Written by CAPA-JRC reporter Eileen Luo
The last event, which took place on August 25, was a Q&A session where the host from Chinese American Parents Association of Montgomery County (CAPA MC) asked the speaker, Millie Liu, about her experiences as an entrepreneur.
Liu is the founding partner of FirstStar, a venture capital (VC) firm, and a MIT startup company. After a brief introduction, the Q&A session veered towards entrepreneurship.
“A lot of [entrepreneurship] is really just trying to solve your customers’ problems, when they are not fully capable of identifying or explaining what they want,” said Liu. “[So a]t the early stage, focus on solving problems for your product, find the early believers [who] believe in you, and [believe] in your team.” She also noted that, in the initial stages, having a good team is extremely crucial to creating a successful business.
Liu speaking at the last event.
When asked about the different ways to fund a company, she said, “Venture capital is one of the many different ways you can fund your company,” In particular, it is typically a good fit for your business if your business can scale to a larger size. However, it is not the only way to fund a company: Liu lists bank loans as another option.
Another key concept Liu discussed was the concept of business incubators, which are organizations that help entrepreneurs develop their businesses by providing services ranging from management training and office space to venture capital financing.
Incubators can be very useful during the early days of your business when you do not have many resources. “I definitely recommend, especially for this audience, incubators are the way to go,” said Liu.
Like incubators, VCs nowadays also tend to target businesses in their earlier stages through events such as fellowship programs or competitions. “[Such events] are also really good channels,” she said, “where you will also get access to not just investors, but also potentially folks from the industry who may be your customers.”
But whereas incubators can be general or themed, VCs tend to specialize. Thus, finding a VC whose thesis is relevant to the purpose of your company is crucial. “So first, before saying ‘how do I reach out and find VCs?’, you have to find out the thesis or what different VCs do,” said Liu.
As for reaching out to VCs? “VC is historically, and still largely is, a networking business, in a way,” said Liu. “If you can get [someone to vouch for you], that’s definitely the best.” However, she recognized that this is a luxury, especially for first-time founders. Other options she discussed included sending out cold emails-- tailored to each individual VC, so it is not overlooked-- and building an online presence.
Soon thereafter, the event concluded with a Q&A session between Liu and the audience members.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 26 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.