These under-30 millennials are harnessing the power of technology for good –from teaching women to code, to helping female entrepreneurs get more funds

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

These under-30 millennials are harnessing the power of technology for good –from teaching women to code, to helping female entrepreneurs get more funds

My Reading Room
The Opportunity Maker

POCKET SUN, 25, co-founder of Sogal Ventures (

Few would have expected a young girl from a small Chinese city to make the cover of Forbes Asia just five months shy of her 25th birthday. But US-educated venture capitalist (VC) Pocket Sun was named one of the magazine’s “30 under 30” – part of Forbes Asia’s inaugural list of the Asia-Pacific’s most significant millennial game changers. The 30 individuals come from diverse industries, from finance to entertainment and the arts; K-pop idol G-Dragon and the founders of local start-ups Carousell and Ninja Van made the list. Hailing from Dongying, a small city in Shandong that she says hardly anyone knows about, Pocket runs Sogal Ventures, which she claims is the world’s first female-led millennial VC firm. To date, Sogal Ventures (which is less than a year old) has invested in 21 companies internationally, from Baltimore to Beijing, including popular fitness app Guavapass. 

There’s a gender divide when it comes to funding.

“I studied entrepreneurship and innovation at the College of William and Mary [in the US]. When I talked to women entrepreneurs there, I realised that funding is a big problem. In the US, most investment decisions are made by men and people tend to invest in things they know and are comfortable with. Male VCs might ask female entrepreneurs, ‘When are you going to be a mum? When you do, how can we make sure you will focus on your career?’ Just 7 per cent of all partners in US VC firms are women. We want to help female entrepreneurs get more funding and inspire more women to become investors.”

Sogal Ventures is a millennial firm.

“A lot of people think we invest in women only, but in fact, we invest in any firm that innovates, and is both by and for our generation – doing things that improve quality of life, improve global interconnectivity, and create equal opportunities.”

“Millennial” doesn’t always spell trouble.

“My generation has the capability to learn rapidly. Th at’s really important given how the job market is evolving so quickly. Social media roles didn’t exist 10 years ago, and today’s teenagers may wind up doing jobs that don’t exist right now! Millennials also have a global perspective. Growing up in China, my parents never thought about going abroad – it was impossible! But today, so many of my friends are abroad, all over the world. We are all connected, and language barriers are less important.”

My Reading Room
The Career Insiders

STEPHENIE PANG, 23, and SHARON YEO, 23, co-counders of Protege (

These fresh graduates are helping companies retain fickle millennial employees. After finishing their studies at Singapore Management University (SMU), Sharon and Stephenie rejected job offers to focus on Protege, a software they developed to help organisations match new employees with mentors internally. According to them, many organisations lack such tools, or use rudimentary ones (like Excel spreadsheets). Protege considers things like a mentee’s job scope, interests and aspirations before suggesting matches, making it a valuable tool for large companies. The girls’ next move? They’re launching a website next month: Talenttribe, which will give jobseekers insider intel on companies.

School ground dreams Sharon:

When I wanted to start my own company in junior college, I thought it would be great to get help from someone who had been there and done that. The thought motivated me to join the SMU Alumni Mentoring programme. Protege was started with an aim to help people find mentors in the public marketplace. Later, we shifted to developing mentorship software for organisations. We received a total of $65,000 in grants from various organisations, including Spring Singapore and SMU.

The insider perspective Sharon:

Increasingly, on-campus career talks and career fairs are becoming less eff ective than bespoke events and wordof- mouth sharing. We ran a five-day event last March and found that the student participants loved getting mentored by employees who could give them an “inside look” into their companies.


That was why we embarked on [our second project,] Talenttribe, which we hope will be the go-to website for jobseekers to explore companies and learn things they would only know if they had connections there, such as work routines and environments. We plan to incorporate photo and video features on various companies’ employees and offices.

The advantage of youth Sharon:

When people see two young girls offering mentorship software, it does raise a question of credibility. We address that by presenting in-depth mentorship research; we have even formed a board of advisors who are seasoned professionals in the fields of human resources and mentorship. But being young means we can bring a millennial perspective to the design of our software. Our understanding of Asia also gives us an advantage over our largest competitors, who are based in the West.

My Reading Room
The Community Builder

KRYSTAL CHOO, 28, CEO and founder of Wander (

Our busy lives don’t often let us form new, meaningful friendships. Krystal Choo, in wanting to fix that, founded one-year-old messaging app Wander, which brings strangers around the world to, well, chat. The app lets you connect with users across a dizzying array of group chat channels that are divided by events and topics like food, fitness and fashion. Did someone leave an interesting comment? You can private message them. Who knows, you might find a new lunch buddy. That, according to Krystal, is the beauty of tech – its serendipitous ability to bring people together and build “rewarding connections”.

Social networks are broken

“[They] currently either put you in a silo with your friends and family, or they’re just about broadcasting. People are increasingly isolated; it’s getting harder to meet others and connect on a meaningful level. I see how lonely people are, and I want desperately to fix this.”

My approach to problems

“Instead of looking at things linearly, I reverse-engineer a solution. With Wander, my goal was to have a network of people who support, motivate, inform, and entertain one another. Since we aren’t going to get people completely off their devices, Wander was built to put humanity back into digital interaction.”

Being a woman in tech...

“ a huge advantage. Women understand group dynamics well and can nip issues in the bud more quickly.”

My best advice

“Discern between noise and good advice. Just because somebody is experienced doesn’t mean [they’ve got] great advice. Being able to filter and take what you need is something you get better at.”

My Reading Room

ELISHA TAN, 28, founder of Techladies (

When Facebook marketing associate Elisha isn’t busy at work, she’s pouring her energies into her passion project – Techladies, which conducts coding boot camps for women. Believing that technology can help women better their career prospects, she kicked off the first boot camp session in February; it drew 129 applicants, of which nine were shortlisted. The second boot camp occurred last month, and she’s thinking of increasing the intake for future sessions. Elisha is no stranger to the tech scene. She previously ran a start-up – Learnemy, an online marketplace for users to find sports and music instructors – for three years.

Technology for good

“While I was between jobs, a friend suggested that I teach women how to code [and] guide them to create products that contribute to society. Inspired, I looked for volunteer instructors last November. Unlike other workshops that merely teach the [coding] language, I wanted my students to code actual web applications that would benefit nonpro fits. For instance, during one boot camp, my participants worked pro bono to create a database system for local charity Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) to manage and track cases better. I hope such projects will nudge women into considering entering the tech industry.”

Picking herself up from a fall

“After working on my first start-up Learnemy for three to four years, I realised the numbers just weren’t taking off . I was at the crossroads and decided to move to Silicon Valley for three months in 2014. [Silicon Valley] is the centre for tech startups – where better to figure out where to go with my own? And the people there are very open to sharing. You can send an e-mail to a guy because you came across his profile, and meet him for coffee to pick his brain. I spoke to the co-founders of Couchsurfing and among others, and most advised that [continuing with my startup] was a personal choice. In the end, I decided to pull the plug. I felt so depressed that I couldn’t even taste my food for two weeks before I bucked up.”

Don’t quit your day job

“I used to encourage anyone and everyone to start a start-up, but I’ve stopped doing that. I now ask aspiring start-up founders: are you clear about the problem you are solving? Are you passionate about it? Can this be a side project instead? Test your idea, let it show signs of life first before you invest more into it.”