Investors Crushed It In 2020

In an investment industry known for big egos, overconfident analysts and “activists” who routinely tell CEOs how to run their companies, investor Nancy Zevenbergen and her team of four portfolio managers differentiate themselves by simply listening.

Zevenbergen, 61, founder of $5.7 billion (assets) Zevenbergen Capital Investments, believes the crucial job of an investor in today’s economy is to uncover the next great entrepreneur or technological innovation early on. The style is about “optimism and a view toward what the future might be,” she says. According to Zevenbergen, her task is to be curious and “understand the ‘crazy’ visions of new leaders and become investors alongside them.” If she likes a company, her Seattle-based firm will load up and watch from the sidelines, tracking the business patiently and holding their shares so long as growth doesn’t stall. Rarely do they worry too much about valuation.

This humble approach to investing has yielded results that make Zevenbergen among the best investors in the world. She has stuck by mercurial Elon Musk and owned Tesla for about a decade; Tesla’s stock is up 730% this year, and is the top performing stock of the ten years. She discovered Ottawa, Canada-based ecommerce company Shopify and its founder CEO Tobi Lütke in late 2016 when it was trading below $50; it now trades for $1,170.

Last September, Zillow chief executive Rich Barton decided the real estate platform would begin buying homes, leading to complaints from skeptics who sent its shares cratering 20% to below $30. Zevenbergen’s team liked Barton’s experimentation and built a large position. Fifteen months later, Zillow now trades for $140.

Nancy Zeverbergen
Seattle-based Nancy Zevenbergen calls investing with a less than five-year time frame “truly speculative.” Case in point: She’s owned Amazon since it traded in the $60s and still holds shares after a 90-fold rise. Tim Pannell for Forbes

With stock-picks like these, Zevenbergen’s Innovative Growth Fund (SCATX) and Genea Fund (ZVGNX) are up a staggering 126% and 154%, respectively, in 2020. Of over 1,000 peer funds tracked by Morningstar, the two mutual funds rank in the top percentile. 

Zevenbergen created her firm from her living room in the late 1980s with just $500,000 in assets while she nursed a young child. Her flagship strategy has beaten the S&P 500 Index by around four percentage points annually since 1987, but 2020 was a watershed. Assets more than doubled soaring towards $6 billion, based on performance and inflows to her mutual funds.

Zevenbergen is not the only woman fund manager who has crushed competition in 2020. Forbes found at least a half a dozen firms led by women-led funds that have blown away their peers and drawn in tens of billions of dollars in assets collectively since the start of January.

Cathie Wood, founder of Ark Investments, had the best year of anyone. In 2014, Wood, 65, created Ark with the idea of packaging stock-picking into tax-efficient exchange traded funds, and focusing exclusively on breakthrough innovations in genomics, robotics, financial technology, autonomous driving, digital services, and artificial intelligence. 

Six years later, Ark manages nearly $44 billion in assets, up from just $300 million at the end of 2016. This year, Ark funds have pulled in over $10 billion in new assets, led by extraordinary returns. Her flagship Ark Innovation Fund (ARKK) has seen assets soar to $17 billion, fueled by a 154% gain in 2020 and a 46% average annual return over the past five years. Her $6 billion Ark Genomic revolution ETF is up even more this year. “I wanted individual investors to catch the wave,” says Wood of today’s enormous technological change. Her funds were designed for those “willing to step out and away from fixed income and into some of the most exciting stocks in history.”

Ark publishes its financial models, trading logs, and research to the investing public, and the firm’s analysts are happy to engage in discussion on Twitter, opening themselves to criticism and mockery. Wood’s $4,000 a share valuation of Tesla a year ago drew many scoffs on Wall Street. But her heady valuation was spot on. Short sellers have been burned by Tesla’s rise, while female investors like Zevenbergen and Wood have been patient bulls. On Friday, Tesla was added to the S&P 500 Index.

