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Quest Ventures: Southeast Asia's Top Venture Capital Firm
Venture Capital

Quest Ventures: Southeast Asia's Top Venture Capital Firm

James Tan

Managing Partner
Quest Ventures
Margaux Zurbano

It is apparent that starting a business isn’t easy and requires much planning. One of the most important aspects an entrepreneur has to plan for is financing. To access funding, many startups approach venture capital firms to help finance their businesses. Investing in a startup comes at a risk as venture capital firms will only see their return in a couple of years. But it is this risk-taking that grows our startup ecosystem. This is where Quest Ventures comes into play.


Quest Ventures is a top venture capital firm that provides funding and acceleration to a myriad of startups, among the most notable of which are Carousell, Carro, and Shopback. Quest Ventures is also the first venture capital firm in Asia to roll out a multi-dimensional environment, social and governance strategy that supports a range of social good initiatives within the region.  With this, join me in learning more about Quest Ventures with its Founder and Managing Partner, James Tan.


What inspired you to explore the fields of venture capital and startups? Why do you think they are important? 


I started my first company during the ‘dotcom’ boom and benefited from venture capital in my second startup. I have seen how venture capital deploys at scale, moves markets and empowers its recipients to drive things quickly and execute their visions. 

Creating and executing a new idea through a startup is a way for us to transform society and make a difference. I entered venture capital to support and nurture startups that want to create that radical change and impact.


What inspired you to establish Quest Ventures?  What sets Quest Ventures apart from other venture capital firms? 


Many venture capital firms cannot empathize with what founders go through. I felt the best way to help the next generation of innovators was to establish a venture capital firm that really understands entrepreneurs’ journeys and struggles. The founders of Quest Ventures were once entrepreneurs ourselves – this sets Quest Ventures apart and helps us guide our companies and give advice rooted in experience.

Quest Ventures is a top performing venture capital firm. We are early in many emerging geographies and sectors that attract little attention, if at all. For example, we were the first to roll out an environmental, social and governance focus back in 2019 when no one was interested in it. We maintained a strong focus on sustainable impact all these years. 


What does Quest Ventures look for in a startup? 


Our criteria have withstood the test of time, and we used it for the last ten years. The first consideration is scalability. This means how large the company can grow within one city. For instance, if you currently have USD 1 million in revenue in Manila, it should be able to grow to USD 2 million or USD 5 million and so on within Manila. The second is replicability. The company’s business model should be replicable across different countries or regions. The last criterion is having large markets. What this means is that the company can be present and thrive in different-tiered cities. Quest Ventures breaks Southeast Asia down into different addressable markets. 


How do you know when a startup is a future unicorn?


Quest Ventures has backed some of the top unicorns in this region. We invested in most of them when they had just a few people in their teams. The common characteristic among them was that they all had “gung-ho” founders. These founders always found a way to survive no matter what happened: either through fundraising or rallying their staff. They used a combination of charisma and hard truths to gather everyone towards a goal. The presence of “gung-ho” founders is the best way to tell if a company will succeed. 


Unicorns also have to be able to fundraise. They are defined as companies worth a billion dollars or more. To achieve this, they need a lot of funds and have to attract venture capital firms to back them. Fundraising also affects whether a startup can survive in the long run. There is no point in a company being number 1 or 2 for a short while only to die subsequently when it runs out of funds.


What are the most impactful achievements that Quest Ventures has accomplished?


There was a period that catapulted our firm – that was when I returned to Singapore from Beijing in 2017 to look at how we can capitalize new funds to tap into new opportunities. We discovered new promising sectors and moved into them quickly. Another achievement would be that we rolled out new partnerships so that we could scale the impact we were having. One project that we are very proud of is the Sustainable Impact Accelerator. 


Where do you see Quest Ventures in the next 5-10 years? 


We are always reinventing ourselves to ensure that we stay relevant. In the next 5-10 years, we will launch new funds to expand into rising sectors in Southeast Asia and beyond. 


James Tan is the Managing Partner of Quest Ventures, one of the top venture capital firms in Asia. Quest Ventures provides funding and capacity-building acceleration to the startup ecosystem in Asia, with the aim of helping startups turn into successful and long-term businesses. The firm also takes pride in their multi-dimensional environment, social and governance strategy which presents their dedication to social good initiatives. As the Managing Partner of Quest Ventures, James is committed to turning startups into successful businesses.


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