By Dana Cook Grossman
As the founder and managing partner of a Shanghai-based venture capital firm, Shirley Yeung ’93 has helped mint many members of China’s burgeoning population of tech billionaires. She was one of the first investors in Tencent, for example, considered the Chinese Facebook and now China’s largest internet conglomerate. She also funded other tech behemoths like Sohu and Sina back when they were just startups.
But for Yeung, her professional success is just one of two tightly interwoven aspects of her life. When asked to name an accomplishment she’s proud of, she deems herself “fortunate to have done the Series A financing of Tencent, which is now a world-class internet company. But,” she quickly adds, “that’s just business. On the family side, I’m very proud that despite the fact that I have worked nonstop my entire career, I have raised two great kids.”
In a similar vein, she values both hard skills and soft skills. “Especially if you’re a woman,” she says, “you don’t want to be seen as technically weak. But looking back, the soft skills I learned at SOM, as well as on the job, have been just as useful. I would say your EQ [emotional quotient] accounts for 50% of your success.”
That duality is also evident when Yeung describes what she finds rewarding about her work. “Initially, it was making money for whomever I was working with—and for myself. All these companies I invested with have now become multi-billion-dollar companies. That experience was quite exhilarating.” But she now finds satisfaction in a less quantifiable realm. “In the last 5 to 10 years, I would say it has been helping young entrepreneurs—helping them realize their dreams.”
Yeung’s realization of her own dreams began when she came to the United States at age 20, fresh out of college in Beijing. After working for a few years, she started considering business school. “I chose carefully,” she says. “Yale SOM was on top of my list.” She was attracted by the school’s size and its “unique approach, to educate leaders not just for business but also for the government and nonprofit sectors. Even though I chose to go into business myself, that diversity in purpose was a major draw for me.
“SOM offers an environment,” she adds, “where you are not just trained very well technically by world-class faculty, but you also have the opportunity to explore the human side of being a businessperson. What left an impression was how well the students worked together. We helped each other out.”
Post SOM, Yeung landed a job managing all non-U.S. equity investments—a $3.5 billion portfolio—for a firm that is now part of Verizon Investment Corporation. “People ask me how I got that opportunity,” she says. “I don’t think I would have without the Yale MBA.” She made the most of the opportunity, “learning from the best minds on Wall Street. I did that for four years, and my portfolio performed very well.”
In 1997, she was named a vice president in JP Morgan’s Hong Kong office, another stint she calls “a fruitful learning experience.” In 2000, she joined a major Chinese VC firm whose founder, she says, “is now among the top one or two richest men in Asia.” And in 2005, she founded Dragonrise Capital, which invests in high-growth Chinese private companies, mostly in the TMT (tech, media, and telecom) space.
She also has invested in the institution that launched her into that rarefied sphere. “I received a partial scholarship from Yale,” she explains. “I remember where all this came from. It all started at SOM. This is why I give back to Yale.”
She gives back as a member of Yale SOM’s Board of Advisors and Greater China Board of Advisors. She made a gift to name the Alumni Relations suite in Evans Hall, and most recently, gave a $100,000 matching gift to the 2018 Reunion Giving Challenge, helping to boost the reunion giving rate to an impressive 48.2%.
In addition, Yeung has given Yale—for a few years— both of her children. She and her husband, a Hong Kong-based film investor, have a son who’s a senior at Yale College and a daughter who’s a second-year student at Yale SOM. Both, she says, “seem interested in the investment industry, which I never asked them to do. I think they just thought what mom was doing was interesting.”