“Make sure to keep investing in your own happiness,” says Cheah Sui Ling, Venture partner at Wavemaker and member of the Robb Report Singapore Thought Leaders community
Having been a prolific investment banker with the likes of Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan and BNP Paribas, Cheah Sui Ling brings a unique set of expertise, skills and insights that are highly valuable to Singapore’s burgeoning venture capital industry.
At Wavemaker, an early-stage venture capital firm with a core focus on enterprise, deep tech and sustainability, she’s been able to tap into her extensive banking experience to aid portfolio investments with fundraising and eventual exits, building businesses that have the potential to make a real difference.
One such example is ecoSPIRITS—where she also sits as executive board chair—an innovative company that specialises in circular packaging and a closed-loop distribution system to eliminate packaging waste in the premium spirits supply chain, counting some of the world’s largest spirits companies like Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Remy Cointreau as its clientele.
Tell us about overcoming a career setback.
In 2001, I left my lucrative banking job to join what I then thought was a fast-growing telecom start-up. Little did I imagine, the company went bankrupt less than a year later during the dotcom bust. Still, it turned out to be an invaluable experience because I learned to differentiate between good and bad leadership, and how each could impact a start-up’s trajectory. As I was part of the management team dealing with the fallout, I gained priceless perspective in being a more effective investment banker when I returned to the industry subsequently.
What drives you?
I love learning about new technology and innovative business models that will help transform industries and society for the better. I also love being able to leverage on my banking experience to commercialise and exponentially grow start-ups. Oftentimes, it’s not about having the best technology but the ability to commercialise that makes a start-up successful. As I continue to advise and invest in new companies, I’m primarily choosing to work with companies that have a clear vision and mission.
What start-up are you currently most excited about?
Founded in Singapore, ecoSPIRITS is a market leader in circular packaging hardware and technology in the premium wine and spirits industry, whose goal of ending the use of single-use glass bottles is one that I truly believe in. To quote one of our clients, I like that ecoSPIRITS can help us all have a drink without giving our planet a hangover! My next big aspiration is to make ecoSPIRITS one of the primary packaging solutions for the wine and spirits industry on a global scale.
What’s the key to success?
Make sure to keep investing in your own happiness. It’s only when you’re happy that you can make others feel the same.
Photography by Eugene Lee, Enfinite Studio
Hair & Makeup by Sophia and Victoria, Suburbs Studio