How Kanin Asva Founded A Booming Venture Capital Firm
The Thai-born weightlifter and meticulous investor talks design, conquering doubt and smashing perceptions.
Fusing Silicon Valley savvy with Western street smarts, Thai-born weightlifter Kanin Asva has spent the year been breaking down cultural and business barriers with the launch of his avant-garde venture capital firm, Robust.
Making a splash always draws a big smile from Asva, the Bangkok-born venture capitalist currently making heads turn in the high world of finance. Water is at once Asva’s friend, nemesis and inspiration. This “poles apart but opposites attract” stance is a common theme in Asva’s young life. All are summarized by one word: Robust. In nature, the man and business.
By his actions, Asva is already making a name for himself as one of the few solo venture capitalists that straddles North America and Southeast Asia. Key to his ambitions is enabling good design to find its voice in business.
Shortly after launch, Robust won an award from awwwards.com for its effective branding. He emphasizes, “Good design defines a good business because how you do anything is how you do everything. Design brings all the diverse elements to fit together cohesively and work. Sometimes good design is invisible—when something is well designed, you don’t notice it’s there.”
“It’s more of a way of thinking—yes, the obvious definition is very superficial, but it can be applied to everything. Look at computer coding; you can write lines of code very concisely and elegantly. In law, you can also structure legal contracts in a very elegant and cohesive manner. And so you can construct an investment portfolio according to these principles. That’s why the companies we invest in have synergy and reflect our thinking.”
As a design-forward business, it is not surprising that he appreciates minimalist art, which relates to his detailed approach to everything. As a huge fan of minimalist architecture from Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, the less is more mentality applies to Robust’s high-quality, boutique approach to investment.
He reflects, “The funny thing about minimalism, whether in architecture or design, is that the result looks simple, but it takes a lot more hard work to make it look and feel that way. Only through effort can you make things look elegant, effortless and graceful.”
It is only through sheer tenacity that Asva pulled through the lowest and bleakest moments of his life to face challenges with a wry smile and look fear in the eye.
His ascent to independence began early. At age ten, he drowned in a swimming pool, was brought back to life, admitted to an ICU for two weeks and underwent three months of rehab. He learned then never to give up and overcome challenges, no matter how big the odds.
Fight is a word that comes up in conversation with Asva a lot. Not in a violent sense, but with the grit and resilience needed to prove an unforgiving world wrong. Emerging from hospital, he set about becoming a competitive long-distance backstroke and freestyle swimmer. For good measure, he became a PADI-certified open-water scuba diver.
From an “admittedly comfortable” Thai background, Asva wanted more. So he upped sticks and moved halfway around the world to California at 18 to master two degrees in Management Science and, later, Financial Analysis.
“I faced crushing pressure within a very conservative Thai family. As an impressionable adolescent, every aspect of life was planned out, so it was hard to figure out what I wanted in life, let alone explore my interests. I was confused and lost for a very long time,” he reflects.
Alone and fighting to find his path in life, Asva had clarity. He launched headlong into a globe-trotting career that has already included Bangkok, California and now, New York. Along the way, he has handled $200 million within the finance and tech spheres.
Throughout that time, he has made doubters eat their words and silenced critics simply by doing instead of talking. And then, in early 2022, he founded Robust, despite former colleagues deriding his potential.
“People didn’t take me seriously, and I have been laughed out of the room more often than I care to admit.” But the ultra-confident Asva turned the tables and raised capital for two “beacon”: companies, including a trailblazer in the life sciences industry. “In short, I proved the detractors wrong by being resilient and innovative.”
And it’s through his ascent that he draws parallels with the Kung Fu master Bruce Lee. The martial artist faced doubters throughout his life and was knocked back by Hollywood, but he still beat the challengers by backing himself when others wouldn’t. The bottom line: Lee became one of the biggest martial artists in the film world and nailed his legend forever through his Jeet Kune Do martial art.
“Turning the tables on people, cutting out the noise and living up to your high standards make you tick. And the perfectionist in me pays attention to minute details like this because it’s how you portray yourself to the world,” he adds.
While his focus on business is finding and backing the “lightning rods of change,” the standout innovators whose solutions are disrupting their industries, Asva, is looking to expand further by launching Robust Research.
As he describes, “It intends to be a platform to empower people with knowledge through thought leadership. My own thought is always to look up and keep ascending your ambitions. By applying that, you can truly appreciate how far you have come in life.” For Asva, the journey continues to evolve.