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Shelly Trang is the Managing Partner of REACH Australia. REACH is an important programme for the real estate sector launched by Second Century Ventures (SCV), a leading technology foundation supported by the National Realtors Association®. SCV is one of the largest technology funds in the world, with a portfolio of more than 100 investments in mortgage, finance, marketing, data and large equipment, including successful examples such as DocuSign ($6 billion + IPO), August (sold by Assa Abloy), HouseCanary ($63 million + Series C) and Updater ($1 billion +).
Previously Shelli was an angel investor active in protectionism with a global portfolio of start-ups in New York, Shanghai and Australia. She was an investment fund manager at Queensland University of Technology (WUT), where she managed a portfolio of 30 seed/a-series investments. Shelley has spent 10 years working on business innovation and has successfully applied new technologies in the banking, medical and transportation sectors.
What kind of training and experience do you have in this field?
Shelly Trang: I have worked for about 10 years as a business innovation expert in the field of business improvement and change management in various sectors, including medicine, banking and education. In the past 15 years I have also bought, developed and sold real estate in Australia and the United States. When I lived in Boston and New York, I started my own digital media publication, which I sold three years later. Then I accidentally started to invest the angel after I took a lot of steps back and gave guidance to accelerators and incubators. After returning to the United States for about 5 years, I helped expand my investment portfolio for a university-funded creative technology program before launching REACH into the Asia-Pacific market.
I currently manage an award-winning accelerator for those seeking to enter the real estate sector in Australia and the Southeast, making extensive use of my expertise and global network of business innovation, venture capital and technology.
In which start-ups/sectors have you invested so far?
Shelly Trang: I have invested mainly in technology companies, from angel investors (first control, preliminary profit) to Series B, including real estate technology, creative technology and impact investments. Only about 50 investments in the last six years.
What is your typical investment range and how many start-ups do you invest in total in a year? Can foreign starters also be supported by you?
Shelly Trang: REACH Australia makes 6 to 8 investments per year and our applications have been pending since 15 January. From October to October 30. November for the opening of the entrance in 2021. More information about the program is available here – https://nar-reach.com/Australia/.
We accept applications for the program from all over the world. Last year we received applications from 12 countries. One of the most important criteria is whether we believe the technology will benefit the real estate sector throughout the Asia Pacific region and whether the company is ready to expand in the region. As an event-driven sales and marketing program, we need to ensure that companies really make the most of these opportunities while learning how the real estate ecosystem works.
In general, we prefer A-series companies, but we would love to hear from you if you have a passion for the market. Even if you are a little early this year, we can give you a personal opinion to help you offer better conditions for years to come.
What mistakes do you think founders make when raising money?
Shelly Trang: Not knowing how many there are and how they want to develop is normal for us, because we focus on growth companies. For an investor, we’re looking for the 10’s, and you should be able to tell that story consistently.
Numbers and communication is sometimes not a strong point for many founders, and our own programme is aimed at helping the founders improve. Venture capital funds for companies have an extra layer in which you also have to show how you support your core business. It is therefore essential to understand your weaknesses and to be able to build a focused business case around them.
What advice do you give to entrepreneurs who have the opportunity to meet investors like you? What are the 3 most important questions you always ask the founders?
Shelly Trang: Even with our sales and marketing program, it’s often about understanding how your products fit the market, how to attract and retain customers, and how sticky your products are. This will give us a good picture of your income needs and let us know whether you are ready to receive our help or not.
What is your general opinion about the global concept and what are the important factors (criteria) that local start-ups should take into account in international expansion?
Shelly Trang: I think the company should think about whether this applies to them. For example, many companies in China, India and the United States do not have to be international to have a $1 billion company.
For Australian and many Southeast Asian companies, demographic constraints mean that they have to think globally from day one. Companies need to ask themselves whether their current region is suitable for the rapid growth of their products, as this may not be the region where they are located. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is very far-sighted when it comes to sustainable development, and we see that many European companies want to be ahead of other markets in order to tackle the problems of our region.
Which start-up or technical industry do you think will influence the world in the future, for example within 2 to 3 years at local level?
Shelly Trang: As I said earlier, I am fairly optimistic about sustainability and clean technologies for the Asia-Pacific region, and the main reason for this is that, according to UN estimates, around 1 billion of the rural population in the Asia-Pacific region will migrate to the cities over the next 30 years. There will be 30% more people in RPA cities, or one in three people who have moved. How can we accommodate everyone, so that the infrastructure can cope and at the same time offer optimal living and working space?
The current pandemic has also uncovered other areas where we believe our role is to take a closer look at the technologies that can support the retail and hospitality sectors. Can we go shopping safely again, spend the night in a hotel or just go back to the office? These are problems that need to be solved.
What are the three most popular books or movies (series) that changed your life and why?
Shelly Trang: Feel the fear and do it anyway, Susan Jeffries. I read this when I was very young, and I think I was a rather conservative child, which helped me understand that many of our fears are rather irrational!
Forrest Gump – Mainly because he’s had about four lives in one lifetime, including that of a soldier, a table tennis champion, a marathon runner and an Apple investor! I thought the film was based on a true story when I was younger, because there’s no doubt that we all grow up with such different adventures and that we can constantly reinvent ourselves.
Our Planet (the Netflix documentation) is a more recent addition. The scenes of sea lions committing suicide from high rocks were quite painful, and it made me think about my way of life and thus contributed to climate change. As a result, I have changed my lifestyle and this has also influenced my views on investing. Of the 6 investments we made in the first year of REACH Australia, 3 were in smart cities and we have 40% of the top companies that are women. I would like to take my responsibility, but it was also a dialogue about what is the highest position in the real estate sector for the ACPA, as partners who together define this vision and need – it’s great to be a part of it!
What do you think?