A guiding star in the world of start-ups

ASIAONE: It was all mapped out in the stars. Ms Jenny Lee was transported from a sheltered life in Toa Payoh to New Zealand as a 14-year-old Girl Guide on her first trip outside of Singapore. She spent four weeks there in all but it was one week of camping that gave her an epiphany.

At night at the remote campsite, she gazed at the stars and was powerfully struck by the vast array of possibilities that awaited her in the world. Singapore was so small, she realised.

“No one told me that the world was bigger, I just discovered it,” she recalls now.

For Ms Lee, that galaxy of possibilities has translated into the adrenalin-pumping world of tech start- ups for whom she has become something of a guiding star.

The Shanghai-based investor, who started out studying electrical engineering – and fittingly perhaps working on jet aircraft – has become one of the most respected investors on the Chinese tech start-up scene.

Ms Lee, 43, a partner with venture capital firm GGV Capital, has the Midas touch, having led the investments in many Chinese tech start-ups, shepherding them to their public listings on United States stock exchanges such as Nasdaq, or bourses in mainland China and Hong Kong.

She is the first woman venture capitalist to crack the top 10 of Forbes Midas List 2015 which has been ranking the top 100 investors worldwide for several years. She came in at No. 10 and is one of only five women on the list this year.

A self-professed geek, Ms Lee focuses on the tech, Internet, mobile and gaming sectors. In her 12 years as an investor, she has invested in about 30 companies.

Her most recent triumph was when she led GGV’s investment in Xiaomi, the fast-rising Chinese mobile phone upstart now worth more than US$45 billion (S$61 billion). She is believed to have invested some of her own money in the company as well.

In venture investing in start-ups seen to have long-term growth potential, the risk of failure is very high. Ms Lee’s record, however, has defied those odds.

“Fewer than five companies have failed since I started as an investor in 2002,” she told The Straits Times in a recent interview. Read the full article