How do I invest in Ayasdi

Achieve great things

She was a late bloomer and a rebellious student who did everything to overcome her shyness and her supposed deficits. That is what makes Ann Miura-Ko, one of the top investors in Silicon Valley, today.

19-year-old electrical engineering student Ann Miura-Ko was standing at the photocopier in Yale University's engineering department when she was asked to do a campus tour for one of the visiting lecturers. As the two of them walked through the Gothic arcades and told Ann about their student life and their plan to go home for the spring break - to Palo Alto in Silicon Valley - she asked her companion if she would like to see him to accompany his business trips. The man she hired as a short-term intern was Lewis E. Platt, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise in the 1990s. A CEO of a Fortune 500 company makes me such an offer? Ann could not resist and went with Platt for more than a week, traveling from one conference to the next.

After this extraordinary experience, she received a letter with two photos: in one picture Ann was sitting on the couch in Platt's office, on the other sitting - exactly in the same place - Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Two people, an unknown Asian girl and a world class pioneer - side by side. It was then that Miura-Ko decided to continue her path in business, not medicine. The photos gave her the confidence that she had the potential to achieve great things.

23 years have passed since then. Ann Miura-Ko is one of the most influential women in the start-up world today; For two years in a row she was nominated for the US Midas list of the top 100 venture capitalists (2017 and 2018; 2018 at number 55). The invested capital to date is around 56 billion yen (US $ 498.61 million) - much of it went into prototypes, 90 percent of which didn't even see the light of day. But how did this woman become one of the most prominent figures among the eight percent female venture capitalists in Silicon Valley?

"You have to believe in your partnerships," Miura-Ko replies when asked if Lyft, the private ride-sharing service she invested in early on, could one day overtake Uber. Lyft is currently valued at an estimated $ 15.1 billion. Zimride (largest US platform for carpooling; note) also received start-up funding in 2010 from Ann Miura-Ko, who then worked in the management team there for eight years. Ann invested in the deep confidence that transportation would be revolutionized. Lyft is still engaged in fierce price wars with Uber today, but Miura-Ko is confident that the company is poised to overtake its main competitor. The entrepreneur always exudes passion and self-confidence when she talks about her investments.

Miura-Ko grew up in a Japanese household as the second generation of an immigrant family (so-called Nisei) in Palo Alto. When asked about the tough side of growing up, she says: “My mother always said I was a strange child.” Possibly the anger at school, with colleagues and teachers, was an expression of her unease between the so different cultures of Japan and the USA stand. In addition to this rather rebellious behavior, Ann was extremely shy, she says. During a piano performance as a child, she was not even able to introduce herself to the audience - and had to be "rescued" by her brother two years older. It was one of those moments that made it clear to her that it couldn't go on like this. She resolved to improve on this. Her mother Noriko had never lost her trust in her. Unlike her brother, Ann remembers, that she did not do well enough on intelligence tests to be able to take part in advanced seminars. At that time, Noriko rose to the barricade for her daughter, negotiated with the school that Ann could repeat the test because he misjudged her and she was very talented.

Meanwhile, her father, a rocket researcher at NASA, kept telling her that she had to take her performance to the streets. Unlike in many Japanese households, Ann did not attend a Japanese school, but was taught the basics of Japanese at home. Noriko vividly remembers Ann sitting down over her Japanese science work saying that she must either go to Japan immediately to learn the Japanese way of finding a solution, or that she would immediately prefer the American way of finding a solution. The latter was preferred. And: while still in high school, Ann decided to join a debating club - and also to take part in competitions, the first results of which were not really great: she did not make it into the top ten in any of the competitions.

Ann Miura-Ko
... is a founding partner of Floodgate, a VC company in Palo Alto. She was one of the earliest investors in Lyft and TaskRabbit and was an early supporter of Ayasdi and Xamarin - among others. Ann Miura-Ko lives in the Bay Area with her husband and three children.

But giving up was not an option. Continuing her unbroken enthusiasm for the debate, Ann decided - despite the objections of her parents, who always considered her at a disadvantage because of her Japanese ancestry - to devote herself only to debating over the summer and promised her parents if they could in the upcoming debating competition wouldn't stop debating in first or second place.

That summer she went to the library every day, studying all kinds of subjects and writing down in a notebook all the arguments that made her feel. “Nobody was better prepared than me. And the moment I took the stage, I knew I had won, ”said Ann of her victory in the National Tournament of Champions and her second place in the state of California. “It was one of the most magical moments in my life: A second generation Asian girl living in the USA who grew up in a purely Japanese household won this debate. Not even my parents believed in me back then - this victory gave me immeasurably a lot of self-confidence, ”she recalls. With this experience in the background, Miura-Ko was accepted at Yale - where she met other brilliant minds in addition to Lewis E. Platt.

But there are also very everyday things that shaped her career. After starting the part-time job in the engineering department, she told her father that she actually spent most of her time at the copier and that it certainly wasn't a world-class job. But he told her that making copies was no less important task than any other, and that no matter how minor the task might seem to her, she should make the most of it. She took her father's advice to heart. Her diligence was quickly noticed by the faculty board, who was ultimately supposed to get her on the tour with Lewis E. Platt.

When it comes to investments, says Ann Miura-Ko, she always wonders whether the product or the service has the potential to change the world: Do I want to team up with this start-up to innovate? Do I believe in the matter? Will that have a positive impact on society? Once she has decided to “conspire” with the start-up, it will ultimately lead to success.

Are female investors following paths here that male venture capitalists would not take? The answer is obvious: "With a Ph. D. in the field of mathematical models in computer security, I take on many aspects that my male counterparts would not even perceive," says Miura-Ko - qualities that also apply in their working life were valued before entrepreneurship.

After completing her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Yale University in 1998, she worked for McKinsey & Company as a business analyst until 2001. In 2001 she moved - again as an analyst - to Charles River Ventures and stayed there until 2003. Miura-Ko completed her Ph. D. at Stanford University in 2010, where she also worked as a lecturer in the field of entrepreneurship during her studies.

At Stanford she also met guest lecturer Mike Maples, Jr. He was well known for his early stakes in Twitter and Digg. And to learn more about the "real world of business", but above all about start-ups, Miura-Ko was a regular guest in Maples' office. During one of these meetings he asked her: "Why don't you just interrupt your Ph. D. studies and start a company with me?" The time of 2007/08, in the middle of the financial crisis, may have been an unusual choice for a start-up but it turned out to be the right one. Miura-Ko was convinced of Maples ’vision:“ Now is not the time for big investments. The entrepreneurs at Stanford wouldn't expect an investment of $ 5 million; 500,000 US- $ more likely. And even this sum is currently nobody willing to invest. Why don't we do it? "

In May of the same year, the two founded Floodgate. Only a few months later, Miura-Ko became pregnant - but she still wanted to complete her Ph. D. So every morning she got up at 4 a.m. and worked on her dissertation before going to work. And just at the point when she has a good rhythm between her job and life at 18
Having found a month-old daughter, she became pregnant again. Just six weeks after the birth of her son, she celebrated her doctorate.

“Of course, I had a lot of support from my parents and my husband, but getting a doctorate was by no means easy alongside entrepreneurship and family life. But this experience gave me a lot of strength. And when people ask me today who I am, I can say: a technology expert who has achieved great things. I'm proud of that. ”What else are you going to do for the next ten years? “I want to do the same job as I do today. I love to share my knowledge and experience with those who want to be supported by me - just as Lewis Platt once did for me. I think the work as an investor fits in well. "

Text: Makiko Izuka | Forbes Japan
Translation: Yumi Mita

This article appeared in our September 2018 issue of “Women”.