IWD 2021 Special: Honouring Women Who #ChoosetoChallenge

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As a venture capital firm, we meet hundreds of startup founders, leaders and their teams. These people are driven, enterprising and focused on a mission to challenge the status quo.

Here, we profile five trailblazing women from the GGV family. Their words and stories have provided hours of insights for our listeners on GGV Capital’s Evolving for the Next Billion.

The Authentic Leader: Jane Sun

An award-winning CEO and one of a handful of women leaders in the travel sector, Jane Sun has made her mark at the helm of NASDAQ-listed Trip.com, the largest online travel platform in China.

Her decision to enter the travel industry was ethically driven. In a conversation with us, she explained, “[I] tell myself that I need to join a company that is very healthy, very green, brings happiness to the people. I believe travel not only brings happiness to individuals, to families, let young kids learn, it also brings global peace when we travel around the world. [So] I choose to invest my time, and energy, and my youth in the travel industry.”

Likewise, she leads with compassion. Under her stewardship, the company was the first large Chinese technology firm to pledge up to 2 million RMB (approximately US$280,000) to offer egg freezing to its women employees. Her staff also enjoy family-friendly initiatives like free taxi rides for pregnant women and education subsidies for new parents.

Trip.com has become an example of a women-empowering workplace. Half of its total workforce, and a third of its high-level executives were women in 2019.

“We always put the team first. Very willing to make a personal sacrifice in order for the team to be successful,” said Jane of women leaders. “Female leaders have inherited strengths, and we have to use our strengths to be successful in the business world.”

Empowering Modern Parents: Ashley Peng

For Ashley, becoming a CEO was an unexpected result of motherhood. “We make very basic mistakes because we know nothing about parenting,” she told us, recalling her struggles to understand the needs of her infant daughter. This led her to do a lot of her own research into early childhood development. “[Information was] very fragmented. It’s here and there. And you have to do a lot of work to organize these findings to really make them something that not only you can digest but also you can teach to your family. That’s actually very difficult.”

Enter Xiaobu, a mobile platform for young Chinese parents with kids aged 0-6 years. Through high-quality content and smart tools, Xiaobu helps millennial parents navigate the confusing aspects of parenthood.

On the app, users can take courses on parenting, enter a “parenting university”, browse activities to do with their children, and post updates and photos to record their parenting journey.

Guided by her immersion in Western and Chinese education systems, Ashley sees Xiaobu as a powerful tool for change.

“This is really something that could change the Chinese education system. I do think if everybody understands what critical and analytical thinking is and everybody understands why we should encourage children to do projects…I think they could really help the Chinese educator and the parents.”

The Driven Go-Getter: Miranda Qu

“We found it interesting that Chinese people are traveling overseas for shopping…and at that time there wasn’t any application that tackled this market,” said Miranda, describing how four years ago she spotted the opportunity that would kickstart her entrepreneurial journey.

Today, Xiaohongshu is a pioneer in integrating content, commerce, and community – the perfect combination GGV Managing Partner Hans Tung considers critical for e-commerce platforms to stand out.

For Miranda and her co-founder, Charlwin, the road to success took a little longer than some. As avid shoppers themselves, they started Xiaohongshu as a way to teach Chinese consumers how to shop overseas. “We started as a content platform, purely based on solving users’ problems…and at the end of 2014 we received a lot of complaints about, ‘We see a lot of beautiful things every day’,” she recalled, explaining the company’s decision to venture into e-commerce. Their customers wanted access to the coveted overseas goods, along with the content.

The team then put up one product for sale to test user interest, and it sold out in seconds.

WithIn a month, Xiaohongshu had a gross merchandise value (GMV) of RMB ¥1,000,000 (approximately US$154,295). By 2020, sales were reportedly reaching RMB 3 billion (US$462.9 million). On the decision to pivot the business, Miranda only declared pragmatically, “I think we always worry, but to worry makes no sense, and so we just tried.”

Strategic Solutions for Small Businesses: My Linh

Laser-sharp focus and expertise – two distinctive traits My Linh exhibited during her turn on our podcast.

She had followed Telio’s founder SyPhong Bui from his previous startup, and had a keen eye for the opportunities to be had in small local businesses. “Cashless payment isn’t one of the main pain points of the mom-and-pop stores,” she told us. “However…fulfilling their stores is a pain point where we can help.”

This meant enabling small stores to access suppliers and brands, solving the prevalent market practice of opaque goods pricing, and facilitating regular, reliable deliveries.

Born from that ambition,Telio is now Vietnam’s largest B2B e-Commerce platform, connecting small traditional retailers with brands and wholesalers via a centralized platform.

As Telio’s founder SyPhong Bui put it, the company’s vision was to “become a unicorn of impact first, which means every single action we deliver can make our customers happy.”

The company closed its Series A funding with US$25 million at the end of 2019.

Embodying Entrepreneurial Spirit: Liu Zhen

You could say entrepreneurship is in Liu Zhen’s blood. Her grandfather was the second licensed patents lawyer in China, and she continued her family’s inclination to the legal profession by becoming what she calls “a problem-solver, pioneer kind of lawyer.”

Her can-do spirit paved the way for her to start working with cutting-edge technology companies as a general counsel. This gave Liu Zhen more opportunities to immerse herself in company operations than most of her contemporaries.

Liu Zhen also had plenty to share about the true meaning of entrepreneurial spirit, something that was ingrained in her during stints at Uber, and later, ByteDance. For her, it all comes down to initiative and ownership. “Not everyone can become a founder of a company, but everyone should have this entrepreneurship [spirit],” she said “[T]hey should feel that they are making the decisions and they’re moving things forward and taking responsibilities…”

We hope the stories of these women leaders have inspired you. Check out our podcasts for more interviews with women leaders or read more cool takeaways on our website!

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