Adrian Li - Entrepreneur, Venture Capitalist
"Hard work, resilience and grit, growth mindsets, confidence and a love of learning"
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I’m an entrepreneur and venture capital investor with a passion for empowering people with opportunity and the pursuit of the long term goal.
I studied Economics at Cambridge University and started my career in Investment Banking with JPMorgan’s Financial Institutions Group Corporate Finance team. However, my passion was in technology and entrepreneurship so pursued an MBA at Stanford GSB after 3 years in banking. After graduating GSB in 2006 I started my first technology business which was an online education platform providing scalable one on one English training to students in China ultimately selling the business in 2010 to a US education company.
I moved to Indonesia in 2012 and was married to Vanessa (who is from Surabaya and also an entrepreneur) that same year. We had our first child in 2013 and our second in 2015. I started a venture fund called Convergence Ventures in 2014 with a mission to empower a future generation of entrepreneurs with the experience, network and capital of our collective platform. In 2019 I merged Convergence Ventures with my Stanford classmate Pandu Sjahrir’s firm Agaeti Ventures to form AC Ventures.
Presently I am Founder and Managing Partner for AC Ventures, an early stage Indonesia focused venture fund managing over US$250M in AUM across several funds. Our broader portfolio includes over 100 technology enabled businesses in Indonesia and South East Asia invested in since 2015.
Outside of my professional life I enjoy endurance sports and have completed a full Ironman triathlon and several half distance Ironman races and currently ranked in the top 10% of my age group. Together with Vanessa we also work on strategies to be the best parents and coaches for our two sons, Aaron and Austin.
How old are your kid(s)?
Aaron is 8 and Austin is 6 and a half.
Who is the primary caregiver in the household, and what are you and your partner’s do parenting philosophy?
Vanessa is an amazing entrepreneur (Founder and CEO of Gowork, Indonesia’s largest co-working space with over 25 locations and 50,000+ sqm of space) and fantastic mother to our children. She has encouraged and taught me a tremendous amount on parenting and inspired me to become more involved as a father. Initially I approached parenting in a similar way to how my brothers and I were brought up. Our parents were supportive but light touch on bringing us up. Their biggest influence likely came from role modelling, they were both incredibly hard working, demonstrated strong family values and were generous with us. However, learning from Vanessa and more recently in reading into different upbringing styles I have worked on incorporating more pro-active strategies to nurturing our kids.
Overall our philosophy involves encouraging and reinforcing key attributes we would like our children to develop such as hard work, resilience and grit, growth mindsets, confidence and a love of learning. We do this through how we speak to them, activities that we do together and through role modelling in our own behaviours as well. The goal is to develop children who can develop agency, mindset and skills sets needed to excel in whichever walk of life they decide to embrace.
What's your favourite moment in the day with your kid(s)?
Recently we have started journaling with the kids. 30 minutes before bed time each parent sits with one child and works with them on their “Big Life Journal” - a book we bought that helps encourage kids to reflect and develop growth mind sets.
How do you keep yourself sane?
For both of us regular exercise and meditation are ways we help recharge our minds and get some space. Presently we are both training to do a “virtual” half Ironman in the summer. This is a half distance triathlon that involves a 2KM swim, 90KM bike and 21KM run.
Best tech tip on parenting. This can be apps / hardware / gear you use, and how you use them.
We generally aim to minimise screen time but certain games such as Minecraft the kids enjoy and can also cultivate creative skill sets. We use such games as rewards for keeping up with their daily chores and completing their homework or exercise. This way they can have their “game minutes” increased or deducted based on their work and behaviour. In general however we try not to have the kids exceed 3 hours screen time in total per week.
Most helpful advice you've received as a parent.
I’ve often heard people remark at how siblings can turn out so differently despite being raised the “same way” by the “same parents”. I’ve come to realise through some recent reading that the point is that kids, like all people, are individuals with their own unique characteristics and hence depending on a kid’s personality a parent should adapt and change parenting techniques and communication to suit each child.
What lessons do you not want your kid(s) to learn?
We live a comfortable lifestyle compared to many but we do not want our kids to grow up thinking that life is easy or that they can have chores done for them. Increasingly we seek ways to challenge our children every day with both menial and intellectual tasks.
What was the best lesson you learned from your child?
One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learnt from my child has been the value of quality time vs. quantity of time. In the past when I’ve spent time with the kids I have also been distracted with my phone messages, emails or thinking about something else. This all amounted to low quality time with my children in which conversations were shallow and experiences together were monotone. Focusing purposefully on quality time together, listening and engaging with them has brought us much closer together but also helped me realise that I am so much more effective in my profession as well through sequential focus rather than trying to parallel process many things at once.
What is your proudest dad moment?
Recently training them up to ride up a steep hill on a bike on the way to school. We had originally set a target to get up the hill (which we had initially walked) on their fixed gear bikes to 1-2 months. After constant encouragement and the allure of a reward they were able to do it in just 10 days. Now they are cycling up the hill every day on their way to school.
If you could ask anyone, dead or alive, for their best parenting tip, who and what would that be?
I’m a fan of both Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” and Angela Duckworth’s “Grit” books. If I could ask them for their parenting advice and how they implement strategies to promote growth mind sets and grit in kids I would find that very valuable.
How do you manage technology exposure for your child/children. For eg, thoughts on screen time etc.
Screen time is always earned and not simply passively given. We have set limits per day and week and minutes are earned or deducted based on behaviour and duties fulfilled.
What hobbies do you and your children share?
We enjoy exercising together; my not so secret desire is that one day our entire family and complete a full Ironman triathlon together.
Finally, your best dad joke!
I’ll skip this one!