Venture capitalist, global citizen, pioneer.
From a military dependents’ village in central Taiwan to the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland for the World Economic Forum and beyond. This is a story of success, fearless innovation, and vision.
Based on interviews with Peter’s friends, colleagues, family, and Peter himself, Beyond takes us on a tour of Peter’s journey, from his role in the Taiwan Economic Miracle and his founding of leading venture capital firm WI Harper, to his bridging of the Greater China Region with the US and later involvement in the development of nuclear fusion technology. All for future generations, for Taiwan, for the world.
In this authorized biography of one of Taiwan’s most influential venture capitalists, we are offered a complete picture of the bold, charismatic, warm-hearted, and down-to-earth man behind the success – a man equally at home in the back of a taxi on a dusty road in China as dining with sparkling company on the French Riviera.
Prepare to meet visionary businessman Peter Liu and discover his life and legacy in venture capital and beyond…
A word from the publisher of the Chinese edition — Professor Charles Kao
INTRODUCTIONS Seeking an Identity Above and Beyond Oneself — Peter Liu
A Man of Broad Horizons — Alice Yang
The Balance between Economy and Ecology — Prince Albert II
My Dear Friend — Turki Almadi
Knowing Peter — Lawrence J Lau
What the Future Can Learn from Venture Capital — Matthew Miau
Look to this Day — Martin Murphy
Introduction to a Friend — Mario Garnero
How One Remarkable Man Can Have Great Impact — Roger W Falcone
Introduction to Peter Liu's Fusion Innovation Adventure — Daniel M Kammen
Seeking Fire from the Sun to Benefit Mankind — Si-Chen Lee
Human Beings Spend Their Lives Seeking Identities Above and Beyond Themselves — Yung-Sheng Liu
A Shared Passion for Fusion — Chuan Sheng Liu
Let There Be Light! — Pisin Chen
CHAPTER 1 A Sequel to the Taiwan Miracle: In Youth We Trust
CHAPTER 2 This is How 'Framers' are Made
CHAPTER 3 Process, Destiny, Sharing
CHAPTER 4 The Tropic of Cancer Wanderer
CHAPTER 5 From Taiwan to the World
CHAPTER 6 A Generation of Brilliance: Promoting Taiwanese High Technology
CHAPTER 7 The Allure of China — How the Mainland Gained a Foothold
CHAPTER 8 The China Chronicles: Foresight, Self-reliance and Technology (or… It's all about the people)
CHAPTER 9 America: Wisdom from the Bay Area
CHAPTER 10 Europe — the Power of Inclusivity
CHAPTER 11 A Return to Taiwan — Hope in the Time of Pandemic
CHAPTER 12 Nurturing Taiwanese Unicorns
CHAPTER 13 Pioneering Nuclear Fusion — a Pledge
CHAPTER 14 At Home with the World: Reflections on a Global Life (as spoken by Peter Liu)
CHAPTER 15 'Behind Every Great Man…' Peter Liu's Wife and Children
CHAPTER 16 Peter Liu in the Words of his Friends
Integrity, Selflessness and Some Sound Advice
Love, Happiness and Sharing
The New York Champion of Chinese Americans
History's Fleeting Opportunities
Memories of a Golden Era
On Wings of Song
Time's Greatest Witness
A Life Lived in the Spirit of Innovation
Human beings spend their lives seeking identities above and beyond themselves. My own journey of pursuit and exploration has filled me with a zest for life and a gratitude for the opportunities that have come my way. And with that, I have come to appreciate those feelings that are genuine and rich in human warmth.
As part of the first generation of post-war baby boomers, I grew up at a time when my country was still reeling from the trauma of separation. It was a land beleaguered by a broken post-war economy, finding its feet and staggering into modernity. At the time, I was just a young boy from Bai-Chuan Ding, a ‘military dependents’ village’ in the city of Chiayi in Taiwan. Not yet aware of the world, I spent leisurely days at Chiayi Middle School in the Shanzaiding district. Little did I realize the thrilling adventures waiting for me just around the corner.
In 1969, when the hippie movement was in full swing in the US, I arrived at the University of California, Berkeley, to begin a life of study and work. After graduating, I suppose I could have led a comfortable middle-class life — the American dream, no less. However, deep in my heart, I felt rootless and knew there must be some greater form of identity. It was an identity I knew I wanted to find.
It was a phone call in mid-1985 that brought about the biggest turning point of my life. Learning that my father, from whom I had been apart for nearly 20 years, was seriously ill, I rushed back to Taiwan to be with him for the final stage of his life. My father was a graduate of the Central Aviation Academy at Jianqiao, Hangzhou, on the mainland. The motto of the academy was, ‘Together, we shall fight the enemy’s battleships with our bombs, our planes, and our lives!’ He had experienced life and death in the skies, and his heroism and patriotism left a deep impression on me.
During those last few months caring for my father, two other family members also traveled back to Taiwan: my cousin, Te-Kong Tong, who was writing the memoirs of statesmen and historical figures such as Shih Hu, Tsung-Jen Li, VK Wellington Koo and Hsueh-Liang Chang; and my uncle, Shenggao Tong, who taught at Boston University. They asked my mother and me to accompany them in visiting Kwoh-Ting Li (KT), (later to be known as Father of Taiwan’s Economic Miracle), who had extended an invitation to dine at his home. While there, KT spoke of national affairs and the development of the Taiwanese economy. It was only later in the evening that he brought up the topic of venture capital, something he believed the country must pursue. Looking back, I remember
that KT talked to me for more than two hours that evening.
