Anderson Tan is positively voracious in his search for knowledge and learning. In 2014, while between jobs (and by jobs I mean having sold two companies and being involved in real estate before casting about for a new adventure), he studied continuously computer science, physics, entrepreneurship, philosophy, technology, coding, creative problem solving, space, music among other things through online learning platforms operated by Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Wharton, Yale, Princeton, Babson, Berkeley, Northwestern, IBM, Linux, University of London, University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford, University of Tokyo and many more.
He is a graduate of the Singularity University Global Solutions Program, an immersive experience where only 80 of 2000 carefully selected individuals merge for 12 weeks of 24/7 exponential technologies learning at NASA Ames Research Park, the global epicentre of innovation. That was in 2016, the same year in which he took part in an Executive Space Program at the International Space University. He holds a regular undergraduate degree from Oxford Brookes, UK, where he studied business and information technology. He is an alumnus of Hive, Landmark, Wharton, Asian Institute of Management, Center for Creative Leadership and Dale Carnegie Training.
And yet, when looking for a short biographical sentence to describe Tan, the line ‘Angel Investor, serial entrepreneur and advisor’ jumps out before a secondary description which seems to fit more closely the man who has studied in so many places: that of ‘serving others, building ecosystems and impacting billions.’
Born into a wealthy family in the Philippines, Tan opted to study abroad in the UK, despite having lived in New York for a portion of his childhood, where his sister attended college.
He feels the UK provided a much better educational experience than what he might have achieved in his native country. “In the Philippines, education was very spoon fed. And there was too much emphasis on studying. Whereas in the UK, the emphasis was on research and teamwork. Besides, living independently for the first time, I found the freedom exhilarating and I guess I became a man, no longer a child, in my three years away.”
He set up a sideline business while at college, selling goods from the Philippines on eBay to UK citizens and netted a cool $25,000 profit over a number of months, displaying his early entrepreneurial talents.
Returning, Tan joined his father in his business. They had the exclusive distribution rights in the Philippines for Konica Minolta. At the time it was a huge business with about 400 resellers dotted across the country. However, when the parent, Corporate Imaging Division, declared losses of $400 million, his father’s business was closed overnight. His next venture was into the digital photography industry. He soon established and was managing a successful business that became the number one brand in the country before it was acquired and Tan exited Nikon Philippines.
“That was a blessed escape,” he says as camera sales dropped the year after the acquisition. And he vowed never again to go into business where physical stock formed the basis of the company. Facing technological disruption twice early in his early career would make him both risk-averse and risk positive, once he had done his homework.
His next venture was into the food industry where he co-founded and ran Caffe Ti Amo which was in turn acquired by a major corporate. Tan was starting to make serious money. He divested a little into real estate and at this stage began looking at the startup industry and Angel Investing.
Tan has been trading in the global stock markets for over almost over a decade now. He initially lost money and then profited in online trading but admits he missed out on some glaring opportunities during the 2008 recession. Tan is also an ex-pro Tekken, counter-strike, and Diablo gamer and ex-pro poker player.
“I had begun to look at tech startups but I missed out on Facebook and Google. Then, during the US housing recession, I looked at Visa, Citibank and others when their shares were only worth cents. I contemplated buying them but felt they might go bankrupt and I would lose my money.”
“How was I to know that the government would bail out the banks? That never occurred to me.”
Instead, Tan began to study how he could be an Angel Investor. He attended seminars, meetups, and conferences. He initially helped out startups and tried connecting them with potential business partners, clients and investors with no strings attached.
“I never had an intention to charge anyone at the early stage because I was learning too. But as I helped them, it also taught me how to evaluate an opportunity.”
When asked for his criteria on choosing which startups to invest in, he answers very quickly:
“Firstly it is timing. Consider something like Airbnb. When they launched, the world was recovering from the housing crash and most people were in financial ruin. They offered people an easy way to monetise their spare living spaces.
“Secondly is to look at the competition. If the founder says they don’t have any competitors then that to me is a big fat red card.” He Googles the startup for a competitor as a rule of thumb.
Tan also looks at the team. He prefers a mix of business, technical and financial leaders. He is also not keen on single founders. “I have been that soldier – it is tough going it alone. It is much easier to have fellow co-founders to help you along the way or to give support when times get tough and to celebrate with when milestones are achieved.”
He also looks for a grand vision. “If a founder wants to create a company worth $100 billion, then his chances of hitting $10 billion are much higher. I like a founder with great passion and visualization.”
Criteria number five is the business model. “How is the enterprise going to make money? This is imperative. A nice idea will not pay back any funding by itself.”
Finally there is the deal itself. What is being sought, what is being offered in return and how positive they are. “A positive founder is much nicer to deal with in the long term,” he offers.
When Tan invests or advises in a startup he puts his heart and mind into it as he likes to have a hands-on yet non-controlling approach with his local startups: attending board meetings, networking, helping in funding, offering advice, and mentoring in an active manner. For foreign-led operations, he is by practicality much more hands-off since he invests through crowd equity platforms like MicroVentures.
As one of the top Angel and Crypto Investors in Asia, Tan now drops a bombshell. “I only got into crypto and blockchain last year,” he says and I gulp. “Really?” I check, pen poised midair.
“Yep, early in 2016 I first heard of blockchain at Singularity University but sadly didn’t listen as I was more focused into outer space and failed to accumulate some crypto. So in early 2017, I bought some coins, mostly Bitcoin, Eth, and Ripple, and was then mentored by two of the best traders in the country who call themselves Darth Trader and Crypto Carlo.”
This year he is starting to host (mine) with Holochain being his coin of choice besides Devvio, which he is advising.
Tan co-runs a startup innovation hub for local entrepreneurs. There are over 30 startups already in the portfolio making LaunchGarage a great accelerator. He is a co-owner of ProudCloud, a dev shop for AI, blockchain and IOT. He is a venture partner and investor with MicroVentures crowd equity platform in Texas offering early and later stage equity investment rounds.
“Of course, while that is interesting and there is more meat in the projects, the returns are much less and certainly not in the ratio of 10x for angel investments. In crypto I have seen one of my investments reach over 10,000%.”
In fact, he is involved in over a hundred companies and organisations, rather like his studies during 2014.
But for all his diverse investments and roles, Tan is not an impulsive man. That could be seen back at the start of this century when he honestly admits he was mistaken not to take a risk with some of the dot-com and housing recession companies.
“Since I entered this industry I have been studying the current Bitcoin boom. And then I have gone back to the history of financial systems which started out in the form of barter, and all the historic bubbles and crashes, to see if I can trace a pattern and learn from them.”
Tan traces a line all the way back to the 1600’s Tulip bubble (often quoted in connection with today’s incoming crypto bubble). He looks at the shipping company bubble in the 1700s, the great depression in the 1930s, and, more recently, the breaking of the internet in the dot-com bust and the decade-old housing recession.
“There are definitely similarities in the current bubble. What takes a growth or a development from merely an exciting new technology to a bubble is two-fold: firstly, centralised banking and secondly, human greed.”
“We are on an S curve and it shows that we may hit a crash in the next two to five years. What’s happening now is merely a major correction.”
Here he pauses. “But it is not the end of the world. The dot-com bust didn’t destroy technology or the internet. It hit a crazy peak, dropped and then guess what, people continued to work away in the area as Google and Amazon prospered. That’s how I view the coming years.”
I revert to the banks issue and we spend the next fifteen minutes quoting and requoting each other on what the banks have done so far, the decoupling of the Federal Reserve from the US Dollar in 1971, the dangers of centralisation, how banks do not offer service now, or even value for money, and the ludicrous decision of governments around the world to bail out the banks during the financial crisis in 2008.
Having ticked all our common views on international banking, we revert back to the interview and the world according to Tan.
“I believe a golden era will arise after the crash and crypto winter,” he says. And this view is perhaps elucidated by my previous enquiry as to his marital and parental status. He is married with two small children but he does not, like other new fathers, view the world with suspicion and fear.
“Distributed Ledger Technologies besides AI is a powerful tool for humankind,” he says. His stay in Singularity University helped form that view.
“We learned there, at possibly one of the most powerful think-tanks in the world, that there is less famine, fewer wars and less poverty than at any other time in our history. And we learned about the mindset of abundance in the world.”
Here we deviate again both tic-tac-toeing with shared visions of a world predicated on abundance. We end up exchanging buzz-words and if we had had the cameras on they would have pick up our violent head-nodding in agreement.
His wife is also entrepreneurial, hodling some crypto, running a restaurant and nail salon franchise and co-investing alongside Tan in some of his projects. Their joint hobbies include watching films with their children, travel, dining out, church and, when he has time, playing video games, studying, reading, learning new things and experiences. He hasn’t quite given up on his student pastimes as yet.
Currently, Tan is establishing Alpha Omega Capital, a security token venture capital fund tradeable on securities exchanges globally 24/7 and is looking to raise some $100 million in funding. The fund will concentrate on digital assets, developing the “picks and shovels” of the $500 trillion global securities market.
“Blockchain is such a natural continuation, safeguarding the trust when assets become digital. We are also looking at social impact DApps and blockchain disruptors on the side.”
Here he mentions a trading game where access to e-sports gaming platforms is enabled through the donation of used plastic bottles.
It is hard to look over Tan’s LinkedIn profile without being struck by the diversity of projects under his influence or management. Here, his ability to absorb large amounts of data and assimilate their value is a key attribute. It speaks to his constant inquisition and even to the years spent as a professional poker player and video gamer. There are few people who can master intuition and so many different skill sets and still steer a course. He is currently learning new languages, Holochain programming, studying Economics at Columbia University, playing musical instruments, creating electronic music, mastering Tekken 7 and looking at going to Burning Man next year.
Coupled with his singular view of the world, it seems his children’s futures are secured – along with everyone else with whom he rubs shoulders.
Learn more about Anderson Tan
8x Exits | 4x Entrepreneur | 100x+ Angel Investor | 2x ICO Advisor | VC
⋆ Nikon Philippines – Owner and CEO. Sold the Nikon business unit to Think Dharma Inc. (subsidiary of TAO Corp.) after making Nikon the number one camera brand in the Philippines for the year 2012 and 2013. Source: GFK Asia.
⋆ Caffé Tiamo – Co-Founder. Joint venture with Jollibee Foods Corp. under Coffeetap Corp. which was acquired by Euro-Med Laboratories Phil. Inc. (Manila Hotel and Bulletin Group).
Article from November, 2011: Jollibee sells Caffe Ti-Amo holdings for P20 million
⋆ Nanorep – Angel investor. Acquired by LogMeIn, Inc. (Nasdaq:LOGM).
⋆ VacayHero – Angel investor. Acquired by RedAwning.
⋆ DocuSign – Angel investor. IPO at a $3,000,000,000 valuation.
⋆ Cloudera – Angel investor. IPO at a $4,100,000,000 valuation.
⋆ Snapchat – Angel investor. IPO at a $24,000,000,000 valuation.
✦ Managing Partner at Alpha Omega Ventures.
✦ Partner at LaunchGarage.
✦ Co-Owner at Proudcloud.
✦ Angel investor, startup advisor, blockchain advisor, board member and mentor in startups globally.
Vision: QUADRILLIONthropist impacting positively the lives of Billions by developing the global startup, blockchain and space ecosystem and exiting a Thousand companies in the process.
Creed: God’s ✞ intergalactic ecosystem builder.
Motto: Give, and you will receive. [Luke 6:38]