Jenny Lee GGV

Taking 250 online meetings to fundraise, guiding founders through the pandemic, and more: Jenny Lee of GGV

2020 will be one for the history books, there’s no doubt about it.

In the final part of this 3-part series, we sat down with GGV Capital’s managing partners to get their take on memorable moments of 2020, new habits developed during lockdown and their hopes for 2021. Today, we speak to Jenny Lee.

Q: If you had to describe your 2020 in one word, what would be that word and why?

If I had to describe this year with one word, it would be resilience. It’s been a year of resilience.

This was the year where everyone was put to the test, so to speak. Companies trying to figure out how to survive in the midst of COVID-19, and on a personal level, people were trying to figure out how to manage working remotely, or working from home. It was a massive lifestyle change.

To get through this year, a mindset of resilience was needed.

Q: Tell us the most memorable interactions you’ve had with founders this year – either in person or online.

There were many memorable events, actually! The first instance that comes to mind would be with the founders I work with, just as COVID-19 was spreading in January. This was resilience, personified. Seeing them deal with challenges like employee safety, safe distancing protocol as well as business survival was inspiring. 

I found it rather amazing how some of our founders reacted, some even within a span of 24 hours. For example, I spend a fair bit of time with EdTech companies, so I witnessed how these companies quickly bought and sent laptops or hardware straight to teachers stuck at home, just so they could conduct online classes with minimal disruption. For other companies, they were affected by factory closures and had to quickly figure out how to fulfil inventory and orders. 

There were companies who not only survived but thrived during the pandemic, who used this opportunity to mount an attack and to aggressively accelerate growth. But there also were other companies in early stages. They had to make some challenging decisions, like making headcount reductions, or implementing pay cuts. Whatever was needed to stretch out a cash runway or survive, they were willing to do it. I could probably write a book about the trials that our founders have gone through.

To me, helping these founders and companies make critical decisions and guiding them through the pandemic, really reinforced the value of being an investor.

Q: What are some things that you thought of as highly unlikely or even impossible and it became possible this year?

I handle the responsibility of fundraising in GGV Capital.

If someone had told me, prior to this year, that we had to raise funds entirely online, I would have told them it was impossible. Historically, fundraising has always been done in-person, face-to-face. It’s considered a roadshow and it’s all about facetime. We meet partners and investors all over the world for intense discussions and conduct extremely thorough due diligence processes.

With COVID-19, I faced the question of whether we could fundraise. Was it possible to convey the story of GGV Capital to investors who have never even seen our faces? Was it possible to make that connection?

Well, resilience saw us through it. In two and a half months, after 250 meetings online, we were able to raise one of our largest funds in one of the shortest fundraising timelines. This moment ranks high on my list of the impossible made possible.

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Jenny Lee, Managing Partner, GGV Capital
Jenny Lee, Managing Partner, GGV Capital

Q: How has your work style evolved this year? What are some new habits or productivity hacks you have developed from working from home?

I used to be on the road all the time. At any given day I could be travelling on a train or airplane, meeting investors, looking at deals and so on.

Today, with everything done online, there’s no such thing as downtime. Productivity can be very high.

I’ll give an example: I could start my morning in the Asia timezone, taking portfolio meetings and meeting Asian investors. Come afternoon, Europe wakes up and then we are in the European timezone. As I move into the evening, that’s when the U.S. East Coast wakes up, and I could have East Coast meetings all the way ‘til midnight, which is when the U.S. West Coast wakes up. It’s efficient, for sure, but there’s no guaranteed downtime and there’s no way to recharge if you’re not careful.

So, the first habit for me was to ensure my schedule is very well-managed and allocate time for a breather – whether it’s just to grab some lunch or stretch my legs.

The second habit I picked up was to be more mindful about one’s mental health and state. It’s been a challenging year and the deluge of bad news can seem never ending. Being cooped up at home with limited human interaction can also have adverse effects. I find it important to set boundaries around the information you consume and what you choose to engage with, so as to not tip into a downward spiral.

Q: How do you maintain a positive attitude when working from home and adapting to the new normal?

Well, thankfully I’ve always had a very upbeat personality. 

I don’t worry too much about what’s going to happen down the road, I live in the present and stay focused on the task at hand. Even if I have 10 or 20 calls a day – which is normal by my standards – I tell myself to focus on them one at a time. Of course, I check my schedule every day to see what I have on my plate, but I’m not unnecessarily anxious about things that may or may not happen in the future. 

Being present in the moment has become very important to me. If I’m meeting a CEO to hear his action plan for the pandemic, I should not be thinking about my next meeting. This meeting deserves my attention and focus. If anyone reading this has met me, you will know that I’m seldom late for meetings and when I’m there, I’m fully present. I do not step away for phone calls, answer emails or look at my phone. 

What are the benefits of being fully present in the moment? It’s about having no regrets. When you know you’ve given this meeting, conversation, interview, anything –  your all. I have no regrets.

Q: How has this year changed the way you look at the role investors play in this world, if at all?

I see investors as the key drivers behind some of the world’s biggest miracles. That has been particularly true this year.

As technology investors, we invest in technology and innovation that can change the world. We see that happening during COVID-19 with online learning made possible through Zoom and live interactive streaming made a reality with
livestreaming video live

Q: What are you most excited about for 2021?

I think in 2021, everyone’s hoping the world can get better. I hope the economy can get back on track and we can adapt well to a new environment.

On a macro level, I’d like to see a more globalized world where countries and economies face challenges together instead of in isolation. 

From a company perspective, 2020 was GGV Capital’s 20th anniversary and 2021 will be our 21st year. I’m hoping the first year in the new decade will be a significant one, with new funds ready for deployment, or for our companies to grow to become category leaders. I’d like to see our portfolio grow from strength to strength. 

Finally, I hope that in 2021 and beyond, we can continue to create more exciting and impactful stories and outcomes for our investors.

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