“In the US, people respect doers, not the hierarchy. I have tried to started my VC journey in Beijing, China before I came to Silicon Valley. But people in China care more about which school you went to, who are your parents, and who you know. Obviously I had nothing, I felt upset in Beijing. I knew I would have no chance to do the things I wanted there and I would have no chance to achieve what I wanted to achieve in my life. I wanted to do my favorite things, and in my own way. I don’t want to cater to other people, I just want to be myself. In the US, I started my first company while I was school when I was 21. Although it was a small company compared to those in Silicon Valley, people still showed me respect. Even though I didn’t attend elite schools and didn’t have any experience, after I grew my track records of investments people started to recognize my true potential. In the US, people recognize a person by their achievements, what they have completed, not where they came from. The man who built Alibaba is from a tier 4 University in China. this giant Chinese tech founder doesn’t even have any tech background; He was an English teacher. The Alibaba team is not an all star team from elite schools, they’re just eager to learn and make things happen no matter how hard it is.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Chance Du — Founder & CEO of Coefficient Ventures
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I did not come from much. Rather, I came from barely anything, and yet, here I am. This is a story of how my dreams and my ambition took me from a rural upbringing in Sichuan China to starting my own global blockchain fund in Silicon Valley.
I was born and raised in the agrarian Sichuan province of China. Growing up, my family earned $3,000 a year. I knew it was necessary for me to actively make my own contributions if I wanted life to be easier for all of us. I also knew that this would be very difficult without a decent college education. I studied hard for many years, desperate to lead a better life, until I finally got into a University in China. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to get into either of the top two universities. My prior, below average education was not good enough, and from my county, only one person every five years is able to get into schools of this merit. At the same time, there was more than 100 kids at one school in Beijing admitted into these universities. Education opportunities are not equal, whether it be in China, or anywhere else in the world.
Ultimately, my goal was to come to the United States to study, but I did not have the money to do so at the time. So, I started my first startup while still in graduate school, because I knew I had to start somewhere. For my first start up, it was not about changing the world as so many aspiring entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley claim to want to do, but more so about becoming financially independent and to support myself so I could gain the ability to see outside of my own little world. From this start up, I made enough money so I would not have to work for a basic living anymore. Believe me, it was not easy. But, I finally had the chance to choose what I really wanted to do, and I was only 24.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?
I began traveling around China to discover what the next big thing I wanted to do was. I wanted to figure out my true passion in life, without worrying about making money. 2015 was when I first learned about Venture Capital at a conference in Beijing. The speaker was a Stanford graduate turned successful serial entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist in China. I immediately thought, “I want to be a Venture Capitalist at the center of startups — Silicon Valley.” I wanted to have the ability to invest in projects I believed in and watch them grow into something monumental. Of course, I doubted how I would do this without any relevant background, little experience, and a non-existent reputation. First step is quite obvious; I have to be physically in Silicon Valley to become a Venture Capitalist in Silicon Valley.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I landed in San Francisco January, 2016. This journey did not come without reservations. California has not always been the most welcoming towards Chinese immigrants. My history is an uneasy and difficult one to process. Since the 1850’s, Chinese immigrants came to California to escape famine and poverty, and to seek out a new and better beginning. This was not necessarily met with open arms. In 1871, 500 California residents ravaged the city’s Chinatown, murdering at least 19 Chinese residents. In 1875, California’s Senators urged Washington D.C. to pass the Page Act, which would prohibit convicted felons, prostitutes, and Asian contract laborers from entering the United States. This set the precedent to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which ultimately banned all Chinese laborers and immigrants the chance for citizenship, fitting them into a mold of being permanent foreigners. No matter how many years ago this was, I couldn’t help but think, as a Chinese immigrant, coming from nothing, and a woman on top of that, would this be how I was perceived when I came to America?
This is the history I have known. It has even existed as recently as the 1990’s. Chinese-Americans fought against “glass ceilings” and perpetually negative stereotypes. Once gentrification started to set in, many Chinese immigrants were priced out of old Chinatown. It started to flood with wealthy tourists looking to get their ethnic fix, kicking out those that actually called it home.
Regardless of how much of this exists today, the point is that it existed. I had also never spoken English before, minus practicing some simple sentences in high school here and there, with completely wrong pronunciations. So why, at this point, with all considered, did I not turn my back and head back home? If those before me could do it, and endure such hardships, why couldn’t I? I had to constantly remind myself that life is a miracle, and that it is more of a blessing than a battle to work diligently towards my dreams. I was living in rural China for 16 years, and now I am in the United States. Yes, I have known hardships, but now I am here, and I deserve to be here, just as much as anyone else. I was in the world’s biggest hotspot for startups and Venture Capital, and I knew I had a right to be there.
