Jeffrey Li, managing partner at Tencent Investment, is one of the 100 leading corporate venturing professionals in our 2024 Powerlist.

Jeffrey Li

Jeffrey Li is a veteran of several technology companies, including internet company Google, telecommunications firm Nokia and Bertelsmann Asia Investments, the corporate venturing arm of media group Bertelsmann now known as BAI Capital.

But it was after joining Tencent in 2011 that he really made his mark, turning the Chinese internet company into one of the world’s most active corporate investors. Many household names were part of Tencent’s portfolio, including mobile game developer Supercell, food delivery app Meituan, and video-based social media platform Snap.

Tencent Investments has made more than 1,000 startup investments to date, and has kept up a good pace, even in a difficult investment climate.

“Last year was a tough year for VCs in China and elsewhere,” says Li, “Our investment volume and funding amount decreased compared with previous years.”

However, Li says Tencent still made between 60 and 70 transactions, encompassing minority investments and mergers and acquisitions, half of which in its home country.

As general manager of Tencent M&A, Li is also in charge of strategic acquisitions. Last year, Tencent acquired Polish game developer Techland for an estimated $800m. Techland is a Polish video game developer and publisher known for producing games such as Call of Juarez and Bound in Blood, as well as Dead Island and Dying Light.

Currently, Tencent Investment has about 100 team members, including 60 investment professionals and 40 operations team members.

In addition to investing directly off the balance sheet through the corporate VC subsidiary, Li is also a managing partner at Tencent Plus Partners, which is an independent fund with Tencent as the general partner.

“We are confident about China’s long-term investment landscape, driven not only by the consumer space, but also by innovative technologies”

Last year, Tencent Investment continued to focus on investment efforts in China, despite a slower deal-making pace and deteriorated investment environment.

The unit has sector-focused teams for consumer, software-as-a-service platforms, gaming and content, financial technology and life sciences technology.

Its healthcare and biotech portfolio companies include Sinovent and Sonosemi Medical in China, as well as Sanegene Bio and Forward in the US. Sangene Bio is an RNAi-based company, covering a broad range of therapeutic areas, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, immunology-related diseases and nervous system diseases.

The global fintech team, meanwhile, achieved a sizeable exit when Brazilian digital bank Nonbank went public on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2021.

“We are also looking at new areas strategic to mobile internet,” says Li. “Whether the companies can create positive social impact is also important for us.”

Drug discovery and biotechnology, especially in China, have become a new focus for the team over the past few years. In terms of strategic bets, as Tencent’s core internet and gaming businesses continue to grow, the firm provides funding or acquires global gaming companies.

Outside China, Tencent made investments in markets from Europe to New Zealand. In March 2024, it backed Indian audio entertainment platform Pocket FM and UK digital bank marketplace Monzo.

Like many other investors, Li sees a growing opportunity for AI investments.

“AI is not only promising for Tencent, but it is also promising in content and technology as a whole. We are confident about China’s long-term investment landscape, driven not only by the consumer space but also by innovative technologies.”

While the US is leading the large language model (LLM)-based AI technology, Li believes there are opportunities across sectors including gaming development and e-commerce delivery services.

“We are also looking at different applications for AI, which could potentially include gaming, biotech, productivity and creativity.”

Li has a bachelor’s degree from Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Management.

Powerlist cover

The Global Corporate Venturing Powerlist represents the 100
individuals spearheading the future of the corporate venturing industry.

These individuals excel in terms of their venturing approach and structure, number and quality of portfolio companies and in their contributions to the corporate venturing profession.

See the full 2024 Powerlist here.