Virginia Tan is the founding partner of Teja Ventures, the first gender lens venture capital fund for emerging Asian countries, targeting early-stage tech companies for the “She Economy.” She’s also the founder of She Loves Tech, the world’s largest startup competition for women and technology, with presence in over 30 international locations in 2020. Virginia has also launched Lean In China, a platform to support the goals and aspirations of Chinese women, with over 100,000 members across more than 25 cities and 100 universities in China.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
KrASIA (Kr): What have been the motivating factors of your advocacy and participation in gender lens investing?
Virginia Tan (VT): My background actually lies in law and finance. I spent the first 10 years of my career working on structuring investments in emerging markets. But my source of inspiration for building up Teja Ventures dates back to when I was 22 years old.
I took a gap year, right after graduating from law school. For one year, I worked in third world countries to broaden my perspective of the world. I visited post-civil war Nepal, the slums of South America, and more. And that’s where I realized that in many ways there wasn’t enough funding to solve the problems and challenges that women faced.
Throughout my corporate career, I worked on conventional finance deals but also thought about how we could use such financing to achieve socially desirable outcomes. In 2013, I moved to China to work on the One Belt, One Road investments. While I was in Beijing, a group of ladies and I decided to start building communities for women. It began with 10 people, then 100, and 1000. Before I knew it, in less than three years, Lean In China had 100,000 people spread across 30 cities in China.
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