Meet Silicon Valley Veteran Lu Zhang She’s the first Chinese-American on Forbes 30 Under 30 Venture Capital list in 2017

Caifu Magazine | by Crystal Ying

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She is the first Chinese-American venture capitalist (VC) on the list. Town & Country Magazine also selected her in 2017 as one of their 50 Most Influential Modern Women. 

Zhang once established a medical equipment company and successfully withdrew from this business. She also served as the investment partner of a Silicon Valley fund with capital of U.S. $1 billion. Now she is the founder of Fusion Fund – formerly known as NewGen Capital – one of many venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. She is one of the few young investors widely recognized by renowned leading funds such as New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA), Andreessen Horowitz and Khosla Ventures for her high efficiency and acute business sense.

Zhang graduated from Stanford University with a master’s degree in materials science and engineering. Based on her technical background, together with her enthusiasm toward technology and venture capital, she has targeted the high-tech startup market of early and mid- periods for investment. She said Fusion Fund currently focuses its investment on four major fields: smart industry, including industrial-grade intelligent technology applications, Internet of Vehicles, and enterprise-class applications, mobile networks technology, including network cloud security, mobile security and network acceleration; artificial intelligence, which includes machine learning, natural language learning and computer vision; medical treatment and health care.

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a: Lu Zhang with Professor. Sinclair, Chairman of Department of Materials Science & Engineering of Stanford University

b:Lu Zhang with Albert Einstein’s nephew in Dallas

“We also make investment at the robot level,” she told CAIFU. “However, we are more interested in industrial logistics robots or industrial security, and medical robots. Most of our investments are made for businesses.”

She said she believes that the four fields share a common concept – all aim to better collect, optimize and use data based on new platform technology. For example, artificial intelligence can be easily understood as the optimization of data by machine learning, while the intelligent industry can also be understood as the optimization of data on the basis of platform technology.

She explained that the platform technology of the intelligent industry is the process of collecting data in large scale by taking advantage of low-cost sensors, then making intelligent analysis of the information collected by the platform and returning the analyzed results, thus improving productivity. “However, the process requires compatibility between hardware and software, such as cloud computing and collector of entry information,” she added.

The classification into the so-called four fields is made from a technical perspective, she explained. However, real investment is made depending on the specific applications in various sectors. For example, computer vision can be applied to the medical field, especially medical image analysis. If natural language processing is applied to the industrial automation, then it is both intelligent industry and artificial intelligence. Therefore, the four fields are integrated with and complementary to each other, sharing a common subject.

Zhang said she usually arrives home at 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Then she will go on with other work. “Now the company is in a period of rapid development, so all team members are under high workloads,” she said. “But we hope that we can take advantage of this stage to help rapidly expand our business with our maximum time, utmost efforts and passion.”

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Lu Zhang invited mayors of cities in Silicon Valley to Fusion Fund Annual Conference

Even when she was a college student, Zhang was already a well-known “workaholic.” She admitted that it is almost impossible to achieve a so-called balance between academic performance and entrepreneurial efforts. The more you want to achieve, the more time you need to spend, she noted. “The simplest way is to sacrifice personal time, such as sleeping time, meal time and time for social networking,” she added.

Stanford University always provides its graduates with a platform for social networking, which allowed Zhang to carry out her venture capital career more accurately and smoothly. “With the platform provided by the university, its graduates can rapidly get in touch with the outstanding schoolfellows such as local investors and entrepreneurs, and communicate with them on a frequent basis,” she said. “The two sides can also form a 'mentorship' relationship if they are willing to do so. I am among the many students who have benefited from this alumni network."
By taking advantage of such a platform, Zhang put more pressure on herself. She has made remarkable achievements by rapidly integrating herself into the local community, firmly seizing excellent development opportunities, and then finding out the best way suitable for her by making accurate predictions and judgment. This should be attributed to her extraordinary perseverance, passionate enthusiasm, mature mind and strong commitment to her ideal.

How should a woman make a difference in the venture capital investment sector, a field that has been dominated by men for long time? How can a young VC blaze a trail in this field in which the middle-aged successful people enjoy an absolute advantage? It is often a controversial issue concerning how young VCs can achieve that.

However, Zhang said she have never encountered such a “crisis of confidence,” and never encountered the impression of “stereotypes.” All of her business partners are Stanford alumni aged 40 years old and older, including well-known entrepreneurs, investors and NAE members in the United States.

Zhang said she has always showed respect for experienced investors; however, such respect is on the basis of equal treatment and equal communication for information. “Silicon Valley is a place of tolerance, advocating variety and endeavor from young people, and respecting diversity and the success of women,” she said. “Although female practitioners are just a minority in the venture capital investment circle, insiders won’t care about such factors as gender and age.”

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Lu Zhang was invited to SVIEF Opening with Duncan Logan, Founder & CEO of RocketSpace

She also stressed the importance of being mature to certain degree. “If the dialogue can’t be carried out at the same level, then your knowledge reserves cannot bring value to others,” she continued. “If so, no matter whatever mature appearance you have, you can’t win that deserved respect. It is more important than age and gender to share valuable information and exchange ideas based on past experiences.”
Fusion Fund tends to invest in projects that have been put into practice in the market, and pays special attention to an entrepreneur’s insight. “As insight is the prerequisite of vision, insight is the basis of a long-term plan,” Zhang added. “Only with insight can you enjoy unfair advantage.”

As an experienced investor, she gave her advice for those seeking a career in entrepreneurship. “First of, instead of blindly following catch popular trend and buzz, we must have their own independent judgment on making market decisions; secondly, we must be confident in the strength of teamwork because team members play critically important roles. Therefore, we need to consciously recruit high-caliber companions,” she said. “If it is entrepreneurship in the field of technology, in addition to advanced technology, we also need to check if such technology is provided with feasibility business plan and if it is possible for such technology to find commercial application.”

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Lu Zhang was invited to speak in NTES Tech Summit

When discussing the future, Zhang unveiled her ambitious plan of becoming one of the top players in VC field, as well as investing in a company that will change the world one day. “It is highly advocated in the Silicon Valley that one can make a fortune while changing the world,” she concluded. “For example, the emergence of such technologies as the internet and smartphones are very exciting milestones. The best investment and technology products shall generate huge social benefits while reaping enormous profits and achieving sustainable development. It’s indeed the source of my primitive passion and power.”