Asian venture capitalists agree their industry is coming into its own but disagree about hopes for the fledgling now emerging from under Silicon Valley's wing. Hundreds of venture capitalists from both sides of the Pacific gathered in California last month for a conference organised by the Asian Venture Capital Journal, where they heard the sum of venture capital raised by regional firms had jumped nearly 60 per cent in the past four years. Hsu Ta-lin, the chairman of H&Q Asia Pacific, a United States-based firm that invests primarily in Asia, cited the Li family's financial wizardry as the emerging paradigm for Asian venture-capital deals. He pointed approvingly to Richard Li Tzar-kai's backdoor listing of Pacific Century CyberWorks in April last year and Li Ka-shing's gutsy initial public offering of a barely skeletal Tom.com in March. Mr Hsu was quite serious about the lessons to be learned. So serious, in fact, that in February he indulged in the sincerest form of flattery, imitating the younger Mr Li with a backdoor listing of his own. Mr Hsu's H&Q Asia Pacific teamed with another US-based venture-capital firm JH Whitney to buy Hong Kong-listed sanitary fixtures distributor Acme Landis Holdings and transform it into i100, a holding company for Internet investments. Tapping public capital is less cumbersome and cheaper than the traditional system of setting up a venture-capital fund and going to institutional investors, who commit their money for a limited term and expect a particular return. Asian venture capitalists had leap-frogged ahead of the game, Mr Hsu suggested. Gone are the days in the mid-to-late 1980s when start-up financiers in this region were little more than poor knock-offs of their Californian counterparts. 'We didn't know better so we tried to duplicate the general practice in the US . . . It really didn't work because, as we now know, you succeed when you fund innovation, and in Asia we really didn't have innovation,' Mr Hsu said. Today's cutting-edge Asian venture capitalist gets his money on the cheap by raising it from the public through a listed company. The Lis have demonstrated it is possible to take entire investment portfolios public. 'There's a whole new era for venture capital in Asia,' Mr Hsu said. However, Venture TDF's Singapore-based managing director Thomas Ng Kelon begged to differ, saying the crowds that lined up for shares in the Tom.com initial public offering 'don't know what they're buying - they're just buying'.