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22 May 2017

GCV Powerlist 2017: Tony Chao

The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Tony Chao, Applied Ventures

Author: James Mawson, Editor-in-chief

Under Tony Chao, senior investment director and general manager, Applied Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of semiconductor technology provider Applied Materials, has moved closer to Asia, the source of much chip demand and technology.

Omkaram (Om) Nalamasu, senior vice-president and chief technology officer for Applied Materials, said: “Applied Materials is a leader in materials engineering, committed to solving high-value problems across multiple industries in addressing market and technology disruptions.

“Tony Chao and his Applied Ventures team lead the charge for the company in brave new industries like augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, personalised medicine and digital manufacturing. Tony’s career has grown in tandem with the portfolio, which has grown roughly 10-fold over the past decade. Among CVCs, Tony has also pushed the envelope in corporate-government partnerships, most recently a Korea-based fund that is the first of its kind. We are very proud of his team’s progress and synergistic collaboration with portfolio startups, and look forward to further accomplishments.”

Last June, Korea’s Small & Medium Business Administration and the Korea Venture Investment Corporation agreed with Applied Materials to raise a W30bn ($26m) fund for investment in South Korean venture firms and small and medium-sized enterprises.

As well as the Korea fund, Applied Ventures is opening an office in Singapore to identify opportunities across the region.

The unit, which invests up to $50m a year, is particularly keen on collaborating with other investors in Asia.

Applied Ventures’ portfolio includes Tera-Barrier, a Singapore-based producer of flexible barrier films used in flexible electronics to protect them from damage by moisture and oxygen. It invested an undisclosed amount in the company in 2009.

This was part of the $200m the unit had invested in 60 equipment and component manufacturers around the world until the end of 2015, with almost a handful of deals announced since, including Norsk Titanium, Inpria and SolidEnergy. More recent deals include augmented reality technology developer Avegant, which added $13.7m from backers including Intel Capital and Applied Ventures.

Chao joined Applied Ventures in 2007 before taking over a year ago from Chris Moran, who now runs aerospace company Lockheed Martin’s corporate venturing unit.

Chao’s interest and insight in Asia is understandable given his previous work at China-based Mustang Ventures and as the technical lead for the engineering team at Cymfony among other roles since the millennium. His MBA at Harvard and earlier undergraduate and masters in electrical engineering and computer science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave him a premier education he has translated into a material career.

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