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HTC, VR, and the Future of the Internet – with HTC Chief Decentralized Officer and Race Capital Partner Phil Chen

· The Boss Interview,HTC,Horizons Ventures,Race Capital,VR

*Podcast available via Spotify (here), Apple Podcasts (here), and more (search The Harbinger VC Podcast)

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Today we’re recording at the KKBOX studio in Taiwan, big thanks to the Firstory team for setting this up. We have joining us Phil Chen, founding partner of Race Capital and product executive at HTC, whom I can only describe as a basketball loving, deep tech investing, future building nerd of a modern Renaissance man. While at HTC, Phil led product management for the first ever Android phone, founded Vive VR, and launched the world’s first blockchain phone (HTC Exodus). At the same time, Phil ran HTC’s corporate development efforts, where he invested in KKBOX and SoundHound, and also led HTC’s acquisition of Beats Electronics, which was eventually acquired by Apple. As a VC and advisor at Horizon Ventures (Li Ka-Shing’s venture fund), Phil managed their deep tech investments, where he served as a board director for over fifteen companies globally including Improbable, Soul Machines, Kneron, Scopely, Sentient, Fano Labs, Amper and 88Rising. On today’s podcast, Phil shares the insider scoop on HTC’s incredible rise and eventual decline that hasn’t been heard before, including an early opportunity to invest in Xiaomi when it was worth only $150m. Phil describes his investments in VR, especially as it pertains to health and how VR hacks the visual cortex to reduce pain, improve mental wellness, etc. Phil speaks to the potential of a blockchain powered future, as well the opportunity for Taiwanese start-ups to build world-class companies, especially as so many successful entrepreneurs return from Silicon Valley during the COVID era. Lots to cover on today’s podcast, enjoy!

Edited by Louisa Xu and Henry Gao;

[Editor's note: this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are Phil’s own and do not reflect the views of HTC or any funds that Phil is affiliated with]


A Young Polymath and Entrepreneur

Hi Phil – before we dive into the details of your numerous exploits as a product person, entrepreneur and investor, we would first like to understand the person behind these stories. Could you start by telling us about yourself and share some of your most formative experiences?

Phil: Sure thing. I was born and raised in Taiwan, but I spent my toddler years in Texas because my grandfather had a factory down south. I went to grade school in Taiwan before heading to college in California. I would say the most formative thing during all those years was the game of basketball. I wasn't very good academically, but I was really good at basketball. Eventually I was recruited to play college ball, at a junior college called Skyline. I recall my teammates being African American and I was the only Asian American. I only played for one semester before dropping out, it was too much at the time and basically a full time job. It was six to eight hours of training every day in terms of cardio, weight training and basketball. But the most formative thing about basketball was learning to be a team player. It taught me how to build trust with a team, the value of open communication and being accountable. These qualities aren’t as pronounced in Asian culture.

I eventually pivoted into becoming a math and physics major. I finished my undergrad with those degrees at UC San Diego. I got deep into contemplating questions involving the nature of reality when I started studying physics and quantum mechanics, and later philosophy. Even though I started as a physicist at the Stanford High Energy Physics Lab, I later did a M.Div., which is a Master's in philosophy and theology. There I learned how to articulate moral and ethical responsibility. As you can see later in my investment theses, I always come at it with a bit of a different perspective, something beyond just the bottom line. I also learned that in this world when you're trying to convince and persuade people, you have to do it in story form. It's not just about telling people facts; you have to speak to the audience’s belief system.

You have a really interesting and unique set of experiences growing up. Eventually, you went on to do a number of things in your professional career as well, starting off by being a product person, building products at startups and companies, and later becoming a very active investor, globally. Before we get to the investment piece, let's start with your entrepreneurial endeavors. Could you tell us a bit more about your first company?

Phil: Actually, I started out as a social worker, working at a Korean nonprofit organization. I was in Afghanistan of all places, raising money to build schools for girls. It was an amazing experience being in Afghanistan. We were in Kunduz and Kabul raising money and building the schools. I found it to be very inefficient, although I was still very passionate about education.

