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Thai-born, New York-based Kanin Asvaplungprohm (‘Asva’) is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the newest disruptive forces in the venture capital space.
Having handled $200 million in funds in his career—in which he has traversed the heady worlds of finance and tech from Thailand to California—the Southeast Asian art lover, avid cook, weightlifter and meticulous planner has been making waves since the launch of his venture capital firm, Robust, at the start of 2022.
Asva is one of the few early-stage venture capitalists to singlehandedly launch a fund straddling the diverse cultures of North America and Southeast Asia. Balancing the line between cultures, he fuses Thai sensitivities with Western pragmatism to create a can-do culture that has proven to beat the odds.
For Asva, the key to good disruption is backing other innovators who harbor innovations and technologies that will deliver a force for good in their chosen industries. Keyed into standing out from the competitive VC crowd, Asva is unafraid to strike out on his own and see an innovator through the entire arc from concept to reality.
While venture capital firms have proliferated in the last several years with their ‘spray-and-pray’ approaches, Asva brings a calmer, more novel approach by selecting only the partners he wants to collaborate with. “We de-risk the portfolio and generate alpha by optimizing for quality,” he says. “Everything is done with absolute precision: from the ideation, investment thesis, branding, corporate identity, website and external communications.”
He admits his journey to building a venture capital firm from the ground up has not been without its obstacles, doubters and critics. But Asva employs a laser-like precision in every endeavor he undertakes, big or small.
Coming from a family line of entrepreneurs, Asva’s itch for independence has been prevalent for most of his working life. He decided to leave Thailand’s shores at 18 to pursue a university education in California, before holding positions in Thailand and the United States.
He spearheaded risk management for Marwin Technologies, a provider of meteorological and environmental technology in Thailand, and held positions at Bangkok Bank, Econ One Research and Dynafolio, a small-cap American private equity firm focused on turning around distressed companies. He then became a venture partner at emerging fund Oyster.
“I have been blessed to work intimately with exceptional founders and legendary investors. However, I knew I had the potential to better myself, and I wanted to prove something to the world,” he says.
Rather than lean on his family to kickstart the fund, he capitalized on his experience, knowledge, hard work and self-confidence to validate his business plan.
“My family embraced my idea, but I wanted to strike out on my own, and so I pitched to more than 500 potential investors and around 25 backed me,” he explains. “I’ve been ridiculed many times, laughed out of the room, not taken seriously because of my age and even one fund manager [said] I wouldn’t be up to much on my own. Yet, I did raise the capital and set Robust in motion. Proof enough that believing in yourself is the greatest capital you can invest in.”
He is excited to be among adventurers who want to revolutionize classic industries by solving complex economic, logistical, scientific and engineering problems through transformational technologies, and generating value for investors.
While early-stage investing can be high-risk, it also offers high rewards. Robust stands out as one that employs an intentional, quality-oriented approach where adding tangible value for founders is a fundamental part of the company’s philosophy.
Asva firmly believes that good design defines good business, and Robust has won awards to back that up.
“Because how you do anything is how you do everything,” Asva says. “Design brings all the diverse elements of a business to fit together cohesively. Sometimes good design is invisible—when something is well designed, you don’t notice it’s there.”
Demonstrating that actions speak louder than words, Asva has, through Robust, overseen major investments in two groundbreaking companies: Offsight, a project management software company that boosts productivity in modular construction, and Symbiome, a microbiome-nourishing skincare company with a strong foundation for sustainability.
“Rather than backing today’s hottest new trend, we want to spend time supporting tomorrow’s next big thing and taking it to the next level,” Asva asserts.
With a presence in New York, San Francisco and Bangkok, Robust’s borderless venture capitalism is underpinned by a network of industry veterans, strategic and financial experts and dynamic founders. With decades of experience, they collaborate across markets to ensure steady success for founders and the greatest return for investors.
For Asva, Robust—”built to last just as much as the ideas we invest in”—is still evolving. His next ambition is to create Robust Research, a hub for professionals across diverse industries to empower people through thought leadership, articles, white papers and reports on emerging trends.
“A true entrepreneur is never satisfied. They have to keep moving, motivating themselves and seeking to help better those around them. Stand still, and you’ll soon be overtaken and rapidly become yesterday’s man,” he says. “For me, venture capital is backing new undiscovered frontiers of technology. At Robust, we intend to just keep on rolling forward.”