A $170m Exit, A Renowned VC and A High-Growth Startup over Kopi. They Answer What’s The Next Big Thing?

The Next Big Thing can often be broadly classified into various groups of rumours, hype-cycles and word-of-mouth, but when three experienced and seasoned individuals get together for an afternoon over coffee and a room full of eager budding entrepreneurs. You probably should listen.

In front of us was Aaron Patzer, founder CEO of mint.com, a personal finance startup which he sold to Intuit for $170 million, now working on his third startup in the field of healthcare AI. Together with Paul Bragiel, the founding partner of Golden Gate Ventures of whom is now a renowned VC with various funds worldwide. And lastly was Gary Liu, current CEO of Digg, a news aggregator site that raised $49 million and serving millions worldwide.

When asked a question by the moderator, Prof Wong Poh Kam, also a seasoned eco-system builder in this region, they all paused before putting some serious thought into what could be the next big thing in startups, technology and our lives in general.

Aaron Patzer – CEO Mint, Fountain, ER AI

Aaron Patzer: AI and NLP

Of the three, being the most pragmatic and engineering trained panelist, he came from a technical angle. “Artificial intelligence” and “Natural Language Processing” was something that he has already been working on since his days at mint.com to understand transaction data, and subsequently at Fountain.com, a P2P advisory site to understand messages between people and now to his new area of interest in Healthcare. He feels that broadly speaking with AI, there are many use cases and applications which could potentially be dramatically influencing the way people live their lives today.

Interestingly, when asked about Fintech, he was not too keen on the idea and strongly believes that it is already happening with banks feeling the heat of being removed by smaller, more nimble players with no legacy systems to deal with. He ultimately feels that at the end of the day in Fintech, partnerships between both incumbents and startups can be very critical for success as whole for end consumers.

Gary Liu – Digg CEO

Gary Liu: Messaging as the next runtime

He broadly declared that looking at the global tech scene now, he echoes the consensus that many startups and companies in the US are at least 2 years behind Japan and China with LINE and WeChat respectively with regards to serving customer needs in a one-stop shop. Bringing in references to reports that native mobile app downloads have been dropping severely over the years, users are only using up to 5 apps everyday, down from a previous 10-11 apps in the earlier days of mobile. And largely, more than 33% of that time are spent on messaging apps. Users don’t want to open up a variety of apps, with different interfaces and designs to re-learn and interact with.

He further added that in today’s day, its all about reducing information overload, followed by careful curation and making them relevant to end users, which is also the direction that Digg has been headed towards.

P.S oh yes on a side note, he did feel strongly on entrepreneurs who should not focus on practicality, like an old asian mindset, where our parents generation basically are always aiming to optimise for our safety rather than successes.

Paul Bragiel – Founding Partner GGV

Paul Bragiel: VR and AR for everyone

The most candid of the lot, Paul was particularly excited of the potential of living in a virtual world and with a whole interface not limited to just a small screen. From the time when he was a game developer and creator with his first startup Paragon Five, he has always dreamt of a world where humans could interact with objects they see in a virtual space. This was also why he personally went on to become the managing partner at Presence capital as well. He feels that one of the biggest way things could seep into the mainstream market was if the interface could be simplified overtime.

And interestingly to him, the best founders are the ones who are living in the grey area, where its not totally illegal but its been challenging to work on where the rules are not clearly defined. And thereafter getting things created when there’s a hole in the market to wedge yourself in and position from the ground up.

Final thoughts:

A rising tide lifts all boats

At the end of the day, its clear that this quote holds true for all instances these experienced men have seen in the past, present and potentially future. However, its really up to the entrepreneurs to execute on the ideas as fast as possible before any other company and learn as they go along.

Seedly Kopi Chat session

Read the markets and interpret it based on what you really love doing and find that niche you can begin with, then execute like there’s no tomorrow.

Kenneth, from Seedly

This event was organised by NUS Enterprise Kopi Chat, yes literally Kopi (Coffee), where in Singapore we don’t often have firesides, therefore the amazing ETP team often invites top speakers to chat over exciting stuff over a cup of freshly-brewed coffee! Look out for the upcoming chats here. Cheers!

Seedly is an everyday personal finance assistant that aggregates your financial data across up to 6 local bank and card accounts and gives you a complete personal financial picture. We currently serve over 6,000 users and growing in Singapore and are supported by NUS Enterprise, TOP 9 DBS HOTSPOT startup and East Ventures. We aim to become the #1 personal finance management app in Singapore and the region.

Seedly Question and answer