Q&A with Kevin Chen, partner, Lam Capital
Kevin Chen is a partner at Lam Capital, the corporate venturing arm of US-based semiconductor technology producer Lam Research. He joined the unit in June 2020 after more than 15 years of entrepreneurial and operating experience in materials, deeptech and biotech companies.
1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you’ve been doing it.
I am a partner at Lam Capital, the CVC arm of Lam Research Corporation, a $90bn market cap semiconductor capital equipment company based in Silicon Valley. I joined Lam Capital in 2020.
2. What attracted you to CVC?
I was (and still am!) very grateful for the opportunity to join Lam Capital because it enabled me to meld my long-standing interests in investing and in deeptech entrepreneurship. Joining a CVC is also a great way for someone who has been in the operating world (as a business development person or general manager at a tech company, for example) to keep applying those skills at a great company as part of being a CVC investor.
3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?
I’m proud to have been instrumental in closing three strategic direct investments and a fund investment in 2021 that each moved the needle for the company. The reason that I’m proud of this has as much to do with my being a newcomer to CVC and to Lam Capital having joined during the pandemic and being 100% remote, as the investments themselves. That this was possible for me to accomplish as a new hire also speaks to the strong culture, leadership and teamwork at Lam Capital and within Lam Research.
4. What have been your biggest challenges?
Maybe this is similar to what other CVCs encounter as well, but a challenge we have run into is how to get our key internal stakeholders aligned quickly when there is a time-sensitive opportunity that requires the entire organization to move fast. We tend to work best when we have had ample time to develop a relationship with entrepreneurs and startups which often includes running a proof-of-concept with them prior to making an investment.
5. What’s your main professional ambition for the future?
I want to continue to support entrepreneurs in their journey to bring creative, useful, and scalable solutions to the market. In the near term, I can best do this by drawing on my experience as an entrepreneur and CEO in order to be an effective partner (investor, board member, mentor) to entrepreneurs.
6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?
The more that CVCs and financial/institutional investors can collaborate and share deals, the better for the CVC community and investment industry as a whole. Perhaps the CVC community (via GCV, for example) should organize ongoing conferences or gatherings where CVCs and financial and institutional investors can foster deeper relationships and collaborations.
7. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?
In the five years prior to joining Lam Capital, I was CEO of an agtech company called Crop Enhancement. Prior to that, I was in the renewable energy industry as an executive (CMO and GM at Applied Materials; EVP at Hanergy). In my spare time, I enjoy coaching kids’ basketball and spending time with my family (married with two young children).