Beijing-based Virginia Tan believes companies that ignore women entrepreneurs are making a big mistake. That’s fine with her to some degree; she’s built a venture empire championing female-led startups and their role in building the future of consumer markets. But this role may not be where the founding partner of early stage venture firm Teja Ventures likely saw herself when she first finished law school at King’s College London in 2006. Then she spent a year in Nepal and Peru, helping link women with microfinancing.
Returning to London, she spent several years working as a finance lawyer for two storied multinational law firms: Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance. But her drive to champion women entrepreneurs never left her, nor her idea to create a financial strategy that bypasses single grants or donations for ongoing support and capital.
Moving to Beijing with Clifford Chance in 2013 provided that opportunity. Within a few years, Tan co-launched Lean In China, which rode WeChat’s wave and also grew from Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller, “Lean In” to help support women communities In China. Today, that network boasts more than 100,000 members in over 25 cities.
Tan went further, co-founding She Loves Tech, a tech accelerator that invites women-led startups to compete for funding, with a goal of generating $1 billion in financing for them by 2030. Companies work to gain a spot in one of the group’s incubator sites, with hubs in China, Israel, Singapore and the U.S. And mentors include both tech and financial luminaries from Shirley Wu, Senior VP of Dell Technologies to Michael Lints, partner of Golden Gate Ventures.
Tan herself is a testament to the global power women can bring to the startup world. She attributes her achievement and insight in part to those early days learning how women work to create new business models and how capital could help seed even more. Brands would do well, in her opinion, to bend their business models more to women founders and their needs — from more flexible working hours to mentoring that ensures more women launch, shape and helm their own companies.
Hear more from Tan and the insights she’s gleaned from more than 10 years focusing on women entrepreneurship at this year’s annual conference, Signal 2022.