Rick Chong is currently an independent financial consultant working in San Francisco. Over the past 20 years, Rick has been active in the Silicon Valley venture capital business, first as a General Partner of Sycamore Ventures and later as a Director of Pac-Link Ventures. He was formerly CFO of JL McGregor & Co. LLC, a start-up investment bank focused on investment s in China. He served for several years as CFO of Amber Kinetics, a utility grade energy storage company based in Silicon Valley & the Philippines.
Rick is the Chairman Emeritus of the California Asia Business Council, a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Affairs Council, and past Treasurer of the Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco. He has also served as Chairman, President and a member of the Board of Directors for the 1990 Institute. He has guest lectured at Stanford University, University of California Davis and University of San Francisco. Rick received both his M.B.A. and undergraduate degrees from Stanford University. He has been married to Beverly Chong for 37 years, and together with her has proudly raised two wonderful daughters, Alyssa and Stephanie. They have lived in Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and San Francisco together.
I was born & raised in the United States. Identifying as nothing but middle American, I still recall the first time that my parents moved our family to Asia and how much I didn’t want to be there. Even after living in Taiwan & Hong Kong for a total of 6 years before my senior year of high school, I still couldn’t speak Mandarin or Taiwanese, ate mostly American food, and hung around with the other students from the United States.
Finally, on my father’s third assignment to Taiwan, he had enough of living in Tien Mou, which had become the ghetto for the American military back in the 70’s. For the duration of my senior year of high school, he instead chose to have our family move to downtown Taipei where it was no longer possible to live in the American expatriate bubble. Eager to continue to play basketball, I soon learned that there was an unsanctioned outdoor high school pickup game at the hospital nearby our downtown Taipei home. Everyday after taking the bus home from school, I would climb over the wall and join other teenage boys playing basketball. The only issue was that none of them knew how to speak English and I couldn’t speak Chinese, so it wasn’t easy making friends. Still, there was one teenager who consistently reached out to me. His name was Su Chung-Hwei. Since he couldn’t speak much English, I just called him “Su”. My siblings & parents loved getting to know a boy named Su.
Many times, after basketball, Su would take me out to eat & drink at the local food stalls and show me what it was like to be a teenage boy running around Taipei. He taught me how to cuss & swear in Mandarin, and I reciprocated by teaching him how to cuss & swear in English. We soon became inseparable even though we couldn’t discuss much except short phrases about basketball, food & electronics.
After that year in downtown Taipei, I went off to attend Stanford University as a freshman. Each summer, I would return to spend time with my family back in Taipei and always looked up Su. His English continued to improve, my Mandarin got better, and we started to hold dance parties together, swim at the local club, run around Taipei electronics stores and always manage to find pickup basketball games. Our friendship deepened as our mutual language skills improved. We shared in each other’s highs & lows. I watched Su get into National Taiwan University and then get drafted into the Taiwanese military.
Eventually, Su did come to the U.S. and today runs his own very successful garment importing business in Los Angeles. He took the English name “Daniel” but I remain one of the few people who still call him Su. I consider Su one of my oldest and dearest friends. I don’t get much chance to see him in person these days with him living in Southern California raising his family, and my family being up here in Northern California, but when we have the chance once or twice a year, it’s just like blasting into the past and re-living our youth.
I’ve learned that friendship is really a result of acceptance – appreciating differences and finding mutual passions. Su & I communicated in our odd language born of sports, movies, and chasing girls. Over the years, Su would become fluent in English, and I would become fluent in Mandarin which has allowed us to deepen our friendship, but it was the initial acceptance by Su of a foreign kid on his basketball court that opened the door to a lifelong friendship.