DRF Partner Chris Liang shares her entrepreneurial experiences.
I started college with a very loose idea of what I wanted to do with my life — I came in thinking I was going to be a statistics major (which I still am), so I thought data science or actuarial science might be cool. However, I realized I didn’t actually love the day-to-day data collection and data cleaning processes but instead enjoyed learning about the many startups I tracked. Coming into my sophomore fall, I had a vague interest in startup or VC work, which led me to the Cube: Duke’s entrepreneurship living group. This was one of the best decisions I ever made at Duke. Everyone in the Cube is either building their own startup, working at a cool startup, working in VC, or is deeply interested in any of the above. Simply talking to people in the Cube is enough to get inspired and want to stay in the entrepreneurship space.
Throughout sophomore year, I interned at pre-seed/seed stage VC Blue Collective, where I was mostly sourcing. That summer, I then worked at Oaktree Capital Management in the Power Opportunities Group, a private equity strategy focusing on infrastructure and services companies in the power, energy, and renewables spaces.
Come junior fall, one of my friends in Cube, Raymond Chen, texted me about applying to become a Dorm Room Fund partner. He was the partner at Duke before me and spoke really positively of the DRF experience, so I applied—and here I am! DRF seemed to be the perfect intersection of my previous experiences—I still do sourcing, but I also see the full investment process and conduct due diligence on startups I bring in to pitch. The prospect of getting hands-on VC experience—the full investment process and not just sourcing—as an undergrad is so rare and something that is unique to DRF.
While I’ve met some of the coolest and smartest students through the DRF community, being an Investment Partner is also the perfect excuse to meet amazing founders. I do several coffee chats a week with founders to hear what they’re building, what new features they’re launching, if they need help with anything or feedback on a product, etc. Through these chats, I’ve become a lot more well-versed across verticals I didn’t know much about before—mental health tech, restaurant tech, new forms of social media, and more. It’s one thing to read about industry news but it’s another to hear from a founder what their biggest challenge is at the moment or why they’re rolling out a certain feature before another. On top of that insight being super valuable, and I’ve really loved making new connections (and some new friends) through checking in with founders often.
Today, I’m working at an early stage climate tech startup that is building digital infrastructure to streamline access to all the climate incentives, rebates, and other programs out there. I’m working across data and bizops roles, and it’s been really cool to get my first operating experience. While I’m not totally sure whether I’d like to be an operator or a VC post-grad, I’m super excited for what the future holds!