An Introduction to Renee Lin

Renee Lin, Associate (林佳昵 / 投資經理)

Renee is an associate mainly focused on investments. She joined AppWorks in 2021 with 10 years of experience in startups and venture capital. Always passionate about new technologies and untethered from traditional career tracks, Renee has held roles as a data scientist & head of insights at Rotor Videos London, an advisor at Microsoft Accelerator London, and a deputy manager at Waterland Venture Capital. She received her MBA from London Business School, holds a B.B.A in Finance from National Chung Hsing University, and is currently completing a second Masters degree in Computer and Information Technology at the University of Pennsylvania. Outside of work she loves music, is a keen drummer, and enjoys getting creative in the kitchen with a variety of cuisines.

Hi, I’m Renee. I joined AppWorks in November 2021 as an associate. To help you get to know me, I have put together my FAQ along with my bio.

1. What is your favorite thing about London after living there for 7 years?

It has to be the cultural diversity.

Many cities have the effect of making the people who move there water down their original culture in order to fit in better, but in London I felt that people had two identities. They keep their original culture but also take on the identity of a Londoner. I found that duality fascinating; it taught me very different perspectives on life, love, and how to live.

In a comparatively small geographical area, I was able to have conversations with people from all over the world on every topic under the sun. These connections have made me embrace different ways of doing things and I have incorporated the elements that I appreciate, which have expanded my world view and made me much more open-minded.

2. Who do you admire?

Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books. I think he is someone who truly changed the way the world does business. By introducing cheap and high-quality paperback books in 1935, Lane unlocked massive demand for serious literature and opened up reading to millions of people, making it accessible to not only the wealthy, but anyone with an inquiring mind. He is an inspiration to me because his innovation demonstrated that businesses can really change people’s outlook on life, something I also believe.

3. Have you worked on any interesting side projects and what were your takeaways?

I grew my own YouTube gaming channel for PokemonGo from zero to over 1 million views in the first month of its launch. I developed the channel because it was fun, the timing was right, and I wanted to take the opportunity to get first-hand experience in social media analytics, which I was learning at the time.

My main takeaways are firstly, it is important to stay focused, motivated, and whole-hearted in pursuing your projects. Secondly, a motivated and talented teammate can make great things happen and make the process enjoyable. Finally, I learned more about my own potential, such as that I have the ability to generate interest and accumulate a following in a very short amount of time and that I can lean into my creativity when I need to.

4. What is your most-used emoji?

😆

5. What is one thing about you that surprises people?

I am a drummer and I’ve been playing drums for more than 20 years.

6. What has been inspiring you recently?

In Elon Musk’s autobiography, his friend shared a story about when both Tesla and SpaceX were almost on the verge of bankruptcy in 2008, what bothered Elon the most was the idea that people would stop believing in electric cars and space exploration, rather than the fact he could fail and lose his wealth. To me, this shows the power of belief. Having such a strong cause, like Elon, helps people not only to stay strong and driven during the worst times, but also to focus on others which perhaps would make a time like this more bearable.

Another recent source of inspiration was hearing that Warren Buffett estimates that he spends around 80 percent of his day reading. When asked the key to his success, he pointed to a stack of books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” I know that it will be unlikely for me to spend 80 percent of my time reading, so I choose to instead use my time for reading better, by carefully selecting the source of my input every day and the materials that I use to learn new things.

7. What career did you dream of when you were a kid?

Secret agent / hacker.

8. What does data science mean to you?

Being a data scientist and head of insights before moving into my current role took me on an exciting journey, deepened my understanding of technology, and taught me a diverse way of thinking. Success in this field requires both logical and creative thinking, as finding insights through various experiments often needs a touch of exploration mindset on top of analytical thinking. This contradiction is what attracts me the most as I get to explore both ends of the spectrum and can feel my growth as I dive in deeper.

On weekends, I also love volunteering at non-profit organisations that harness the power of data science to make a positive impact on society. By devoting my time on these projects makes me feel fulfilled and that’s something I truly hope I can keep doing till I grow old.  

