The Top 10: #8 Chibo Tang, partner, Gobi Partners China

Chibo Tang is a Hong Kong-based partner at China-headquartered venture capital firm Gobi Partners, which manages the Alibaba’s $129m Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund (EF), a sole-limited partner (LP) fund backed by China-based e-commerce company Alibaba.

Gobi Partners founding partner Thomas Tsao said: “Chibo has been investing in early-stage technology companies with Gobi Partners for about a decade now.

“[He has completed] investments in 25 [Hong Kong-based] companies, and garnering substantial recognition for Alibaba EF – which we manage – and Gobi Partners.

“Going forward, I continue to expect great things from Chibo as he spearheads our expansion into the Greater Bay Area. Chibo’s vision and drive will lead us into the next decade.”

Tang joined Gobi in mid-2009, having spent the first eight years in the Chinese city of Shanghai and relocated to Hong Kong in 2017 to help set up its local operations. Gobi is the general partner for Alibaba’s EF and invests specifically in local Hong Kong entrepreneurs and startups on the corporate’s behalf.

Although Gobi is an independent fund manager, the firm has a long history of working with corporate investors, including Alibaba, consumer goods manufacturer Unilever, consumer electronics firm Sony, industrial technology and appliance producer Robert Bosch, computing technology provider IBM and network equipment maker Cisco, which are all LPs in its own traditional VC funds.

Alibaba EF has a different structure which is more similar to that of an in-house CVC. The fund is branded Alibaba and its portfolio companies have access to Alibaba’s ecosystem. Therefore, Gobi as the investment manager can leverage some advantages, including branding and strategic synergies, according to Tang, who said: “As an investor competing for the best deals, I am grateful to have access to these resources.”

Tang said he has made 25 investments to date on behalf of Alibaba EF, including in two of the nine Hong Kong-bred unicorns – peer-to-peer lending marketplace Welab and delivery services provider Gogovan – having also invested in a third Hong Kong-born unicorn – cross-border payment technology provider Airwallex – but through Gobi’s fund.

Tang added: “Other local champions that we have invested in include [online recipe video platform] DayDayCook, [pharmacogenomic testing kit developer] Prenetics, [autonomous vehicle developer] AutoX and [virtual reality technology developer] Sandbox VR.”

Perhaps thanks to these investments, Tang was recognised as ‘Venture Capitalist of the Year in 2017’ by Silicon Dragon and is regularly invited to speak to media and at events organised by Forbes, Bloomberg, The Economist, South China Morning Post, InvestHK, Hong Kong Fintech Week, Jumpstarter HK among others.

Tang believes CVCs should aim to work together with financial investors to strengthen the overall ecosystem – all with the goal to help promising startups reach their full potential and, in turn, innovate to move society forward. He said: “Both CVCs and financial investors have strengths and weaknesses; they should be flexible in finding ways to leverage each other’s strengths to create unique value propositions within the capital markets.”

Tang studied applied mathematics and economics at Harvard College and started his career in management consulting at innovation consulting firm Monitor Group. He served on the board of Shanghai’s Harvard Club for over six years before moving to Hong Kong in 2017.