Having a tech background, I knew there was a technology called “E Ink” that came out of MIT. E Ink was significant because it didn't require much battery power, so I had an idea of building a device with it. In 2003, I started a nonprofit organization called “One Library per Child”, meaning that if I built an E-ink handheld device and hand it to a child, then he or she could access an entire library. As this idea progressed, it turned into a company and I was able to raise some money. There was an open source software which later became Android, and I was able to build this e-book reader. I raised some money, built teams in Silicon Valley and Shanghai, and we developed a something called the Alex eReader. It's called Alex because it was named after the Library of Alexandria, which was the biggest kind of library in ancient times. That's how that company got started.

If I recall, the Alex eReader was eventually acquired by Barnes and Nobles.

Phil: Yes. They shipped the Nook and used our patents, which effectively became an acquisition. There’s a story behind that. The first Barnes and Noble Nook, which is dual screen, had an LCD monitor in the bottom that was used to control the E Ink screen on the top. And soon after, when Amazon came out with the Kindle, it was just the E Ink screen and the whole operating system was built for E Ink. But the first Barnes and Noble Nook was our design.


HTC’s Story Arc

After you developed the Alex eReader, did you build anything else in the US you go straight to Taiwan to join HTC?

Phil: Well we were familiar with Android, and I learned that there was a company in Taiwan called HTC working with Google and Android on this new mobile phone. That's how it started. I became a product manager at HTC. I joined HTC in 2008 and we shipped the first Android phone in 2009. That’s literally the first Android phone ever shipped. Since then, from 2009 to 2013, we shipped over 100 million Android phones.

Back in 2010, HTC had probably top three market share in the world. Given your time at HTC, helping to ship their first Android phone, what was it like seeing the rise of HTC? And what eventually caused its decline?

Phil: I remember selling 1.5 million phones in 2007, and every year we doubled. 2008 we did three million. 2009 we did six. 2010 we did 12. 2011 we did 24. 2012 we did 50 million phones. I think one of the success factors was acquiring an industrial design team called One & Co around 2008. We were able to successfully integrate that Silicon Valley, San Francisco and also Seattle kind of design culture. For those years from 2008 to 2012, HTC consistently put out the best products, because of our iconic UI and industrial designs. I remember we were the first company to do big screen phones. We were the first to do a phone with a kickstand, 3D cameras, double speakers on the front. We were the first to do metal unibody and stereoscopic screens. We did really well from ’08 to ’12 because we were able to integrate that Seattle and San Francisco design culture with Taiwan’s technical capabilities. Even up to 2013 and 2014 when our sales were declining, we would consistently win Product Design Awards.

When you were at HTC, you were involved in many of their products, including Vive VR and Exodus, which we'll talk about later. I recall, you were also on the corporate development team and had an interesting story about Xiaomi?

Phil: Yeah, Hans Tung (GGV Managing Partner) will tell you this. This was in 2010 when HTC was on the rise. We were the one of the hottest mobile phone companies. And because of that, we got to see all the mobile deals in the West and in China. Hans, when he was at Qiming Venture Partners, made an investment in Xiaomi, but he wanted validation, so he brought me in to help take a look and I was the first outside investor to look at Xiaomi. It was still very early back then, so the company was valued around $150 million or so. I met with Lei Jun and the team and I told Hans, “Yeah, this is a serious company.”

At the time, I figured that HTC had built an amazing sales channel outside of China. In China, perhaps we could partner with Xiaomi. Xiaomi could be the brand we worked with within China, while helping them distribute their products globally. To this day, Xiaomi haven't been able to do build a sustainably large sales presence outside of China and India (although with growing sales in SEA and Europe). Long story short, Hans was excited to hear my perspective that this indeed was a very interesting company. He also, of course, immediately doubled down and convinced Lei Jun to give us an allocation of $10 million for $150 million pre-money valuation. However, the HTC board felt that Xiaomi was a competitor. They figured that HTC was the hottest company, and that we could conquer the world ourselves, so this investment opportunity was unfortunately shut down.