Female investing success in 2020 extends well beyond soaring growth stocks. Women-run funds are leading the way in everything from small cap stocks, to emerging market debt portfolios, dividend paying companies, and sustainable investments.

Amy Zhang, portfolio manager of the Alger Small Cap Focus Fund (AOFIX) and Mid Cap Focus Fund (AFOIX) was hired in 2015 to expand Alger’s presence in niche small and mid-cap stocks. When Zhang arrived at Alger, the Small Cap Focus Fund had just $16 million in assets. Now, after a 54% return in 2020 and a 30% annual average return over the past five years, Zhang’s Small Cap Focus Fund has $7.5 billion in assets.

Top holdings include refrigerated logistics upstart CryoPort and fast casual restaurant Wingstop. Her Mid Cap Focus Fund, launched in mid-2018, has attracted over $500 million in assets as it has soared by 84% in 2020, bolstered by casino operator Penn National Gaming and power equipment manufacturer Generac.

Long before sustainable investments became a prolific buzzword, Karina Funk, an MIT-educated engineer at Baltimore-based mutual fund giant Brown Advisory, was a pioneer in bringing sustainable investments mainstream. Funk, 48, a vegetarian who watches her carbon footprint by biking to work, launched the Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund in June 2012, alongside David Powell, with a goal to back about 35 companies with products improving social and environmental sustainability, or efficient operating footprints.

Its focus on companies like Ball Corp. and American Tower has made it one of the best funds on the planet during down markets. Even in 2020, the fund has gained 38% despite its defensive posture, thanks to savvy picks like life sciences conglomerate Danaher and Etsy, which has empowered many small businesses during the pandemic. Funk can be a tough customer. She exited Facebook in the fall of 2018 due to data privacy concerns.

“Sustainability is a means, not an end in and of itself,” she told Forbes as part of a profile three years ago, when the fund’s assets were just $1.1 billion. “Our end goal is performance. We achieve that by finding fundamentally strong companies using sustainability strategies to get even better.” The fund’s assets have since soared to $4.6 billion.

Other female-led funds that have done well include Capital Group’s $128 billion American Funds New Perspective (ANWPX), led by a team of managers including Joanna Jonsson and Noriko Chen, and the $36 billion in assets JPMorgan Equity Income Fund (HLIEX), led by Clare Hart. The New Perspectives fund has beaten its benchmark by four percentage points annually over the past decade, while Hart’s Equity Income Fund has returned an annualized 11.65%, two percentage points annually above its benchmark, according to data from Morningstar.

Rebecca Irwin, Natasha Kuhikin and Kathleen McCarragher of the $1.3 billion in assets PGIM Jennison Focused Growth Fund (SPFAX) have returned 68% in 2020 and 25% over the past five years, ranking in the top decile of peer funds. At Alger, Ankur Crawford, co-manager of the Alger Spectra Fund (ASPIX) and Alger Capital Appreciation (ACCAX) has seen returns surpass 40% this year.

In fixed income, Tina Vandersteel of the $4.4 billion in assets GMO Emerging Country Debt Fund (GMCDX) has been able to outperform emerging market bond indices despite underweighting China and many Gulf-states due to her skepticism of the veracity of their economic data.

The bull market of 2020 is also creating new opportunities for female fund managers to shine. Two years ago, Julie Biel of Los Angeles-based Kayne Anderson Rudnick, was a rising star at the $30 billion (assets) firm and excited about the looming public offering of software company DocuSign. Known for investing in established businesses, Kayne had never participated in an IPO. Biel was late in her pregnancy as the IPO progressed and trying to win an allocation. She needed a doctor’s note to fly to the Bay Area to meet with DocuSign’s management. Kayne eventually won a large block of shares, quickly becoming one of its largest outside investors.

Biel also began to manage the firm’s KAR Small Mid- Sustainable Growth strategy around that time and made DocuSign the fund’s top holding. Its shares have risen 225% in 2020. This year, Biel’s fund has returned 42% through November. In December, Kayne decided to launch a mutual fund version, launching the strategy, called the Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Growth Fund (VIKSK), with Biel in charge.

