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VC Corner Q&A: Grace Chou of Felicis Ventures

Grace Chou is a Vice President at Felicis Ventures investing in early stage startups. Prior to Felicis, she was a corporate development / BD leader at Walmart. She started her career in investment banking at Houlihan Lokey and Oppenheimer & Co. Grace was named to Forbes 30 under 30 in Venture Capital in 2020.

— What is Felicis Venture’s mission?

At Felicis, we invest across all sectors from seed through Series C. Our portfolio companies operate across 15+ countries, with founders from 40+ countries.

One core value that our team deeply embraces is “investing with empathy,” which means we dedicate ourselves to not only the companies we invest in, but the founders and humans behind these amazing growth stories. To that end, we are the first and only fund to commit 1% of non-dilutive capital on top of every first check we write towards personalized founder development: executive coaching, therapy, and more.

— What is one thing you are excited about right now?

I have been thinking a lot about the potential shifts in consumer behavior and preferences driven by the health and economic crisis we are experiencing right now. I am excited about the accelerating shift towards eCommerce and the opportunities for startups to tackle commerce fulfillment and infrastructure. I believe the way that we think about the future of workplace collaboration, families, education, mental health, social/communities, and healthcare access will all change in some way. I am looking for the next generation of exceptional founders building in these areas.

Separately, I continue to be eager to find timeless companies with mission-critical products that can persevere through cycles. In particular, I am spending more time in cybersecurity, developer tools, and vertical SaaS, which are newer areas for me but ones I’m keen to learn more about.

— Who is one founder you think we should watch?

Benjamine Liu, founder of Trialspark. Trialspark is re-imagining clinical trials by enabling physician practices to become sites for clinical trials, leveraging technology algorithms and data to speed up and expand clinical trial recruitment into regions that are untapped today. The company is partnering with various research institutions, pharma as well as biotech companies on clinical trials across various diseases.

Benjamine is a force and I’m very excited for Trialspark to massively help accelerate the time needed to bring critical drugs to market.

— What are the 3 top qualities of every great leader?

  1. Grit and Hustle — the mentality to always find ways to persevere and not take no for an answer.
  2. Resilience — the ability to withstand and thrive on the mental rollercoaster of company building, the race against time and runway, while having the self awareness to know your blind spots and surround yourself with the right people
  3. Passion — the ability to draw other people’s passion towards your mission, whether it be employees, investors, or customers. Whenever a founder gets me so excited about what she is building that I have an urge to join her, I know there’s 100% something special there!

— What was your very first investment/when? And what struck you about them?

Marigold Health — a patient triage and online support group platform for mental health / substance abuse. Prior to the investment, I had been spending a lot of time thinking about the mental health crisis: in the US, 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness, and 20 million people suffer from a substance abuse disorder. However, there has been a continued shortage of care managers and clinicians to meet increased demand. Behavioral health institutions lack effective tools to triage and engage with existing patients after discharge, resulting in near zero visibility into how patients are doing in order to intervene when patients need help or are relapsing.

Marigold Health is taking a unique technological approach leveraging NLP to provide care managers with a scalable platform to engage and manage their patients.

— What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?

“If everything were to go right, what could this company become?”

— What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Why are you *uniquely* capable of solving the problem you are going after?

— What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?

This depends on stage, but speaking in broad strokes for early stage:

  1. Hiring and team building
  2. Cash and resource management
  3. Being in tune with your customers

— Favorite business book, blog or podcast?

Grit by Angela Duckworth.

— What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

My husband and I love music and going to concerts. Our favorite spot in San Francisco is Rickshaw Stop, a small intimate venue for up and coming artists. Given what’s happening, it might be a long while before concerts are OK to go to again, but one can dream!

— Who is one leader you admire?

Bob Iger, former CEO and current Executive Chairman of Disney. He embodies grit, clarity of thinking, and the ability to set clear direction for a large and complex business when he took on the leadership position for one of the most iconic and interesting companies in the world. Since he has stepped out of the CEO role, Disney is now facing unprecedented challenges with its parks given the pandemic, so he’s come back to help the company and I’m looking forward to observing his leadership and strategic vision during this time.

— What is one interesting thing most people won’t know about you?

I grew up in Taiwan and am a first generation immigrant.

— What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder?

Don’t forget to remember you are human and remember to take care of yourself — mentally, physically, emotionally.

Ready to make a pitch? Startups looking for an opportunity to pitch Felicis Ventures can apply here!

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