9. Why did you choose to go into venture capital?

I wanted to be in an environment where I could help advance technologies that make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable. I have always been fascinated by how breakthroughs in technology can advance the world. Nowadays, with just a smartphone, we can easily connect with people, the world, be entertained, manage our finances, and conduct investments. At night, I can switch off my lights without leaving my bed simply by saying “OK Google”, which brings me so much joy every time I do it. My goal is to help shape innovative technologies so that everyone can have that feeling of joy and enhance our experiences in life. 

10. What gets you out of bed every morning?

The spirit of exploration is what gets me out of bed every morning, as it continues to bring me abundant life experiences, from playing the drums in rock bands to scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. More importantly, it has helped me determine how to best draw on my passions and strengths to find fulfilling work and get to where I am today.

A Prequel to Jun Wakabayashi

Hi everyone, I’m an Analyst that recently joined AppWorks. I’m currently working with AppWorks Accelerator and covering Greater Southeast Asia.

Jun Wakabayashi, Analyst (若林純 / 分析師)

Jun is an Analyst covering both AppWorks Accelerator and Greater Southeast Asia. Born and bred in America, Jun brings a wealth of international experience to AppWorks. He spent the last several years before joining AppWorks working for Focus Reports, where he conducted sector-based market research and interviewed high-level government leaders and industry executives across the globe. He’s now lived in 7 countries outside US and Taiwan, while traveling to upwards of 50 for leisure, collectively highlighting his unique propensity for cross-cultural immersion and international business. Jun received his Bachelors in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“KK 6040 AMS to IST Nonstop, tomorrow 5:45pm.” Believe it or not a 24 hour flight notification was actually considered a courtesy by many in my previous job. You could be in a country for 8 weeks or 8 months, but once that ticket showed up in your email it was time to schedule your goodbyes, blitzkrieg the last of your “MUST EAT, SEE, DO IN [COUNTRY]” list, or finally get around to trying that panini shop you noticed after dropping by the Prime Ministers’ office for the 5th time in a moonshot attempt to schedule an interview with the head honcho himself (or herself).

My most recent profession was, to say the least, a whirlwind of personal and professional life experiences. In the last several years prior to AppWorks, I had worked as a business journalist covering the healthcare and energy sectors. My primary role was to enter various emerging and developed markets around the world, interview the movers and shakers across government, associations, and industries, and ultimately publish on-the-ground business intelligence reports for a global executive audience.

I would eventually go on to live and work in 7 countries across 4 continents, while meeting over 300 of the brightest and most successful minds the world has to offer. Admittedly, though, the most enjoyable conversations that really resonated with me were actually the ones outside the corporate and government sphere. Those gritty, bootstrapping entrepreneurs that were hellbent on driving a change they see in the world often produced the most compelling and riveting stories.

I still remember this one pair of co-founders from Singapore who had spent the better part of the last 2 decades finding market validation for their plasma fractionation technology — a novel way to extract plasma from donated blood to produce albumin, immune globulins, clotting factors and other proteins for therapeutic use at lower costs and in the end save more lives. Truly disruptive technology, but was way too ahead of its time when they first developed it. Nevertheless, they kept at it, even taking out mortgages of their own houses and risking personal insolvency to carry the company through to its milestones. They’ve since received regulatory approval and the contracts have only been rolling in from there.

So, as I began to contemplate the next step in my career, it should come as no surprise that I naturally gravitated towards the startup scene. Lukewarm at the thought of going back to my home in the US, I opted instead for Asia where I saw a vibrant, yet relatively nascent startup community full of aspiring entrepreneurs increasingly tempted by the allures and intrinsic rewards of starting their own business. And what better place to start, I thought, than my ethnic motherland of Taiwan. It was there that I stumbled across AppWorks and signed on board with our mission to empower founders and startup ecosystems not only in Taiwan, but all across Greater Southeast Asia (TW+ SEA).

