“A person is successful if this is their last year on earth, and they would not change what they are doing.” – this belief has shown success to the young and successful entrepreneur, Founder & CEO, VenturePole, Xiao Jean Chen.
Xiao Jean Chen is an award-winning business and technology hybrid, who has built smart tools to make venture capital faster, better and equitable. Her business mission is to raise money for female founders.
Being a researcher in management and ex-consultant, Chen’s toolset includes rainmaking, data analytics, mixed-method research, programming, and writing poems. She also provides mentorship and funding to the startups.
Xiao Jean Chen shares her views on entrepreneurial strategies and tips, and motivation with Business Upside in this interview.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Business Upside [BU]: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: Thank you for having me!
In 2018, I started ideating VenturePole, a venture investment platform. The idea was conceived after I started investing in blockchain companies in 2016. As I started on my journey as an angel investor, I quickly realized how manual and cumbersome venture investing is.
In fact, since the inception of the asset class around 1940, there hasn’t been innovation in venture capital, except for some VCs who have reinforced their deal sourcing with web crawlers. Almost all investors still do screening and due diligence manually, it’s as if we’re riding horse carriages when other industries are driving electric cars.
The more the researcher, technologist, and consultant in me looked into this problem, the more certain I am of building a better solution. This is how VenturePole was born, to solve my problems as an investor.
Business Upside [BU]: How did you come up with the name for your company?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: VenturePole was not the first on the list of names we wanted for our company, which had almost two dozen names on it. We finally landed on “VenturePole” because our website domain, venturepole.com, was available at a reasonable price.
We are very happy with our decision, although we were surprised at how much a good domain name costs!
Business Upside [BU]: Have you ever turned down a client?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: Several times. Since late 2019, I’ve turned down two blockchain projects and a fashion tech business that had asked to be introduced to our investors, but they didn’t complete the due diligence required by our platform. This is a red flag.
Granted, it takes time to fill out due diligence questionnaires and upload investor decks onto our platform, but it saves time in the long run, because investors have access to it from the get-go, so they don’t need to go back and forth asking for more information or documents.
As an investor, due diligence is the key factor that separates professional investors from retail investors. In most countries, retail investors only have access to public companies, because they lack the expertise and time for due diligence, this is the main reason why so much money was lost in Initial Coin Offerings. We do due diligence to present only quality deals to our investors.
To create value for our startups, signing up on our platform is free, as well as our smart tools. Our startup customers automatically receive an investment risk rating, a valuation approximation, and a company strength and weakness analysis, all at no cost, generated from the data they had provided upon signing up.
Business Upside [BU]: What is unique about your business?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: Technology. VenturePole is a tech company at heart, in the vanguard of digitizing venture capital. Our mission is to make venture capital faster, better, and equitable, closing its flagrant diversity gap.
Mahinga Singh, our CTO, is proud of our technology: “VenturePole is built with the most advanced and powerful technology, lined with cutting edge frameworks and applications. The beauty of our platform is that it is stacked with microservices, making it agile, scalable, and secure.
For example, our Investment Risk Rating is a machine learning model trained with a database formed by merging global business and startup datasets, such as Crunchbase and AngelList, which provide over six million data points from over 700’000 companies. We then apply techniques including unsupervised machine learning and Principal Component Analysis, to predict investment risks as high, medium, or low. This risk rating is visualized in 3D graphics, presenting a comparison of the deal company with similar companies in our database, offering our users an insightful overview.”
Business Upside [BU]: How do you generate new ideas?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: I sleep on things. Did you know that when we sleep, our brain burns more energy? There is a lot of “processing” and magical work the brain does when we meditate, drink tea, walk or sleep.
These activities activate alpha, theta, and delta waves in our brain, they induce creativity, concentration, and connectivity. This superior state of mind has contributed to many great scientific discoveries, like the periodic table.
I’ve also been a vegetarian/vegan for 13 years. I find a plant-based diet is a key to a clear, focused, and calm mind, complementing the aforementioned habits.
Business Upside [BU]: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting, what would it be?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: I wrote an article including 11 tips for entrepreneurs, these two are my top tips:
“Warm introductions: Multiple studies have found that informal and formal networks are major sources of deal flow for investors, meaning that we look at startups referred to us by someone we know. In contrast, cold emails from founders we don’t have any connections to often fall through the black hole of our inbox. So, try to get a warm introduction to help you get into the door and follow the next tip to build your network.”
Most people don’t have access to investor networks, then I would advise the following tip:
“Put yourself out there: I am an introvert with Asperger’s and relish alone time as a researcher, programmer, poet, and pianist. Perhaps too well, I know the resistance to drag our overworked asses to yet another networking event. That said, a big part of being a startup founder is having a commanding presence; you’ve got to believe that you have every right to succeed – and then go out and get it. Apply to competitions and accelerators, update your LinkedIn and other professional profiles, and bring your business cards to events and functions, especially if you’re in a more conventional industry.”
Business Upside [BU]: How do you define success?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: To me, a person is successful if this is their last year on earth, and they would not change what they are doing.
Eight years ago, when I started to learn about Buddhism, my first lesson was “impermanence”. It’s an extremely simple teaching that changed how I live my life. Impermanence means three things: one, we all die; two, nobody knows when (until you do, if you do); three, all we can take with us is karma, which is the good and the bad we’ve done.
So I’ve been living every year as my last and align my self-actualization accordingly. I do what I love and spend time with people I enjoy being around. This approach doesn’t stop the suffering and misery we carry around as human beings, but it elevates us with mindfulness.
Business Upside [BU]: Do you believe there is some sort of formula or pattern to become a successful Businessman?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: I’m a researcher in the domain of leadership and management, so this is a topic of particular interest. According to The Harvard Business Review, there are 16 most important competencies of outstanding leaders, the top three are “taking initiatives,” “self-development” and “integrity and honesty.”
This study also found that women scored higher in all three top competencies than men, so I often cite it to encourage women to pursue leadership positions, whether in business, politics, or any field. “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” as famously said by the American Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Business Upside [BU]: How do you market your business, and which method has been most successful?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: When the pandemic hit last year, we had just launched our platform and our business development was immediately affected, as most venture investing activities went to a halt. While keeping a close eye on the development in the industry, I brushed up on some management and entrepreneurship classics including Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline and Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. These books helped to clear my mind from fear and distractions, to focus on the essentials, which is our unique value proposition. As a result, we revised and adapted our go-to-market strategy to focus on acquiring accelerators as customers, becoming an expert partner for their screening, due diligence, and portfolio management.
Business Upside [BU]: What motivates you to become an Entrepreneur?
Xiao Jean Chen [XC]: As a female founder and investor, I have the first-hand experience in the gender injustice in venture capital, and have made it a personal mission to help other female founders fundraise. This is why I do what I do.
Statistics tell us that less than 3% of female founders receive VC funding, even though startups with a female founder are 63% more profitable than startups founded by all-male founders. I believe that ending this injustice will unleash the superpower of venture capital, which is to fuel a better future for all mankind.
This is why our smart tools are unbiased algorithms that factor in the diversity surplus. They can transform investors’ pack mentality to funding more female founders, who build better products and services, AND create higher returns for investors!