Founder Spotlight of Xen Capital: Katrina Cokeng
Today, it was announced that Headline Asia lead the round in Xen Capital’s Series A, and we believe that our investment will allow Xen Capital to further develop its services and create value for the individual investors and asset managers in APAC. In honor of this monumental moment, we decided to feature co-founder Katrina Cokeng as the latest subject in our Founder Spotlight series.
Cokeng holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and has over 20 years of global experience in strategy, investment banking and private equity from McKinsey & Company, Merrill Lynch, and Pomona Capital. She shares with us some lessons she’s learned along the way of her storied career and what it’s like to sometimes be the only woman in the boardroom.
About Xen Capital
Headline Asia first met the founders of Xen Capital, Katrina Cokeng and Manish Sansi, in the middle of 2020 through connections to IVS LAUNCHPAD. We were inspired and moved by not only by their complementary skill sets but also by their experience in building and scaling startups (Cokeng co-founded and scaled Oriente, a leading digital finance platform in Southeast Asia, while Sansi founded and is CEO of Algante Technologies, which uses artificial intelligence for both financial and non-financial use cases).
Utilizing their abilities, they founded Xen Capital, a platform for consumers, wealth managers, and external asset managers that allows alternative investment to be more accessible to the public, and they were able to put together a strong team that thrived — even during the downturn of the pandemic. Since its founding in 2009, Xen Capital has successfully closed USD $200 million worth of alternative assets, making sure all the transactions are made safe and secure by using their Compliance KYC/AML Onboarding system, applying Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) guidelines, as well as integrating the latest encryption algorithms to protect the data and privacy of their customers.
(Photo courtesy from Xen Capital)
Being a second-time founder, what are the top three pieces of advice you would give to entrepreneurs?
Finding product-market fit early on is critical before you burn money on marketing spending and building a large team. Since my co-founder and myself are second-time founders, we were able to bootstrap a lot of the initial work and resources required to figure out product-market fit and raise outside money only when we were convinced we had a viable business model.
Trust your gut instinct. No one knows your company or business better than you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it can be very lonely as a founder but you are not alone. Take risks and make mistakes… but be sure to learn from them!”
What’s something you were wrong about when you started Xen Capital?
Find [your] product-market fit quickly. Sometimes founders get caught up in delivering their own vision, but [it’s important to remember] the market may not necessarily share your vision.
Fundraising, especially from the male-dominated VC fund ecosystem, has been a challenge. I remember many meetings where my male co-founder and I would present our pitch, and the male VC fund partners would only address their questions to my co-founder even though it was my pitch and I am the CEO.
On the plus side, this was also a good way to weed out VC funds we wouldn’t want to partner with.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome?
Everyone had a difficult year with COVID-19, but the challenges remain the same. Finding good talent and being able to execute as a team has been as hard as ever. As a second-time founder, I’ve focused on ensuring we find and keep [the] good people.
Having built my career in finance and FinTech over the last 18 years, I did not see many examples of senior female professionals in my industry. So I had to carve out my own path and ultimately create my own company in order to fulfill my vision for how to make the alternative investment industry better.
As a female founder & CEO, it is important to me to mentor and empower younger women to take risks and achieve their dreams.”
What is something people often misunderstand about you?
As a female founder, there is a fundamental misunderstanding that we need extra help or more access. I think the opposite. All we need is to disregard gender. A Founder is a Founder.
What’s something your parents told you that still influences you today?
“It’s better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of an ox.” It’s an old Chinese proverb meaning it’s better to be an entrepreneur in control of your own destiny rather than a small cog in a large corporate wheel.
Complete this sentence: “Few people know this about me, but…
… my favorite form of exercise is Olympic weightlifting.
What’s something you’re trying to learn?
How to be more patient.