Gopher to ramp up US venture investments

The Shanghai-based firm expanded its presence in the US last year with the opening of its third investment office in Menlo Park, California, as it seeks to grow more relationships with Silicon Valley firms.

Gopher Asset Management, the investment arm of China’s largest wealth management platform Noah Holdings, is looking to increase its US venture investments, Noah’s chief investment officer PV Wang told Private Equity International.

“What we are clearly recommending to our high net worth clients in China is more global allocation. And US venture capital is an area we find very promising given all the technological disruption and push for creativity happening in that market,” Wang said in an interview at the HKVCA Asia Private Equity Forum 2017.

The firm embarked on a globalisation push in 2012 with the opening of its first overseas office in Hong Kong. And in July last year, the firm set up an investment office in Menlo Park, California to interact more closely with the US tech firms.

Wang said Gopher has so far committed to three funds and two direct investments in the US. He declined to name the funds.

However, he also noted that Silicon Valley is a competitive place. “If you don’t have a focus, you’re not going to see the best transactions in the ecosystem. This is why we are leveraging off what we have in China and our cross-border connections in the market.”

Meanwhile in China, healthcare focused funds – ranging from therapeutics to diagnostics and healthcare services – remain attractive to investors, in Wang’s view.

He also pointed out that he is seeing more and more “content and culture” funds in the market. Last year for instance, Gopher partnered with Chinese online game developer Perfect World Pictures Co to launch an investment fund targeting RMB 2 billion ($291 million; €274 million) to invest in entertainment and cultural projects.

“China’s long-term growth trends, the drive in creativity and its fast-changing entrepreneurial environment still make a compelling investment opportunity,” Wang said.

Wang, a private equity veteran who moved to Gopher after 17 years at Adams Street Partners, told PEI that the firm started out in China as a fund of funds manager but has now shifted half of its business to co-investments, leveraging on its almost 70 general partner relationships in the country.

Gopher, which manages RMB 114.8 billion of assets as of September 2016, specialises in private equity funds of funds, real estate funds of funds and secondaries investments. Private equity accounts for more than half of what Gopher does according to Wang, with the remaining capital invested in real estate funds, fixed income, hedge funds, and family office businesses.

The firm is already working with the more established names in venture as well as upcoming funds in Silicon Valley. The Chinese arm of the US venture capital firm Sequoia Capital for example is an investor in Gopher; the firm is also involved in Gopher’s products and serves as its co-GP. In October last year, Sequoia Capital China invested another $51.7 million in Gopher to extend its product capabilities both in China and international markets.

Meanwhile Gopher’s parent company, US-listed Noah, manages around $50 billion for its 130,000 high net worth Chinese clients, most of whom are eager to capture a stake in Silicon Valley’s tech companies.