Sometimes returning home means venturing into uncharted territory. Last year, Li Wan '10 (economics and mathematics) left her job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs to help co-run a new venture capital firm in Beijing, Younker Capital.
"China is going through a very special, yet crucial, stage for many economic and social changes to take place. These changes will redistribute wealth in the society and shape many specifics of the still underdeveloped capital market," Wan explains.
Younker Capital is a small, young fund that specializes in the seed, start-up and growth stages. The team approaches their investments with a strategy that is untested in China's finance world. "Right now, each partner holds a position in at least one investee company to provide financial oversight and management support. As more liquidity is created though, I would hope to leverage the platform to explore opportunities in securitization and fixed income. I see huge potential in those areas in China as the reform takes place," she says.
The fund, which already has a diverse portfolio, focuses on the high-tech industry. As a start-up itself, Wan says, Younker and its partners are responsible for just about everything, including pre-deal research, valuation, negotiation and due diligence. It's a lot of learning on the fly, but Wan is committed to meeting the challenges — one of which is the cultural differences between doing business in America vs. China. In China, relationship building takes precedence. "Most Chinese like to make friends before doing business together," Wan says. "Back at Goldman Sachs, people talked about weekends and the weather before cutting into the business matter, and that was the end of 'relationship building.' But in China, sometimes you go to a few business dinners without actually talking about business."
While it's still a risky time to be involved in China's private equity environment — the market is controlled, but not regulated — Wan's willing to take the risk in order to be "the entrepreneur behind entrepreneurs."
She plans to return to the U.S. to pursue an MBA, but Wan won't soon forget her time at Bucknell. "I always tell people there are three important things I gained from my liberal arts education at Bucknell, and I carry them with me in my career path: 1. Always ask why, and why not; 2. Follow your heart/interest; 3. Make a difference."
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