For Momentum Works, 2018 was an extremely hectic, but also exceptionally fruitful year. As a result of our exploration, our vision, direction and roadmap have become clearer than ever; and we have built solid foundations in all major business areas.

My suitcase is an acute reflection of my 2018 – photo taken on 18 Nov 2018

In venture building, we have explored a lot ranging from operating model to shares allocation. Our major projects are going well as we speak – two of them will be ready for next round of funding very soon, very likely some time in January.

A more important point is, during this process we have built and polished a strong core team and a model of venture building. Both would serve as strong pillars for future ventures.

Those familiar with emerging markets would know that while opportunities abound, finding the right team with the right resources to do the right thing at the right timing is … arduous. This is exactly the opportunity that we thrive on.

Different from many incubators and venture builders out there, at Momentum Works we have been almost excessively careful about which projects to launch. We do a lot of analysis about market opportunity and timing; and we also study carefully challenges and strategic vulnerabilities. Using our experience of successes and failures over the past six years, we know how to plan and assemble critical resources, as well as catch the right timing.

In consulting, our client base has expanded significantly in 2018 to cover not only companies looking to expand into new (emerging) markets, but also leading companies in those markets. The scopes of our projects ranged from ecommerce, customs/logistics, fintech, market entry, team setting-up, corporate innovation etc.

In delivering these projects, we constantly learn and improve. Thanks to our team spread across continents, and our partners, we have confidently adopted problem solving (for clients) as the key measure of our consulting engagement. Yes – solve real problems, build real advantages.

Looking back, consulting not only provided important cash flow for Momentum Works’s operations, but also gave us an opportunity to learn and grow together with some top notch players in various sectors in tech. It also gave Momentum Works premium quality deal flow for venture building projects.

We are not media  

All these are built on our deep (and deepening) understanding of the markets and their opportunities. Tech in emerging markets is attractive, but challenges abound, pitfalls are everywhere. We believe that through sharing we could attract like-minded partners to work together on the opportunities, and lower risks for everyone.

Therefore, we have organised a number of sharing sessions in different cities in Asia this year. And we have been regularly updating our Chinese-language blog on WeChat, and our English-language blog TLD.

To our surprise, such sharing brought us good influence, well-thought feedback and discussions, and a lot of new friends.

Many new friends even thought that we were a media outlet.

Well, the truth is, we never wanted to be media, and we really do not spend much time on such sharing. We only hired someone (someone very good) to manage our Chinese blog and PR efforts in August, and TLD is still a team effort (depending on whoever is free).

As Momentum Works’s content market platform, these blogs have also brought us numerous consulting and venture building opportunities. In addition, a few good new team members actually applied to join because they read our blog.

The best things came when you least expect them to. We are very grateful that our readers are now from all the major continent, and we thank you for the hundreds of testimonials and feedback we received over 2018.

Your support and encouragement allow us to continue the sharing in our spare time.

On that front, in 2018 we have built a strategic partnership with The Passage, founded by Bengaluru-based Jianlong Hu, one of the best investigative journalists I have ever met. We have also worked closely with Joji Philip, founder of Dealstreetasia and probably the most energetic tech journalist on this planet. We have also collaborated with the great editorial teams of TechinAsia and KrAsia. In addition, we have worked with a number of finance and economics focused media houses.

In 2019, we are looking to work with more media friends who share the same interest in emerging markets and tech with us. You are always welcome to reach out to discuss how we could work together.

In 2018, we have also launched our Emerging Markets Tech Investment Index (EMTII), an attempt to give a systematic, holistic and up-to-date reading of opportunities and risks in different key sectors of major countries.

Ecommerce Indonesia – opportunities
Ecommerce Indonesia – risks

In fact, the reason why we started this was not complicated. Over the past two years, many friends have asked us about our perspectives on different markets and sectors. We though, instead of giving accounts each time (which might not be comprehensive), why don’t we just make it more systematic, and we can discuss further afterwards?

We would also thank governments, other partners and media friends for giving Momentum Works good exposure in 2018. From Wuzhen Summit (well, in Wuzhen obviously) to FutureChina Forum in Singapore, to Mobile World Congress, our colleagues have been on stage sharing, discussing, marching on.

On a panel at FutureChina Global Forum in Singapore

People make history

Of course, 2018 has not been smooth sailing for us. We have met challenges, we have encountered setbacks, and we had frustrations, with the ventures, the projects and each other. We have overcome a lot of issues, and learnt tonnes along the way.

We are glad the core team here had experience managing (well, you can call it burning) big budgets at Rocket Internet ventures. That allowed us to make far fewer mistakes, and be more confident about the our pace (and whatever challenges that might come our way).

The biggest issue in emerging markets, or in any market, is that of people. It is not enough to have just resources, understanding and determination – you need a strong, agile, effective and coherent team. Having built such a team is probably our proudest achievement over 2018.

Aside from our headquarters in Singapore, in 2018 we have expanded to Jakarta, Dubai, Shanghai and Shenzhen. We have also set up a satellite operation in Paris. In the meantime, our core team in Singapore count 12 nationalities (and counting).

Here is the basic experience map of the team:


Of course, we realised that to scale, we also need to expand our talent base. We have built our Management Associate programme in Singapore, Indonesia and China. We have also worked with institutions including INSEAD, SMU and HKU to foster great talent.

Our management associates, super interns and Dr Antarika at our OCBC presentation

In insights, venture building and consulting, we are grateful to have received help from alumni of Rocket Internet and INSEAD, as well as other friends. We’ve learnt tonnes from all those late night discussions.

 

What to look for in 2019

We have built solid foundations in 2019 across all our business areas. And in 2019 we look to go full force and push forward in all these areas.

In venture building, we have identified a few additional ventures, and for most of us have found solid, experienced core teams. Interested investors could contact us to explore opportunities to built some of these ventures together.

In the meantime, we also welcome exploring of new projects and joint venture opportunities from established companies.

In consulting and services, we are connecting the dots and building synergy among the capabilities we have built, partners we have worked with. Collectively it is about adding more value to clients, and lowering risk for everyone. We welcome more partners to join the ecosystem and explore new ways of collaboration.

In 2019, we will continue to unite (and work closely with) our friends in all major markets. We are also looking to expand our team in Middle East, and start full time teams in India and Brazil.

 

Gracious

Here I would like to really thank the team, including the management associates and super interns (we are exceptionally fortunate to have had some truly amazing interns this year).

It has been a bumpy year. Everyone in the team showed great resilience, and hard work. Of course, we also had plenty of fun aside from work.

Visiting “the biggest pot in the world” in Wuzhen’s historical quarter

We would also like to thank our clients, partners, investors and all those practitioners who have exchanged frank perspectives with us.

Without your support, we would have been much much slower in reaching where we are now.

Look forward to build a even more fabulous 2019 with everyone!

An amazing gift from two of our Super Interns, who finished their internship in December

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at hello@mworks.asia.

 

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Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.