mentor of the month
08 April, 2015
Rui Ma needs no introduction. A famed 500 Startups mentor and local hero, she inspires Greater China startups and gets down and dirty with her investment instincts. In town recently to coordinate and present at the recent blueprint x 500 Startups event, we put Rui to the test:
What do you do when you are not mentoring startups?
In my day-to-day job, I am an investor full-time. I source, evaluate and execute deals, as well as fundraise for our fund, attend and run events, and basically be an active member of the ecosystem.
What does that mean you really do all day?
Honestly, I'm on the road a lot, so that translates to a life of trying to catch up on emails and drink lots of coffee. I spend a lot of time in airports and have mastered the locations of all the electrical outlets at the major Asian airports, where is it possible to catch a wink and lie down flat, and other such useful knowledge.
And in your downtime?
I am a huge bookworm and until recently when I hurt my knee I was an aspiring (but surprisingly consistent!) gymrat. I like to travel to out-of-the-way places and get really involved in philanthropic causes. I have my own scholarship in rural China where we help send 100 kids every year to high school, and that's been great fun. Oh yeah, I'm a big fan of education-related startups!
What skills do you bring to the blueprint tech community?
As an investor versus an operator, I am more of a connector. I generally give advice re: business models from a high level, fundraising, business development, and China market entry. The last is what I get pinged a lot on, and what I'm trying to spend as much time as possible becoming better at.
5. What do you believe are the critical factors of success in a startup?
The ability of the teammembers to work together as a team in times of crisis. And for startups, there is a crisis nearly every day. The ability to prioritize, strategize, delegate, and then effectively execute the strategy is really crucial. Especially for first-time entrepreneurs, I look for teams that have already pushed out product and iterated on it. The complexity or success of the product is less important than whether or not the team has a lasting "glue" that can hold it together and move it forward. This is cheating in a way, because it's easier to see a broken team than a broken product, but it really is a huge part of why many startups fail.
6. Do you have a Bitcoin account? Why?
Yes I do! And that's a very random question! I was intrigued in the technology and I invested in two companies in the space last year. However, my thinking around it has evolved and I'm less interested in it as a currency. It's still pretty cool though and I'm keeping an eye on how it will impact our lives ... or not!
7. Which blueprint team/s have a standout concept in your opinion?
This is an unfair question! I think that many of the teams are working on interesting problems, and I've actually met a few before they were at blueprint and were fledgling founders. That being said, with some of my previous crossborder and/or ecommerce investments, I think there might be synergies in working with companies such as Easyship.