Chinese VC taps Eaton’s former APAC head as it raises dedicated tech fund

Chris Lerner joined MSA Capital in October after nearly a decade at Eaton Partners, where he led the origination and execution of fundraises, secondaries and strategic advisory.

MSA Capital, a Chinese venture capital firm, has appointed the former head of Asia-Pacific for Eaton Partners while in market with a new fund strategy, affiliate publication Private Equity International understands.

The Beijing-based firm is raising its debut Emerging Technology Markets Fund, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. MSA launched the fund last year and held a first close at the end of 2020, the sources said.

ETMF is seeking $150 million to lead early-stage investments from pre-Series A to B rounds in the Middle East, North Africa and certain countries in South-East Asia, one of the sources said. The fund has a $200 million hard-cap and is expected to hold its final close this year, the source added.

MSA is also expected to launch its third Chinese VC flagship later this year, both sources noted. It raised $250 million for the 2018-vintage MSA China Fund II, according to PEI data.

MSA declined to comment on fundraising.

The firm hired Chris Lerner, who had been a Shanghai-based partner at placement agent Eaton, in October, according to his LinkedIn profile. He left in August after nearly a decade at Eaton, where he led the origination and execution of fundraises, secondaries and strategic advisory, as first reported by sister title PEI.

MSA was launched in 2014 by Jenny Zeng, a former founder and chair at Chinese financial advisory Maple Valley Investment, according to her LinkedIn profile. The firm has over $1.5 billion of assets under management from sovereign wealth funds, pensions, endowments, funds of funds and family offices, as well as Chinese entrepreneurs.

Its portfolio includes Uber, Chinese automobile manufacturer Nio, shopping platform Meituan and healthcare data provider Yidu Cloud, which reportedly raised more than $500 million in a Hong Kong IPO this month.

Lerner is the latest in a string of placement agents to resurface at an Asian GP. Conrad Yan, the former vice-chairman of Campbell Lutyens in Asia, left in September after almost a decade to join Albamen Capital Partners, a Chinese renewable energy and infrastructure firm. Dennis Kwan, a managing director in MVision Private Equity Advisors’ Hong Kong office, left in the first half of last year to launch a USD platform at Beijing-headquartered Harvest Investment Management.