It’s all about passion. When the passion enlightens the inside spirit, then there’s no one to stop the person to bag the title of sparkling entrepreneur. Women entrepreneurship has been recognized as an important source of economic growth. Women entrepreneurs create new jobs for themselves and others and also provide society with different solutions to management, organization and business problems. However, they still represent a minority of all entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs often face gender-based barriers in starting and growing their businesses, like discriminatory property, matrimonial and inheritance laws and/or cultural practices; lack of access to formal finance mechanisms; limited mobility and access to information and networks, etc.
Women’s entrepreneurship can make a particularly strong contribution to the economic well-being of the family and communities, poverty reduction and women’s empowerment, thus contributing to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Thus, governments across the world, as well as various developmental organizations, are actively undertaking promotion of women entrepreneurs through various schemes, incentives, and promotional measures.
Here we have Lu Zhang who is the Founding and Managing Partner of Fusion Fund (A.K.A. NewGen Capital). Prior to starting Fusion Fund, she was a Venture Partner at Fenox Venture Capital. Lu was also the Founder and CEO of a start-up focused on non-invasive technology for the early diagnosis of Type II diabetes (acquired in 2012). Lu received her M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University and holds several patents. She is an advisor and mentor to several innovative programs and incubators in Silicon Valley. Lu has won numerous awards and is frequently invited to speak at events. She was awarded the Forbes US 30 under 30 & Featured as the Honoree of VC category. She was also awarded the Forbes Asia 30 under 30 of Finance category in the same year. She was recently awarded as the T&C 50 Modern Swans Influencer, representing top female entrepreneurs in US.
Fascinating Journey of Lu towards Entrepreneurship
Lu’s journey towards success began seven years ago. After earning a B.S. in MSE at Tianjin University she completed her MSE at Stanford as a grad student. While studying at Stanford, she worked with nano-thin film biosensors to build a non-invasive medical device for the early diagnosis of Type II diabetes as a part of an on-campus entrepreneurship program. In 2012, she sold her medical device startup by the age of 23. Following that, Lu became a venture partner at Fenox Venture Capital. Naturally, she opened her own Venture Capital firm, Fusion Fund, two years later. To date Lu has raised funds more than $100M and made 44 investments. Companies she has made investments in include Chatsports (personalized sports content and news using AI algorithms), Stratifyd (visual, data-driven actionable business intelligence solutions), Mission Bio (leveraging single-cell diagnostics for cancer treatment), Catalia Health (AI/NLP driven patient engagement to improve outcomes and revenue), and IAM Robotics (autonomous robots with fast computer vision for warehouse fulfillment). She also advises and mentors at various innovative programs and incubators in Silicon Valley. In 2017, she was awarded Forbes’ U.S. 30 under 30 and featured as an honoree of the venture capital category. That same year, she was also awarded Forbes’ Asia 30 under 30 in the finance category. Most recently, she was awarded the T&C 50 Modern Swans Influencer, representing top female entrepreneurs in U.S.
“Silicon Valley has lots of front tier technology innovation. The application market is not only in the US, but also outside the US”, stated Lu.
A Venture Capitalist with a Vision
At Fusion Fund, they aim to be the go-to person for founders. They neither babysit nor micro-manage companies because they believe founders themselves should be the captains of their ships, should be the ones in charge making decisions. The organization prefers founders who have clear clues or solutions to their problems and then come to them for resources, which they are more than happy to provide.
Lu Zhang has written a 200-page guide based on her own entrepreneurship experience. This guide is full of practical advice like how to register a company without consulting a lawyer, how to do your own accounting, how to set the shareholding, apply for patents, and avoid pitfalls in investment agreements, etc. They hope it can help founders save time on the admin stuff so they can focus on product development and market strategy.
Team Fusion Fund is very honest with entrepreneurs. They don’t make too many promises and they value their credit. Therefore, their action matches their words and that has earned them tremendous respect.
Lu aims to make Fusion Fund a premier early-stage venture capital firm. Founded by an exceptional team of veteran entrepreneurs and proven international business leaders, the fund assists emerging technology companies worldwide and specializes in supporting entrepreneurs in North America to achieve global expansion. Fusion Fund supports entrepreneurs who build globally disruptive platform technologies and business models with potentials to bring in systematic change. The organization works with world-class management and technical teams that focus on disruptive opportunities in mobile, technology, consumer internet, digital health and other next-gen technologies. The fund has also established a serial entrepreneur’s network to locate top tier founders.
Fusion Fund targets emerging companies with market validation and platform technology that is ready to scale. However, Lu emphasizes the startup’s vision, since in the long-term it will support the core technology of a startup. Some of the portfolio companies include:
Paperspace provides high-performance GPU services in the cloud for AI and data applications.
TVision uses machine learning to gather next-generation media insights.
Paradromics is developing devices that facilitate fluent brain-machine interactions for the development of treatments of neurodegenerative diseases. In July 2017, Paradromics was awarded an $18.3M contract from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build a high bandwidth cortical implant.
In terms of AI assistance, for example, the software that can help people streamline their working lives, Lu would contend that the technology is not there at the moment. It’s likely that in the near future AI will be sufficiently advanced for their needs, but for now, Lu still prefers to have a human assistance.
They invested in a couple of voice-recognition software companies and they observed that the technology is more advanced than before when it could only recognize the meaning of words. Now, background noise, accent, different types of grammar, and Speech patterns of native and non-native language speakers are taken into account. In terms of application, there’s a huge potential market for VRS after the keyboard and the tactile screen, Lu highly believe that voice recognition will be the next interface for users to interact with machines.
Their company is more focused on areas that apply new technology into the industry, enterprise and healthcare application, areas where the commercialization and market validation of the technology is done, and have the potential to make a big impact in the industry in the near future.
Accomplishing the Goals by Overcoming Obstacles
Lu’s advice for young founders interested in entrepreneurship is to truly ask yourself why you want to start your own venture before choosing it as a career path. Young founders need to be highly self-aware of themselves and gauge whether or not they will be able to manage the challenges that a startup entails, she says. They should not worry about other people’s opinions and should follow their passion. With regards to venture capital, Lu is an avid supporter of venture capital as a career path. She sees venture capital experience as an essential part of the startup ecosystem.
“These days, VC has witnessed a growing number of women enrolling in this industry, so has tech industry and entrepreneurship in general. This is a process of awakening. It is by showing the industry what they can do that the prejudice will be removed. Innovation needs diversity, it is important to keep the ecosystem diversified with all different background to motivate the innovation to happen.” asserts Lu Zhang
Moving Steadily Towards a Bright Future
Under the leadership of Lu Zhang, Fusion Fund moves towards achieving new heights.
Lu has high expectations for Fusion Fund. She ensues on the journey to success with a positive attitude and humble mindset.
“My goal is to establish a top-tier venture capital fund in Silicon Valley,” said Lu. “I hope to realize it in five to 10 years with my best endeavors,” Zhang said.