Acorn Pacific Ventures' VC On What's Hot & What's Not In Asia Right Now
Entrepreneur Asia Pacific interviewed Acorn Pacific Ventures' Peter Hsieh on what's caught his eye in Asia at the moment, and what he looks for in a startup while investing
Dr. Peter Hsieh is a general partner at Acorn Pacific Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm which focuses on technologies in North America and Asia. Hsieh has worked for about 10 years in Silicon Valley, and another 10 in Greater China - an exposure valuable for an investor who looks for investment opportunities in the two vastly different geographies.
When looking to invest in a company, Hsieh say he asks himself a set of questions that help him gauge an opportunity.
“Does the team seem to have insight and capability in this space? What about their network? Do we have an “insight” or “feel” about the market and problem to be addressed? If not, does our network have people that we believe can help, if necessary, down the road? Does the offering create a new market, or is in a replacement market? If pivoting is required in the future, is there still potential? What’s the work style of the entrepreneur? We need to be able to work together down the road. Is the team greedy? Can they share the upsides with employees and investors? Do we have any shared connections so we can have back channel reference on the team? Do we foresee capability in the company (including ourselves) to raise enough capital in the future?,” Hsieh tells Entrepreneur Asia Pacific.
His firm, Acorn Pacific Ventures, currently focuses on the intersection of three verticals: semiconductor and computation, connectivity and automation, and biology and environment.
But personally, he says he’d like to get deeper into medical devices.
“I think the technology and infrastructure are mature enough for a quantum leap and I believe the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), related to industry 4.0 and of which connected medical devices is part of, is a big wave that is coming,” he says.
Currently, anything related to smart hardware, or some businesses with inherent organic viral growth potential are the ones that really excite him, and regions such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India are places that could benefit from the way things are right now, he says.
When asked what Asian geography he thinks is overdone, Hsieh says venture capital investment in China has started decreasing at a rapid pace, especially since the second-quarter of 2019, even though the rest of Asia is seeing more investments.
“Since we cannot change the trend, my team is focused on finding opportunities in the current trend. But of course, we believe that China, with its huge market, still has lots of potential,” he adds.
An industry that might see the investment pool dry out a little is the app platform and service offerings.
“It is not that there is no growth or market for them, it’s that there was too much money poured into the space previously,” Hsieh says.
Ultimately though Hsieh says he believes that startups have to know where they belong clearly, to be successful.
“There is a Chinese saying “時勢造英雄, 英雄造時勢，”, which translates into English as it’s “The times create heroes, heroes make the times.” I’d say that most successful entrepreneurs are successful because of the former, and only few selective ones belong to the latter.” he says.
Founder that has personally inspired you:
“There is one CEO of a fiber optics company who kept pivoting the company, toward final success, like a magician. Another CEO I find inspiring frequently shares with me recent good books he’s read, and is always absorbing new knowledge.”
"I would recommend books related to how China emerged, and the WTO. Anything related to the current shift in the global supply chain and the opportunities created as a result. For instance, if it’s going to follow what happened to China over the last decade. It’s important to establish one’s own insights by not copying, but understanding the similarities and dis-similarities.
My final recommendation would be don’t just read books but make an extended trip there to meet people and make friends from the region.
Again, there is a Chinese saying “讀萬卷書不如行萬里路” which can be translated into Thomas Fuller’s words, 'He that travels much knows much'."
Aparajita is Deputy Associate Editor for Entrepreneur Asia Pacific. She joined Entrepreneur after nearly five years with Reuters, where she chased the Asian and U.S. finance markets.
At Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, she writes about trends in the Asia Pacific startup ecosystem and tries to keep a hawk-eye on what's caught the imagination of VCs in the region. She also loves to look for problems startups face in their day-to-day and tries to present ways to deal with those issues via her stories, with inputs from other startups that may have once been in that boat.
Outside of work, she likes spending her time reading books (fiction/non-fiction/back of a shampoo bottle), chasing her two dogs around the house, exploring new wines, solo-travelling, laughing at memes, and losing online multiplayer battle royale games.
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