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Cadol Cheung - Investing in a people industry

Director of Strategic Investment of Intel Capital’s Asia Pacific Operation, Cadol Cheung, explains why he is stimulated about his work and expresses the joy of holding informal business meetings in a relaxing and entertaining environment.

Cadol CheungDirector of Strategic Investment of Intel Capital’s Asia Pacific Operation, Cadol Cheung, explains why he is stimulated by his work and expresses the joy of holding informal business meetings in a relaxing and entertaining environment.

Describe your achievement and impact on the industry.
Through the direct investment we made, we actually helped some of the companies who wouldn’t be as successful otherwise. [We realised that the] Internet will happen with or without Intel Capital.

And if we could take part in this most exciting technology, probably one of the most exciting innovations since electricity, it would be something to feel proud of when one gets old and reflect upon what one has accomplished.

What do you like about your work?
It is very challenging in terms of being able to come in contact with different types of companies. To give some numbers, we roughly reviewed 5,000 business proposals a year. A lot of them are mediocre; they just copy each other and are not really worth mentioning. On the other hand, we do get to see a lot of innovation as well.

Being able to see different type of ideas has to be the most rewarding and exciting part. In other business fields, [it] is very difficult to have the same opportunity, to be able to look at so many different new ideas.

[It is] very stimulating [indeed]!

Do you have a personal business philosophy that you adhere to?
Honesty! I think honesty is the most important. If we lie or if we take advantage of somebody, even once, we lose our entire reputation. This is a people industry and investment is based on trust. You trust in that the founder or the proprietor of the company and they believe in you as an investor. That helps to build a relationship together. If we ruin our reputation in the industry, then we are gone.

How do you define success? Do you consider yourself to be successful?
We are all trying to grasp the value of companies but I guess we should not be just looking at the stock value itself. There could be a lot of [other] good things happening in the company.

As I have said, if the companies that we have invested become very successful, this itself would be very rewarding. I think it’s a dream for venture capital or investors to see some of the companies that they pick eventually become successful even though it may not be personal wealth - meaning the person who made the investment does not make any money from that investment.

Any role model whom you look up to?
Sean Maloney. I respect him a lot, I work with him directly for a period of more than 15 months, and he is now the executive vice president of the company running the communications group. I really admire his vision and he is so sharp in analyzing the situation that he is always right.

What is your proudest achievement so far?
I feel very happy to be able to rebuild the entire team, Intel Capital. When I first took over, end 1999 and early last year (2000), the team was literally broken. The team had a major staff turnover and we lost a lot of people.

In addition, the people who did some of the old investments have left. So we have to rebuild the relationship with the company that was invested previously.

Within six months, I rebuilt the team, and [we have] grown from eight people to 45 people. And this happened at a time when the industry is competing for investment professionals, and we were able to maintain the same array of investments compared to the year before.

What about your biggest regret?
Well, we have made some investments that at the end, all we get are t-shirts and some momento items from the company. The company went broke you see. Yeah, we did some silly investments as well. In retrospect, if we do not follow the hype and the ridiculous evaluation from the company, we probably would have been happier.

What is your favorite form of relaxation?
I wish I had time for that! Well, other than watching in-flight movies, I would really love to get a peaceful night of sleep on a really comfortable bed.

What in your opinion is the best place in Asia to hold a meeting for four?
There are many great places to hold a business meeting. But to hold an informal business meeting for four people, I would love places that are fun, relaxing and have some entertainment thrown in, like karaoke.

Which Web sites do you visit most often? What kind of books do you read?
I visit mostly news sites. For example, cnet.com, redherring.com and Yahoo’s news. In terms of journals, I prefer Asiaweek and Fortune. I don’t really have much time for leisure reading. Most of my free time are spent resting.