Sun is a founding partner of SoGal Ventures, the first female-led millennial venture capital firm of its kind. SoGal, which started out as a student organization at USC in 2014, quickly grew into a global community of entrepreneurs and investors with over 4,000 members in 26 countries.
Today, she advises dozens of startups from Los Angeles and Silicon Valley to China and Singapore. She is also currently reading “Talk Like TED” in preparation for the TED Talk she will be giving later this fall in Shanghai.
Sun was born and raised in China until the age of 18 and came to the U.S. in 2009 to study business administration at The College of William and Mary. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she did a short stint at Motorola in Chicago. Similar to most college graduates, Sun wasn’t sure what she was going to do after undergrad.
“I was really worried about getting a job when I was in junior and senior year. I told my dad, I can’t even get an internship.’ I felt so defeated. ‘What do I do?’ My dad said, ‘Well don’t worry about getting a job. You’re going to provide jobs for others in the future.’ I didn’t understand what he really meant until I started SoGal. I finally realized there is so much I can do and contribute and impact on.”
As her visa was about to expire, Sun learned that she had been accepted to a new master’s program at USC School of Business. It was while studying entrepreneurship and innovation as a student that she decided to leave the corporate world behind. As she was exposed the startup culture, Sun realized a glaringly obvious problem:
“There’s not enough women in this space. I was always one of the few women wherever I went. I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the fact that all the panelists, all of the judges and all of the speakers were always men. The teams that went on stage to pitch were always men.”
Sun used SoGal as a class project, but her entrepreneurship professors were unsupportive. They advised her to work on something else and gave her low scores since SoGal didn’t fit the criteria of a business.
“I wanted to get people together especially young women and let them know what entrepreneurship really is […] You don’t have to be a certain way to be an entrepreneur. You don’t have to be old or you don’t have to be the most experienced person in the world to start a successful business in a specific space. I wanted to pass on that idea to more young women.”
Though discouraged, Sun knew there was a need for SoGal and decided to pursue it. Four months after their first meeting with 40 members, SoGal organized a summit, which drew in hundreds of attendees.
“The first summit was at USC. We had a really great turnout with 60 speakers, mentors and judges, which was really incredible. The best women entrepreneurs in LA all came.”
“It was pretty unbelievable. I didn’t think it would be so big, but it also validated how much demand is in the market and how much women really want something like this to exist.”
Now she is bringing the voice of millennial women into the investing world via SoGal Ventures. The firm currently invests in seed stage companies on a deal-by-deal basis with checks ranging from below $10,000 to $150,000. The funding can be a game-changer for these startups, which have the potential to expand their product into other markets. When considering which startups to invest in, Sun asks:
“Why does this company exist? Is the problem solving the right problem? We don’t want another food delivery company. We want to invest in things that can really make your life quality better and connect the world. Make the world a smaller, well-connected place.”
SoGal Ventures empowers women, but it doesn’t only invest in women. Sun elaborated:
“It’s interesting to see the differences between women-led versus male-led companies. What we found is that women tend to under promise and over deliver. They are really good at executing and they are highly responsible for what they’re doing. They’re good at bringing in a really good team and keeping them.
“These are the great things about female founders, but SoGal Ventures doesn’t only invest in female ventures. We feel like diversity isn’t just about gender and we don’t want the problem reversed. We want to encourage a balance of a team whether that’s gender, race, age, perspective or background.”
The two founding partners at SoGal Ventures currently has a portfolio of 22 startups that hail from Singapore, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, Silicon Valley, and more. One of the ideas that SoGal Ventures is betting their money on is Singapore-based GuavaPass. GuavaPass enables members to attend premium classes including kickboxing, spinning, crossfit, yoga and pilates at any one of their select studios in 10 cities across Asia and the Middle East.
Sun is a pioneering woman in venture capital and entrepreneurship. Thanks to her efforts, Sun is fostering a culture where women uplift one another instead of tearing each other down.
“It’s really great because all these women who become empowered they go on and empower more women in her circle. So you can really see the exponential effect when you put a room of like-minded and ambitious women together. Great things happen — they start partnering with each other they start to share their lessons along the way, they share contacts, they meet for coffee and brunch and really build great relationships with their peers. It’s been really magical.”
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