Like Zevebergen and Wood, Biel is starting small and manages just $60 million. But the investment industry rewards performance above all, hinting at much larger things to come. Entering 2021, Biel’s portfolio is loaded with hidden gems like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and MarketAxess that could grow for years to come. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Antoine Gara

 Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, 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 member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

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How Adrian Cheng Is Rejuvenating A 50-Year-Old Business By Targeting China’s Millennials

When Adrian Cheng looks across Hong Kong’s harbor from Tsim Sha Tsui, he sees his family’s legacy writ large across the city’s skyline. There, from a balcony atop the new luxury apartment building of his Victoria Dockside development, he can view the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the opposite side of the harbor.

With its curved glass and massive sloping roof, the convention center is said to resemble a bird taking flight. His grandfather Cheng Yu-tung, founder of the family’s flagship property firm New World Development, came up with the ambitious plan for the building, which included a manmade island, back in the early 1980s when the market was in a slump and other developers had no interest. Undeterred, Yu-tung turned the convention center into a Hong Kong icon, showcasing New World’s capabilities. Yu-tung reportedly once said the convention center was one of the two projects of which he was most proud.

And the other project? It was the New World Centre, a mixed-use complex that was demolished about a decade ago to allow the development of Victoria Dockside. Cheng has overseen this project from the start, building on the site of his grandfather’s former landmark, as part of a wider strategy to develop his K11 brand.

“I’m not inheriting a 50-year-old family business and trying to preserve it and hold it tight. That’s not me,” Cheng says. “I’m disrupting it and rejuvenating it to create a new business model.” While Cheng’s father, Henry Cheng Kar-shun, continues to serve as New World’s chairman, his eldest son is executive vice-chairman and general manager, a position he has held since 2017.

As with the convention center, the $2.6 billion project was risky. The launching of Victoria Dockside, which has opened in stages from 2018, comes as Hong Kong suffers its worst downturn in a decade. Hit by months of protests and the U.S.-China trade war, Hong Kong’s third quarter GDP contracted 3.2% from the previous quarter, after retreating 0.4% in the second quarter—its first recession since the global financial crisis in 2009.

Victoria Dockside was a gamble in another way. Cheng could have taken the safe route, choosing a conservative design. Instead, Cheng endorsed an innovative design expressing the ideals of his K11 brand, which he created and has refined since 2009. This complex is the biggest and most elaborate expression of the brand. The 65-story office tower is called K11 Atelier, the luxury apartments K11 Artus and the shopping mall with art galleries K11 Musea. The only major non-K11 brand in the complex is Rosewood Hong Kong, part of a luxury hotel chain that the family also owns.

K11 is a novel concept—blending “art, people and nature.” It is meant to fuse together elements of artistic, cultural and environmental design in public and private spaces. “I don’t see [K11 Musea] as a shopping mall, but as a place for millennials to learn, acquire knowledge and be immersed in different cultures.”

To fulfill his vision, he hired 100 designers, architects and artists from around the world, each overseeing a different part of the complex, even utilitarian areas such as the carpark. Coordinating it all was New York’s Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, one of the world’s leading architectural firms.

One striking example of K11’s brand DNA is the atrium of K11 Musea, which soars eight stories and features twin circular skylights and a geodesic sphere measuring 10.4 meters in diameter suspended over the space whose interior is reserved for performances or exhibitions.

Cheng’s gamble is showing early signs of paying off: even as Hong Kong’s economy contracted, K11 Musea opened last August with 97% occupancy and K11 Atelier has around 80% occupancy at rental rates above HK$100 per square foot ($13)—33% above the average rent for grade-A office space. The complex has won multiple awards—even one for its carpark, which features graffiti by Cara To, a Belgian artist born to Hong Kong parents.

“Our slogan for New World Development is we create, we are artisans,” Cheng says. “I want everyone to believe that they are a creator, that they can innovate and create things.” Victoria Dockside’s tenants include Cartier and Gucci, and several brands new to Hong Kong such as Fortnum & Mason’s first store outside the U.K., a Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and a Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry school (only the second such school in the world).

