Eminence Ventures Partner Laven Luo: Perseverance in One Field is Essential to Survive Industry Shake-ups

Luo showed strong determination and strategic thinking even as a junior investment manager. This encounter paved the way for Eminence Ventures to become one of the investors in Duckbill's Round A funding. Luo's clear goals and relentless drive to challenge himself are fundamental aspects of his character.

AsianFin--Laven Luo, the youngest partner at Eminence Ventures and a member of a Chinese generation born after 1985, is an emerging yet powerful figure in the investment world. His career path is a testament to the importance of focus and persistence in the volatile venture capital (VC) industry. From his early career transition to a key player at Eminence Ventures, Luo's story offers valuable insights into the nuances of successful investment strategies.

In the sweltering summer of 2018, Luo traveled over 40 kilometers from Shanghai's Minhang District to Baoyang Wharf to meet Tang Hongbin, the founder of Shanghai Duckbill Technology. Although the appointment time had passed, Tang reluctantly agreed to meet Luo, recognizing the potential value of engaging with an investor. Luo's insightful observations about the logistics industry and Eminence Ventures' commitment to the sector won Tang over, leading to a crucial meeting with Eminence Ventures' founding partner, Peter Zheng.

Luo showed strong determination and strategic thinking even as a junior investment manager. This encounter paved the way for Eminence Ventures to become one of the investors in Duckbill's Round A funding. Luo's clear goals and relentless drive to challenge himself are fundamental aspects of his character.

After graduating with a master's degree from Beihang University in 2014, Luo joined Shanghai Electric Group as a structural design engineer. However, his true aspiration lay in the entrepreneurial and investment sectors. A year and a half later, he left his engineering job.

Luo reflected on what constitutes a good job, identifying three key criteria: challenges that unlock personal potential, reasonable financial rewards, and high growth potential. Venture capital was the only field that met all these criteria for him. In 2015, he seized an opportunity to enter the VC world, working as an investment assistant to Yuan Yue, the then chairman of Horizon Research Consultancy Group and CEO of Pegasus Brigade.

Two years into his investment career, Luo faced another pivotal choice. He realized that most funds diversified across various fields but lacked depth in any single domain. To avoid being swept away during industry downturns, he sought to immerse himself in one specialized area.

The evolution of China's VC industry significantly influenced Luo's choices. Prior to 2010, the industry was in its infancy, with notable successes like Sina, NetEase, and Sohu. The period from 2010 to 2014 marked the golden era of VC driven by the e-commerce boom. By 2015, the landscape had become fiercely competitive, with early-stage advantages waning.

Recognizing the need for delving deeper into a specialized area, Luo joined Eminence Ventures in early 2018. Over the next six years, he climbed the ranks to become a partner and the youngest member of Eminence Ventures' investment decision-making committee. His focus areas included industry digitization, fintech, global expansion, and life sciences, with continuously refined and targeted investment strategies.

Luo's investment philosophy emphasizes solid research and industry expertise. His persistent efforts paid off, as seen in successful investments like Duckbill, ONERWAY Payment, Naturobot, and 40Seas. Luo's approach blends broad industry knowledge with specific project insights.

Luo's investment process involves continuous learning and adaptation. He maintains a rigorous schedule, dedicating weekdays to meetings and project evaluations, while weekends are reserved for in-depth industry analysis and macroeconomic research. This disciplined approach has been crucial to his success.

Luo's professionalism and patience are key components of his investment strategy. He believes that VC investments should be based on a deep understanding of the industry and a long-term perspective. For him, professional and patient investment strategies are vital for identifying and nurturing successful projects.

Although enterprise service is not a hot sector, Luo sees significant opportunities. He notes changes in the entrepreneurial landscape, with a new generation of AI-driven entrepreneurs and experienced industry veterans entering the field. The talent pool has also evolved, with Chinese engineers making remarkable strides in AI, narrowing the gap with international competitors.

Luo observes a shift in the mindset of both entrepreneurs and investors. Today's entrepreneurs are more pragmatic, focusing on sustainable growth rather than just securing large investments. Similarly, investors are now more cautious and balanced in their approach, prioritizing cash flow and long-term viability.

"In 2021, whenever we heard about an entrepreneur from Alibaba with a P8 level, we would rush to meet them day or night. If it was a P9 level entrepreneur, we'd fight to get a share. Nowadays, even when encountering entrepreneurs who are VPs at JD.com, P10 level at Alibaba, or top executives from ByteDance, investment institutions are more composed and will thoroughly evaluate both the people and the projects before approaching them," Luo said jokingly.

In Luo's view, investing is always a challenging endeavor. No one can rest on their past laurels. Investors must continually face new changes, learn from past mistakes, constantly break the ingrained beliefs formed by past successes, and continually update themselves. This is an essential quality for investors.

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