A quarterly newsletter with colorful insights about how people see the world

This article and related video are for information purposes only and are not intended to and do not constitute an offer or commitment, a solicitation of an offer or commitment, or any investment advice or recommendation, to conclude any transaction (whether described in this article or video or otherwise).  This article and video do not constitute offering documents and do not purport to contain all of the information that the recipient may desire.


The inaugural issue of Sky Venture Partners’ quarterly newsletter, Left Field, borrows its name from the American slang term, “Out of left field,” meaning surprising or unconventional.  Left Field aims to shed light on world trends by covering unconventional topics and perspectives.  The focus of this issue is art.  Movies often cover highly emotional topics, but stories of love, hate, crime, family and personal challenge play out differently in every culture, which is truly fascinating.  Digital art and NFTs have garnered a great deal of attention, but where are they going and how do they really compare against traditional fine art?  Another topic in this issue of Left Field is how incumbents are addressing challenges, particularly in the wine and semiconductor sectors.  Finally, we feature a webinar by a USA based fund manager which invests in exceptional medical technology companies.  We welcome your feedback and suggestions on topics you might want us to cover in future issues.

Amazing Movies                               
Bordeaux with Sprite?                    
Scary Reading                                    
Digital Art & Evolution of NFTs       
Staying Ahead of the Device Wave

Amazing Movies

Whether you are a fan of crime, action, romance or science fiction, many of Asia’s movies are filled with surprises – mostly good.  The biggest surprises are the similarities with other regions:  living standards which are depicted (except for poverty-specific films) are often very modern and no less than the quality of life seen in the rest of the world.  Story topics—of crime, social commentary, mystery and rebellion are all familiar but presented in unfamiliar contexts.  The cultural nuances are what make these movies truly interesting.  Scenes of people living in tropical huts or squalor are mostly gone, but the drama of humanity is shared in unique ways.

Our search for the Asian top movies unveiled a list of top films in 2022 which cover a surprising set of topics and genres—suspense, action, crime, romance, drama and comedy.  It comes as no surprise to find that South Korea’s movie industry dominates the rankings.  Faced with a long list of amazing Asian movies, we distilled the rankings down to some of our favorites below.  Most of these films have trailers on YouTube or have already made it onto platforms such as Netflix, HBO, Amazon and others.

AjoommaSingapore & South KoreaThe first-ever co-production between Singapore and South Korea, Ajoomma tells the story of Auntie Lim, a middle-aged Singaporean widow obsessed with K-dramas.  Inspired by her favorite soap operas, Auntie Lim takes a solo trip to South Korea for the first time, embarking upon an unexpected journey of self-discovery.  Part fish-out-of-water comedy and part mid-life crisis drama.
BrokerSouth KoreaFollows a pair of “baby brokers” and a mother hoping to sell her unwanted infant to desperate parents on the Korean black market.  As the trio travel around the country in a rickety van searching for a caring couple willing to adopt the child, their odyssey becomes a nuanced and complex exploration of families.  Infused with warmth and kindness, this dark tale of child trafficking is treated with profound humanism and the gentlest of touches, proffering no judgements on its criminal protagonists.
Decision to LeaveSouth KoreaA homicide detective investigates the death of a mountain climber.  Was it an accident or was he pushed off a cliff by his Chinese wife?  An unrequited romance develops as he spends his days questioning the suspect and his nights obsessively watching her.
Fast and Feel LoveThailandKao has found fame in the bizarre world of competitive cup stacking, but on the eve of a face off against the current world champion, he is dumped by his girlfriend of 10 years.  What emerges is a whip smart, cine-literate romantic drama with a profound and refreshing perspective.
GoliathKazakhstanKazakh filmmaker Adilkhan Yerzhanov exposes the small-town criminal underbelly of his home nation.  Goliath sees a desperate man whose wife is murdered by a local gangster.  He is faced with a life-or-death decision: take a job as his right-hand man, or wage a one-man crusade for justice in a community fueled by corruption.
Hong Kong FamilyHong KongEight years after an apocalyptic bust-up that put an end to a family’s annual winter solstice dinner, a visit from a returning cousin forces everyone to swallow their grievances and attend an impossibly tense gathering.  An honest, unsentimental look at the family ties that hold us together even as they threaten to strangle us.
Leonor Will Never DiePhilippinesLeonor Reyes, a retired action filmmaker who faces financial turmoil and familial grief, works on an unfinished script from years past.  When an accident knocks her into a coma, Leonor is transported into a fantasy constructed from her incomplete flick. Trippy and weird, Leonor is a hilarious and heartfelt head trip brimming with corny melodrama, kickass fight scenes and self-reflective humor. [Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award:  Innovative Spirit at the Sundance Film Festival]
Next SoheeSouth KoreaA police officer investigates the death of the eponymous Sohee, who worked at an internet firm’s high-pressure call center.  She encounters authority figures who refuse to take responsibility for creating a toxic and exploitative environment that drives its employees to the edge.
No BearsIranIn this movie, which is outlawed in Iran, producer Jafar Panahi portrays a fictional version of himself, who inadvertently takes a photograph of a forbidden relationship while hiding in a remote border town. [Awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival]
PhotocopierIndonesiaA crime mystery about a young Muslim student named Sur whose life is ruined after blacking out at a party.  Not only does she suspect that she was “roofied” and date-raped, drunk selfies from the party are uploaded to social media without her knowledge.  When her scholarship is revoked and her parents disown her, the humiliated girl takes matters into her own hands to investigate what really happened that night. [Won 12 Citra Awards at the Indonesia Film Festival]
Plan 75JapanSet in near-future Japan, a government program called Plan 75 encourages senior citizens to be voluntarily euthanized to remedy the country’s rapidly aging population.  Plan 75 is a sensitive portrait of three subjects affected by this new program: a retrenched elderly woman with no prospects, a young salesman who sincerely believes he is helping his country, and a Filipino caretaker working in a nursing home.  [Premiered at Cannes Un Certain Regard]
RRRIndiaStory of Indian freedom fighters, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem who fought against the British Raj.  A movie on a grand scale that only India can achieve. [Nominated for Academy Award]
Writing With FireIndiaThis documentary spotlights the brave reporters of India’s only women-run newspaper, the Khabar Lahariya.  It chronicles the experiences of the paper’s editorial staff, largely comprising India’s oppressed Dalit caste, as they use smartphones, determination and compassion to shed light on scandals, uncover corruption and speak truth to power.  [Won World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award:  Impact for Change at the Sundance Film Festival]
Notes: Commentary, descriptions and film ranking lists from the following sources:
NME (https://www.nme.com/en_asia/features/film-features/nme-best-asian-films-of-the-year-2022-3368840)
Asian Movie Pulse (https://asianmoviepulse.com/2022/12/the-25-best-asian-films-of-2022/3/)
Bangkok Post (https://www.bangkokpost.com/life/arts-and-entertainment/2466599/ranked-the-12-best-asian-films-of-2022-from-rrr-to-decision-to-leave-and-plan-75)
Good News From Southeast Asia (https://seasia.co/2023/01/09/the-10-best-asian-films-of-2022-which-one-is-your-favorite)
Asia One (https://www.asiaone.com/entertainment/10-top-movie-picks-hong-kong-asian-film-festival-2022)

Bordeaux With Sprite?

For decades, China’s wine industry was thought to produce vinegar, and Chinese wine-drinkers were characterized as uncultured wannabes who drank sprite with their Bordeaux.  As producer Sebastian Basco’s beautiful documentary, “Waking the Sleeping Grape,” rather unceremoniously explains at its start, things change.  Today, China has emerged as a major wine player, with new terroirs in its southern, eastern, northern and western provinces.  While such world-renowned winemakers as Chateau Lafite Rothchild, LVMH, Penfolds and Pernod Ricard have established a foothold in China’s wine producing regions, it is the Chinese winemakers who have won international awards for fine wine production in blind taste tests.

Waking the Sleeping Grape asks only one question:  When will Chinese wines be considered among the world’s finest?  As Chinese millennials consume more and more wine, they have become increasingly sophisticated in their tastes, and wine producers throughout the world are engaged in a no-holds-barred competition for their palates.  In the meantime, Chinese entrepreneurs are building modern, innovative operations—from boutique micro-wineries to high-volume, high-tech wineries, even as the largest and most well-respected multinational winemakers race to pour money into Chinese terroir.