Cheng, 40 and an avid art collector, first tested K11 in Hong Kong in 2009 with a six-story “art mall” in Kowloon’s Masterpiece building, a joint venture between New World and Hong Kong’s Urban Redevelopment Authority. He then developed K11 projects in mainland China—Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin and Wuhan—all of which combine commerce with art. He plans to keep expanding the K11 brand, with plans for a total 36 projects opened across China by 2024. He also runs the nonprofit K11 art foundation and the for-profit K11 Investment fund.

“The hardest thing I think is the tenacity and the perseverance of testing that product for the first few years, and believing that it would work, not blindly or egotistically, but knowing it would take time,” Cheng says of his vision for K11.

More on Forbes: ‘Shop King’ Tang Shing-bor Became A Billionaire Flipping Hong Kong’s Derelict Properties

To further his interest in art, Cheng has taken high-level roles at some of the world’s leading art institutions, including being a board member of New York’s Museum of Modern Art PS1 and a trustee of London’s Royal Academy of Arts. He likes to pepper his social media with posts about art.

On the business side, Cheng also runs two private investment ventures from Hong Kong. The first is C Ventures, which he runs with Clive Ng, a veteran entrepreneur and investor in media and internet companies in Asia.

C Ventures has investments in about 20 fashion, media and lifestyle startups. Among them is Golong, a Hangzhou-based site selling cosmetics from trendy brands such as British brand Man Cave and Korean brand SNP. The company claims to be valued after its latest financing round at over $300 million. The K11 Investment fund invests in tech firms in areas such as AI, virtual reality and big data.

Beyond making money on the investments, Cheng sees these funds as a way to stay on top of quickly evolving tastes and technology, especially among China’s younger generation. “The paradigm shifts very fast,” says Cheng. “We’re looking at the consumer habits of millennials and Generation Z.”

Looking beyond K11 and Victoria Dockside, Cheng is continuing to expand New World through other real estate projects. Two of New World’s biggest projects under way are the HK$20 billion Skycity and the HK$30 billion Kai Tak Sports Park. The first will cover 25 hectares, and when fully completed in 2027, will be one of the largest mixed-use complexes in Hong Kong. The Kai Tak Sports Park, meanwhile, will be on the site of the former Kai Tak airport. The complex will be home to a 50,000-seat main stadium, a 10,000-seat indoor sports center, a 5,000-seat public sports ground and other facilities, and is slated for completion in 2023.

Over the next five years, New World would like to more than triple its portfolio of investment properties in Hong Kong, from 2.3 million square feet to 9.8 million. In mainland China, the company’s rental portfolio is expected to grow from 0.2 million square meters to 1.3 million. The company, he says, wants to reposition itself to focus on China’s “greater bay area”—an area within about a 100km radius around Hong Kong that China would like to develop into an integrated megalopolis, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.

Demonstrating China’s importance to New World, the family privatized its formerly listed New World China Land in 2016 so it could have more direct control over its mainland strategy. More than 50% of its China landbank is now located in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

All this expansion comes at a cost. Among Hong Kong’s big developers, New World has one of the higher ratios of debt to equity, at 32% in 2019 compared with the previous year’s 29%. Yet Cheng is confident that New World can handle the debt load. For the fiscal year ended in June, the company’s revenues—generated through a mix of property sales and its rental business—rose 26% to HK$77 billion, while underlying profit was up 10% to HK$8.8 billion.

In December 2018, New World diversified its business further when it bought FTLife Insurance for HK$22 billion through its infrastructure subsidiary NWS Holdings. The acquisition was aimed at expanding the firm’s life and medical insurance business after it launched in the same year Humansa, a Hong Kong-based healthcare service for the elderly in the greater bay area.

