Diane Yoo of Medingenii: “Resilience”

Resilience. It’s crucial that the founder have an uncanny ability to think swiftly outside of the box and navigate hurdles and ultimately grow a sustainable company. A founder’s ability to adapt dynamically will give them an edge regardless of economic adversaries. As part of our series about “5 Things I Need To See Before Making […]

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Resilience. It’s crucial that the founder have an uncanny ability to think swiftly outside of the box and navigate hurdles and ultimately grow a sustainable company. A founder’s ability to adapt dynamically will give them an edge regardless of economic adversaries.

As part of our series about “5 Things I Need To See Before Making A VC Investment” I had the pleasure of interviewing Diane Yoo.

Diane Yoo is a results-driven entrepreneur, venture capitalist and angel investor with more than 15+ years of experience. As an accredited investor, she has invested in 30+ companies and is passionate about empowering women and diversity investors and founders. With only 1% of Asian females leading as Partner or Founder in Venture Capital, Diane is the first woman General Partner for medtech and healthtech venture capital in the heart of the largest medical center of the world, Texas Medical Center. With a proven track record, she is a seasoned expert as founder and partner to several investment funds and investment networks. Diane has extensive experience in leading deals, sitting on boards and leading companies to successful exits.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please share with us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this specific career path?

As an entrepreneur, I hit the fundraise roadshow for my tech firm and personally witnessed the stark disparities of investors that truly understand women and diverse founders in tech. My eureka moment was identifying the lack of women and diverse investors who could truly make a difference for founders. Women and diverse founders were leaving Houston for Silicon Valley, New York, Austin and other cities that could offer more robust ecosystems for venture and entrepreneurs. I decided to dig deep roots, utilize my network, and pivot to ultimately architect a fund to serve as a catalyst for investing in medtech and healthtech.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

That would be, “Social Inc.: Why Business Is the Next Social Opportunity Worth Trillions,” by Bob Zukis. It resonated with me because as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, creating culture is at the helm of what makes an organization. I believe the critical success to a long term fund is synonymous with transparency and building relationships with key limited partners.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“There will be dizzying heights of successes, but not without failure.” Firstly, the entrepreneurial journey is filled with taking risks. One of the greater risks is team dynamic as new ventures begin with new teams. If business is a marriage, be strategic from inception and cover everything through legal documentation. Secondly, as a partner and founder of a VC firm, a significant amount of time is spent fundraising. Fundraising is a numbers game. Have the perseverance to hear “no” when you are proactively working a sales campaign.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

An essential soft skills quality that’s often overlooked is empathy. As a founder, I understand the pain points of founders and their journey. It comes down to relationships and having a lasting connection with investors and serving the entrepreneurial community. While some VC’s come off as cold, it’s best to have a nurturing, positive relationship with portfolio companies. VC’s ultimately have to make a cold choice between letting companies go, recovering money by pivoting, or putting stakes in the best performing companies.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a woman and diverse investor, I am acutely aware that the greatest impact is to empower and inspire more diverse investors to deploy capital to create impact for lasting generations. Additionally, I continue to cultivate a powerful presence while actively building quality networks to effectively support entrepreneurs and portfolio companies.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our discussion. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share a few things that need to be done on a broader societal level to expand VC opportunities for women, minorities, and people of color?

Women and people of color should be at the forefront of decision making and therefore make powerful investments decisions. This catalyzes not only generational wealth, but spurs tectonic innovation across industries for women and diversity. As top tier VC’s have access to insider only, top quality deals, we need to continue providing opportunities for women and diverse startups to get into these key networks. However, the most effective way to effect change is mentorship. Deep seated learning side-by-side with a seasoned fund partner will fast track knowledge for the mentee.

Can you share a story with us about your most successful Angel or VC investment? What was its lesson?

Building proprietary deal flow and network further became the sole differentiator for my successful VC investment. I invested in an innovative startup that disrupted the oil and gas industry. The sole driver for why this investment popped was due to the founder’s track record, his industry expertise, and deep understanding of how to navigate and disrupt a multi-billion dollar industry.

Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding failure of yours? What was its lesson?

At a moment’s notice, high potential deals can get funded swiftly. Expectations regarding capital commitments should be clarified when engaging with potential investments. Initially, I had underestimated a deal that soon after, accelerated quickly and closed out in full tilt. As founders have nonstop schedules balancing multiple priorities, it’s important to continue checking in with the founder for funding updates.

Can you share a story with us about a problem that one of your portfolio companies encountered and how you helped to correct the problem? We’d love to hear the details and what its lesson was.

In the beginning of my career, I learned a valuable lesson around the importance of investing in people, and not the product or service. It’s a priority to invest in people that are manageable and open to counsel. Building a proprietary rolodex of healthcare and medtech investors and advisors create tremendous value add as lead investors.

Is there a company that you turned down, but now regret? Can you share the story? What lesson did you learn from that story?

Investments can close quickly if they are seen as an incredibly promising company. It’s important to maintain relationships with founders to ensure that when they close their funding, they’re closing it with you.

Super. Here is the main question of this interview. What are your “5 things I need to see before making a VC investment” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

First Thing & Story / Example:

I place a high priority on the leadership soft skills of the founder. Does the founder have empathy, humility, intellectual curiosity, and gratitude? Is the entrepreneur coachable? One of the greatest pieces of advice a VC mentor told me was to watch out for uncoachable founders. Such founders could be to the detriment of the fund if they are litigious and do not adhere to the advice of board or venture partners. My mentor suffered a 150 million dollars lawsuit at the hands of an arrogant know-it-all entrepreneur.

Second Thing & Story / Example:

Team. In order to whittle down thousands of investment opportunities, it’s crucial that I invest in the right management team. There are a plethora of ideas, but does the team create the best chance with their collective expertise to bring the product to scale and market?

Third Thing & Story / Example:

Exits. When I make a potential investment, the founder’s experience and ability to successfully grow a company to an exit is impressive because it proves their expertise for that given industry.

Fourth Thing & Story / Example:

Investor history and current investor network. Co-investment opportunities with other VCs can speed up the vetting and due diligence process.

Fifth Thing & Story / Example:

Resilience. It’s crucial that the founder have an uncanny ability to think swiftly outside of the box and navigate hurdles and ultimately grow a sustainable company. A founder’s ability to adapt dynamically will give them an edge regardless of economic adversaries.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I was told “no” several times when I first entered the world of venture capital. Telling me no was essentially seen as an invitation for a challenge. My resilience was built through the tumultuous life of an entrepreneur, and I forged ahead with grit building my career from the ground up to being the top 1 percent in VC as an Asian female partner in VC. As the VC ecosystem is largely white and male, my passion lies in creating an outsized impact on this world by breaking barriers to spur future women and diverse venture dreamers.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Serena Williams is the epitome of a powerful Black woman shattering records and revolutionizing women’s tennis. As the highest paid female athlete who has been featured multiple times on the Forbes “100 highest-paid athletes” list, Serena also smashed records in VC where we have a shared mission to invest and empower women and diverse founders. She has championed a portfolio similar to my interest in e-commerce, health, food, and fashion. Our synergies work together and would love to ace our way through the male-dominated venture industry. She leaves a lasting legacy that women can do it all.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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