Pocket Sun MS ’15 doesn’t believe in jet lag. That’s why, when she calls from Singapore, where she’s based, she says she feels just fine after a long trip in the U.S.
There’s something else the 27-year-old founder of SoGal Ventures doesn’t believe in: the status quo.
That’s one of the reasons Sun has been able to turn a USC student meetup for female entrepreneurs into a diverse global network and an investment fund. She’s also breaking both sides of the venture capital mold — who gives the money and who gets it.
Sun, who grew up in China, moved to the U.S. to study business administration at the College of William and Mary and, after a short stint in the corporate marketing world, began USC’s master’s program in entrepreneurship and innovation in 2014. It was there that she fell in love with entrepreneurship. It was also there — where nearly all of the speakers in her classes were male — that she realized entrepreneurship had a gender parity problem. “I just thought women entrepreneurs were like unicorns. They didn’t exist,” she says.
It spurred her to create SoGal, a USC student group for young women who had big ideas but needed role models. Its events drew crowds. After hearing the stories of so many female entrepreneurs, Sun realized one thing: They all needed money. So she enrolled in a venture capital program at Stanford to learn about investing.
While there, she had another wakeup call. She asked a male speaker why there were so few female entrepreneurs and investors. “The super angel [investor] said, ‘The industry isn’t going to change for your benefit, so if you want something to happen, you better do it yourself.’”
She threw herself into learning the ins and outs of setting up a fund, including the legal, tax and accounting parameters. Teaming up with Stanford classmate Elizabeth Galbut, who had founded a venture capital fund at Johns Hopkins University, Sun launched SoGal Ventures, which describes itself as the first millennial female-led venture capital firm.
Investing in venture capitalism is like building a utopia because you’re investing in the future. And we’re investing in an ideal world for our future daughters.Pocket Sun
An Investment for a Better Future
Since January 2017, SoGal Ventures has invested $4 million and currently has a portfolio of 19 diverse, female-led companies. The percentage of its companies moving onto new funding at higher valuations beats the industry average by more than two times. “This proves that investing in women and diverse founders is very lucrative,” Sun says. The original SoGal network is now SoGal Foundation, a nonprofit arm with more than 100,000 community members and chapters in cities from Tokyo to Berlin.
Sun considers these milestones just the beginning. “We are now galvanizing millennial women to be at the center for entrepreneurship and venture capital. We want them to start companies, we want them to invest in startups and VC funds and live on their own terms,” she says. “Investing in venture capitalism is like building a utopia because you’re investing in the future. And we’re investing in an ideal world for our future daughters.”