That’s fascinating. I’d love to be a fly on that wall during the negotiations. You mentioned some really stellar people like Hans Tung at GGV. I have a great respect for him as an investor. He's also a great storyteller and content creator. And Lei Jun, I’m not even sure where to start. Clearly, Xiaomi is a huge company now. Not only is he an extremely good entrepreneur, product person, operator and charismatic leader, but he's also incredible investor through Xiaomi and Shunwei Capital. It's funny these days everyone wants to 抱大腿 (“hug a big leg”), basically work with the best people in China or Asia, whether to invest with them or to find other ways to do deals with them. It’s really cool to hear about what actually went down back in a day. I haven't heard of that story before, so thanks for sharing that.


VR’s Early Days

Back to HTC. We were talking about Android phones. Could you also share a bit more about VIVE VR and what that is?

Phil: 2008 to 2012 were the golden years of HTC. Starting from 2012, Apple and Samsung came in with a bunch of lawsuits (amongst various other reasons), and the smartphone sales for us started to decline. Our peak was 2012 at 50 million units, and the following year we declined a bit to 40m or 30m. For me, I had pivoted from selling phones to work more in corporate development. I wanted to do venture investments, because we had gotten to see deals, everything from Xiaomi in China to Whatsapp and Instagram in the West. I had invested in a fund called Felicis through HTC which is doing really well. Actually, that's how I learned about venture capital, through investing in a fund through HTC. We also did some direct investments, like an NLP company called SoundHound which is a unicorn right now and then Beats by Dre, a company we acquired in 2011.

From 2011 to when I left HTC for the first time, I was looking for the next growth product as well. I went around the world. I went to Israel, London, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston, and I had stumbled upon VR. The honest opinion is when I saw Oculus for the first time, I thought it was really silly, it's basically two big phones right in front of your eyes. Who would want to consume media this way, right? And then in 2013 or 14, I went to visit the MIT Media Lab. They introduced me to this guy called Alex Rigopulos, who founded the outsourced software company for Guitar Hero. He was the guy that told me to take VR seriously, and long story short, he introduced me to Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey and we started talking. Then I went to Silicon Valley and started talking to Charles Huang, who had founded RedOctane along with his brother Kai. RedOctane is the publisher for Guitar Hero and later sold to Activision. Charles introduced me to the Valve guys. We were in conversation with both Oculus and Valve, and that's how HTC VIVE started.

Got it. I've come across some VR products. Just trying to understand how VIVE works compared to some of the other products out there. In the early days, Oculus’ product was a little bit heavier and had to be attached to a high-end PC. Now they have the Oculus Quest and Quest 2, which seems fairly good. Pretty light, doesn't really require a PC, you can walk around with it. And I think there was a bit of a VR usage spike last quarter in 2020, so hopefully it's a good news for VR in general. In terms of VIVE, how does that work? Is it attached to a PC or controllers? What kind of use cases?

Phil: I left HTC in 2015 on the day we shipped the VIVE development kit and became a full-time investor, investing in VR/AR and computer vision startups. I'm not operational on it nowadays, but my understanding is VIVE has become more focused on the high end, high performance, whereas Oculus has been more on the mobile side. VIVE is the best in class in terms of performance and experience, while Oculus has been able to kind of make it more accessible and good enough, although they still lose money on every device they sell. The VIVE currently is higher priced, but has better performance and focuses on enterprise.

We’ll talk through some of your other VR investments in a bit, but let’s first discuss a final HTC product, the Exodus, the world’s first blockchain phone. What is that and how does it work?

