Tech

Venture fund 500 Startups says there are four new 'tigers' for mobile payments

Key Points
  • Venture fund 500 Startups is looking toward other frontiers of innovation as the current crop of tech unicorns are publicly listed, according to Edith Yeung, a partner and head of China at the firm.
  • In particular, Yeung said the company was looking at companies in the blockchain and artificial intelligence sectors that "truly add value."
  • On the subject of mobile payments, Yeung said four cities will likely to be the next frontier of innovation.
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As the current crop of tech unicorns — or start-ups valued at more than $1 billion — go public, venture fund 500 Startups is looking toward new frontiers for the next wave of innovation.

"I think it is a really exciting time being in Silicon Valley and at the same time for us, as an early stage investor, it's great to see," Edith Yeung, partner and head of China at 500 Startups, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday.

"You literally have to wait at least 10 years to get to this point that you finally have ... some sort of exit, but it's really a sign for us that we need to get back to work and discover the next wave," she said.

Yeung said her company, an early investor in Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab, is looking at investments that "truly add value."

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"I love blockchain and AI ideas and (it's) just so fun ... to work on as a technology project, but at the same time I don't want to invest in a company just because a founder know(s) how to speak geeks or blockchain," Yeung said. "It really should be about companies that truly add value and, you know, understand the pain point to do something good for the society and the world."

Importance of mobile payments

Mobile payments will be the "backbone" for the future of services such as e-commerce, gaming, or ride sharing, according to Yeung.

"I think mobile payment is the core infrastructure," she said.

Yeung said there were four cities to watch out for in the field of mobile payments.

Those places are:

  • Jakarta, Indonesia: Headquarters of Southeast Asian ride-hailing company Gojek
  • Singapore: Headquarters of Grab
  • Shenzhen, China and Hong Kong: Headquarters of Tencent's WeChat Pay
  • Hangzhou, China: Headquarters of Alibaba's Alipay

"I think these four cities are sort of the ... new four tigers," Yeung said, using the analogy of the "four Asian tigers" of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan — economies that saw rapid growth during the mid-20th century.

To illustrate her point, Yeung cited the examples of Chinese mobile payment apps such as WeChat Pay and Alipay utilizing technology to drive changes in the financial sector.

"UnionPay and all these, Bank of China has been around for a long time but WeChat Pay and Alipay didn't come from any of these banks, so I think that all these finance-related innovation is happening like, right beneath all these banks," Yeung said.