First Of: Christina Teo

She leads the world's first angel investing network for c-suite women.

First Of: Christina Teo

Be in the know. That’s how women can best earn respect, according to Christina Teo. And she’s leading the way by parlaying more than 20 years of corporate experience in the tech sector into she1K.

Launched last November, she1K is the world’s first members-only network for C-suite female executives with an interest in angel investing. How it works: each member contributes a starting fee of US$1,000 ($1,358) annually to a combined investment pool, which she can top up, to fund specific start-ups. While there’s no return on the initial investment, any yield from it will go back to the investor.

Through she1K, Teo hopes to bring together 1,000 women and work with 100 start-ups across the globe, with between 10 and 12 within the first year. Each start-up is evaluated based on criteria like its team, market opportunities and traction.

“For our first project, we syndicated eight members to invest in a homegrown company that designs and manufactures drones for confined space inspection,” she lets on.

Teo, who was the first general manager of Yahoo! Singapore and Southeast Asia in 1999, has held senior and regional roles in leading tech companies such as IBM, Acer, 3Com and CSL Hong Kong. In 2002, she also launched the world’s first Microsoft Windows-based smartphone O2.

After returning in 2016 to care for her aged mother, she discovered the world of start-ups and knew her corporate experience would make her a role model for other women to embrace start-ups. This led her to launch Asia Corporate Women and Startup Asia Women, communities where women could share resources and collaborate in fundraising, mentorship and networking.

“I liken corporate women to buffalos. We work very hard and are very focused on and want to excel in what we do. But investing hasn’t been a priority because of lack of access and/or familiarity,”
says Teo.

“Understanding innovation and disruption complements our corporate roles, but it is often an afterthought. For corporate women to succeed, we must build for ourselves a strong pipeline of viability and wealth. We have seen many women who were displaced and realised they had no other identity than that of a corporate.

“With a diversified investment portfolio of start-ups, whether you continue on the corporate ladder or stay in a temporary transitionary situation, you are in a much better position to steer ahead.”

With she1K, therefore, Teo aims to make investing more attractive to women by setting out a structure and a programme.

She explains: “It allows everyone to get involved sufficiently and learn more about angel investing and about start-ups and business models.”

She scouts and rounds up start-ups so members can avoid the hassle of having to find out more about each start-up. From a list of 10, she filters it down to two based on best investment potential. Members can decide how much they want to invest, with as low an entry as US$10,000 ($13,580).

To push for more diversity on boards, she encourages members to take a seat on the board of start-ups that have been selected.

The other objective is to leverage the experience and connections of corporate women to help start-ups scale regionally and globally.

“We want to offer more than funding. To succeed, a start-up needs more connections to business opportunities,” says Teo.

“If a start-up originated in Singapore and seeks to expand to another market, for instance, it can look forward to support from a she1K member in that market.”

For more on trailblazing leaders, read our series on alphas here.

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