Silicon Valley's new generation of angels making its mark

Updated: 2014-04-14 06:06

By Chen Jia(China Daily USA)

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Venture capitalists understand and evaluate technology, but technology doesn't always make a successful company.

In today's Silicon Valley, investors from the Chinese mainland are looking at new investments while evaluating what they already hold.

Their money is being put into diversified fields in California: traditional IT, new energy, real estate, agriculture, media and the TV industry.

Zheng Haitao, chairman and CEO of Sumavision, is among those looking for Silicon Valley opportunities.

Silicon Valley's new generation of angels making its markHis company provides video delivery solutions to broadcast, cable, satellite, Internet, mobile and telco-video service as well as digital TV, conditional access systems, middleware systems and enhanced edge cable modem termination systems (CMTS).

"We have too much money in pocket, but where is the good investment choice?" he asks.

Today, investors from the Chinese mainland are among the most popular people in Silicon Valley.

The first generation of Chinese angel-fund investors in Silicon Valley was mainly from Taiwan and came to the United States between 1960s-1970s.

Dubbed legendary venture capital icons, four names are frequently mentioned: Ta-lin Hsu, Bob Lin, David Tsang and Hsing Kung. All invested in hundreds of startups.

In 1986, Hsu went into venture capitalism and formed H&QAP after 12 years of working at US-based IBM in advanced research on mass storage systems and technology.

In 2006, Hsu was ranked among the top 25 best dealmakers in high-tech and life sciences on the Forbes Midas List. Two years later, it ranked him 28th.

Bob Lin's angel investing started in 1976 when he was a graduate student at the University of California in Santa Barbara. In 1996, Lin and five friends established Acorn Venture, which three years later became the cradle of Acorn Campus, the well-known incubator. It has successfully invested in dozens of startups with approximately $100 million in capital.

His five books are the bible for the newcomers who want to have a better understanding about angel investing and how to duplicate Silicon Valley's angel-investment culture in China and Asia.

David Tsang is the managing member and co-founder of Acorn Campus Ventures, and since the 1960s he has been widely regarded as an expert of the semiconductor industry.

Tsang recently served as chairman of Oak Technology, which he founded and brought to an IPO in 1995. His success stories also include the founding of Data Technology Corporation and Xebec, both manufacturers of disk controllers.

Hsing Kung, a partner of Acorn Campus Ventures and chairman of Luxnet Corp, is also regarded as a venture capital icon. He was the co-founder and vice-president of manufacturing for SDL Inc from 1983 to 1997 and now serves on the boards of several optoelectronics companies.

"The four Taiwan VCs are still well respected icons in Silicon Valley, but we also notice that the majority of Chinese-background business leaders in Silicon Valley have been people from the Chinese mainland," said Henry Yin, a Chinese community activist in the San Francisco Bay Area. "They are trying to become new legends with bigger strides."

For example, they are putting money into commercial real estate in the Bay Area.

"The San Francisco Bay Area is seeing a tremendous surge in commercial real estate investment coming from the Chinese mainland," said Arthur Wang, president of Zarsion Holdings. His team has committed to a $1.5 billion real estate project in Oakland.

The project, named Brooklyn Basin, is slated to include 3,100 units of housing, 200,000 square feet of commercial space and more than 30 acres of parks and open space.

Insiders said his ambitious investment might be a big risk because affluent potential buyers are concerned about security in the Oakland neighborhood.

And in another real-estate investment by a Chinese, last year Wang Shi, chairman of China's largest real-estate developer, joined with Tishman Speyer to develop a high-rise apartment complex in San Francisco's financial district.

"As China's economy continues to advance, the San Francisco Bay Area is playing a unique role," Sean Randolph, the president and CEO of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, told China Daily.

Today, more than 50 Chinese company affiliates are set up in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley, he said.

Starting in the 1990s large numbers of Chinese students came to universities such as Stanford and Berkeley to study technical disciplines such as electrical engineering and computer science, he said.

Many stayed to become participants in the Silicon Valley economy, founding a high percentage of the region's technology startups, he added.

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