Today, I find myself interacting every day with passionate founders, while working with businesses and technologies that could very well impact the way roughly 600 million people go about living their daily lives–certainly a tantalizing proposition for any millennial worth their salt.

Above all else, I am incredibly excited to begin writing this new chapter of my life with AppWorks. Some of you might have read my posts. Some of you hopefully will do so in the near future. At any rate, don’t be shy. Leave me a comment. Give me a shout. Look forward to meeting all of you at some point!

My contact details below:
jun@appworks.tw
facebook.com/jwakabayashi
linkedin.com/in/jwakabayashi

Hi! 我是熱愛數字與邏輯的 Sandi

Hi everyone, I’m an Analyst that recently joined AppWorks and am currently working on AppWorks Accelerator.

Sandi Wu, Analyst (吳岱蓉/分析師)

負責 Accelerator 與投資。加入 AppWorks 前,任職於富邦產險電子商務部,負責線上投保平台的專案管理及 Email 行銷,喜愛探究數字背後的意義。曾前往芬蘭交換學生半年,期間走遍半個歐洲,喜歡寂靜的自然風景勝過繁華的現代都市。畢業於台大財金系,擔任系女排隊長,熱愛美食、排球、旅遊及挑戰新事物。

我從小就喜歡數字,也喜歡透過邏輯來解決各式各樣的問題,小時候和媽媽去買東西時,我總愛當個小算盤,搶著在買單時幫媽媽算錢。

高中時,因為不確定自己將來想做什麼,暫且先選擇讀三類組 (自然組)。意外考上台大財金系後,我心想一切可能是命中注定,所以決定給自己一個機會嘗試看看。

開始接觸會計學、統計學和投資學後,我發現這些看似艱澀的學問,其實與我們的工作和生活息息相關,因為幾乎每一種行業都需要透過數字與邏輯來記錄並解決問題,比方說,可以運用會計來記錄過去並預測未來,運用統計來分析並優化商業模式,運用投資來讓資產做更有效的分配,而這些都是我感興趣的。我很慶幸自己沒有錯過這個原本就很適合我的世界,一個由數字與邏輯組成的世界。

然而,在就讀財金系的四年中,我也了解到數字固然重要,但更重要的是人,人與人之間的交流和聯繫才是我熱愛的,若不能將這些數字應用在與人有關的事物上,一切都不再有意義。因此,當我踏出校園、開始找工作時,我沒有追隨大多數同儕的腳步,去投資銀行或傳統金融業當研究員,我想找一份可以運用我的財金背景,但是有實際產品,也有人情味的工作。

幾番尋覓下,我進入了富邦產險電子商務部。保險是一種金融商品,它是以人與人之間的互信和互助為基礎而誕生的產品,平常每個人貢獻一些,當有人需要幫助的時候,這筆累積起來的錢便能成為受困者的支柱。而在這個互助的機制中,保險公司會居中幫大家找尋適合的產品,並在保戶遇到困難的時候協助理賠、減輕他們的負擔。不僅實際販售產品,又可讓消費者在生活發生意外時有所依靠,完全符合了我自己對工作的期待和想像。

在富邦產險,我負責規劃線上投保網站及 EDM 行銷,透過一封封 EDM 與客戶溝通,試圖打動他們的心,也透過統計分析,為下一次的 EDM 進行優化。為了突破在網路上販賣保險的種種限制,增加網路上可販售的險種及宣傳管道,我們必須時常與政府機關協商,以期讓保險業有更快速的發展。

然而,礙於法規一時難有大幅修正,保險業在電子商務的發展空間並不大,舉例來說,不像電商可以刷他人的信用卡來進行購買,礙於道德風險,網路投保規定只能幫自己投保並且要刷本人的信用卡,也就是說,如果想在全家出遊時投保旅平險,因為上述規定,家長不能透過網路幫孩子投保,這對許多人來說是十分不方便的,也大幅降低了保險的功能和意義。於是,我開始思考是否要轉換跑道來尋求更寬廣、自由的舞台。最後,我決定告別金融業,投身網路圈,且在因緣際會之下,來到了 AppWorks。

