The family of Wan Li Zhu did not see a future in China. His parents, persecuted by the one-party state, came to America when Wan Li was ten years old. China’s great loss became America’s brilliant gain.
Wan Li benefited from high-quality public education at Bronx High School of Science and went on to a perfect grade-point average at MIT. He studied under renowned quant wiz Andrew Lo and was poised for a career on Wall Street but was lured away by the prospect of hands-on responsibility for product features at Microsoft.
After a prodigiously successful stint, during which he was involved in building and marketing Dynamics CRM, MS’ fastest-growing product, he went to Harvard Business School. From HBS he was recruited by early-stage VC firm Fairhaven Capital.
The firm, known for its expertise in web security and digital advertising, now sees promise in various applications of artificial intelligence starting with self-driving technology. Wan Li is deeply engaged in bringing on the next generation of winning investments at Fairhaven Capital. Despite a busy professional life, Wan Li Zhu has found time to advise startups and to co-found MIT Angels in Boston. I learned a ton from my conversation with this wise, yet unassuming VC.
Here is a list of some of the topics broached:
Two brilliant scholarship kids became friends at Georgia Tech and went on to found a company that could change the world. This is the story of Matthew Stellmaker and Keith Hearon and of the good chemistry manifested in their friendship and in the creation of new polymers friendly to people and nature.
The idea came to Matthew when he was working at a large company that produces 50,000 tons of citrus waste per year. His friend Keith thought that he could do something interesting with the citrus rinds so Matthew got the company to fund the research into creating a use for this natural material.
These two young founders display remarkable self-knowledge and reveal discoveries in the art of founding companies that could help other founders, technical or not. It’s a valuable conversation that includes the following topics: