To call Koh Soo Boon an early mover in venture capital is a bit of an understatement. When she began her career in 1988, International Business Machines Corp. was the dominant force in technology. Apple Inc., without Steve Jobs, was struggling to develop its first portable computer. Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t started kindergarten.

Koh was tapped by Singapore’s government to manage a company in Silicon Valley, an enterprise that would eventually become Vertex Venture Holdings Ltd., now a global firm with more than US$3 billion ($4 billion) under management. She found mentorship from other early investors like Paul Huang, co-founder of Cadence Design Systems Inc. Her language skills and network to find and back overlooked Taiwanese and Chinese entrepreneurs building cutting-edge technology in the US.

By 1999, she broke out on her own, one of venture capital’s earliest trans-Pacific investors. One of its funds, iGlobe Platinum, had generated a 22.9% return from its 2010 launch as of June 30, better than the 20.2% average for US venture funds launched the same year, according to Cambridge Associates. As of early December, the fund had returned as much as 43%, iGlobe says, buoyed by the broad market rally and a few particularly savvy tech bets.

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