在 AppWorks,每天都有新鮮的事物、想法在誕生,我認識了各式各樣的創業者,有的大膽、有的保守,有的不拘小節、有的小心翼翼,有的樂觀、有的悲觀。和他們相處的過程中,我很自然的感染了創業者的精神,學習從每一個成功與失敗中,不斷調整自己的步伐。

除了工作之外,排球和旅行也對我的人生產生了莫大影響。我從國中開始打排球,大學時加入系隊並擔任隊長,即使是離開校園的現在,我依舊自己組隊打社會組比賽,至今已足足打了 12 年,同時也擁有一群彼此信任的隊友。在排球場上,身為一個舉球員,我學會觀察、找出攻擊手最會打的球,並幫助攻擊手得分;身為一個隊長,我學會鼓勵隊友,並在困境中尋找方向、反敗為勝。

大學期間,我曾前往芬蘭當交換學生。異地求學的半年中,我利用課餘時間,走遍歐洲 16 個城市。我喜歡獨自旅行的清閒,也愛在旅途中與陌生人聊天;我享受大自然帶給我的震懾與寧靜,也熱愛與陌生人短暫卻充滿驚喜的交流片刻。

往後,在 AppWorks 的每一天,我會用對數字與邏輯的熱情,幫助創業者解決讓他們頭痛的數字問題,也為自己的人生開創另一個嶄新的舞台。

An Open World with Natalie Feng Lin

Natalie is an Analyst that joined AppWorks recently. She is working on AppWorks Accelerator and covering Greater Southeast Asia.

Natalie Lin, Analyst (林楓 / 分析師)

Natalie is an Analyst covering AppWorks Accelerator and Greater Southeast Asia. Before joining the team, she worked in the search engine marketing and email marketing teams at Zappos, America’s leading shoes and fashion online retailer, where she primarily focused on KPI management, campaign optimization, and project management. Born in Canada and raised in the Middle East, Natalie returned to Taiwan for high school before moving to the US for college and work. She received her Bachelors of Marketing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Outside of work she likes to read, travel, and play video games.

 

“You can’t regret the life you didn’t lead.” —- Junot Diaz

As a video game enthusiast, I love to imagine life as a series of challenges and accomplishments that my character has to go through to level up. The cities I’ve lived in define the stages of my life: born in Vancouver, Canada, grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, experienced middle school in Cairo, Egypt, survived high school in Taipei, Taiwan, evolved in college in Cleveland, Ohio, and adventured in Las Vegas, Nevada before returning to my roots in Taipei. While I can’t quite remember my experiences in Vancouver and Jeddah, some of my favorite childhood memories were from Cairo and some of my closest friends were made in high school and college.

I’m a firm believer that there are millions of paths you can take but ultimately your decisions define you and your life. Like many others, I had a hard time deciding which major to choose in college and eventually I chose marketing because I liked and respected the marketing professors at Case Western Reserve University. After graduating, I was lucky enough to land a marketing internship at Zappos.com, an Amazon subsidiary that also happens to be one of the largest shoe and clothing retailers in the US.

I had a really immersive experience at Zappos and it was a defining moment in my life. I had my fair share of challenges but it was worthwhile and I definitely felt myself “leveling up” during this period. When I started, I was working on product listing ads marketing with my manager, understanding how product feeds worked and how to optimize product ads on search engines. I also participated in a hackathon with a fellow intern and won first place— our idea was centered around personalized search and fashion machine learning.

In April of 2015, our CEO sent out a memo that contained his ideas around a flatter organization, and a severance package for those that weren’t quite ready for the change. My manager, her manager, and the VP of the marketing department decided to move on from the company. In a matter of weeks, I was reporting directly to the COO and in charge of one of the largest marketing channels in the company! This turned out to be one of the most stressful periods of my professional career, but an amazing learning opportunity nonetheless. Once things stabilized, I decided to try my hand at email marketing because I wanted a more holistic understanding of marketing. Aside from the testing and scientific approaches we took, email marketing was vastly different from search engine marketing. I learned to run multiple campaigns a week, coordinate with multiple teams and stakeholders, and learn the ins-and-outs of customer retention efforts.