A critical moment in Taiwan’s technological development happened around the year 1985. There were many who, like me, had been inspired by KT’s altruism and sense of mission and decided to return to Taiwan to get down to work. It was this altruism that compelled the top echelons of talent from Taiwan and beyond to join KT in his quest to modernize the nation. In doing so, they created a generation to remember.
Looking back, what strikes me is that the leaders of this great era were truly exemplary — selfless and singularly invested in their work. We were, as young people, attracted by this and felt encouraged to be fearless, working together to raise Taiwan onto the world stage of modern technology and finally make it a global competitor.
My venture capital story starts with KT, a model representative of his generation, whose life and work ultimately inspired me to publish this book. By sharing some of the stories and experiences from my life as a venture capitalist, I hope that younger generations will better understand KT and his generation, who always held the nation close to their hearts. I hope, too, that this will inspire young people to reshape the destiny of our country, forging a path toward a more open and far-reaching community actively engaged on the world stage.
Venture capital often involves turning future crises and challenges into opportunities to innovate. The creation of the cooperative, multi-player ‘foundry model,’ for example, provided a development blueprint that ensured Taiwan’s survival within the semiconductor industry. Today, the model represents a crucial geopolitical battleground. As countries around the world are levying carbon border taxes on imported goods, the ability to provide clean energy is fast becoming a key factor in the competitiveness of Taiwanese products on the global market. The Holy Grail of clean energy is undoubtedly nuclear fusion technology. It represents our best bet at solving the energy crisis.
In recent years, I have actively sought to engage world-class talent, technology and capital to promote the establishment of the clean energy industry in Taiwan. This holds great significance for the future of the country’s competitiveness. I have done this because I want to see a change, not because I want to lecture or preach. But we need a sound ecosystem underpinning us if we are to mass-produce anything like small-scale ‘tabletop’ nuclear fusion generators. In other words, sectors across the board — the government, industry, academia and investment circles — must seek consensus and cooperate if we are to make clean energy the jewel in Taiwan’s crown. This is my final wish for my career in venture capital.
If it weren’t for the support and urging of the Global Views Monthly founder, Professor Charles Kao, and the magazine’s publisher, Cora Wang, the memories and stories you will read here would not have so easily been committed to paper. Kao, a little older than I am, is a scholar of national importance for whom I have the greatest respect. We were both born on the mainland and grew up in
Taiwan. We are both from Air Force families and have both been accepted as members of the Committee of 100 in the US. Over the past 40 years, throughout the many ups and downs our country has faced, Kao has always shown himself to be a man of intellect who dares to speak up. Having done so much, so uncomplainingly, for our country, he is certainly deserving of great admiration.
Author Alice Yang, in preparing to write this book, interviewed more than a hundred of my friends and family members, along with many important people in the VC space. With a thorough understanding of history and extensive experience interviewing people in the fields of scientific and technological development, Yang has written an account that goes beyond a mere personal history of
my life. The result is a book that affords a bird’s-eye view of the past 30 years of scientific, technological and economic development on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. I am immensely grateful for the efforts of both Yang and those at the Commonwealth Publishing Group who first published this book in Chinese.
I want to express my deepest thanks to the friends and colleagues who have come into my life. You have all enabled me to become the person I am today, someone who is able to give something back to society. Life is beautiful when we are together. Throughout the challenging times I have faced, it is you who have helped me to maintain my enthusiasm for life, and search for innovation and humanity. These are the core truths that I cherish most.
My family means everything to me. My years have been made so happy and memorable thanks to the love and care of my parents, elder sister, Annie, brother-in-law, Gary, younger sister, Susie, and her husband, Robert. And, of course, thanks to my children, Ida and Edward. My work has prevented me from seeing them as much as I would have liked. Finally, I dedicate this book to the woman who banishes all my cares, the love of my life: my darling wife, Diana.
Bertie Lionheart-Coningsby is an experienced translator and dedicated sinologist focusing on literary translations from Chinese to English. He received hons in Chinese (Classical and Modern) and Social Anthropology, SOAS University of London. Now, he lives in UK.
Alice Yang is a senior advisor of Commonwealth-Global magazine group, a professor at Shantou University, China, and has had a distinguished career in journalism.
She is the author of best-selling The Biography of Mr Yun-Suan Sun and has won numerous awards and scholarships, including the National Literature Award.
She has interviewed over 300 political and business leaders worldwide.
Peter Liu, Chairman of WI Harper Group, is a legendary visionary businessman with a career spanning 30 years. He is an expert in maximizing shareholders’ wealth in the ever-challenging world of venture capital investments.
Peter is one of the Foundation Members of the World Economic Forum, serves as a Director on the Fifth Council of the China Overseas Exchange Association and is a Member of Committee of 100.
He has served as a long-time member of the Atlantic Council of the U.S. and is an honorary board member of the Flying Angels Foundation, as well as a member of the Yacht Club de Monaco and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.