Phil: Well I had left HTC and went to Horizons Ventures (Li Ka-Shing’s venture fund). I started my own fund called Presence, but I was also investing with Horizons Ventures. I did a lot of deep tech and AI investments there, but then I got sucked deep into the rabbit hole of crypto after the Ethereum DAO hack. And I just thought, “hey, somebody needs to build a crypto phone.” A crypto phone is basically a phone with a hardware wallet, a phone where the user can own his/her private keys. Some people say it's too early, and I agree it's too early. The Exodus is a crypto phone built on an older infrastructure, but it’s built for the future crypto network infrastructure. It's like when the Ford Model T came out, all the roads were built for horses. So when the car first came out, there were so many problems. There’s no gas station, it doesn't run smoothly, and that's how I see the Exodus.

The Exodus is a hardware wallet built into a phone but it's built on a network that's not ready for it yet. This is a different conversation, but I do think the future of the Internet is a crypto network and I think the Exodus is built for that. We shipped the Exodus in 2018 and I went back to HTC to build this. We only accepted Bitcoin and Ethereum as payment in the beginning. Yeah, that’s turned out interesting.

I didn't realize HTC had developed so many new products. Not just new, but essentially the first of its kind. You mentioned earlier that you had also worked on a deal with Beats by Dre, right? Could you share a bit more about that? I thought they were acquired by Apple.

Phil: Yeah, Beats was acquired by Apple after we sold it to Carlyle. We acquired Beats in 2011. At the time, Jimmy Iovine was talking to kids all around the US, asking them what's the coolest company, and everybody was saying HTC. Jimmy Iovine, of course, is a famous music producer and probably the greatest salesman I've ever met. As I was saying, HTC did incredibly well in integrating designs into its phones, whether it's industrial design or user experience. A lot of that was what I call Seattle and San Francisco culture. Jimmy Iovine and Beats, of course, is Hollywood, LA culture. At HTC, we consistently won product awards, but one thing we were weak at was marketing. A company needs to thrive on both product and marketing. We were great at product, but we weren't great at telling our story. A company like Beats, on the other hand, was an amazing storytellers. They were amazing marketers, they were amazing at product placement. They were able to get all their artists from Eminem, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, all these guys and make a headphone a cool product. When we acquired them, we thought we could integrate that storytelling and marketing culture. Long story short, this could be a whole conversation of why it didn't work, but we weren't able to integrate that that type of culture into HTC’s Taiwanese engineering culture. And so in 2014 or 2015 it was sold to Carlyle, and then later to Apple.

Looking back, what we did well at HTC was that we successfully integrated the San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Seattle culture, which is more tech-related. But where we failed was integrating the storytelling, Hollywood, LA culture. We did not succeed there. Had we been able to do it, of course we’d be a very different company today.

HTC is such a fascinating company with its rise and gradual decline. Perhaps they’ll come up with a new product or new way of thinking and potentially change the trajectory of their future, so we'll see how that plays out.


Investing in VR, AI, and Deep Tech

We’ve spent some time talking about your entrepreneurial pursuits. Why don't we shift over to your investments endeavors? You mentioned that you worked with Horizons Ventures, started Presence Capital, and you're also involved with a new venture studio here in Taiwan called 886 Studios. Could you tell us a bit more about how those interlock together, and also how you're able to manage all of this, especially with three kids?

Phil: I left HTC when we shipped the first VIVE dev kit. Having done smartphones, the most influential computing device ever shipped thus far, and with the VIVE, VR and AR, I saw a similar wave coming, but this time around I wanted to be an investor. So I started Presence Capital, a very small seed fund with two other partners. One was Amitt Mahajan, one of the founders of Farmville, and then another gaming veteran called Paul Bragiel. We were one of the first funds to focus on the VR and AR sector. When I say VR/AR, it is mostly computer vision companies. So it really is a VR/AR computer vision fund.

Everybody in the Valley knew that we were the domain experts. People knew me as the VIVE founder, Amitt being Farmville’s founder, and Paul as one of the gaming experts. We positioned ourselves to be able to work with the big funds. We've done 43 deals at Presence and they're all seed deals. I would say a quarter to a third of the seed deals we did were followed by big funds like Andreessen or Sequoia or Accel. The reason why we were able to do that is because they saw us as domain experts. They knew we were much smaller than them, so they didn't see us as competitors. If they see an interesting company that’s too early for them, they would throw it to us for us to take a look first, and then potentially do the next round.

