Community//

Xiao Jean Chen of VenturePole: “They deserve to be just as successful as any boy”

We need more women to step up to the plate, speak up, lean in, demand equal pay, equal housework and opportunities. We need more adults to tell girls that they CAN break inequitable gender stereotypes and roles, because they’re just as good at math, science and technology, and they deserve to be just as successful […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

We need more women to step up to the plate, speak up, lean in, demand equal pay, equal housework and opportunities. We need more adults to tell girls that they CAN break inequitable gender stereotypes and roles, because they’re just as good at math, science and technology, and they deserve to be just as successful as any boy.


As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the VC gender gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Xiao Jean Chen of VenturePole.

A business and technology hybrid, XJ is an entrepreneur building AI-powered tools for venture capital. She also mentors and invests in startups.

Her mission is to make venture capital faster, better and equitable. Raise more money for female founders and founders of color. Help investors make better investments faster.

She is an organizational studies major and worked as a management consultant and corporate strategist. XJ’s toolset include rainmaking, business and data analytics, mixed-method research, front-end programming and writing verses she calls poetry.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?

Thank you for having me!

I am a fintech entrepreneur and angel investor, I started investing in blockchain companies in 2016. The value proposition proposed by the distributed ledger technology completely enamored me, particularly the potential it has to democratize financial services. It allows people to tap into opportunity and resources unavailable to them before, whether due to their low socio-economic status or because they lived in developing countries.

As I started out on my journey as an angel investor, I quickly ran into hurdles created by a lack of smart investor tools. There hasn’t been innovation in venture capital since Google and Excel, which most investors still use today as their primary tools for screening and due diligence.

The lack of smart tools make venture investing manual and cumbersome, for both investors and entrepreneurs. It’s as if we’re riding horse carriages, when other industries are driving cars.

The more the researcher, technologist and consultant in me looked into this problem, the more certain I am of building a better solution. This is how I became a fintech entrepreneur.

Can you share a story of your most successful Angel or VC investment? In your opinion, what was its main lesson?

My most successful investment is no doubt the startup I founded, VenturePole. How much time do we have to tell the story? It’s a long story, but we’re actually still in our early seed stage, launching two new smart tools for investors and founders this December.

Long story short, I read a report by a Chinese venture capital firm on the lessons they learned from investing in over 150 companies. They found that although all founders have different backgrounds, personalities and expertise, successful ones shared one attribute, they were all like religious leaders. They had complete faith in their vision, willpower of steel and they were able to attain a following, in the form of a team and early adopters.

I think this is a poignant observation of what it takes to build a successful venture. Entrepreneurship is not lollipops and sunshine, it’s filled with rejection, especially if you’re a female Asian foreigner in Switzerland, trial and error, sleepless nights caused both by working late and semi-meltdowns.

So it is vital to have humility like all great religious leaders, if you launch a venture investment platform just before the pandemic hit, and you’d been dealt 46 direct rejections from investors, customers and partners. I don’t know if it’s the best or worst of times, but it definitely tested our wisdom and belief, to keep the faith and grit to filter out useful feedback and improve your offering, time after time.

Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding “failure” of yours? Is there a lesson or take away that you took out of that that our readers can learn from?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m also prone to the herd mentality of investors, where we follow our peers or even influencer investors. Research shows that the majority of VC deal flow comes from entrepreneurs themselves or informal networks. FOMO is very real.

Furthermore, because scouting, screening and due diligence is so cumbersome, angel investing easily turns into a full-time job, because you don’t have an army of scouts or analysts like a VC firm. This is why many angels join angel clubs or associations, where the herd mentality governs, but profitable investment opportunities are lost when a lead investor is biased against female founders or founders of color.

I consider this the biggest failure for our industry.

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

No regrets. I needed to focus my resources on my own startup, this leaves little time or money to help other companies grow.

That said, I mentor startups at Startupbootcamp, the biggest accelerator in Europe. As a mentor, I advise founders on all matters related to fundraising and share my network if I see a good fit.

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this article in Fortune, only 2.2% of VC dollars went to women in 2018. Can you share with our readers what your firm is doing to help close the VC gender gap?

Our venture investment platform automates 60% of due diligence for investors, this gives us a chance to take a closer look at companies before we meet the founders, which is when bias plays a big role in our investment decisions, there is a TED talk on this issue.

We also built tools to level the playing field for female founders and founders of color. Our unbiased Investment Risk Rating is a machine learning algorithm that predicts the survival rate of startups. Data on higher profitability of diverse teams will be factored in in the next release, so diversity-led startups get a better rating.

This December, we are launching two new features on our platform, our Valuation Calculator and Company Strength Analysis, both factoring in the higher profitability of diverse leadership.

Next year, we plan to launch a Team Diversity Rating, highlighting diversity-led startups and making it super easy to invest in them.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the VC gender gap. Please share a story or example for each.

We need more women leaders, period. We need women in every country’s White House, congress, boardrooms and anywhere decisions are being made.

We know women are better leaders according to Harvard research, but systematic patriarchal oppression and gender stereotypes will have us believe otherwise.

We need more women to step up to the plate, speak up, lean in, demand equal pay, equal housework and opportunities. We need more adults to tell girls that they CAN break inequitable gender stereotypes and roles, because they’re just as good at math, science and technology, and they deserve to be just as successful as any boy.

Women need to lead, take on more responsibility, because we’re better at it.

You are a person of great 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’ve made it a mission to democratize venture capital, make it faster, better and equitable. Raise more money for female founders and founders of color, so we get equal opportunity to entrepreneurship and build businesses that improve lives. Helping investors make better investments is important too, so that we don’t miss out on so many investment opportunities with high returns.

I hope we put more women in leadership positions, in congress, boardrooms, even at home. This movement is propelled by many great women before me and we stand on the shoulders of giants like RBG. It feels good knowing that I’m doing my part too.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Seven years ago, when I started to learn about Buddhism, my first lesson was “impermanence”. It’s an extremely simple teaching that changed how I live my life.

Impermanence means three things: one, we all die; two, nobody knows when (until you do, if you do); three, all we can take with us is karma, the good and the bad we’ve done.

So I stopped making long-term plans and have been living every year as my last. I do what I love and spend time with people I enjoy being around. It doesn’t stop the suffering and misery we carry around as human beings, but it certainly relieves it.

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, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I reread Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One” this March, as we were getting hit by the pandemic and needed to adjust and adapt the roadmap and strategy we’d planned for 2020. The book helped to clear my mind from my fears and noise around me, to focus on the essentials and strengthen our fundamental value proposition.

We ended up pivoting our go-to-market strategy and hiring plans completely. I reckon it’d be interesting to tell him my story and get his feedback in person.

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


Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

“Don’t Take Rejection Personally” with Justine and Olivia Moore

by Jean Ginzburg
Community//

“Work as Though Success Is Not a Guarantee” with Jeff Ransdell

by Jean Ginzburg
Community//

How Mindfulness Practices Promote Equal Opportunities and Reduce Gender Bias.

by Roshawnna Novellus

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.