Interview with Mr Douglas Keith Abrams, Founder & CEO of Expara

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Mr Douglas Abrams is the founder and CEO of Expara, Singapore’s leading incubator. He has launched two seed stage (Expara IDM Ventures I and II) and one early-stage venture fund (Extream Ventures) in Singapore since 2007. He is currently the Chairman of the Business Angel Network of Southeast Asia (BANSEA) and has been a Director since 2002. He was a founding partner of Parallax Capital Management, a Singapore-based funds management company in 2000. Prior to coming to Singapore, Mr. Abrams managed information technology at J.P.Morgan for 14 years. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s Business School where he lectures on New Venture Creation for undergraduates and post-grads. He is also a Visiting Professor in Entrepreneurship for the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He graduated from the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Communications and received an MBA from The Wharton School.

1. What are the key things you look at when you assess a start-up?

I look at:

– Innovation, the innovativeness of the products and solution

– Size and growth of the market opportunities

– Their ability to create barriers entry for followers

– Business model and financial plan

I also look very carefully and most importantly, the quality of the team because I believe strongly the team is the most important factor and determining whether the startup will succeed.

If I feel confident in the team and they are lacking or little weak in some of the factors, I may still take a chance to invest.

 2. How is the Singapore start-up scene like as compared to other countries (particularly in the US)?

I can only compare from my first hand experience of working in Singapore startup scene for the last 15 years and over the last 8 years in Thailand, last 3 years in Malaysia and more recently, I’m starting to look at the crowdfunding scene in Vietnam and Japan. So I think I can compare to those countries but to compare to US, it is very difficult as US is the birth place and the center of the venture capital in startups industry in the world.

I believe that Southeast Asia, specifically, in Singapore, venture capital in startup scene is one of the fastest growing emerging market scene in venture capital in the world so I’m very excited about what happened here over the last 6 years and what I think is going to happen over here in the next 5 – 10 years. I would say Singapore is the most developed country in the region. Thailand is rising fast and Malaysia is also growing quickly and interesting emerging market such as Vietnam and maybe Indonesia and Philippines.

3. Do you think Singapore is ready for crowdfunding?

Singapore is definitely ready for crowdfunding because there are already successful crowdfunding in Singapore and I think CoAssets is Asia’s leading crowdfunding platform for real estate so I think there is definitely   a huge potential for crowdfunding in Singapore in Southeast Asia.

4. What do you think are the things governments need to do to promote greater acceptance for crowdfunding as There has been recent news that MAS has launched a consultation paper for equity crowdfunding. What are your views on that?

Neighbouring countries in the region like Thailand, Thai government has announced their crowdfunding legalization in May 2015. In June, Malaysia has approved 6 equity crowdfunding platforms so I believe MAS is on the right track by having consultation paper and looking closely at how they can create safe but encouraging regulation for equity crowdfunding in Singapore and I think over the next 5 years, we are going to see many growth in equity crowdfunding market.

To find out more about how did Mr Douglas Abrams become a venture capitalist, click to watch the full interview above.

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In Asia, Crowdfunders.Asia is a leading portal on providing news related to crowdfunding, start-up, property and business. It is operated by CoAssets.com. CoAssets.com is based in South East Asia and is the first real estate crowdfunding site. You may reach us at [email protected] if you wish to contribute your story.

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