After 3 stimulating years at Zappos, I realized I wanted to pursue something different, maybe a more technical side of marketing or something entirely new. When I moved back, I heard about AppWorks and thought it aligned perfectly with my personal and professional goals. I managed to land a job as an analyst…level up! Now at AppWorks, I will be focusing on AppWorks Accelerator and learning about VC funding as well as continuing my education in e-commerce. All in all, I’ve been proud of my choices and I’m excited to see what this next adventure will bring.

Fireside Chat with AppWorks Partner, Joseph Chan

Jun Wakabayashi, Analyst (若林純 / 分析師)

Jun is an Analyst covering both AppWorks Accelerator and Greater Southeast Asia. Born and bred in America, Jun brings a wealth of international experience to AppWorks. He spent the last several years before joining AppWorks working for Focus Reports, where he conducted sector-based market research and interviewed high-level government leaders and industry executives across the globe. He’s now lived in 7 countries outside US and Taiwan, while traveling to upwards of 50 for leisure, collectively highlighting his unique propensity for cross-cultural immersion and international business. Jun received his Bachelors in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Joseph Chan, Partner at AppWorks, the largest accelerator in Greater Southeast Asia (Taiwan + Southeast Asia), depicts his initial, almost chance encounter with AppWorks, while illustrating how the company’s accelerator program will help Taiwan mold a more sustainable economic future. He also details future regional plans for AppWorks’ venture capital arm, and how they ultimately plan on leveraging their planned US$ 100 million Fund III to help position themselves as a key player in the region’s startup landscape.

Serendipitous Beginnings

Despite a longstanding career evaluating and investing in hardware-related ventures, the internet space has always served as an undying passion for AppWorks Partner Joseph Chan.

Chan first came across AppWorks by what he would consider a stroke of serendipity. During his decade-long tenure at CID, one of the largest and fastest growing investment vehicles in Asia, a handful of market segments such as consumer beauty and biotechnology were pursued outside the traditional hardware verticals where the group built its core competencies. Software companies, however, never seemed to wet investors’ appetites quite as much.

This reluctance towards internet ventures stemmed from a myriad of reasons including a badly bruised ego following the dot-com crash, misalignment with incentives traditionally found in hardware investments, and an almost microscopic-sized market potential in the eyes of Taiwanese investors. As a point of reference, CID at the time was managing funds cumulatively exceeding USD 1 billion, visibly minimizing AppWorks’ first fund of USD 11 million.

Around 2012, a promising young visionary named Jamie Lin, AppWorks’ Founding Partner, knocked on the front door seeking capital to invest in Taiwan’s internet startups. Lukewarm at the idea, but certainly acknowledging Lin’s tenacity and wits, CID’s founding partners decided to take a chance and delegated this project to Chan who, as luck would have it, was the only team member at the time to have any experience—let alone interest—related to the internet space, which came as a result of his first job out of university working for NASDAQ-listed GigaMedia, what was then operating as a broadband ISP.

That bet soon paid off. AppWorks Fund I saw the successful IPOs of two portfolio companies, NetPublishing and KuoBrothers. Meanwhile, the company had already courted enough institutional support to launch its second fund of USD 50 million, enabling AppWorks to cast a much wider net and eventually invest in 40 of Taiwan’s and Southeast Asia’s most promising tech startups.

An Urgent Calling

Consequently, Chan saw transitioning over to AppWorks as a prime opportunity to apply his years of financial expertise and investor insight to a critically important purpose greater than himself—that being AppWorks’ mission to cultivate Taiwan’s innovative capabilities and encompassing ecosystem for internet entrepreneurs.

Although hardware manufacturing and semiconductors have largely supported Taiwan’s economy to date, Chan is adamant in suggesting that software will essentially serve as the country’s saving grace in the coming decade. “30 percent of all hardware-related companies listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange will likely evaporate in the next 10 years,” he warns.