Filmed in some of the most beautiful regions in China, the movie reveals the locations of China’s terroirs and the stories behind the brave souls who invested their lives into winemaking.  Filmed in the foothills of the Himalayas in Yunnan, in the shadows of the Helan Mountains in Ningxia, along the foothills of the Great Silk Road in Xinjiang, and in the pastoral hills of the Qiushan Valley in Shandong, the cinematography is simply beautiful.  From Shanghai, to Beijing, to Hong Kong, to London, to Napa Valley, to Bordeaux, to Burgundy, experts from around the world tell a story.  The most compelling stories, however, come from the personal and candid voices of the Chinese winemakers themselves, who continue to chase their dreams and overcome a seemingly endless barrage of challenges as they try to make great wine.

To view the trailer, click here.

Scary Reading?

There are many topics out there that require more in-depth consideration than the snippets we see and hear in the media.  Here are some books that delve deeply into a source of great fear for many—the US-China technology competition.  Thankfully, it is not as openly deadly as the US-Russia nuclear arms race during the Cold War.  In the current technology competition, the market talk focuses on “incumbents” and “challengers.”  One wonders, though, if these terms are being applied too early?  Noah Smith’s article on these three “technology war” books displays a revealing chart from a think tank on the current state of the US-China competition in specific technology areas.  Things are not as they may seem.

Click here to read Noah Smith’s article, “Three More Books About The Technology Wars: The Wires of War, Four Battlegrounds, and The Digital Silk Road.

Digital Art & the Evolution of NFTs

The “World of Art” is often characterized as a phenomenological proxy for our society at large.  Historically, we can point to identifiable and portentous themes within artistic movements which have interpreted and appositely depicted everyday reality. Indeed, some artists use their work to explicitly comment on social issues, while others more implicitly capture the mood and spirit of a particular time and place.

Important modern-day topics of popular artistic investigation today include the urging for action on climate change, intersectional justice, raising awareness of mental health and well-being, consumerism and the circular economy.

The New “Digital Canvas”

In a subtle yet paradigmatic development, we have observed artists’ increasing willingness to adopt technological advances and techniques within their body of work. In effect, technology has become both a ubiquitous feature of our lives, coupled with an integral tool for subliminally and poetically describing the phenomenon itself.

Koo Jeong A (Prerequisites 7, 2019) uses AR to create interactive installations that invite audiences to engage with the work in new ways.

Digital art is a broad term that encompasses a range of art forms, including video art, computer-generated art, and interactive installations. The world of contemporary art has undergone significant changes in recent years due to these new technological advancements.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital content onto the physical world, creating an interactive and immersive experience. Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that creates a simulated environment that can be experienced through a VR headset or other device. In art, AR and VR can be used to enhance traditional works of art or create entirely new art forms.

An installation view of the Rachel Rossin exhibition staged in 2022 at the Kim Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, Latvia. Rossin uses VR to create immersive environments that combine physical and digital elements.
“Self Portrait of the Artist” (c) Laurence Gartel 2017

Another artist making waves in contemporary art is Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.  Roosegaarde’s work focuses on exploring the intersection of technology and human behavior, and his installations often incorporate interactive elements that respond to the movements of viewers. His latest work, “Urban Sun,” is a light installation designed to disinfect public spaces using UV light. This is an emblematic example of how technology can be used to address pressing social and environmental issues.

GROW by Daan Roosegaarde (2021) is a light installation that enhances plant growth

Additionally, the works of artists such as Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Olafur Eliasson, and Pipilotti Rist use digital technologies to create immersive environments that combine sound, light, and motion.  German artist Tobias Gremmler uses motion capture technology to create mesmerizing digital sculptures that explore the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds.

These art movements are constantly evolving. Artists are pushing the boundaries of what is possible regarding creative expression and audience engagement.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

The rise of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) has significantly impacted the art world, specifically when art is more narrowly conceptualized as an asset class used to populate and/or diversify a broader investment portfolio.

NFT – a term now widely in the mainstream lexicon – is a type of cryptocurrency representing ownership of a unique digital asset, such as an image or video. Many artists are starting to use NFTs to sell their work directly to collectors, bypassing traditional art market channels.

While NFTs can potentially revolutionize the art world, there are concerns about their impact on the market. Some critics argue that the hype surrounding NFTs is a bubble that will eventually burst, while others believe that NFTs represent a long-term shift in how art is bought and sold. Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that technology will continue to play an increasingly important role in contemporary art.

