We recently caught up with Jawad Ansari, General Partner of Irvine-based Miven Venture Partners, a venture firm backed by Victor Tsao, founder of Linksys. Miven has been active recently with investments across the globe, and we thought it would be interesting to hear about what the firm is looking for and where it is focusing its efforts.
Ben Kuo: Tell me a little bit about Miven and the kinds of companies you invest in?
Jawad Ansari: Miven has $100 million under management, and is focused on the area of consumer related technologies. What I mean by consumer is we look at software, silicon, web, mobility, wireless, and areas of converged media. In converged media, we are looking at firms that own the intellectual property and media properties, regardless of the channels -- whether those channels are movies, video games, animation, or cross promotions. We're looking at firms that own the intellectual property behind those. We're focused on investments in the U.S., India, and China.
Ben Kuo: What's the story behind Miven, and when did the firm start?
Jawad Ansari: Miven started in early 2005, with the goal of investing in companies that have the ability to become global brands in the consumer and media space. Our single limited partner is Victor Tsao, founder of Linksys, who has a tremendous amount of knowledge in the consumer space. He saw a tremendous amount of opportunity in these areas, and that's why we started investing in these two areas.
Ben Kuo: Can you talk about some of the investments you have made?
Jawad Ansari: We have made nine investments, five in the U.S., and four in China, including investments in TZero, a company in the ultra wide band (UWB) space; and Lingtu, which is a GPS navigation database and device company with complete solutions in China. Lingtu has mapped 337 cities in China, and is the leading provider of maps and related technology in China. We have also invested in companies that provide Wi-Fi related chipsets, and software firms. We have a very broad mix in our portfolio.
Ben Kuo: Are you making investments in Southern California?
Jawad Ansari: Absolutely. I am the president-elect for TiE Southern California, and am very active in putting together business plan competitions, and have a lot of interest in Southern California. I have a home here in Irvine, along with a home in Palo Alto. We're focused here on Orange County, San Diego, and of course Santa Monica. We are currently looking at some companies in Santa Monica, taken those investments to friends in Silicon Valley, and also working with firms up north to put together funding. The short answer is--absolutely. We are also very aggressively looking for opportunities in Northern and Southern California, China, and India.
Ben Kuo: How are you finding the quality of investments in China and India?
Jawad Ansari: It's very, very clear that you have to do a lot of due diligence. I'm on a panel at UC Irvine on October 27th that talks about opportunities an pitfalls in China, and my message is that China and India are two of the most amazing things happening in our lifetime. We have the ability to take advantage of a dynamic shift where 1.6 billion people in China, and 1.2 billion people in India are getting to the level where they can afford lots of goods and services, and are becoming very major powers in the world. The quality of the deals there are good, but you have to really know what you're doing. That's easier said than done, and for the last several quarters and the last year and a half we have made lots of relationships in China and India--so we know what deals are good, what entrepreneurs to back, and which firms to trust. Just like in the U.S., we have built an ecosystem in India and China, so that we can do our due diligence in a meaningful fashion. There are lots of investors who go to China or India on the pressure of their LPs, but we're not sure what kind of investments they are making. You have to do a lot of due diligence, do your own networking, and at the end of the day you have to be very careful.
Ben Kuo: We have lots of entrepreneurs reading our publication, what advice would you give them on what your firm is looking for?
Jawad Ansari: We are looking for genuinely scalable, brand-able ideas. We are not interested in services for hire. We are interested in creating scalable businesses where you have the ability to distinguish yourself from competition and really build a very scalable business. Email is the best way to approach me. If you are an entrepreneur in these two verticals, and are looking to build or scale a company in this area, feel free to send me an email We find what happens, is we can often turn the model by thirty or forty degrees to create a billion dollar opportunity. Our global vision is to make this shift, by taking a branded business to different geographies and creating a global player, and creating a billion dollar business.
Ben Kuo: Thanks for the time!