A Patchwork Quilt Journey

I feel an intrinsic need to make a positive difference in the world but have too many ideas of what that could mean. My various plans have included:

  1. Renovating a dilapidated mansion to house the many children I plan to foster
  2. Reinvigorating America’s public libraries
  3. Convert every empty lot into community gardens
  4. Adopt all the dogs and cats in kill shelters

Basically, I’m all over the place.

My first foray into saving the world was in the solar power industry. I joined a startup that had raised over $850M from top venture capital firms and was founded by a promising and experienced team. I had dreams of powering the world through the sun and other natural resources, providing equitable energy while saving money and the environment. It later declared bankruptcy and I watched as 500+ of my past colleagues and friends scrambled to find jobs that would pay the exorbitant Bay Area rent prices. This experience taught me that though it is important to grow quickly, it is equally important to grow correctly. Having hundreds of millions in funding does not guarantee success.

One day I found myself looking at the AmeriCorps job site and impetuously applied to a position with Denver Public Schools. The next day, I received a call asking if I could be in Denver by the end of the week. I felt electrified, packed everything I could fit into my Mazda3, and was in Denver within a few days. To say I was ill-prepared was a huge understatement. I had summer tires on my car and summer sandals on my feet. I was a Los Angeles girl in Denver in November. That year I grew, learned, and experienced more than all my years in college combined. Charity, non-profit, and mission-driven initiatives were redefined as I learned the importance of community and empathy.

At the end of my service term, I moved to San Francisco — the city that believes the answers to all the world’s problems lie in technology. I too believe that technology, when used correctly, is an incredible tool that can solve anything efficiently and impartially. Fast track a few years, I received an email from AngelList while in an Uber wearing Patagonia (clearly turning into a Silicon Valley drone) connecting me to someone named Katherine Clayton. We know where this is headed right?

We couldn’t have been more different. In college, I couldn’t wait to get out of school and graduated early while Katherine spent an additional seven years in school getting her Masters and PhD in Biomedical Engineering. Like Katherine, I knew from an early age that I wanted to have a mission-driven career but lacked direction while she knew from the age of seven that she would be developing solutions for infectious diseases. I joined her team September 2018 and have had the unique opportunity to apply my seemingly disconnected experiences and skills towards building a company.

Combined with the team’s 80+ years experience in infectious diseases, biomedical engineering, microfluidics, and biochemistry, my experience in startup and consumer technology make us quite the formidable team! With industry shifting back to boutique products and made-to-order solutions, career and company paths are becoming more fluid. I am a dreamer that loves to put chaos to order. Katherine is an academic turned entrepreneur that loves driving strategy and vision. It doesn’t have to make sense. When we sew patchwork pieces together, threaded by our passion to change the world, the resulting quilt is beautiful.

Lynne Cheng et al. 2019