Career Notes 4.10.22
Ep 95 | 4.10.22

Chenxi Wang: Overcoming the obstacle of fear. [Venture Capital]


Dr. Chenxi Wang: Hello. My name is Chenxi Wang. I'm the founder and general partner of Rain Capital, which is a cyber-focused venture fund.

Dr. Chenxi Wang: I grew up in China, and when I was young, China was just beginning in this growth stage, right? You see, um, all kinds of skyscrapers being built and just like a town would be transformed in the course of a year, a completely different look, and I was fascinated by that. I wanted to be an architect.

Dr. Chenxi Wang: As probably you see with a lot of folks journeys, this is sort of a partially planned partially, you know, by chance. Right? So I was in a university at the time in China, and I somehow got aware of the, a, an opportunity of scholarship, and I attended a, I think of some kind of contest and I won the scholarship to attend a US college, and so this scholarship is for a computer science program, computer science degree, which I was in the related field. I was in, um, electrical engineering. So that put me on the path of computer science and then within computer science, I really fell in love with applied crypto. Cause I was, uh, I was always good at math. I loved, um, being able to play around with the math algorithms and the equations and crypto cryptography, not cryptocurrency, cryptography was the one that I really fell in love with. So I began to dabble in this area and lo and behold, I spent now more than 20 years in, in cybersecurity.

Dr. Chenxi Wang: I graduated from college and I attended university of Virginia, uh, as computer science graduate school Um, I got my PhD at UVA, and then I went to Carnegie Mellon University as a assistant professor in computer engineering. I spent six years at Carnegie Mellon, uh, teaching and researching and obviously a great program, great school. Um, what ultimately became little bit unsatisfactory for me at that time, was I yearned for, um, seeing the real results of my work. That was also the time, you know, Google and those large companies are beginning to really impact the way, uh, our lives were every day. Right. So I decided to leave academia and to move to the Silicon Valley, to get my hands dirty if you will, in the real world, and so I did, um, start-ups. I went to large companies. I also did a stint in Forrester Research as a, um, a VP of Research, covering security markets, and, uh, ultimately led me to today where I am doing investments. 

Dr. Chenxi Wang: What we do a lot of times is talking to your prospective companies and entrepreneurs and understanding, you know, what they want to do, where they want to take the company, and doing assessment of whether we want to be, um, aligned with the company's vision. Then If we do get, uh, in sort of a deeper discussion with a company, we, we spend all the time do due diligence, right? So we talked to customers, we talk to their, their customers, prospective customers, we talk to their partners, understand what's their ins and outs about that product and trying to put our thinking hat on, uh, to do a quick assessment about, is this a company, that we want to, uh, invest money in. Um, and then after that, after, you know, you made the decision to invest, there's a lot of post-investment support, right? So we talked to them, helping them crafting the, uh, most viable product, if you will. Um, and then how to go to market and introducing them to customers. Now on the flip side, we also have to do fundraising, right? So we have to fundraise to bring money into the fund. So there's a lot of aspects to this job. On the uh, the industry facing side, I also do a lot of work with, uh, um, creating a women's executive network. In fact, we have one that's called Forte Group. Uh, we have over 70 senior women executives as members and we meet once or twice a month. Um, so I do a lot of community work.

Dr. Chenxi Wang: I would say one of the things helped me is, um, I'm a natural networker. Um, I always network even without, uh, thinking about it because that's my personality. Um, and my network really helped me in the sense that, uh, even without me consciously polling my network, they provide me with advice and, um, insight and things like that. I don't think I would've gotten where I am without leaning on my network. Um, so I would say first of all, build a network, build a support network in the industry, uh, folks that are more senior than you, or, or, uh, on par with you so that they could give you that guidance, that insight, and that third party point of view that you don't necessarily know. Second, is one of the things I've been told over the years is, um, I'm kind of fearless. Um, I wouldn't say I'm absolutely fearless. I still have fear in a lot of different levels, but, um, I try not to let fear stop me from doing things. Um, and at some point in my career, I realized a lot of times my obstacle is my own fear rather than a real obstacle. So if you can convince yourself, get over your own fear, you can probably do more things than you thought you could.

Dr. Chenxi Wang: I think one of the things I hope people remember me as somebody who um broke glass ceilings. Um, so I did break a few glass ceilings along the way. Um, you know, I established my own venture fund, which is not common for, for a woman and also not common for an, a technology person who didn't grow up in financing. Um, I also, um, got on the Fortune 500 public board, uh, to be, uh, uh, digital board member to help them with the journey of digital transformation. Again, that's rare as well. Um, so, I like people to remember me for that. And also like people to remember me as a community person. I've built communities, I build relationships, uh, I advocate for, uh, the lesser known voice. Um, I help women and minority, uh, growth, uh, in their careers and their life. I also, I want to be remembered, uh, um, I've been told a few times recently that I'm a kind person. I actually really liked the word kind because it speaks a lot about a person. And I, even though there's a lot of sharp elbowness in the industry in general and in VC in particular, I want to be remembered as a kind person.