When I was at Presence, I was in Israel and, by luck, met Solina Chau who was the head of Horizons Ventures. Long story short, she invited me to invest with her team. I also asked her, “I have my own fund. How am I supposed to invest out of Horizons?” Horizons is one GP, one LP, and my fund was tiny compared to them. Horizons is a big well-established firm. Presence is a small sector-specific seed fund. They allowed me to manage my own tiny fund and also invest out of Horizons. While at Horizons, I did 15 to 20 deals and deployed over $150 million. I sat on 10 to 15 boards around the world in London, Israel, Finland, Taiwan, and of course Silicon Valley. From the end of 2014 to 2018, I was doing both Presence and Horizons.

When I left Horizons, I started my own fund called Race Capital. I wanted to focus on data infrastructure and crypto networks. Now we spend more time on enterprise software and open source. Most of my time is spent on Race Capital. We did some crypto deals like FTX and Lightning Labs. And since I've moved to Taiwan, because of COVID-19, a bunch of Silicon Valley founders like Kevin Lin (Twitch), Jameson Hsu (Mochi Media), Chris Wang (Thundercore), Kai Huang (Guitar Hero), all of us have been getting together. We wanted to do something together, in a way that we think can contribute something different to Taiwan. Taiwan has amazing technical talent. There's a lot of incubators and accelerators, so we want to do something different. A venture studio was something different. For accelerators and incubators, ideas come from the outside and pitch to the inside. In a venture studio, ideas come from ourselves and we try to prototype it out. And then we find a team in Taiwan to run it and spin it out to raise money. It’s an inside-out kind of model versus outside-in. I've been having fun with a lot of these Silicon Valley veterans who have sold companies, raised money, operated big companies, or exited. I think this experience is very valuable, and although we did this mostly in the western market, hopefully we can add some value to the talent in Taiwan.


What’s Different This Time Around in Taiwan?

To your point, it seems that a lot of experienced entrepreneurs are coming into Taiwan, not just for the short-term but potentially long-term. Looking at the local start-up ecosystem, I’ve noticed that there are some very talented people who are excellent engineers, designers, and operators. Since the local market is fairly small, many Taiwanese companies attempt to go global. At the same time, I don't see many global Taiwanese brands. And then it makes me think about what you mentioned earlier about HTC, as well, which was not very good at storytelling. Back to 886 Studios…. could you share a bit more about where you're trying to build out of it? How do you bring in your experience and that of other experienced and successful entrepreneurs to bear in Taiwan?

Phil: I would say that in terms of companies that come closest to building an international brand… the first was probably Acer, then HTC. I think the biggest companies from Taiwan, like Foxconn and TSMC, they're not brands, per se. They are very well-established kind of tech manufacturing companies. And I think Taiwan will continue to thrive in that area. Taiwan will continue to thrive and semiconductors in building a trusted manufacturing supply chain, even something as hot as Tesla is today. If you think about it, there are 29 parts in a Tesla car that are all manufactured in Taiwan. You could argue a Tesla car is a Taiwanese car, right? Everything from parts of the LED to the motor, it's all built in Taiwan. Taiwan will continue to thrive on that because Taiwan is great at manufacturing, great quality control and also a country that has trust in this general geopolitical climate, it's a small country that's nonthreatening.

I think that another kind of sector that Taiwan could really thrive in is crypto networks. We think Taiwan is maybe top five places to build a crypto company, because right now, crypto is still very much in an infrastructure stage. It's very tactical. Taiwan has a lot of technical talent, right? Well, crypto networks are about data and governance. Taiwan is still somewhat of a functioning democracy. So what we're dealing with at 886 Studio is essentially finding pockets like crypto, then integrating culture, like the Silicon Valley culture we talked about earlier with Taiwanese tech talent. We want to be able to integrate that and build a hybrid success story. We're still attempting to build a brand as well. Taiwan is a place where we could do a lot of small experiments at much smaller cost. If we can do a lot of experiments faster than other people, then we’ll learn quicker as well and find an opportunity to succeed.


