The Top 10: #7 Frank Lee, investment director, Applied Ventures

Frank Lee is an investment director for Applied Ventures, chip and display designer Applied Materials’ corporate venture capital (CVC) arm. He joined in October 2018 from UMC Capital, where he had spent more than 12 years as managing director.

Omkaram ‘Om’ Nalamasu, senior vice-president and chief technical officer of Applied Materials and president of Applied Ventures, said in his nomination of Lee: “For over a decade, Applied Ventures has been investing in and collaborating with startups to transform disruptive possibilities into reality by leveraging the materials engineering expertise of Applied Materials.

“Frank Lee brings tremendous experience and insights from over two decades of deeptech venture investing with leading financial and corporate VCs across the globe. Frank has been driving our investment opportunities in many deeptech inflexions, including advanced displays where he most recently invested in PlayNitride, a leading global microLED company based in Taiwan.

“Frank closely worked with executives from Applied Materials and ITIC (Industrial Technology Investment Corporation), the venture capital arm of ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) to drive a deep-tech startup competition in Taiwan that attracted leading startups from across the globe.

“He is driving other major CVC investment leadership activities in Asia that we look forward to announcing in early 2020. I am proud of Frank and the Applied Ventures team’s progress in enabling successful initiatives and partnerships with startups across the globe and look forward to many more accomplishments near-term.”

Prior to joining Applied Ventures, Lee had spent nearly a decade at Vertex Ventures, a VC subsidiary of Singaporean state-owned investment firm Temasek, first in Singapore before eventually relocating to the firm’s Silicon Valley office. He focused on investing in the communications and semiconductor industries.

At Vertex Ventures, Lee led the deal for networking technology developer TransMedia Communications, which was acquired by Cisco in less than a year from the time of investment. In addition, he managed more than 20 fund relationships in Silicon Valley and in Europe for Vertex’s fund-of-funds investments.

UMC Capital, the $800m CVC vehicle for Taiwan-headquartered semiconductor producer UMC, hired Lee in May 2006, leading its US operations for more than 12 years where he represented the fund in its US-based portfolio as a board member or observer.

Lee’s recent exits include mobile device management software developer MobileIron, which went public through an initial public offering in June 2014, while cloud computing software developer MetaCloud was acquired by networking technology company Cisco in June 2015, data company Force10 Networks was acquired by computer company Dell in July 2011 and fabless semiconductor manufacturer Sandforce was purchased by electronics company LSI.

Lee started his career at professional services firm AT Kearney as a Hong Kong-based management consultant, where he undertook strategic consulting projects helping US and European clients enter the Greater China market.

After receiving a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from San Jose State University, Lee held operations and engineering roles at Silicon Valley-situated technology companies, before he went on to earn an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.