To help with the need for more affordable housing in Hong Kong, New World announced last September that it would donate around 20% of its agricultural landbank, some 280,000 square meters, to the government, where it will construct over 100 apartments for low-income families by 2022. Explaining this act of generosity, Cheng says: “What I learned from my father and my grandfather is that you need to have a very big heart.”

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a senior editor based in Hong Kong. I’ve been reporting on Asia’s wealthiest people for Forbes and Bloomberg for about a decade. Previously, I worked with British diplomats at the consulate general in Hong Kong. Any tips, please contact me at rolsen@forbesasia.com

Source: How Adrian Cheng Is Rejuvenating A 50-Year-Old Business By Targeting China’s Millennials

May.08 — Adrian Cheng, executive vice chairman at New World Development, discusses how the U.S.-China trade negotiations are impacting investor confidence in real estate, the property market in Hong Kong, his current projects, priorities in China, China’s property market and Chinese consumption trends. He speaks exclusively on “Bloomberg Markets: Asia” from the sidelines of the JPMorgan Global China Summit in Beijing.

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.

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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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How Your Definition Of Entrepreneur Can Limit Your Success

The word entrepreneur is used so often in so many different contexts these days that pinning it down is virtually impossible.  Everyone has their own definition, and the one you adopt—or unconsciously accept—can determine your aspirations, dictate your behavior, and in some instances cause you to underperform or fail outright. It’s a classic self-fulfilling prophecy—you’re likely to get what you expect to get.

Among the many definitions of entrepreneur, six currently dominate the popular press, the how-to literature and business education—and loom large in the popular imagination. Each definition, in its own way, can be both empowering and pernicious. Here’s what to look out for:

The Noble Founder.  This would appear to be the simplest definition of all: if you start a business, you’re an entrepreneur, regardless of whether it succeeds. Today, there are over 16 million people attempting to start over nine million businesses in the U.S. But even this apparently simple definition brings with it some significant psychological baggage.  People who associate themselves with this definition often feel a deep sense of pride in their willingness to even try to start a business.  But that understandable pride in taking on the struggle can also mean a too easy acceptance of poor results. Inside the noble founder lurks the noble failure.

The Self-Made Success. Some definitions bestow the title of entrepreneur only upon people who have started a successful business, or at least one from which they earn a decent living. People who see themselves this way can feel a bit proprietary about the definition. To them, everyone who is struggling to make a living is merely an “aspiring” entrepreneur.

Only 30 to 40 percent of startups ever achieve profitability. In the world of Silicon Valley high-risk startups, the chances of reaching profitability plummet to less than one in a hundred. The self-identity of people who feel success is an essential part of what it means to be an entrepreneur are proud of the self-sufficiency they achieve or at least seek. They are more likely than noble founders to keep their eye on the bottom line, but they also can be overly fearful of risk and can underperform in terms of innovation.

The Entrepreneur by Temperament.  In this view, entrepreneurship is a state of mind. It can apply equally to people starting a business or people working in corporate settings. It’s all about mindset: such people “make things happen,” “push the envelope,” or refuse to stop until they get what they want. It is the broadest of definitions. In fact, Ludwig Von Mises, a member of the Austrian school of economics, theorized that since we all subconsciously assess the risks of our actions relative to the rewards we expect to receive, we are all entrepreneurs. Because this definition applies to everyone, anyone can delude themselves into believing they are an entrepreneur. You don’t even have to start a business. You just have to behave a certain way, let the chips fall where they may.

The Opportunist Par Excellence. For at least a century, entrepreneurs have described themselves as having the ability (a skill, not a state of mind) to “smell the money.” There are indeed many entrepreneurs who proudly identify their ability to spot money-making opportunities. But it wasn’t until the economist Israel Kirzner, in the mid-1970s, described the core of entrepreneurship as opportunity identification that academics began to study it as a process and a skill. Entrepreneurial education today is often targeted at teaching opportunity identification skills.

