When things go well, some people tend to overweight their own contribution. When things are not working, they tend to overweight external factors or others. I believe social psychologists see these as examples of attribution bias, which is likely more prevalent in some groups than others. When a deal falls through, it’s because the other side didn’t understand or was being political. When a launch is delayed, it’s because the suppliers couldn’t meet the deadline. On the other hand, when a team wins a championship, people argue over which play or individual athlete should be most recognized.
My experience in technology was only made possible by external factors beyond my control. My parents emigrated from Taiwan to the San Francisco Bay Area, which would go on to host the most dramatic rise of software technology the world has ever seen. The dawn of the consumer internet age provided me opportunities to witness explosive growth as part of Google’s expansion into global markets.
Of course it wasn’t just macro trends that helped me, but I was the direct beneficiary of so many individuals who gave me a chance. I’m grateful that @amac and @dickc gave me an opportunity to work @Twitter when they were just under 100 people. It was also there that @katies and @adambain believed in me to launch and run Europe for Twitter. Through that experience, I got to know and work with @eladgil and @othman who went on to co-found @Color, and I would later become its COO.
When it comes to success, the broader context and the actions of other individuals deserve to be recognized every bit — or even more so — than one’s own. That is why I often become wary when well-intentioned people ask others for career advice. There is often a risk of overweighting individual choices made while overlooking the importance of external factors and actions of others.
Which brings me to the next step in my career. I have decided to join @500startups as their Managing Partner. 500 has been investing and developing opportunities for entrepreneurs around the world to enable them to achieve their vision. 500’s globally-minded focus comes at a unique time. For the first time in history, more VC dollars are being deployed outside the U.S. and there are more unicorns being created outside the U.S. This next stage of venture capital going global happens to pass through where 500 is strongest.
500 began supporting founders around the globe almost a decade ago when it was still viewed as a contrarian bet. But in venture, you’re not rewarded just for being contrarian, you need to be right. And 500 was right. While doing diligence on the company, I didn’t see anywhere that covered 500’s investing record in-depth, but I learned they have amassed one of the largest portfolios of unicorn companies anywhere: 16 and counting, including Talkdesk, Intercom, Credit Karma, Grab, Bukalapak, Canva and GitLab. Moreover, the hit rate didn’t come at the expense of diluting fund performance. For example, their first fund which is now coming to maturity was raised in 2010, and it has performed in the top decile of one of the most competitive venture vintages. Just as I have been the beneficiary of both external factors and individuals who believed in me, 500 has been backing founders and developing the ecosystem to help them succeed all around the world. It’s great to see 500 being rewarded for that with fund performance.
Another reason I’m excited to join 500 is the commitment to a global mission that yields a unique portfolio and team. Historically, only a third of 500’s companies are based in Silicon Valley. A third are from other cities in the US, and a third are from outside the U.S. In the most recent batch, 33% of founders have been women and 35% are underrepresented minorities. Prior to my joining, the executive team at 500 itself was 50% female in roles such as CEO, COO, and Managing Partner — unprecedented in the venture world.
Given my experience having hired and managed global teams across over 30 different countries, I have long observed 500’s global operations with interest. Additionally, I have seen the resilience and grit of the team under the leadership of founder and CEO @christine_tsai. Through big wins and painful losses, I have admired how Christine quietly presses forward in her commitment to the mission of 500. The only place she flexes is within private group chats (OK, perhaps occasionally on Twitter), but by pressing forward, she and the team have built an incredible platform to equip founders with capital, expertise and community on a global basis.
I’m grateful to Christine and all those who have taken a chance on me and allowed me this opportunity. Just as I have benefitted from external circumstances and people who have believed in me, I’m excited to provide to entrepreneurs around the world the same in pursuit of their dreams.
P.S. If the 500 mission resonates with you, we are hiring!
(The views expressed are mine and not necessarily those of 500 Startups.)