Kellogg Magazine  |  Spring/Summer 2015



The Midas touch


Jenny Lee ’01


he U.S. economy was already in flux when Jenny Lee ’01 sought to make her mark in the business world.

“It was the worst possible time,” says Lee, who had just graduated from Kellogg.

But across the Pacific, China was emerging as an economic power, and Lee set off for Hong Kong to seek out opportunities. “Huge country, huge potential,” she says of China.

By all accounts, she parlayed those opportunities into a career that has made her one of the leading venture capitalists in the world.

Forbes recently named Lee, a managing partner of GGV Capital, to its Midas List Top 10 — ranking her 10th, the highest ever for a woman.

One day, she says, a woman will be atop that vaunted list.

“The way l look at it, there are nine VCs in front of me. I need to do a better job. There’s still a lot of improvement to get further up there,” she says.

“The measurement is not that I’m the only woman in the Top 10,” she adds. “It’s not about who you are, where you’re from, or your gender — all that is actually not important. What’s more important is how you train yourself to acquire the necessary competitive advantage… to be in the position to invest in the next emerging company.”

"What’s more important is how you train yourself to acquire the necessary competitive advantage … to be in the position to invest in the next emerging company."

Lee has been with GGV since 2005. She built her success on the growth of the consumer Internet sector and on digital media. Among her biggest successes to date was in backing the social networking platform YY, which went public in 2012 and is now valued at more than $3.3 billion.

Lee earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at Cornell University, with a focus on wireless technology and control systems.

After Cornell, she returned to her native Singapore to work in the defense industry. She spent five years working on fighter jets and drones.

Then she veered into a different direction: an MBA at Kellogg.

“I’m very technology-based, very techy, very quantitative,” she says. “So I felt like I needed to learn more about marketing and strategy, and the MBA route was a very good one to enhance and complete the education process.”

While the U.S. economy was in decline, China’s business scene was taking off, and Lee saw an opportunity.

Over the past 14 years, the economic growth in China has boomed — and so has the presence of venture capitalists. In 2000, there were fewer than 100 VC firms in China, she notes. By the end of 2014, the number eclipsed 8,000.

“There are more players in the market, more capital in the market… so it is more competitive.” That, she says, could make it harder for newer VCs to break into the market. “It’s not impossible, but it’s a lot harder.”

Lee cannot predict where her next big success will be. But she’ll find it, she says, if she remains ahead of the lightning-speed shifts within the tech industry and the evolving demands of consumers.