Courtney Chow

@courtneyzchow

My Internship in Venture Capital

My name is Courtney Chow, and I am a senior at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. I was a Fall 2015 intern at Collaborative Fund, and I am very thankful for my experience.

Collaborative Fund HQ in New York City

I learned that venture capital is fast-paced and dynamic. The industry allows you access to high impact work, opportunity to engage with passionate and interesting people, and exposure to cutting-edge technology and innovation. It is a window into the future. There is a general feeling of uncertainty and risk but a sense of hunger and ambition to achieve this future.

Collaborative Fund created an entrance for me into this world of venture capital. I had the chance to attend conferences, meet people at roundtable discussions hosted by innovative programs, and engage with portfolio companies. I was educated about deal flow, pitch decks, pro rata rights, valuations, convertible notes, term sheets… the list goes on. Yet, my education went beyond venture capital terms and processes. I learned deeper lessons from the people who worked at Collaborative. Yes, we discussed investment strategies, internal operations, and industry politics, but we also held powerful conversations centered on social justice, the purpose of life, and integrity. At Collaborative, I developed professionally and grew personally.

At a high level, I had three major takeaways:

How to assess a founder(s) and company: Collaborative has taught me that investing can be used as a tool to positively push the world forward, empowering individuals who want to make a lasting impact on society. At the same time, this is venture capital and potential for high returns is also extremely important. Success is at the nexus of these two concepts. I was able to learn how to ask the right questions, analyze market potential, evaluate a founder’s ability, and recognize reasons why not to invest. Whether I see a future career in venture capital or sit on the other side of the table as an entrepreneur, I have gained extremely valuable insight into the mindsets of venture capitalists.

The need for more people of color and women in venture capital and the startup space: What are the consequences for us as a society if the majority of companies are created by or selected by a homogeneous profile — white males? How many natural, built-in biases do these business models have and how will they affect the millions and/or billions of people they come in contact with? And, like Kathryn Finney said, “Is the industry losing the next Mark Zuckerberg just because the person isn’t white and male?” Attending events, meeting entrepreneurs, and speaking with industry leaders as an Asian-American woman, I have observed first-hand this homogeneity of the venture capital and startup ecosystem. One thing I really respect about Collaborative is their awareness and push for diversity within their own team as well as portfolio companies. There is incredible thought, creativity, innovation, and stories rooted in diversity. Why exclude this? There needs to be more recruitment of, acceptance of, and mentorship for diverse talent in these industries.

VC Demographic Exhibits

Collaborative Fund Diversity Numbers

What it is like to work at a rapidly growing firm: At almost five years old, Collaborative Fund is a relatively young firm. The company has been evolving in terms of team members, fund size, portfolio investments, and partnerships. It has been both an interesting and inspiring learning experience to watch them scale the company’s competencies and capabilities and to understand the necessary leadership it takes to do so successfully. This expansion manifested in my project assignments as I helped Collaborative identify growth horizontally and vertically. Horizontally, I looked at emerging economies in Asia. I focused on the Indonesian market and analyzed economic, social, and political parameters with a venture capital and technology perspective. Vertically, they gave me creative freedom to explore an industry that aligned with their mission and interested me: wearable technology.

The intersection of fitness and technology has always been a passion point for me. Multiple rehabs from soccer injuries spurred this curiosity. I have torn both of my ACLs, undergone five knee surgeries, and logged countless hours of physical therapy (culprit: soccer). I used technology (in many forms) to get back into shape and regain wellness. So, naturally, fitness technology was on my mind, but the industry was simply too broad. In an effort to narrow down my research, I searched for a sub-industry that I believed to be at a critical threshold, and this turned out to be wearable technology. I believe its existing marketplace has tremendous potential, is poised for rapid growth, and is defined by high expectations. Yet, the reality is that it has not been able to deliver on that ‘wow’ factor. This tipping point intrigued me, and I was keen on discovering why the apathy and eager to learn more about wearable’s future potential. These findings culminated in a 35+ page report on the current and future state of wearable technology.

Ultimately, I believe there are three major trends that will push wearables into the next generation and mainstream society [Report Below]:

A focus on human-centered design: Technology is advancing but design is stagnating. Wearable devices are still quite bulky and not aesthetically pleasing. They are viewed more as a standalone tech gadget for early adopters and digital trendsetters. Making wearable tech an intuitive part of our lives in the form of (but not restricted to) apparel, accessories, medication (smart pills, smart band-aids) will be an important component in creating mass adoption. Aligning functionality and form with the user’s individual needs and wants will create more popular products.

An improvement on real-time, data analytics: Consumers are given overwhelming information with inconsistent accuracy and data points with no real analysis. This causes hesitation to pay for devices that have yet to create a distinct value proposition. Consumers want actual suggestions and advice on how to improve and progress. Data sent back to the user should be highly relevant and personalized i.e. comparative usage, optimization, trends, and reasons for variation.

Industry and technology collaborations: Currently, wearable technology is mostly concentrated in the healthcare industry, which merges medical, fitness, and wellness. So, I expected wearables to create advancements in personalized health, data-facilitated care, and insurance. However, I was surprised to discover disruption beyond healthcare and in industries like but not limited to finance (See Mastercard partnerships), retail (omni-channel consumer experiences), and media (more personalized curation of relevant content and solutions). Wearable technology is becoming a critical component in the Internet of Things network and will integrate more into our lives, removing the hassle of being an added device.

Wearable technology is in the midst of exciting partnerships and transformations. If you are creating, building, or establishing a product in this space, please let us know. We would love to talk! (magic@collaborativefund.com) | www.collaborativefund.com

If you would like to connect with me, please reach out. | LinkedIn

Wearable Technology: Today’s Ambivalence and Tomorrow’s Potential

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