Lawrence Yen
IMPACT INVESTING

Lawrence Yen

#156

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Founding Partner at MIH Climate Impact Capital

Lawrence Yen – Insights on China’s tech industry and entrepreneurship

“China is like the black box of information”

ABOUT

Climate-Tech and Sustainability Innovation VC Investment. Business and Revenue Driver in Greater China. Passionate over talking to Environment+ Technology Innovators and Social Value Enablers about how to build and scale their businesses through our partners and channel networks.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Lawrence Yen

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:Welcome to Impact Investing brought to you by the Supporters Fund. From the crispy, creamy and sweet pasties, the nata a secret 19th century recipe capital of the world. Lisbon, Portugal. I’m your host, Geoffrey JP Potvin. And let’s please welcome Lawrence Yan from Taipei with the tallest green building in the world, the Taipei 101. Welcome, Lawrence. It’s a real pleasure having you join us today.

Lawrence: Thank you. JP Thank you for having me. Really excited to be here today.

Jeffery:Well, I’m excited to have you today, Lawrence, on the pod, because what excites me about this is that you’re living in Taipei, but you’ve also lived in China and a few other countries and including brought up in Canada. So there’s so much crossover in your world, in global travels, but also in the impact investing that you’re making that it gets me really excited to be able to dive in and learn a bit more about yourself and the way that we love to start off our show is that we want you to give us a bit of a background all the way from your back to your University of Toronto days. And then one thing about you that nobody would know.

Lawrence: Yeah, Thank you, JP. So I was born in Taiwan and I moved to Vancouver when I was 11 in 91, and on spoke a little bit of English and basically took myself all the way through to college in Toronto and I’m today still, I’m a Raptors fan, I’m a Maple Leafs fan and still root for the Blue Jays. So those series really changed me in those ways. And, you know, after I graduated from college, I want to come back to Asia because that was 2004. That was a time when Shanghai was bustling. So I actually took a trip to Shanghai in 2004. And at the dinner table, there were folks from Germany, from Spain, from us, of course, Canada, Argentina, all over the world in their twenties, and just looking for something new. And it just totally felt like a land of opportunity. So that was when I decided to kind of move from Canada back to Asia and put myself in Shanghai back then on then I got into banking. Of course, that was I took the finance route in U of T and did that for a few years before I want to try the route of running a business. So in 2010, a very good friend of mine from L.A., went back to Taiwan and he wanted to start this beverage business. And it was something very similar to Red Bull back then, an energy drink. It was a really pick me up back then. So we went back to Taipei and we started a brand new beverage brand from from scratch. So we tasted all kinds of energy, drink off the shelf, and then we found a formula. We went, yams and did the entire process ourselves, from manufacturing to retail channels to branding and promotions and everything. So that was my first startup experience. And then after a couple of years, the company studied and a friend of my asking me if I want to help with the venture capital that she is running. And that’s how I got into venture capital. And since then I guess that was 2012. I co-founded four businesses. One of them failed. I tried to do e-commerce in China. That didn’t work out very well, way too competitive. I did the beverage company with a friend of mine. We also did a I did two food and beverage company, one of them in China, which grew from a zero stores from P50 in 2018 till today. There are 2000 franchisees across China, so that did it quite well. And another ready to drink cocktail company I also co-founded that went to Series B, so a lot of it in the consumer segment with my startups and also through my venture capital days. I, I was looking to average generic subject. So from software to hardware to retail to consumer, etc. But then by 2019, I started focusing into the area of climate just because I thought, it’s going to be something unfortunately that’s going to get more attention as time progresses in the next ten years or so. And plus, you know, it appears to be that a lot of the technology in climate technology is related to hardware, which is something that, you know, me coming from Taiwan is pretty good at. You know, Taiwan makes a bunch of stuff. So in 2019 and of beginning of 2020, I got a bunch of my friends together. And you know, these guys are they may be running family businesses or running family offices. And I sat them down and said, Hey, guys, listen, you’re all in a variety of industries, in hardware and traditional manufacturing, in tech manufacturing. And listen, the world is going to become more sustainable in our consumption, whether you like it or not. So, you know, for you guys in textile, in footwear, in cement and steel, in glass, you know, the guys who really have had to innovate in the past 40 years, I’m like, hey, you know, this ought to change in the next ten years because we’re going to have things like carbon credit. We’re going to have things like energy, energy consumption measurements. So why don’t we take our knowhow in our manufacturing industries and, you know, raise our hands and say we could be a part of the solution when the world is trying to become more sustainable? So early, 2020, right before COVID, we started a small fund together. And this is why I’m today, you know, the capital fund, where we are investing into climate tech and sustainability technology across the world. And our mission is really to try to connect Asia with global technologies. And our thesis is that, you know, in the US and Canada and Europe, you know, there are great scientists, great technologies, great institutions for the best minds to excel and to really go beyond their abilities. But then, like I also realized that for a lot of these technologies in climate technology or sustainability, whether you’re talking about energy, you’re talking about material, we’re talking about food, agriculture. most of these are hardware businesses, meaning that unlike software where you get a bunch of engineers together or you write a script, an algorithm, you launch on a website and they advertise on Google or Facebook and off you go. When it comes down to hardware, it’s people say it’s hard. Business is not because it’s technology is hard. Of course the technology is hard. But the tough part is that there are so many incumbents in place. So you have to talk to upstream suppliers, downstream customers and the whole ecosystem is so complicated that for a newcomer, it’s always so taxing on their time, on their mindspace. So what we’re trying to do from Taiwan is, hey, since we have all the industries available within a four about four block radius, essentially we make a bulk of the footwear is that we’re wearing T-shirts, shirts, jeans, software, data centers, all kinds of stuff. Since we make obviously ready, since we are incumbents in the industry already, why don’t we take our knowhow and try to help sort of to get into these segments and make their lives easier? S