VR Applications in Healthcare

Let’s talk through some of your VR investments. I noticed that you’ve invested in multiple companies in the VR healthcare space. Could you tell us more about that?

Phil: Early on, we invested in several VR gaming companies. But we quickly pivoted away from that. We started developing a very different thesis. We’ve done 5-6 companies in mental wellness and health. If you think about VR, it is a device you put in front of your eyes, where you're directly hacking your visual cortex. And you can use it to change your brain, everything from treating anxiety, to phobias, to even managing pain.

We invested in companies like Limbix, Tripp, etc. that are somewhat contrarian, and now people are seeing the value of the VR space. This goes back to seeing a very practical use, but also a moral ethical perspective on what VR plays in somebody's life. We saw that VR can solve these important types of problems from education to mental wellness. For example, Osso VR allows students to simulate surgery. You can learn about the human anatomy and try becoming a surgeon. That's hugely disruptive when you can allow a high schooler to learn how to be a brain surgeon, because they can experiment a thousand times in virtual space.

Today if you go to medical school, when you practice surgery it’s usually on cadaver’s right. It’s been like that for hundreds of years, and it still seems to be the case. Without something like Osso VR, I couldn't imagine medical students going through so many human cadavers or animal cadavers to learn how to perform surgery. This seems significantly better than the status quo.

Phil: I don't want to say it's going to replace cadavers. But I think it will get somebody up to a certain point in terms of being able to learn and practice. I think this is an example of using technology to level the playing field.

Could you tell us more about Tripp as well? I noticed that Tripp has content on relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness. It seems like a VR version of Calm or Headspace. I’m assuming this is a similar business model where you pay subscription dollars for content on a monthly basis.

Phil: Yes, Tripp is like psychedelics in VR. They're growing very fast, especially during COVID. People are home and they want to experiment. They have a lot of paid subscribers now. It is doing very well.


Beyond VR – Investing in AI, Entertainment, Manufacturing

You also invest in AI and some other areas. What are some other companies that you find particularly interesting?

Phil: I got introduced to AI while at HTC in 2011 or 2012. The first company I invested in was called SoundHound. It was one of the earliest kinds of NLP companies. I got to work with Stephen Wolfram. Siri, a company that Apple later acquired, was using Wolfram Alpha databases. I got really fascinated with this space. Later when I started my own fund, Presence Capital, we invested in a lot of AI computer vision companies. And then when I was at Horizons, which has a stellar reputation of investing in companies like Siri and Viv Lab, I was able to continue on that AI tradition by investing in companies like Kneron, which is an AI chip company based in Taiwan, and a company in New Zealand called Soul Machines, as well as other deep tech, computer vision companies.

I've been very lucky to have been exposed to computer vision early, from HTC days to Presence. Then while at Horizon, I was able to pour more capital into high quality AI companies. I'll tell one story at Horizons which I was lucky to witness. Horizons had invested in DeepMind, the company that created AlphaGo. I actually went to that first game, with AlphaGo versus Lee Sedol in Korea. I literally sat there for five hours watching that game. It was such a historical moment because nobody knew that AI, a machine, could beat a human being at the game of Go. I was really lucky to be at that game, all because Horizons made this amazing investment in DeepMind. And from there, I continued to be exposed to many AI pioneers.

Much of your investment career has been spent investing in deep tech companies, whether it's AR/VR or AI. I noticed that you were also involved with the 88rising. What’s the story there?

Phil: I've been lucky to be involved in many gaming/entertainment companies. At Horizons, I did Scopely, which is now valued at $3.3 billion. Previously I had invested in Beats, as well as KKBox. At Presence, I did a company called Wave, which holds virtual concerts. 88rising is an interesting one to Asians and Asian Americans. This deal came in a very serendipitous fashion. Long story short, we both went to watch a New York Knicks basketball game. What's special about that particular game was that it was Jeremy Lin’s first Madison Square Garden game. Nobody knew about him. He was on a 10-day contract. Nobody knew if he was going to get a full contract from the NBA. “Linsanity” happened two days after that game.

