One of the interesting people who attended last week’s US-ASEAN Business Forum in Siem Reap was Jacob Fisch, co-founder of Nest Investments, a Hong Kong-based entity that looks for certain special kinds of businesses to invest in.
Born in Boston, the son of a psychiatrist, Fisch is a graduate of Harvard Law School and former general counsel for Hong Kong-based Li & Fung, the world’s largest publically-listed export trading company.
He was part of an entrepreneurship panel along with Brett Sciaroni and others at the forum and sat down to chat afterward.
In Hong Kong Fisch joined forces with Simon Squibb of Fluid Publishing and Fluid Media, a successful creative agency.
“He realised that being a consultant was not scalable and wanted to instead invest in and support early-stage businesses. Rather than selling ideas to big companies, we could create small businesses that solve the problem,” he said.
Fisch thinks Hong Kong is a fantastic place to start a business because of the rule of law, protection of intellectual property and from a brand development perspective.
“For those who are free-spirited with creative thought and want to create their own business and build something, I think there is a process for those people,” Fisch said. “You still need to go through that process of disconnecting and being comfortable ultimately with a different way with seeing the world.”
He used the comparison from the movie The Matrix to illustrate how to make a contextually different strategy in the face of an existing, integrated economic system.
“Part of being in The Matrix is that there is a misperception of these tracks in life, particularly true in prosperity tracks in life. The biggest trap people like lawyers tend to fall into is they go to law school, get a job with a corporate firm, have lots of money, and after a specified number of years, they become a partner and become rich and are paid an annuity forever after and that’s the way life works.”
Fisch said old paradigms working toward financial security like that are no longer true in many cases because the market is changing, quickly and without notice.
“The danger of living the conventional life, say in corporate law or whatever is that you plan your life 10 years ahead, if you follows steps, it prevents you from exploring your creative instincts.”
That’s why Fisch joined his friend Simon Squibb in Nest Investments, to help people unplug from The Matrix.
“You have to alienate from the conventional to see the world for what it is. People have different values and ways they want to live their lives. People become neutered and they are unable to realise every day they have to wake up and create how they want to live in the world. And I think that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”
Nest Investments is looking for promising businesses with super owner-operators.
“Ideas are a dime a dozen. It is all about executing. We are looking for tech-enabled, brand-driven, consumer businesses that have the ability to develop a strong database asset.”
They’ve already invested in a magazine called Foodie in Hong Kong, run by an American woman.
“We see this as a marketing and media platform and a database-driven concept. Starting in Hong Kong, it can be licensed elsewhere. We look for businesses to get proof of concept in Hong Kong. We only invest in businesses that are scalable.”
Nest also has a local-area marketing and media business called I LOVE and a business called Red Packet which provides “experience gifts” and is modelled after Smart Box in Europe.
“We are in our infancy as an investment business,” Fisch said. “Some of our companies are more mature than our businesses. The world better watch out,” he laughed.
“We are business people who are helping business people,” he said. “We want to help build businesses. We are not financiers looking to deploy capital. We’ve incubated some of the businesses, bring in third-party funding as a portfolio basis. We use our connections to help these businesses raise money.”
Fisch, 35, lived in China at age 14, learning to speak Mandarin. He says Cambodia looks “awesome”.
Staying with a Chinese family in 1997, he became a family therapist, using what he learned from his psychiatrist father.
“It was a fascinating look into modern China, experiencing rapid social and generational change, parents who lived through most horrific times, to this life of fortune and economic growth,” he said.
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