Tim started his career at VIA Technologies, a semiconductor company based in Taiwan. As the Head of Global Sales and Marketing, he soon began angel investing in various companies. He also founded CAATCHPLAY, a media/film streaming, production, and distribution company based in Taiwan.
With a clear vision of what he wants to achieve, he shares with us how he came to be an angel investor and how his own interests have driven him to find and solve problems.
886: What makes you want to become an angel investor?
Tim: “When I was younger in my 20s to early 30s, I used to work Monday to Sunday 9am to midnight, super busy. And all of sudden the company I was at, VIA Technologies, grew to the point of stability. Next thing you know I was showing up at 9 and leaving at 5:30 and had a lot of time on my hands. I wanted to find something to do to fill this new time and I had heard about angel investing before but had no clue what it was. So I decided to call some people I knew and told them that I wanted to be an angel investor. I ended up talking to various people and VCs and eventually made my first angel investment in a company with SBCVC. To me, I see angel investing as a hobby, not as a means to make money. I always felt that there were different things that I wanted to do so angel investing was something that allowed me to explore my interests. When I invest, the returns are secondary. The problem the company solves and the solutions that are created are what interest me.”
886: What kind of startups are you interested in?
Tim: “Every couple of years I have different interests. For example, my grandma had diabetes for many years. I took note of some of her symptoms, and when she passed, I wanted to look for and invest in a company that did diabetes management and chronic disease management. I was on the airplane talking to a longtime friend who was selling his company at the time when the opportunity presented itself. He told me that all four of his grandparents had passed from diabetes. Considering he would also be susceptible to diabetes, I said ‘don’t you think you should do anything about it?’ He told me he had been thinking about it, and at that moment I offered to invest in him. I told him that I would put in my own money and find some other funding over the next few weeks if he wanted to run with his idea. He went through and created the company Health2Sync and it grew to be the most successful diabetes control management company in Taiwan and Japan.
Another problem I solved involves my dad. A while ago he got sick and became hard of hearing, so he got a hearing aid. He hated the hearing aid, and so did I because it worked terribly and every time we wanted to talk we would have to shout. I wanted to find a better solution, so I sat down with him and listed the problems: it was too big, the battery was hard to change, you had to go to the clinic to tune it, etc. The next day I took his hearing aid to the lab and took it apart to figure out the design and how it could be changed. I sent out a few emails to people I knew and looking for anyone in Taiwan that was working on a hearing aid. But a key part of this search was that I wanted to find someone that had an incentive to make it work. If they were deaf, then you know that one they will work hard towards solving the problem and two they will understand the problem. I found an engineer that was deaf who was working on a hearing aid and I looked at my list of problems to see if this hearing aid hit each one. It did, so I offered to put in my own money and find other funding as well. The company was RelaJet. Each of these companies that I’ve invested in fufills a need for me, either by resolving an issue or a personal interest.”
886: For startups who focus on Asia who want to expand to the US, what do they need to prepare?
Tim: “It’s about the founder’s mindset and if they can change to an American mindset. If the founder is able to adapt, then they will be successful. Some founders may be more suited to a southeast Asian mindset and they should grow in Asia. It will always be dependent from person to person and founders should work with their strengths.
886: Why is advisory board important to a company? When should startup need to think about it?
Tim: “Advisory boards could be good or bad for a company. Do you need five advisors or do you need one or two mentors that can really help you? Consider what is best for your company at the time and really think about what they will provide for you.”
886: What are the differences between founders and CEOs?
Tim: “Founders can be good CEOs and founders can be bad CEOs. Sometimes founders will grow to become a good CEO. When you’re a founder, you’re doing everything in the company. When the company eventually grows with many employees and teams, the responsibilities and skillset of a founder changes and shifts towards big picture. For example, when VIA grew and I was starting to manage a large group of people, I noticed that most of what I was doing was resource allocation, budgeting, management. It’s very different. Founders can be CEOs and CEOs can be founders, but they’re two different things. Sometimes founders that remain CEO will limit the company’s growth or performance because they simply don’t have the skillset for a high level management role.”
886: What would you say are some of your personal principles that primarily guide your investing?
Tim: “I have a set of personal principles that guide my own life. I set my goals and I try to make sure I adhere to my values in my actions. But when I’m investing I mostly am looking at whether it interests me. Does it itch and do I want to scratch it? Kind of like a mosquito bite. If it doesn’t bother me I don’t give it attention but if it does then I’ll be thinking about it in the shower, the toilet, and it persists and lingers for a period of time before I eventually act.”