We met afterwards, with Jaeson and Jeremy in the locker room. And that's how I met Jaeson. I remember that night, we left the game we just sat down and chatted for five hours straight about Asian Americans, Hollywood entertainment, everything from an Asian entertainment channel to Asian perspectives. That’s how we came up with an endeavor called East West ventures and started representing Asian American talent. Jaeson came up with the idea of 88rising with a partner named Sean Miyashiro. I was at Horizons at that point, and we were lucky to invest in 88rising.

We discovered this this Indonesian kid who learned how to speak English just by watching YouTube videos, Rich Brian. And then we discovered a rap group back in Sichuan called Higher Brothers. And then Joji. It came full circle because later, in series A or B, Jimmy Iovine invested in them. Now we had validation from one of the top music producers of all time. That’s how 88rising started.

Getting back to the focus on tech and company building. We're in Taiwan currently. Taiwan is very good at number of things, as you've mentioned, like the manufacturing capability, the quality of Taiwanese talent. You made me think of a company in China called Anker that sells portable battery cases and chargers (充电宝), and other comparable products. I think most people don't realize Anker is a Chinese company, listed in China with over $10bn market cap. I’ve always wondered… can a Taiwanese company build something like that as well. It has the supply chain, it has manufacturing capabilities, and now there’s people like you, Kevin Lin from Twitch, etc. Could Taiwan build a company like Anker?

Phil: I think what Anchor did was great, building a brand off of peripherals like that. I would say another company that did that was Razer, which is based out of Singapore. They were able to build a brand out of gaming keyboards, mouse, etc. Taiwan can certainly manufacture great keyboards, great mouse, batteries, chargers, etc. It takes a different brain and a different talent to be able to build a brand and tell a story around it. Can a Razor or an Anker come out of Taiwan? I'll be interested in learning and trying to find out why. Which is something I haven't really thought about. But now that you said it's interesting.


Looking Ahead – The Future is Built on Blockchain

Looking ahead at the next 10 years. What are some things that excite you, whether it is venture related, or something else?

Phil: I'm very excited about crypto networks. Tech has only really disrupted a few industries. Its disrupted communications and media, transportation, and retail. That covers Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Apple. But tech hasn't touched as extensively the serious industries like banking, education, health care, government, or real estate. The reason is because we've never had a crypto network. And that's why people call crypto networks, the internet of money or the internet of value.

Now, for all these more serious industries… there is a lot of value going back and forth between point A and point B. As a result, there are a lot of security issues, data infrastructure issues, privacy and encryption issues. All of these problems actually haven't been solved. How do you secure something in a completely open network when everybody has the incentive to hack? There is so much sensitive data whether it's your health or financial record, government documents, or ownership of a piece of land. This couldn't be done over the internet. Because on the internet, everything is free and data can be copied. There needs to be a new layer of data infrastructure built for this internet of value.

So that's certainly I think the biggest thing for the future. A lot of people think that crypto is a niche. For me, crypto is the future of the internet. And everything will be built on top of this. Some people call it Web 3.0. But it’s more than that and provides many of the original promises of the internet: that it’s open, public, transparent… that it’s permission-less, censorship resistant, and borderless. It can be all the best aspects of other internet plus regulation, protection, privacy, encryption. This needs a whole layer of data infrastructure. That's what I'm most excited about for the next 10 years. I think that will define the next generation of tech. That is where you'll see all the growth. And you'll see a lot of behavioral changes now that 7 billion people have smartphones.

Thanks Phil. Super interesting conversation. A lot of firsts indeed, not only in terms of the products launched but also in terms of these stories being shared broadly. I didn’t know 90% of those insider stories from HTC, should be fascinating for our audience. A veritable slice of technology history!