Two companies. One: China’s ByteDance, the SoftBank-backed parent to short-form video app TikTok, with an eye-watering $78-billion valuation, is the world’s most valuable startup. Two: $12-billion Singapore-headquartered ride-hailing firm Grab, another SoftBank portfolio company, is Southeast Asia’s first unicorn that is valued over $10 billion—a decacorn. But beyond SoftBank, the two giants also have a common shareholder—the unusual K3 Ventures.

Unusual because this Kuok Meng Xiong-led investment firm is the direct offshoot of a family office—not an investor you’d traditionally expect for companies of ByteDance or Grab’s stature. But not just any family-run office. It’s the one started by Meng Xiong’s 96-year-old Malaysian business magnate grandfather Robert Kuok, who has an estimated net worth of $18.4 billion.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index Bloomberg Billionaires Index Bloomberg Bloomberg Billionaires Index Read more , the senior Kuok is the 53rd richest person in the world. He still is the richest man in Malaysia, although the media-shy tycoon now spends most of his time in Hong Kong.

K3 Ventures, which began its life as an opportunistic investment firm less than a decade ago, now has 38 investments on its portfolio. The junior Kuok, fondly known as MX, cut his teeth in tech investment by being an angel investor in Grab in 2012, when it was called MyTeksi.

You wouldn’t be wrong if you called the Kuoks Crazy Rich Malaysians.

MX, who has never spoken to the media before, agreed to an interview with The Ken. “The people who are running these businesses for the last few decades are loyal, capable but also take a more cautious and conservative stance towards adopting new technologies,” says MX. He’s clearly not old-school himself.

Tech investments like the ones MX has made, be it venture or growth-oriented, have garnered the most interest among wealthy Asian families of late, according to the Global Family Office Report Global Family Office Report UBS Sixth edition of the Global Family Office Report by UBS, produced in partnership with Campden Wealth Research Read more by Swiss bank UBS and data provider Campden Wealth Research. Out of the 86 Asian families surveyed, 66% of them invest in the former, and 77% invest in the latter. UBS also estimated that there are between 100 and 120 between 100 and 120 The Straits Times Ultra-rich family offices’ investment returns hit by global uncertainties: Survey Read more formalised family offices in Singapore alone, which have an average of $467 million in assets under management as compared to Asia’s average of $600 million.


Ka Kay Lum

Based in Kuala Lumpur, Ka Kay covers investment activities, aka following the money, across Southeast Asia and in-depth stories on the often-overlooked Malaysian startup ecosystem. She was previously a regional writer for Nikkei-owned DealStreetAsia.

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