The top 25: Annabelle Long, Founding and Managing Partner, Bertelsmann Asia Investments

Annabelle (Yu) Long is the founding and managing partner for Bertelsmann Asia Investments (BAI), the China-based corporate venturing arm for Germany-headquartered media group Bertelsmann.

Bertelsmann chairman and chief executive Thomas Rabe said: “Investments in young digital companies with innovative business models play an important role in the implementation of our strategy. Through these investments, we ensure the transfer of knowledge both about digital trends that support our transformation and about promising markets. Our investment fund BAI, in particular, is very successful.”

Bertelsmann is one of the world’s oldest and largest media, services and education groups with more than 126,000 employees and €18bn ($19.5bn) in revenue in the 2019 financial year. In the fiscal year of 2019, Bertelsmann, which traces its book publishing back more than 185 years, achieved  a new historic high operating Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) of €2.9bn. Bertelsmann’s digital businesses contributed more than 50% of group revenues for the first time.

Bertelsmann Investments has four funds – Bertelsmann Asia Investments (BAI), Bertelsmann Brazil Investments (BBI), Bertelsmann India Investments (BII) and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI) – through which the group has around 230 shareholdings around the world.

And while there might be four growth regions, there is clearly one that is dominant – China. With more than 160 investments over the past decade since Long founded BAI in 2008, the group now manages more than $3bn.

Long has led the team to achieve more than 10 IPOs (initial public offerings) and over 20 unicorns (companies valued at $1bn or more) in the past 10 years, including New York-listed BitAuto, Ifeng.com and Mogu Street, Nasdaq-listed iClick, Lexin Group, Secoo and Tuanche.com, Hong Kong-listed Yixin Group, Shanghai-listed UCloud, among others. Her portfolio also includes Bigo, Linklogis, Mobike, NetEase Cloud Music, YJP,  DingDong Fesh, Tantan and Keep.

Long is CEO of the Bertelsmann China corporate centre and on the company’s GMC (group management committee), which advises the executive board on corporate strategy and development. She was presented the group-level Bertelsmann Entrepreneur Award and Bertelsmann Financial Performance Award for her outstanding contribution.

Long said in 2018: “BAI is one of the best-known and most successful funds in the Chinese investment scene at this point. We continue to put into practice what we set out to do 10 years ago. And we are pleased that, with such a small team, we are able to make a sizeable contribution to a global media corporation like Bertelsmann.

“There is probably no other company at Bertelsmann that generates such a high profit per capita as the nine-member BAI team – and we are proud of that, of course. Every year we have the same expectation and aspiration: to be better than the year before. So far, we have always managed that – and I am very confident that this will continue to be the case since we invest in growth regions and growth sectors. We are surfing a very positive, sustained trend, so it is not an unrealistic expectation.”

BAI’s success did not happen overnight but with time and perseverance. BAI made its first investment in China-based online education platform operator China Distance Education Holdings in April 2008, having most recently co-led a financing round for Mexico-based digital bank Stori in February 2020.

But while Long has made a success of BAI, the groundwork for her success was laid beforehand. After her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BSEE from the University of Electronic Science and Technology in China, Long joined Bertelsmann in New York in 2005 and worked as a principal at Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments before founding BAI.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF