Billionaire who rode Zoom’s 1,479% stock boom builds health bets
Samuel Chen’s early bet on Zoom Video Communications Inc. made him one of the pandemic economy’s big winners. For his latest act, the little-known Taiwanese billionaire is emerging as a major health care investor.
His Digital Mobile Venture led a $100 million series D fundraising round this week for the biotechnology firm Acepodia after previously investing in the U.S.- and Taiwan-based company in 2021.
He’s also accumulated a stake worth about $1.2 billion in the anti-cancer therapy firm Polaris Group, which listed in Taiwan last year and emerged in late 2021 as one of the biggest shareholders in Hong Kong-based Regencell Bioscience Holdings Ltd., according to regulatory filings.
Chen’s latest move signals how he may be spending part of the proceeds from his early bet on Zoom, the videoconferencing juggernaut that surged 1,479% from its April 2019 initial public offering to its pandemic peak in October 2020.
Chen, who’s in his early 70s, sold a $22 million stake through his investment firm at Zoom’s April 2019 initial public offering. He then offloaded an additional 13 million shares through March 2020, when the COVID-19 virus spread worldwide. He now has a fortune of at least $2.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Chen didn’t respond to an email request for comment.
Chen and his family, who are long-term Polaris Group shareholders, boosted their stake in the company between late 2019 and 2020 through investment firms including Digital Mobile Venture. It also led Acepodia’s series C fundraising round in 2021, resulting in Chen joining its board.
Polaris’ stock has fallen about 11.5% since its initial public offering in June 2022, while Acepodia is now targeting a similar move following its latest round of financing.
Chen, who keeps a low profile and doesn’t give interviews, received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University. He earned his initial fortune through a business trading ink, according to a book on successful former students published to celebrate the college’s 100th anniversary.
Beyond health care investments, he led a $20 million seed-funding round last year for the U.S. financial software firm Finfare and helped finance the 2021 take-private deal for the U.S. navigation software maker Telenav Inc., whose CEO, H.P. Jin, introduced Chen to Zoom founder Eric Yuan.
Chen and other investors made initial investments in Zoom in 2011, according to a 2019 post on Medium by Louis Li of the venture capital firm TSVC. A year later, as Zoom burned through its seed funding and few venture investors showed interest, Chen stepped in to lead a series A round.
He left Zoom’s board in 2018, four years after Digit Mobile Inc., a Taiwan-based company where he has served as chairman, brought the service to the island.