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.

AUTHOR

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.

View Full Profile

Read this story. Subscribe Now

This story is available across both editions. Subscribe to the one that’s most relevant for you. Questions?

Pick an edition

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at support@the-ken.com detailing the error or queries.