Office Hours with David Wu

David Wu, Associate (吳戴文 / 投資經理)

David is an Associate mainly focused on investments. He previously lived in the US, but was drawn to the Greater Southeast Asia region by the growth opportunities and the wonderful people here. He spent the first five years of his career as a consultant at IBM, where he became intimately familiar with the enterprise software and services needs of Fortune 500 companies. Later, he focused on building predictive models and solving optimization problems for large companies, and gained an appreciation for the role of data and algorithms in our lives. He joined AppWorks in 2020 after receiving his MBA from Columbia Business School, and also has a B.S. in Mathematics from the Ohio State University. In his free time, he tries to stay active and is always looking for opportunities to hike or trek, often seeking the trail less traveled.

People often ask me why I committed career suicide and came to Taiwan. When I accepted my return offer after my MBA summer internship here, some of my classmates at Columbia, who I love, were surprised. Some had assumed I just wanted a summer of fun in “Thailand” before resuming a serious career. Others gave me some encouraging words and reminded me that recruiting wasn’t over and I should stay open to other opportunities. One person literally thought I was joking (to be fair, most people can’t ever tell if I’m joking or not).

The main reason I came was for personal growth. Before my MBA I spent a year in Shijiazhuang, China only learning Mandarin (there wasn’t anything else to do there). Like most people who have lived in a different country, I really grew as a person from leaving my comfort zone, experiencing new things, and talking to different people. For this reason, I literally would have sooner taken a job as a kitchen hand in Asia than a white collar position in the US. Taiwan also happens to be a really pleasant place to live where the people are truly salt of the earth. 

I’m also blessed to be a simple person from Ohio (US) and spent the first 25 years of my life there, so I don’t need much to be happy. Many “coastal elites” have lower expectations of Middle America, and we are generally misunderstood. But that’s just the way we like it. We block out the noise and worry about our own business, get down to honest work, and always end up surprising people. Maybe I also found that in Taiwan – a lot of smart, determined, overlooked people brewing up some special things. I think we’ll continue to surprise a lot of people.

In this way, I resonate with founders a lot. Many founders are viewed skeptically by society, but they don’t care, and they get down to work and end up surprising people. I will never forget enthusiastically describing to my friends a startup I encountered during my summer internship, when one friend remarked, “that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard”. That company is now valued at close to $10 billion (not that stupid things can’t be worth $10 billion). Every day I have the privilege of believing in people, and few things are as fun as witnessing them create something from nothing.

Despite being known as “The Professor” at the office, my main job is to be a student. I work on the web3 arm at AppWorks, which brings me joy as it unites me with my college interests of math and computer science. Every day I’m uncomfortable, see new things, and talk with amazing founders. At times I feel like a college student again, stepping into a new world with humility and an open mind.

Besides working on investments and doubling as a host at Demo Day, I also run the college intern program here. Many people overlook interns as unskilled labor, but I see them as our future leaders who will surpass most of us faster than we think. I believe helping these bright young people at this juncture of their career will pay rich dividends for all of us. The intern program is just one of the many non-financial investments we make here to help better society, and I personally get a lot of fulfillment from coaching and teaching.

Lastly, I also run the MBA recruiting program. It’s a sales job, and I try to pitch MBAs on why they should come to Taiwan after they’ve just spent two years and $200K on their degree and are being wined and dined by consulting firms and big tech companies that people have actually heard of. It is a tough sell to start from the bottom. But I’ve always believed that the view from the top is more breathtaking after you’ve climbed from the bottom, arriving totally spent, after nobody thought you could. I wouldn’t have it any other way.