HP Enterprise ropes in venture investor

Mr Tan Lip Bu, a Singapore PR, is a seasoned investor and CEO. He is the only Asian to be invited to sit on the board of the new HP entity.
Mr Tan Lip Bu, a Singapore PR, is a seasoned investor and CEO. He is the only Asian to be invited to sit on the board of the new HP entity.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES FILE

As global technology giant Hewlett-Packard prepares to split into two companies in November, it has named Mr Tan Lip Bu as a future board member of one of the new entities.

He is the only Asian to be invited to sit on the board of HP Enterprise, the company set to provide technology solutions to businesses, said a media release last week.

The other company will be HP Inc, which will focus on the consumer business.

A seasoned investor and corporate executive, Mr Tan, 59, is a Malaysia-born Singapore permanent resident who is based in the United States.

He is currently the chief executive of US-based firm Cadence Design Systems, a semiconductor design company, and chairman of global venture capital firm Walden International.

"HP Enterprise asked me to be on its board because of my knowledge of the China market," Mr Tan told The Straits Times.

"Every month, I am in China because of my investments and customers there. Because of my investments through Walden in computer storage, networking and infrastructure, I can also help them with acquisitions in these areas," he said in a phone interview.

He describes Cadence as his job while Walden and venture investing is his hobby. Even so, he leads investments in about 12 start-ups a year, more than half of the 15 to 20 firms Walden funds globally, he said.

Start-ups in the semiconductor and related industries also seek him out as an investor because he has the "smart money". He has a unique perspective on the semiconductor industry because Cadence makes tools for this industry.

"No one can compete with me because I know semiconductor design well. I've a relationship with all the silicon manufacturers all of which are using Cadence. I've an unpara-lleled advantage because I know what's needed, who the customers are and what they are buying."

He founded Walden International here in 1987 to focus on cross-border investments, boasting the capacity to introduce his portfolio companies to markets around the world. They include Singapore multimedia firm Creative Technology, China online media portal Sina, video recording device firm GoPro, and on-demand collaboration service Webex.

In recognition of his pioneering work to introduce venture capital investing here, he was inducted into the Singapore Venture Capital and Private Equity Association Hall of Fame in 2012. He was also awarded the Singapore Business Award for Outstanding CEO (Overseas) in 2012 for turning around Cadence from loss-making to profitable.

He had been a board director at Cadence since 2004. In 2009, he was appointed chief executive to turn around the company. Cadence's value has shot up 800 per cent in 61/2 years.

He also sat on the board of electronics manufacturing services company Flextronics, Sina and Indian IT outsourcing company Mindtree. In Singapore, he was previously a board member for United Overseas Bank and Creative Technology, and a trustee of Nanyang Technological University.

Born in Johor, Mr Tan studied at Nanyang University before receiving a postgraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in nuclear engineering.

He worked in nuclear and energy firms before he started Walden because "I love innovation and building companies".

Walden manages cumulative funds of US$2.6 billion (S$3.7 billion) globally.

Singapore portfolio companies include Brandtology and YFind, both of which had been acquired.

Executive director Yong Soo Ping, who oversees Walden's investment activities here, said she has learnt from Mr Tan the importance of start-ups being able to address huge target markets.

"The things I would like to learn from him are his ability to relate to founders at their level and his sharp intuition in sizing people up," she told The Straits Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'HP Enterprise ropes in venture investor'. Print Edition | Subscribe