How can we use venture capital to create beneficial outcomes for society and build resilience across all socioeconomic levels?
Growing up, I saw a stark contrast in the standard of living between the rich and the poor. One big divide was in my own family: My mother came from an upper middle class community in Shanghai; my father was raised in rural south China and was the first in his family to go to college. I was born in Shanghai and lived all over the world before immigrating to the US. Between visiting family members and frequently relocating, my childhood was a study in extremes.
I went to the University of Michigan to study business, political science and development economics. But I didn’t want to just understand the issues I saw; I wanted to fix the root causes. I left with a firm conviction that investors could build a better future for everyone by allocating capital in a more thoughtful, intentional way to entrepreneurs who were tackling these problems.
After graduation I spent a few years at Goldman Sachs working in the investment banking division, where I advised companies on corporate strategy, M&A and capital raises. It provided me with a background in finance that would later help me evaluate investments. Meanwhile, the broader market was beginning to catch onto the idea that doing “good” could also be profitable: startups that received seed funding from impact investors were beginning to attract growth capital from blue chip investors. That was my cue. I left Goldman for Omidyar Network in 2016. I helped define the firm’s point of view on health, sustainability and the future of work, and was part of the team that spun out of ON in early 2018 to create Spero Ventures.
At Spero Ventures, I’m on the lookout for founders who see some of the greatest social and environmental challenges of our time as massive market opportunities. The founders I work with are motivated by more than just cool tech or hard problems; they are building companies to help reduce inequality, increase access to opportunities, and fundamentally transform the status quo in an industry.
If that’s you, I would love to hear from you.
What opportunities are you personally excited about?
The shift to a more preventative, data-driven, consumer-facing future in healthcare. The applications of software, robotics, and biotech as we look to scale food production to nine billion people. Urban innovations that reduce cost of living, modernize transportation, and optimize energy usage. Education technologies that support, educate and train the next generation for jobs and careers that may not even exist today. Wealth management tools and new financial products that help people build financially secure lives for themselves and their families.
What are some issues that are top-of-mind for you?
I think a lot about how we can solve the uneven distribution of the benefits of technological advancement. Specifically: How do we deal with the human impact of automation while embracing its benefits? How do we increase diversity in tech to make sure we are building more inclusive products? How do we close the skills gap? What kinds of safety nets do people need that are currently out of reach?
What experiences shaped you growing up?
In a previous life, I was a competitive classical pianist. I practiced piano for at least an hour a day for sixteen years. It taught me the value of commitment, discipline and perseverance. It also taught me that mastery is the sum of incremental gains.