What is interesting is that there is no strong evidence, after several different studies, that entrepreneurial education actually results in students or attendees having a significantly higher chance of reaching profitability. Perhaps opportunity-spotters can overextend themselves by doing multiple startups or product launches simultaneously, a problem that can be compounded by a lack of synergy among these disparate efforts.

The Risk-taker: Frank Knight, one of the founders of the highly influential Chicago school of economics, drew an illuminating distinction between risk and uncertainty. With risk you can predict the probability of various unknown outcomes of business decisions. With uncertainty you not only don’t know the outcomes but also you don’t know the probability of any particular outcome occurring. In other words, risk can be managed, but uncertainty is uncontrollable. Knight argued that opportunities for profit come only from situations of uncertainty.

To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must therefore seek out uncertainty. Today, few entrepreneurs know of Knight’s thesis, but many nonetheless proudly describe themselves as “risk-takers.” This identity can lead to taking on more risk than necessary, especially when you see all risk as good and see yourself as an adventurer into the unknown. You would be better advised to think of your adventures as a series of small calculated experiments that turn the greatest uncertainties into knowable risks.

The Innovator: Joseph Schumpeter’s description of entrepreneurs as innovators who participate in the creative destruction that constantly destroys old economic arrangements and replaces them with new ones has appealed to many observers, including economists. That concept is often naively married to Clay Christensen’s notion of disruptive innovation of industries and markets.

See, for example, Zero to One by PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel. This fetishizing of disruption has led many entrepreneurs to invoke the concept of innovation in support of whatever they want to do, no matter the effects it might have on society like creating a “gig economy” of low-paid workers. Seeing yourself as an innovator and regarding innovation as an unquestioned good is arguably one of the most dangerous definitions of all because it simultaneously encourages great boldness and justifies equally great moral blindness. It also results in passing over opportunities to create valuable and socially beneficial businesses that were less than truly disruptive.

All of these definitions of entrepreneur are self-limiting. How you define yourself as an entrepreneur also defines what actions you’ll take to view yourself as deserving of the title. But the only two things academics have ever been able to show conclusively correlate to entrepreneurial success (measured generally) are years of schooling and implicit, core motivations that align with feeling good about getting things done (known as “need for accomplishment”). Pinning your identity to any of the current definitions of entrepreneur will only set you back.

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

I am a successful entrepreneur who researches and teaches entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, at Princeton University. My two bestselling books on entrepreneurship, “Building on Bedrock: What Sam Walton, Walt Disney, and Other Great Self-Made Entrepreneurs Can Teach Us About Building Valuable Companies” (2018) and “Startup Leadership” (2014) focus on what it really takes to succeed as an entrepreneur and the leadership skills required to grow a company. Prior to joining the Princeton faculty, I was founder and CEO of iSuppli, which sold to IHS in 2010 for more than $100 million. Previously, I was CEO of global semiconductor company International Rectifier. I have developed patents and value chain applications that have improved companies as diverse as Sony, Samsung, Philips, Goldman Sachs and IBM, and my perspective is frequently sought by the media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nikkei, Reuters and Taipei Times.

Source: How Your Definition Of Entrepreneur Can Limit Your Success

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When we help youth to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, we empower them to be successful in our rapidly changing world. Whether they own a business or work for someone else, young adults need the skills and confidence to identify opportunities, solve problems and sell their ideas. This skillset can be encouraged and developed in elementary schools, with the immediate benefit of increased success in school. In this talk, Bill Roche shares stories of students that have created their own real business ventures with PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs. He illustrates the power of enabling students to take charge of their learning with freedom to make mistakes, and challenging them to actively develop entrepreneurial skills. Bill also showcases the achievements of specific students and shares how a transformative experience for one student has been a source of inspiration for him over the years. Bill Roche specializes in designing curriculum-based resource packages related to entrepreneurship, financial literacy and social responsibility. Bill worked directly in Langley classrooms for over ten years and now supports teachers throughout the country in creating real-world learning experiences for their students. Over 40,000 students have participated in his PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs program. The program’s impact has been captured in a documentary scheduled for release early in 2018. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
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