He specifically cites “one-trick ponies” or companies that only specialize in low-value, original manufacturing components as the ones at most risk of being in firing range. “These type of products can be easily vertically integrated into larger conglomerates, or even more likely, replicated by low-cost manufacturers in China,” exclaims Chan.

Creating a new generation of software-based blue chip stocks will not only help Taiwan ensure a sustainable economic future, but also re-capture value from current global blue chip leaders to prevent the country from paying what Chan refers to as a “Google tax” or “Facebook tax” in perpetuity.

“Given that Taiwan’s e-commerce market is currently valued at roughly USD 34 billion, and assuming startups are allocating on average 7 to 9 percent of their budgets to online marketing, we’re leaking out a significant chunk of value that ultimately benefits foreign platforms like Facebook, which currently serves as the dominant channel for online advertising in Taiwan,” Chan laments.

Back to Basics

AppWorks Accelerator was created to plug that gap. Pre-dating the venture arm, the company’s accelerator program was established in 2010 and aims to equip bold and ambitious entrepreneurs from all over Greater Southeast Asia (GSEA) with the necessary resources, mentorship, training, and connections to get their businesses off the ground. Operating in 6-month batches, AppWorks Accelerator has now graduated 15 batches, encompassing over 323 startups and 780 founders.

With nearly 15 years of experience in institutional investing, Chan advises on many matters, particularly pertaining to fundraising, finance, and legal—all pertinent areas for any founder in his or her own right. But Chan believes the most important aspect that their program can help cultivate, but certainly not instill, is drive.

“In Taiwan, many founders of course have dreams and ambitions, but do they have the insight or experience to see the broader picture—particularly one that expands beyond the borders of Taiwan—and be willing to do whatever it takes to get there?” postulates Chan. “We’re all ex-founders and operators, giving us experienced insight into what exactly founders need, and also what they will need, but perhaps aren’t yet aware of.”

And AppWorks has certainly proved its worth. Many former batch companies such as EZTABLE and Umbo CV have all gone on to receive additional rounds of financing after graduating from the program and execute steadfast expansion strategies into the region.

Looking Outward

Operating in a similar fashion to a startup, AppWorks itself is no different. Since the VC arm underpins the effective development and operation of the accelerator program, AppWorks has expanded the scope of their market to investments all across Greater Southeast East. They’ve now become of the most active early stage investors in the region, executing 10 – 15 deals per year. These efforts will be further accelerated through AppWorks Fund III, targeting a sum of USD 100 million upon completion of fundraising. The sizable fund will primarily focus on financing startups’ Series A and B rounds that fall under the themes of GSEA and AI.

However, with a track record that’s been so far primarily centered on Taiwan and Taiwanese entrepreneurs, how can AppWorks possibly be seen as a serious investor, let alone advisor, in any other country across the region?

Chan responds with a two-pronged approach: “First, fundamentally speaking, Taiwan is a fantastic market to launch an internet business, especially with such a digitally-savvy population and internet penetration rates reaching 87 percent—among the highest in the region. That alone gives us enough leverage to appeal to internet startups across Southeast Asia. Second, in hot markets such as Indonesia where we have yet to develop a proven track record, we will take on a more subordinate role in financing deals, partnering with local funds that have already established reputable expertise and insight.”

Southeast Asia is a vibrant region full of hopes and promises, with tech enthusiasts, investors, and entrepreneurs alike all peering in and waiting for the floodgates to open. Whether or not AppWorks, and in turn Taiwan, will be at the forefront of that impending wave—only time will tell. But, if the past few years have been even a sliver of indication for Chan, serendipity will likely continue serving as a fortuitous force moving forward.

We’re on a diehard mission to push Taiwan and Southeast Asia forward, and truly believe in the Internet’s ability to keep reinventing the world and make it a better place. If you’re also passionate about helping entrepreneurs and startups, and think you you’ve got the energy, attitude, and appetite for making a difference, join our team!