I lived in an Airbnb bunk bed for several months near Stanford University, going to countless free meetups to talk with people and improve my spoken English. Sometimes, I would drop into Stanford classes just to see what the smartest people in the world were doing and thinking, while also trying to figure out how I could become one of them. I can still remember how excited I got whenever I saw the people who inspired me in all of the startup books I read, in real life. It felt surreal. It felt like a dream. I learned how important a vision can be and to always think big by starting small.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
One story that helped get my feet off the ground is that of Chris Sacca. He wrote some small checks here and there for early stage startups, one of which would eventually turn into Twitter. I thought to myself, “If Chris Sacca can write a $25,000 check to Twitter, Chance can also write a $25,000 check to become a Venture Capitalist.” Obviously, major Venture Capitalist firms such as Andreessen Horowitz were not going to hire me no matter how determined I was or how many emails I sent, because in the end, I had no elite school background, never studied in the United States, and knew no one in the Valley. So, at this point, I knew the only way I can succeed is to hire myself as a Venture Capitalist.
I calculated my savings I made from my first startup, and concluded that it was enough to invest in more than 20 deals at $25,000. I could even invest in more if I were to lower the size of the check. I always learn by doing. I began by investing equity in AI, but after one year, I realized it was no way for me to win in this game as an angel investor with limited capital and no brand. Also, AI is more a big tech company’s game, with founders from elite schools with PhDs whose companies were acquired by Google or Facebook. I, on the other hand, like everything that is democratized, and where everyone is given a fair and equal shot at participating. Attribute it to my background and upbringing, if you will. So, I ventured on to new verticals, knowing confidently I would never have a chance to compete with those top AI funds with my tiny, bootstrapped capital.
So how are things going today?
In September 2017, I launched Coefficient Ventures. For years people had been doing things the old way, trying tirelessly to raise money for their funds. I realized it is not efficient to spend months or years just to talk with Limited Partners and maybe raise some money. In the world of blockchain, a few months could change everything, and everything moves quickly. For the first fund, I decided to do it solely with my own money. In eight months, I have made over 30 investments, and turned the fund’s $200,000 worth of initial crypto assets into over $20M worth of crypto assets at its peak. Coefficient Ventures is a company investing exclusively in the blockchain ecosystem to accelerate the process of democratizing the traditional financial system. The platform is built upon an infrastructure entirely dedicated to blockchain, and promotes enhanced scalability, privacy, and security. Even when the market is in downtime, I believe it will always come back, because the majority of the projects I support have very strong technical teams and solid technology. I now co-invest with all of the top tier funds, including Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain Capital. If you told me this five years ago, I wouldn’t believe you. I have built a strong network in the Silicon Valley, from originally knowing nobody.
I believe the bottom line is not to be involved with any projects that would potentially hurt my reputation; a reputation I have worked for many years to build. Quite honestly, I do not care how big the brand is or how big the returns will be, only how it will affect what I built and the values it stands upon. I have even withdrawn some of my investments that could seemingly give immediate returns to avoid associating with people or projects that are not doing the right things or in the right way. Reputation is everything in the blockchain space, and I did not work this hard to have it tarnished or destroyed.
In addition to starting my own company, I have also hosted and organized a top blockchain conference called the CPC Blockchain Devcon, with speakers from Andreessen Horowitz to the Ethereum Foundation. Additionally, I have spoken myself at many top tier conferences, such as Google Female Founder Summit, Ethereum Denver, and Stanford’s Beyond Bitcoin class.
So, this is my story. Even though I am a woman, who came from a small rural province in China with next to nothing, my story is as American as anyone else’s, and I have worked hard to make that possible. What’s next for me? Launching a new stealth mode fund to democratize blockchain investing — The Dao 2.0. It is backed by Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, and a few other major names in blockchain, and will operate as an open-sourced community driven decentralized crypto fund. Essentially, it is a new governance model experimenting in investing. Compared with the original DAO, we will focus mainly on the innovation of the governance model so that it will actually work and be applicable in the current ecosystem. At this point, the sky’s the limit. Almost all of the top players in the blockchain industry know a girl named Chance, and are impressed by her story and effort. I have known hardships, and I have known challenges, but I have mostly known the benefits of taking chances. It is in my name, after all.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I want to share my persoal experience with the world to show people like me, those that don’t have elite education background or strong family ties, that they can also build their dream from nothing, just like I did. From my own experience, having a role model for young people is crucial. Once they see others, from the same background, that have succeeded, they begin to build their own hope as well.
I have plans to establish a second fund that will have a global impact, with equal capital allocations to anywhere in the world, not like the typical Silicon Valley VC’s which focus their capital in the western world. With my unique background and global vision, I want to fill in the missing gap, the areas that Silicon Valley VC’s never reach.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?
I would like to make the entrepreneurship Visa process simpler apply, which would grant entrepreneurs less obstacles living in the US. They are builders, they are the people that could make America change and provide more jobs and therefore, more opportunities.
