Karen Chan, Perennial Private Investments

Karen Chan is a Portfolio Manager with Perennial Private Investments (PPI). Perennial Private Investments is a leading provider of growth stage capital to private and pre-IPO companies with c.$750m funds under management who also cornerstone or participate in IPOs and listed placements. PPI are a crossover investor, attracting companies with their ability to assist on the journey from private to public. PPI is part of the Perennial Partners family of funds, meaning their listed funds can also continue to support companies once they list on the ASX. The fund is sector agnostic in terms of their focus with a strong bias towards technology and tech-enabled business, though avoiding direct property, agriculture or resources company investment. PPI look for later stage companies that have found product market fit so typically Series B and beyond.

The VC Journey

Karen’s impressive career has predominantly journeyed with private companies, starting out in investment banking with JPMorgan covering technology companies that were mainly looking to go public. Karen was a technology investment banker for around a decade with JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong and is incredibly well versed at looking at business models and thinking through the ‘key selling points’ as well as the ‘key risks’ of a business. 

This tenure first exposed Karen to VCs who were looking for their liquidity event through IPOs of their portfolio companies. After a career change as a lawyer at Jurlique, a skincare and cosmetics private company, she returned to Australia with Gresham Partners as an M&A advisor where she worked with smaller and larger ASX100 companies. Karen then joined Investec and became Head of the Emerging Companies division, where she managed balance sheet and third party capital through an early stage fund, predominantly focused on Series A companies. “It was exciting to return to working with private companies and being able to put capital behind our conviction,” she says.

Fulfillment, Challenges and Exciting Investments 

Providing capital to founders/companies, backing their vision, and seeing them hit milestones is some of the most fulfilling components of Karen’s role. “It’s fulfilling to be able to add value through ‘connecting the dots’ for founders, whether through providing investor, customer, talent or director introductions, be a sounding board or provide advice,” she says. “I also appreciate there’s something new to learn each day. I enjoy being exposed to many new ideas and business models and getting the opportunity to meet with so many leading private companies.” 

It’s no secret that there’s never a dull moment in the land of VC. Curveballs being thrown out of nowhere from the portfolio as well as ups and downs in the market rollercoaster provide some of the most challenging experiences for Karen. “COVID was a really trying to time for my portfolio as it was unprecedented but companies emerged stronger and more resilient,” she reflects. Another challenge is ‘how best to influence’ founders or companies. As a minority investor and where founders would typically be the largest shareholder, Karen reflects on the importance of finding a way to cut through with her advice to founders. 

A recent investment Karen is enthusiastic about is Mindset Health, a digital app platform that is based on hypnotherapy research that can target various health conditions. “I’m excited by the intersection of research and the consumer with the ability of patients being able to self manage mental and physical conditions efficaciously without drugs,” she says. “The founders are clear on their focus but also not afraid to ask for help.”  

Sage Advice on Clarity for Pitching Founders

Her advice to founders pitching to VCs for funding? “Have clarity around your equity story and find a balance between the opportunity and also what could go wrong – how you’re mitigating against the risks,” she says. “It’s also important that founders respond quickly to investors. Answer questions and avoid beating around the bush.” 

Supporting Founders and Authenticity in Community 

Looking ahead, Karen’s goals are clear – to continue to support her founders, deploy into PPI’s growth ventures fund and help her portfolios think through exit strategies. As a member [and the Advisory Board] of Innovation Bay’s VC community Aurora, Karen has found a genuinely authentic, educational and fun network with her VC peers through Innovation Bay’s offering of community, connection and education. “Community is important to me as we can amplify knowledge and stay abreast of what is happening in the broader venture ecosystem. I’ve found the community to be both fun and authentic.” 

Connect with Karen Chan.

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