Once upon a time in Taiwan.

My story is inextricably linked to my fathers. It is a story of love, of loss, and a lifelong commitment to spare others from the pain of losing a loved one to a preventable neurological disease.

My father was born in the 1940’s when most Taiwanese people lived in severe poverty. He grew up on a farm in the mountainous central area of our island, where his family was only just scraping by with very little food or resources.

Being the oldest of eight children, he began working in the fields at the age of six. Every day after school, he would pick up huge watermelons that weighed as much as himself and transport them several kilometres to the markets in an old trolley with wobbly wheels.

He also had to walk an hour to school each day. In bare feet. And when a relative finally gave him his first pair of shoes, he loved them so much he carried them to school and still walked bare foot several kilometres each way.

These stories are not unusual. To illustrate just how poor Taiwan was back then, its gross national product in 1952 was on the same level as developing African nations like Zaire and Congo. By 2018, it had exceeded those of Japan and most Western Europe economies.

This tremendous economic growth happened because people like my father were allowed to pursue their own dreams of starting a business to improve their lives. He started by creating a small enterprise in Taipei exporting car accessories to Europe. As his tiny business grew, he would spend weeks away from his family, traveling around Europe with suitcases full of auto parts and small electronic tools, building his company one client at a time.

By the 1970’s, when I first arrived on the scene, my father’s business had grown into a multi-million dollar enterprise with offices in many cities around Asia. He eventually became known throughout Taiwan as the King of European Export.

What my father taught me about people and money.

Throughout my childhood, my father’s business grew exponentially just like Taiwan’s economy, but he always maintained his humility and would often remind us of his humble beginnings. 

I watched him treat everyone with equal respect and kindness, from taxi drivers and cleaners to company owners and executives. For him, commercial success was a doorway to helping all people live better lives, as it had allowed him to do. 

Almost every day during my life in Taiwan, I would experience the benevolence of everyday people who had experienced my father’s generosity and compassion. When I went out to restaurants with friends, waitstaff would approach me and tell me about my father’s kindness to them or someone they knew. 

Later, I would learn that dad improved the living standards of people in remote areas, donated books to the prison, provided respectful burials for the homeless, sponsored scholarships at his old school and funded several medical research programs.

I learned that he paid his employees above the normal salary other companies were paying (and not just the executives). He encouraged them to educate their children and to use their wages to improve the quality of their lives; to not just own more, but to be more. It’s no wonder so many of my father’s employees spent their entire working lives at his company.

 

Growing up, I would see dad’s clients come to Taiwan, often with their whole family, year after year during the ‘buying season’, and they became family friends. Competitors used to say that it was impossible to steal a client from my father, because the bond of trust between my father and them was simply too strong to break. When my father fell sick, many of his client friends flew from all over the world to see him in Taipei. 

His business – and his attitude to money and success – are a great example of ‘good capitalism’ at work. He believed that the true objective of commerce should be to improve the quality of life for all. And indeed, the entire country of Taiwan was governed with a similar philosophy. For example, there was no healthcare available when my father was growing up and most people in his village contracted diseases like rheumatic fever, without any means of being treated. Today, Taiwan ranks 2nd on the Health Care Index of developed countries. There is currently universal health care coverage in Taiwan administered by our government and health services are easily accessed by every citizen in the nation.   

Another example of Taiwan’s good capitalism is the free educational system. As Taiwan gained economic success, our government had more funds to invest into free education, which was a huge win-win for my people and my country, as it helped them create better lives for their families and helped Taiwan advance into sophisticated industries such as semi-conductors and computer chips.

This is the win-win that my father sought from his commercial success and watching him do that has had a profound impact on my life.

The terrible event that led to our foundation.

My father contracted rheumatic fever as a child and as with a lot of poor people in old Taiwan it was left untreated. This otherwise easily cured disease caused premature death for many villagers because its side effects include severe heart troubles later in life. 

And so it was for my father, who eventually needed heart-valve surgery at the age of 70. The procedure caused a massive stroke and he went into a coma. When he woke up, he had lost all his ability to understand language. Although his brain maintained the same levels of awareness and intelligence as before the stroke, he was now locked into a world where communication became impossible – either speaking to people or understanding what they were saying to him. For such a vibrant, intelligent and loving man, this was a kind of waking nightmare. 

A thought struck me during my father’s illness: a baby comes into this world with nothing, just as an old person leaves this world with nothing. The only difference is that, upon their departure, an old person could have made a conscious decision to leave this world a better place from when they entered. At that moment I decided to create a way of funding medical research into curing neurological disease; a way that would be the best combination of the two things my father stood for: a caring nature and an honourable use of commerce. 

We can’t live forever, but there is more we can do to keep our family and friends with us for longer, by eradicating diseases for which there are still no known cures. Our aim is to create commercial enterprises whose aims are not to help people have more, but to be more. Neurological research will deliver immeasurable knowledge for humankind as its discoveries will help people live healthier lives and be able to spend more quality time with their loved ones. 

Funding the Eyewall Foundation will be various for-profit retail companies and commercial initiatives, which through good capitalism will channel 100% of the profit to medical research. Our intention is that one day we’ll contribute to the eradication of other societal ills too, such as the lack of education and poverty. Causes that my father also embraced in his life.

“A better world through better spending”.

These words are written in large letters on the walls of our office, because at Eyewall, the roles of free enterprise and social good are inextricably linked. 

Our goal is not to embark on the path of good capitalism by ourselves, but to also show other businesses that a better way of commercialism is within reach. In this way, I feel I am continuing my father’s legacy, a role I feel huge responsibility to pursue. 

Yes, we will offer practical value to the customers of our commercial enterprises, but we’ll also be ensuring the money they spend will have the added meaning of creating positive change in our society. 

I not only want to use the wealth he created to set up a charitable foundation, I feel a strong obligation to carry on the essence of his life’s work in good commercialism. In principle, I am consolidating what he instinctively did with taking the fruit of good commercialism to share with the broader society. 

Inherently my father gained the freedom to create better lives for countless people with good capitalism, and collectively supported societal benefits at the same time. By adhering to a core value based on ethics and transparency, I believe the retail businesses which sit under the Eyewall Foundation will succeed in generating funding needed for medical research. Essentially, I am building upon the groundwork my father set out for me with his life’s work. 

Looking back, I realise now that this process started in the early 1940’s, when my father sold his first slice of watermelon in that remote market in the central mountains of Taiwan.

Our medical research

The research we’re funding is undertaken in Western Australia and by a global network of medical practitioners. Take a look.

What we’re trying to achieve.

We’re a young foundation with big dreams. Our funding is aimed at a number of critical areas of medical research.

Meet the researchers.

The research we’re funding is undertaken in Western Australia and by a global network of medical practitioners. Take a look.