Ching Wu of 137 Ventures
Partner, Investor Relations & Marketing at 137 Ventures
We are pleased to introduce you to Ching Wu, partner, investor relations and Marketing at 137 Ventures.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am currently the partner of investor relations and marketing at 137 Ventures. That’s just a fancy way of saying I raise capital for the firm and serve as a point-of-contact for limited partners. I also work closely with the press, which I love. When asked how long I’ve been in the venture industry, I think to myself, “How old is my daughter?” That is because I had just given birth to Casey when I joined my first venture firm. She will be 20 years old this fall. Besides Casey, our family includes my son, Ben; husband, Doug; and dog, Mavis, who was a stray in Taiwan before we adopted her. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
When you were young, what did you think you would be doing for work when you “grew up”?
I went to the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and had fantasies of becoming a diplomat. Long story short: My plans fell through because of a boy. Thankfully, when I broke up with said boy during my college graduation, I had no commitments and no fear. I sold my furniture and scooter to buy a one-way ticket to Hong Kong to look for a job. I didn’t know anyone in Hong Kong except for a cranky, old aunt. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Chinese. Armed with the “Directory of US Companies in Hong Kong,” I mailed 60 letters and got a dozen interviews. My first job was as an account executive at Ogilvy & Mather PR. I was then recruited by Sun Microsystems to join their Asia Marketing Team. I stayed in Hong Kong for six years. The city had a vibrant expat community where I met lifelong friends and my blond-and-green-eyed husband (to the initial dismay of my mother, who now dotes on him).
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I feel like I have found my tribe: colleagues at 137 Ventures, limited partners, startup entrepreneurs, other VCs, reporters, and broadly speaking, people in the innovation and investment ecosystem. But by far the most rewarding relationships I have are with a couple of young professional women who I mentor: one works at a startup and the other is an allocator. They know they can ask me anything. I like knowing the lessons I’ve learned from my own career mistakes are going to benefit these wonderful women.
The second most rewarding part of my job: Getting to meet SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell at our annual meeting and later attending the SpaceX Starship test launch in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX is one of our firm’s largest investments across our main funds and co-investment SPVs as well as our longest-standing portfolio company relationship.
If you were not in the venture industry, what would you be doing?
I daydream about being a teacher or school counselor in my second act. I have been teaching high-school and college students from the Boys & Girls Club in East Palo Alto, CA as well as Peninsula Bridge for around seven years. I teach as part of a summer internship program that we created from scratch, where the majority of the students are of color and from underserved communities. When I joined 137 Ventures in 2019, the partners generously encouraged me to expand the program and welcome 12 paid interns. We took the students on site visits to meet executives from our portfolio companies, including the director of sales at Flexport and the CFO at Gusto. Our goal was to expose our interns to a variety of career paths. When the pandemic hit in 2020, we actually grew the program to 20 interns. Instead of in-person company visits, I had our speakers meet our students over Zoom. Imagine a screen of young faces interacting with speakers from 137 Ventures as well as doctors, data scientists, firefighters, engineers, and more. Like the students, most of our speakers were of color, and some grew up in the same neighborhoods. Our speakers shared touching, deeply personal stories of how they overcame barriers – including diversity and mental health challenges. Feedback from one female student: “I was so stressed out before the internship. Hearing Karina talk about her career despite being a Dreamer, gave me hope. Thank you.” Yep, I would be a teacher.
What’s the most surprising thing people don’t know about you?
I was off-the-charts shy. I was seven years old when I moved to Chicago from China and didn’t speak English (I would later lose a lot of my Chinese). I didn’t speak up in class all through elementary and middle school. Then came English class in high school where the teacher announced students would get extra credit if they joined the Speech Club. It terrified me, but I joined. And I found I liked my voice. Now I love public speaking. The least shy thing I’ve done in the last year is join a gospel choir at the oldest Black church in the Bay Area. I just walked into choir practice one night without knowing a soul. My singing voice is highly mediocre, which made such a move pretty bold. My choir is a blast. When we hit our harmonies, all is right with the world.
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