Doing business in Asia – Learnings from MD of WI, Steve Torso

Written by Wholesale Investor’s Managing Director, Steve Torso.

For any founders looking to do business or raise capital in Asia, you can never underestimate the importance of learning some of the basic business customs and understanding the culture of the people you are doing business with.

While there is a lot to learn, and business card swapping style is commonly known, there is so much more to it. Here are some things I’ve learned and implemented along the way.

  1. The investment groups you will meet, are some of the friendliest and most generous people you will come across. If your approach is one of humility, and willingness to learn, you will be far more rewarded than if leading with overconfidence and arrogance. While each country is different, I have found this to be true with most ASEAN investors.
  2. Relationships are everything. You will learn that most people you meet are 1 to 2 degrees of separation from someone else you will be introduced to another stage. If you get invited to an activity after 5 pm or on the weekend, it is unwise to say no. Discussions held outside of traditional hours hint to a strategic and longer-term opportunity. These settings often appear very casual. However, this setting means you can get to know each other a lot faster.
  3. Be honest about what you are looking to achieve.
  4. Look to provide value to the person you are looking to build a relationship with, expecting nothing in return.
  5. If you aren’t ready to set up an office in that country, look to visit every 3 to 4 months. This will be one of the single best investments of your money and time. You will feel like you get rewarded more and more with each trip.
  6. Expect they will do DD on you, faster then you can imagine via online and their own networks. This part, I have seen in action many times and is incredibly impressive.
  7. WhatsApp, WeChat and Telegram are the most common forms of communication. Email is too slow. I personally don’t use Telegram that often, but live on WhatsApp and WeChat. If you plan on dealing with Korea, Kakao Talk is most common.

I hope this is helpful to you in your journeys. I have spent a lot of time in Singapore and Hong Kong over the last five years. I have also learned a lot from my Chinese shareholders and the many different groups we have the opportunity to work with.

I highly recommend to anyone thinking about coming to Asia, to join us for one of our investor conferences. Discover our upcoming events here.