I would be make the H1B system easier with less paperwork. It’s difficult for a startup to hire an immigrant since the applications process take too much time and energy. The startups usually can’t complete these processes until it becomes a bigger firm.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
1, Go and see a bigger world while you’re still young. I think my success would have been bigger had I come at a younger age to Silicon Valley. Having a vision and a role model is very important for people’s achievement. I always recommend for the younger generation to come visit Silicon Valley as soon as they can so they can see and feel for themselves the power of people’s determination and mission of changing the world through technology.
For example, I just found there is something called Venture Capital when I was 24 years old, and I immediately knew that’s the job that I wanted to do in my life. Also if I wasn’t in the Valley I might have not been able to recognize the innovations of Blockchain so early.
2, Giving and helping other people first without asking.
For example, I didn’t know anybody here when I came to the valley two years ago. I had no resources except my time and my dedication of helping other people.
I went to a lot of networking events to meet people and tried my best to help others’ needs, while also keeping my energy on my own goals, no matter how hard it was. Then I made progress, proved to people that i am not just a random girl they met in an event that knew nothing. I can actually get things done and help them. Then everything just took off.
3, Do good and keep your core value.
There are lots of hard decisions when I am doing investments. Especially in Blockchain world, there is lots of money and opportunities in this space. But I am extremely careful of which projects I am backing and investing. This is because there are many scam projects in this space, if they get good and credible names to back them, all other people will follow too, which creates a huge risk for everyone. The bottom line is to do good for this world and people. I also knew big success never came from just luck, it also came from your initial mind of doing things.
4, Learning from practice and doing things. I always learn from doing things, not necessarily from schools or books. For example, I had no experience in Venture Capital before. Suddenly I just started to do angel investing in the valley. After I have seen hundreds of teams and startups, I got enough experience to judge what’s a good team and what’s a good startup. I made mistakes and made some bad investments, then I learned what pitfall or lessons I should avoid. I applied those experience of selecting team to my Crypto investments, and found that it works pretty well. That’s typical Silicon Valley startup approach. Move fast and learning fast.
5, Only do things you are passionate about, not just your job.
For example, I recognized I wanted to do Venture Capital when I first heard about this term. I am now in this world venture capital because I really like it. Even if I lost money and had no experience or background at the beginning, I had no fear. My passion drives me to learn everything very quickly, and I never gave up, even during all the hardships.
Lots of people will ask how could I know what my real passion is?
Well we can go back to the fourth point I mentioned above, just do things — explore and go see the outside world. I believe that you can truly find what you’re passionate about as long as you have seen enough new and exciting things.
I have spent 2 years traveling all over China and came to Silicon Valley trying to find what’s my next big thing, and what my real passion was.
Finally, I found blockchain and built Coefficient Ventures.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
1, Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is the hub of blockchain, new technology and entrepreneurships. Every projects or fund come to Silicon Valley for strong funds, partnership, talents etc. It’s still the most efficient place to gather all the top resources and information in one place.
As long as the innovation continues, US will have a good future.
2, Diversity. US is the most diversity country I have been. It’s open for everyone, immigrants can find the sense of personal identification here and start to build their American Dream.
It’s a country of immigrants, it’s very powerful to be able to attract the talents all over the world come to the US and build the US.
3, Respect doers, not the hierarchy.
I have tried to started my VC journey in Beijing, China before I came to Silicon Valley. But people in China care more about which school you went to, who are your parents, and who you know.
Obviously I had nothing, I felt upset in Beijing. I knew I would have no chance to do the things I wanted there and I would have no chance to achieve what I wanted to achieve in my life. I wanted to do my favorite things, and in my own way. I don’t want to cater to other people, I just want to be myself.
In the US, I started my first company while I was school when I was 21. Although it was a small company compared to those in Silicon Valley, people still showed me respect. Even though I didn’t attend elite schools and didn’t have any experience, after I grew my track records of investments people started to recognize my true potential. In the US, people recognize a person by their achievements, what they have completed, not where they came from.
The man who built Alibaba is from a tier 4 University in China. this giant Chinese tech founder doesn’t even have any tech background; He was an English teacher. The Alibaba team is not an all star team from elite schools, they’re just eager to learn and make things happen no matter how hard it is.
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. 🙂
I’d like to have a private breakfast with the Founder of Andreessen Horowitz. Marc Andressen and Ben Horowitz.
I want to tell them in person that a Chinese girl came from a rural area in China and has ambitions to build the next A16Z of blockchain in the valley. I want to learn from them how to build an impact fund.
Also I admire A16Z’s bullish on crypto. Not many traditional VCs can take that risk. They are willing to support the new things, even if it’s risky and uncertain. I want to understand their vision; how they create, think and envision.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.
Originally published at medium.com