Beeple’s EVERYDAY (2021)

Top 3 highest-priced NFTs sold in recent years:

  1. Everyday:  The First 5000 Days by Beeple – In March 2021, this digital artwork sold for US$69 million at a Christie’s auction, making it the most expensive NFT ever sold. It is a collage of images that Beeple had created every day for 13 years, and it was sold as a single JPEG file along with a unique NFT.  The work is a commentary on the evolution of digital art and how it has become an integral part of our daily lives.  The work’s aesthetic is a mix of digital and traditional art, with many images being photorealistic and others being more abstract.  Its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it is the first NFT to be sold by a major auction house and that Beeple is a well-known and highly respected digital artist.  The work also represents a significant milestone in the evolution of digital art and the recognition of this medium as a legitimate form of artistic expression.
  2. CryptoPunk #3100: In May 2021, this work sold for US$7.5 million at a Christie’s auction, making it the second most expensive NFT ever sold. CryptoPunks are a series of 10,000 unique pixelated characters, each with its own distinct features. #3100 is one of nine “alien” CryptoPunks, making it a rare and highly sought-after collectable.  Visually, the work is a nod to the early days of digital art and video game graphics, with its pixelated style and limited color palette.  The popularity of the work can be attributed to the growing interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, as well as the fact that CryptoPunks have become a cultural phenomenon in their own right.
  3. Crossroads by Trevor Jones: In February 2021, this NFT sold for US$6.6 million at a Christie’s auction.  The work was created as a commentary on the Black Lives Matter protests and the conflicting narratives that emerged from them.  The artwork is a video of a street scene depicting a protester throwing a burning trash can.  The video is overlaid, in contrast, with an animated representation of a peaceful protest.  The work’s aesthetic is a mix of live-action video and animation, strikingly contrasting the fiery chaos of the original footage and the calm, idealized version presented in the sequence.  The work’s popularity can be attributed to its relevance and timeliness and the skillful blending of different artistic mediums to create a powerful and thought-provoking commentary on a pressing social issue.

The key drivers for the high value attained by these works at auction include their rarity, uniqueness, and cultural significance. Each virtual item represents a significant moment in the evolution of digital art and the recognition of this medium as a legitimate form of artistic expression. Additionally, the growing interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has created a new market for digital art and NFTs, with collectors and investors willing to pay significant sums for rare and valuable works. Finally, the fact that these works were sold by major auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s has helped to legitimise the NFT market and raise awareness of the potential of digital art.

Nevertheless, tangible paintings still command much higher prices…

The Card Players by Paul Cézanne

Top 3 highest-priced conventional artworks sold in recent years:

  1. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci  (sold in 2017): This masterpiece sold for US$450 million at a Christie’s auction, making it the most expensive painting ever. A portrait of Jesus Christ – and with an authenticity hotly debated by scholars – the buyer was later revealed to be Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  2. Interchange:  By Willem de Kooning this abstract expressionist painting sold for US$300 million in a private sale. The image features bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors and is considered one of de Kooning’s masterpieces.
  3. The Card Players by Paul:  In 2011, this series of five oil paintings sold for US$250 million to the Royal Family of Qatar. The paintings depict French peasants playing cards and are considered some of Cézanne’s most significant works.

Staying Ahead of the Device Wave

Important notice:  This article and the accompanying webinar video are for information purposes only and are not intended to and do not constitute an offer or commitment, a solicitation of an offer or commitment, or any investment advice or recommendation, to conclude any transaction (whether described in this article and video or otherwise).

Team Introduction  0:00:55  | Advisory Board Introduction  0:07:09 & 0:21:19  | SPRIG Strategy  0:16:10  |  Portfolio Construction  0:27:25  |  First Deal:  Conformal Medical  0:34:36  |  Second Investment Opportunity  0:45:35

SPRIG Equity is a fund manager based in Chicago, USA which invests in late-stage medical technology companies.  SPRIG Equity hosted an update webinar at the end of June 2023.  Members of their esteemed advisory board (former Presidents/CEOs of Medtronic, St Jude Medical and Groupon, among others) participated and spoke about their experiences as C-suite executives, medical experts and entrepreneurs in the medical technology sector.  Among the many insights that the team and their advisors shared is the fact that multi-national companies have been—and continue to be—active buyers of strong medical technologies that demonstrate significant improvements in care, since they need new product to push through their existing sales channels.

To learn more about SPRIG Equity, hear about their exciting portfolio companies and to learn about a co-investment opportunity that they have offered to their investors click play on the video window or click here.