6 Fascinating Facts About Dir. Of Corporate Innovation at 500 Startups

An Interview with a Man You Need to Know — Arnaud Bonzom

At the 2017 Tokyo Slush Technology Conference, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arnaud Bonzom — an extremely accomplished, innovative, and dedicated supporter of women's empowerment and diversity initiatives.

500 Startups, for those who don't know, is an international early stage venture fund and startup accelerator with offices in more than 14 countries, including Japan. Based in Silicon Valley, 500 Startups has over $330M in assets, and has invested in over 1,800 companies since 2010, including:

  • Credit Karma (Valued over $1 Billion USD),
  • Grab (Valued over $1 Billion USD),
  • Twilio (Valued over $1 Billion USD & Listed as TWLO on the NYSE),
  • Wildfire ($350M acquisition by Google),
  • Viki ($200M acquisition by Rakuten), and
  • Makerbot ($403M acquisition by Stratasys).

As the Director of Corporate Innovation, Arnaud focuses primarily on creating more opportunities all over Asia by engaging and advising governments and C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies on their future strategies and how they can partner with startups to grow together. Check out his LinkedIn for more details.

Besides his full-time job, Arnaud is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at INSEAD — one of the most diverse MBA programs in the world with campuses in France, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore. In this role, he provides practical knowledge and strategic advice to MBA students on launching startups.

In his “spare” time, Arnaud also runs side projects to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs with tools such as the Singapore Startup Ecosystem & Entrepreneur Toolbox, Map of the Money 4.0, Asia Funding / M&A Newsletter, and much much more. All of his projects are catalogued on his website.

Overall, Arnaud provides practical tools for entrepreneurs all over the world. And in particular, he targets Southeast Asia, as it is an emerging market.

With the mindset of how can I create something of value that will truly benefit new entrepreneurs, Arnaud develops unique and useful content for the world.

Over the course of ~1.5 hours, I was genuinely inspired to work 10x harder to achieve my own goals, and was fascinated by how hard he works to help others. With everything on his plate, it makes sense that he speaks at a million miles per minute. Like all high-achievers, Arnaud's mind works at the speed of a bullet train (a.k.a Shinkansen). It's no wonder that he is able to accomplish so much each and every day!

I. What Keeps Him Going — World-Class Athletes

So where does he get this drive to continue? Where does he receive inspiration for his undying hustle? From world-class athletes, of course!

One of his favorite athletes is Spanish ultra-marathoner and ski mountaineering athlete, Kílian Jornet Burgada. Not only has he won European Championships, but he has also won multiple World Championships. And ... he never stops!

In the winter, Kílian skis and in the summer, he runs long-distances. Plus, Kílian has participated in some of the world's most difficult races such as the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run or even the Western States Endurance Run.

And one of his most interesting facts, is how he summited a 3,404 M mountain at the age of 5. A hardcore, never give up, and insanely dedicated athlete, Arnaud looks to this man and other athletes for inspiration.

II. Going Above and Beyond — Attended Over 250 Events in His 1st Year in Singapore

When he first arrived in Singapore, he knew absolutely no one. And Arnaud knew he wanted to change that fact immediately. Thus, he decided to attend over 250 events in his first year, sometimes attending 2 or even 3 events per night.

In this way, he was able to rapidly expand his network and increase his knowledge about the technology community in SEA. Plus, he did this all after a hard day's work.

III. Created a 51-Page Report for FREE to Establish Collaborative Relationships

Detailing how the world's largest companies deal with the startup revolution, this free and practical resource is available to anyone who is interested in learning more about the technology industry. By spending hours upon hours of his time creating reports, Arnaud rarely has to seek new partnerships. Instead, people come to him with the goal of establishing a collaborative relationship.

A common idea within the Silicon Valley technology world, is to make everything open-source, transparent, and open to the public. After all, the more information and resources that you share for free, the more value you will be able to provide to your fellow citizens. Although idealized, it is a fundamental tenet of many startups, and a more humanistic approach to conducting a business.

Because of the wealth of free and incredibly useful information on his website, users spend an average of 10 minutes on it. And several articles have reached an average of 20 minutes. Wow, right?

IV. Arnaud's Traveled to More than 50 Countries

When I learned this fact, I was flabbergasted. It's not everyday that you meet someone who is this well traveled. But what's even more impressive, is the fact that he spent every 6 months in a different country, while pursuing his Masters Degree.

So you may be thinking, Wow! I've never heard of a program like this, but it definitely sounds intriguing and worth considering.

Well, at least I did. But this type of course doesn't actually exist. Instead, Arnaud made this happen. After all, almost anything is possible, if you just figure out a way to make all parties say, “Yes!”

Through his unique Master's Degree program, and leveraging business trips effectively with maximizing his time in stopovers, Arnaud can proudly state that he has visited more than 50 countries, and will continue adding new experiences to his pile. In fact, one of his personal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is to visit 3 new countries per year.

V. An Extremely Random Fact — Arnaud is an E-Resident of Estonia

Besides speaking 3 languages (French, Spanish, and English), Arnaud also decided to obtain an e-residency in the country of Estonia!

In an attempt to attract more businesses, Estonia is issuing e-residencies for those who fill out an online application. Interesting, right?

VI. And Arnaud Spoke at 49 Global Events in 2016-2017

In the past year, Arnaud and his co-author (Serguei Netessne) were invited to speak at over 105 global events, and Arnaud spoke at over 49 of these events with 10 more already planned for the rest of the year!

Besides working at his full-time job in Singapore for 500 Startups, working on a few side projects in his spare time, and traveling all over the world to speak at events, Arnaud is a man of action.

With his bullet-speed conversations and insightful tips about the startup ecosystem in SEA, Arnaud is definitely a man that everyone needs to know.


Thank you very much for reading this article!

Follow Arnaud on Twitter and 500 Startups. And sign up for his helpful and free content online: Asia Funding / M&A Newsletter and Get a Job Newsletter.


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