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Tuesday May 02,2023 | IIE News

Mentorship matters. Through our Meet the Mentor series, learn more about the mentors in our network and the role mentoring could play in your startup. In today’s feature, we will be spotlighting Frank Lee, Managing Director, Jumpstart Disruptive Innovations.

Frank Lee


Tell us about your background and your area of expertise

I am a Partner in TNF Ventures since 2012, a seed-stage investment firm based in Singapore.
I have a good network and understanding of the tech start-up ecosystem and fund/grant environment in Singapore and Southeast Asia. 
I have also taken up startup mentorship roles with SGTech, Quest Ventures (Vietnam GIA), National University of Singapore, and Republic Polytechnic.

I started Jumpstart Disruptive Innovations (JDI) in 2016, a venture catalyst based between Singapore and Vietnam. JDI first focused on helping fast-scaling Series A/B/C tech companies scale their 2nd tech teams in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
It has since diversified into other services including Tech (Web2 / Web3), Talent (Recruitment, HR, Internship), Launch (market expansion, corporate services) Venture (corporation innovation, venture-building), and Capital (Investment and advisory). JDI as a group has over 250 headcounts in 6 offices across 2 cities in Vietnam. We also have setup early satellite offices in Australia and Myanmar.
I recently took upon the Chair role in the Startup and Innovation Sub-committee of Singapore Chamber of Commerce, Vietnam. I am tasked with bridging the Singapore and Vietnam Tech and Innovation ecosystem.


Where does your interest in mentorship stem from?

I believe in Disruptive Innovation for a better tomorrow.
Start-ups make the most impact with Disruptive Innovation, and it excites me to work with Founders to change the world.


What do you look at when assessing a start-up?

At the angel/seed stage of a start-up, the first thing I look at is the Founding Team.
It is about:
1. why they are doing this (motivation), what makes them happy,
2. what their background and experiences are, 
3. how are the relationships between founders, 
4. what is their unfair advantage to make the start-up work, and 
5. if the company’s capitalization table is fairly balanced.
That said, I will still assess all the other usual criteria (problem, solution fit, market, business/revenue model, scalability, defensibility, competition++)!


What do you think is the most important question a start-up founder should ask any mentor on their first meeting?

They should ask for the background of the mentor.
This is to ascertain if the mentor has relevant knowledge, skills and/or experience in the same/similar field which the start-up is in.
It is likely to backfire if a B2B Enterprise-experienced mentor give advice to a C2C start-up founder!


What are some tips you have for start-ups to nail their pitch?

Iterate with different friendly investors, to get their feedback and improve your pitch.
Once the pitch points are good, get a freelance designer (Fiverr/Upwork/good friend) to make the pitch deck look more professional.


In your opinion, what is the value of an incubator programme for start-ups?

There are a lot of value.  At the starting stage of a start-up, the start-up does not have a lot of resources/support network.

An incubator provides space (save costs, better than a café), mentor network, investor network, peer-support network, and access to start-up related services/credits.


If you could turn back time, what would be one piece of advice you would have given your younger self?
Buy bitcoin in 2015, and sell everything in Nov 2021.


Off the top of your head, what's a "must-read" book (or podcast) for founders?

The Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steve Blank.
This is also the first book I was given by my friend and mentor, when I started my start-up/investor journey.


Which verticals do you see thriving due to the pandemic, and how can aspiring entrepreneurs leverage on it? 

The pandemic is (nearly) over.  We need to worry about the upcoming recession, and Open AI now.
Open AI is going to set a trend of Disruptive Innovations – now is the best time to rid a new trend!

Have a BIG startup idea but not sure how to get it off the ground? The Business Innovations Generator (BIG) is a four-month, equity-free, founder-centric incubation programme designed to help student founders and early-stage startups grow faster. Founders get to validate their startup at no cost through mentorship, dedicated resources, funding, and access to an investor network. Now accepting applications for the AUG’23 cohort. Apply by 30 June 2023.


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