Kanin Asvaplungprohm (‘Asva’) arrives on the scene of venture capitalism with a glint in his eye and a steely determination to ensure his name will reverberate around the industry for many years to come.
The Bangkok-born and California-educated powerlifter, consummate chef and art lover is plotting a new course for venture capitalism through his 2022-launched firm, Robust, by redefining how it should perform – standing front and center with innovators who want to disrupt their industries.
Asva is already a standout - making a name for himself as one of the few solo venture capitalists who straddles North America and Southeast Asia. Understanding the tricky geopolitical landscape and evolving markets, he provides regulatory advice for firms and startups hoping to branch out into Asian markets.
His innate ability to walk and talk both Southeast Asia and North American cultures has enabled him to adopt a unique perspective on life. But, for him, design in business is what he champions.
Steve Jobs once said design works, not just looks. And Asva pretty much agrees. Shortly after launch, Robust won an award from awwwards.com for its effective branding. He said: "Good design defines a good business because how you do anything is how you do everything. Design brings all the diverse elements to fit together cohesively and work. Sometimes good design is invisible – when something is well designed, you don't notice it's there. That's why the companies Robust invests in have synergy and reflect our thinking."
As a design-forward business, it is not surprising that he appreciates minimalism, which relates to his detailed and meticulous approach. As a fan of minimalist architecture from Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, the less is more mentality applies to Robust's quality-oriented approach to investment. "Minimalism takes a lot more work to achieve, but through effort, you can make things elegant and effective."
Asva arrives with tenacity and resilience, having pulled through challenges that have marked the young man's life from near drowning to leaving behind his comfortable lifestyle in Thailand to fly halfway around the world to master two degrees in Management Science and, later, Finance.
"I faced crushing pressure within my very conservative Thai family. As an impressionable adolescent, every aspect of life was planned out, so it was hard to figure out what I wanted, let alone explore my interests. I was confused and lost for a long time," he said.
Alone and fighting his corner for his path in life, Asva had clarity. He launched headlong into a globe-trotting career that has already included Bangkok, California and now, New York. Along the way, he has handled $200m within the finance and tech spheres.
During that time, he has been proving doubters wrong and then when he raised Robust’s inaugural fund, he had to face the challenge of being mocked. Now he is making those same people eat their words.
"People didn't take me seriously, and I have been laughed out of the room more often than I care to admit." So far, Robust has deployed capital into two 'beacon' companies, including a trailblazer in the life sciences industry.
For several years now, Asva has been a keen crossfitter and powerlifter. "Weightlifting and swim practice have given me consistency, discipline and mental fortitude and contributed to my meticulous approach to life and business."
Robust derives its name from the resilience and unwavering commitment of innovators and companies that withstand challenges to bring their cutting-edge ideas to reality. He added: "Robustness also refers to the strength of a statistical model. Statistics yield good performance when data is drawn from a wide range of probability distributions, and the results are unaffected by outliers or small departures from model assumptions.
"Simply put, a model is robust if the output and forecasts are consistently accurate even if one or more of the input variables or assumptions may have changed. Powering through the burn is akin to driving through an investment for greater betterment. That's why Robust is built to last, whatever happens."
While he is focusing on finding and backing the 'next lightning rods of change', the standout innovators whose solutions are disrupting their industries, Asva, is also looking to broaden his reach with the launch of Robust Research.
As he describes: "Robust Research is an online publication that strives to empower people with knowledge through effective journalism and thought leadership. It will adhere to the highest editorial standards. My thought is always to look up and keep ascending ambitions. By applying that, you can truly appreciate how far you have come."