Phil has spent much of his career working with hardware and technology, creating and building products such as the first Android phone, HTC Exodus, and the HTC Vive. He shares his journey and some of his learning through his experience of being an entrepreneur, an exit, and joining then eventually creating his own venture capital.
He gives insight into his basketball team, the New Taipei Kings as well as his energy company Cold Electric. He also shares his perspective on returning to entrepreneurship after working his way up to venture capital.
886: What would you say are your interests at the moment?
Phil: “I spend my week running the New Taipei Kings. It actually started after the success of P. League+. I saw the success and decided to create my own team to compete in the league so I’m the CEO and run the team. I sign the players, coaches and oversee the sales, marketing, and operations team. I knew nothing about how to build or start a team, but it came naturally to me as it was just like running a business/startup. You figure out what is needed, what is standard for contracts and you run with it. I really wanted to do something different with the team, so we are actually the only team in Asia that fully represents the city and don’t have a major corporate sponsor. I don’t think having a corporate sponsor is the right way and I want to build the city/regional pride that makes sports so exciting. I want a team that represents the city and because of that we can do cooler things such as our partnership with Audi and Lululemon.”
“I also spend a lot of time as an executive advisor in a battery company in Taiwan called Cold Electric that provides battery energy storage for homes, and buildings. I’m a Bitcoin fanatic and have my own mining rigs, and when I learned about the energy consumption of Bitcoin I explored cheaper and greener energy which soon got me into batteries. We’re working towards a more efficient and sustainable future utilizing a decentralized power grid. We currently are working with a solar rooftop installer in California to deploy our batteries and want to expand across the US.”
886: In your career you have held various roles in the startup industry, what is your favorite/most enjoyable role and why?
Phil: “It’s changed over the different stages of my life. When I was young I enjoyed being an entrepreneur. When I exited to a larger company, I really enjoyed that too. I went from being a corporate venture to angel seed investor to venture capital, and then to starting my own venture capital. I’ve enjoyed all of it, but the most surprising role that I enjoyed that I didn’t think I would enjoy as much as I did is building the New Taipei Kings. Everything that I’ve built before has been in the tech space, which has naturally been international and global. It’s fun to feel like a global citizen and connected with other countries. But doing a basketball team based in Taiwan is local. Most people outside probably don’t care that much since it only involves Taiwan and is largely local. And I didn’t think I would really enjoy that since I’ve always been globally minded- maybe too much. But I’ve enjoyed it immensely- building something local and seeing how the fans truly care and appreciate what you do for the city. I wouldn’t say it’s the most enjoyable, but definitely the most surprisingly enjoyable role. It’s really how we’ve been engaging with the local community that has been quite different.”
886: Do you have exits that you were a part of which were particularly significant to you in ways more than money?
Phil: “This isn’t necessarily an exit but an event that took my career in a completely different direction. Back in 2014, my family and were living in Hong Kong. This was back when I was working on the Vive, and during this time I was doing demos of the product all around the world and was travelling almost a quarter million miles a year. I remember during this period, I was in Israel in a space that had been given to me by a fund that I had invested in to run demos. The GP of that fund came in and told me ‘there’s a special guest here that wants to try out your VR headset today.’ We were fully packed, but I was still able to give her a demo. It turns out, she ran a venture fund in Hong Kong called Horizons Ventures. Long story short, I ended up working for her and became an investor. But what really was amazing was that their office in Hong Kong was just a five minute walk from where I lived. And that was really, really what I needed at that time since I was travelling a lot and being so close gave me quality time with my family.”
886: What would you say are some of your personal principles that primarily guide your investing?
Phil: “There’s a lot, but the one that I mainly look for is what I call the ‘persistence mileage.’ At its essence, its basically evaluating how far will this person go before they give up. Sometimes I ask the founder outright. How much pain and suffering are you willing to endure until you give up on this idea? Or are you going to persist no matter what. And you know, it’s not always certain. It’s kind of an intuition, a thought in the back of my mind when they’re pitching. You ask them questions and probe them to see how much they’ve thought ahead. Are they an opportunist and take what they can? Are they a mercenary or missionary? Are they in it for the money or do they really believe in what they are saying? I believe all startup entrepreneurs should all be missionaries first. The successful founders are missionaries who hire the mercenaries to develop and scale. I’ve met a few people in their journey where I can tell they’re not gonna give up. Like- I would be scared to compete with this type of person. They won’t give up fundraising, opportunities, absolutely nothing in order to execute their vision. They truly believe in what they’re pitching and their vision. Those are the people most likely to be successful.”
886: What would you say is the hardest challenge or period a founder faces when creating a startup for the first time?
Phil: “One of the biggest challenges I see in almost every founder is in confidence or self doubt. When you start a company and 10 people tell you ‘no’ when you are trying to raise money, you still have the ‘yes’ in your mind. But if 50 people tell you ‘no’ then you just might start believing that. For example, Kevin Lin has his story where he had 100 ‘no’s before his first ‘yes’ and that’s really amazing belief and confidence in yourself. I’ve talked with many NBA trainers before. When you want to determine the difference between a good and a great shooter it’s not in the technique, practice, or talent. They all have the same training and put in the same amount of work. What separates the great from the good is if they themselves believe they will make the shot. I’ve noticed especially in Taiwan that many founders lack this when they can and should be more confident. They have the talent but are hindered by themselves, and they don’t believe that they can move to Silicon Valley and make it. They envision themselves but never actually take the leap and do so.”