James Tan: Making The World A Better Place Through  Venture Capital

James Tan: Making The World A Better Place Through Venture Capital

James Tan , Managing Partner

James Tan

Managing Partner

A startup is as good as it’s able to raise funds to solve the problems of humankind. To help such budding companies to grow vertically and horizontally, Quest Ventures, a top venture capital firm co-founded by James Tan, was established in 2011, and since then they have been investing in startups in the fields of artificial intelligence, e-Commerce, and marketplaces, entertainment, finance, food, insurance, and more. Quest Ventures’ multi-dimensional environment, social and governance strategy was the first in Asia for a venture firm and supports a range of social good initiatives across Asia for financial inclusion, gender, healthcare, and education for all.

An alumnus of Tsinghua University, James Tan is also the co-founder and COO of 55tuan, a NASDAQ-listed e-Commerce group. He subsequently co-founded the venture capital firm, Quest Ventures to provide risk capital to budding entrepreneurs across Asia. He is also the chairman of Singapore’s national voice for entrepreneurship known as the Action Community for Entrepreneurship. Additionally, being a board member of the Applied Innovation Institute, he is also involved in Sports Excellence Business where he is helping athletes excel in life after sport transition. James has been invited as a guest lecturer at Asia-focused and private equity events and at various universities worldwide. James Tan engages in an exclusive interaction with the CEO Insights Asia.

Could you tell us about the unique experiences Tsinghua University offers and what did you learn from the campus beyond academics?

Tsinghua University is a beautiful and historically rich campus that offers plenty of visual and metaphorical food for thought as one strolls or cycles through the compounds. Cutting-edge research centres on campus, intense competition across the wide-bodied roads of Beijing in the form of top universities such as Peking University, start-ups in the condominium compound across the streets, and relentless energy of the streets and students all the times of the day are some of the things which I cherish other than the academics. The infusion of history along with the content in various discussions is what I learned at the University which is beyond academics.

Could you tell us about the company’s Sustainable Impact Accelerator? How does it support high potential social enterprises to scale social impact?

The Sustainable Impact Accelerator is the firstof- its-kind partnership between an agency of the government i.e, the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprises and an institutional investment firm to place human-centered sustainable and social development at the top of mind when making investments.

Going forward, what are the changes in market behaviour that you anticipate, and what are the opportunities you foresee?

At the start of 2023 with the worldwide retrenchments of employees at many technology firms, the investment world has turned coldly rational, and in some sectors, downright pessimistic. However, I believe that today’s rationality is temporary. An exuberant state of mind, unbounded by constraints and today’s realities, is important for the growth of individuals as well as the world around them. I anticipate that exuberance will return. New technologies and applications will emerge which will catalyze and be catalyzed by a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Today, people are more likely to be driven by rationality, but this rationality is temporary. Exuberance will return. History repeats

In light of your strong experience within the industry, what advice would you give to budding industry leaders?

Fear of change is the most common reason for people not taking up new opportunities. The first piece of advice I would like to give to budding industry leaders is to embrace change. Change moves our world, it will not stop. Periods of change are when paradigms shift and the old is swept aside by the new, and time for any budding industry leader to lead. The second piece of advice for budding leaders is to be open to challenges to authority. Every major shift in history is a result of a challenge to the existing status quo. Be open minded to challenge and to being challenged.

Managing Partner, Quest Ventures

Having almost two decades of experience in founding and investing in startups, James Tan is a recipient of the Alumni Award from the University of South Australia. He also received a scholarship for his MBA from Tsinghua University in partnership with MIT. In addition to investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs through his venture capital firm Quest Ventures, James Tan also serves several non-profit organizations including the Action Community for Entrepreneurship in Singapore. He is a board member or angel investor in toptier start-ups in Asia such as, Carousell, Carro, Ethis, Glife, and Shopback.


• Hobbies: Photography

• Favorite Cuisine: Singapore food

• Favorite Book: Winning by Jack Welch

• Favorite Travel Destination: San Francisco

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