Blog

December 8, 2014

Getting to Know Jennifer Lum: Founder, Investor, & Mentor

This week, we spoke with Jennifer Lum, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Adelphic Mobile. She joined her first startup company while finishing up her degree at the University of Toronto, when a friend suggested she join the company WebHosting.com. As an early hire, she played a hands-on role and saw the company through its successful exit to SBC Communications. Jennifer speaks about her current role in expanding Adelphic, provides advice for current students, and expresses her view on being a woman in tech.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your current role?

“As Chief Strategy Officer, I think about the strategic direction of the company. I am always on the lookout for new business and product development opportunities.

Recently, I began working on our international expansion plans. We will be basing our European team out of London. I’ve been traveling there to get a sense of the market, to recruit, and to work closely with our partners.”

                                   
[Pictured: Mike Troiano (CMO, Actifio), Jennifer, Jeff Glass (former CEO of Skyhook Wireless), David Chang (COO, Paypal Media Network). The four worked together at m-Qube, and the picture was taken at the 2011 Tech Prom]

2. What has been a major barrier or hardship you’ve faced in your work and how have you overcome it?

“Being a founder can be overwhelming, especially in the early days when you are fighting to get an idea or company off the ground. Something that has been helpful for me in building Adelphic is creating a support network. By identifying individuals who are more experienced in a certain function or in dealing with certain issues, you can turn to them with specific questions. Even just knowing that they are there can be helpful for a founder’s peace of mind.”

           
[Pictured: Quattro Wireless CEO (Andy Miller) breaking the news to the team that Apple was buying the company.]

3. What are some of your favorite books, blogs, media/news channels, for keeping up with the industry?

“I’ve just started reading Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One. I also just finished Ben Horrowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. They are both fantastic but quite different. While Horrowitz provides concrete and descriptive examples of real life scenarios that he faced, Thiel applies frameworks in a conceptual manner for thinking through going to market, dealing with competition etc.

                            

One part of Horowitz’s book brought back some old memories for me. One of my former managers, Jeff Treuhaft, was the fifth employee at Netscape, where he worked for Horowitz. One day Jeff gave me a printed copy of “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager” and mentioned how important it was to study and learn from it. He made the entire product team study it. Almost a decade later, it was cool to come across it again in Ben’s book with better appreciation for the significance of Netscape and Ben’s career accomplishments.”

4. If you could meet one person in the industry for coffee, who would it be and why? What would you ask them?

“I’d like to meet Larry Page. I admire Google as a company and that they are investing in really big ideas by leveraging revenue from core businesses. I would ask him about the future of Google, and how he sees the company evolving over the next decade.”

                    
[Pictured: Google Co-founder, Larry Page]

5. If you could be a student again, what would you do differently or the same?

“I would study computer science or engineering so that I could be self-sufficient in developing projects on my own. Because I do not code, I need to find technical partners to fully build out ideas. One piece of advice I have to current students is the importance of communication. As a founder, effective communication is critical in order to sell your ideas and to convince team members, investors, and customers to buy into your vision. Being able to effectively communicate in different situations, to different audiences, to reach and influence desired outcomes is key, and something that can be practiced while still in school.”

6. Who is one person that has had a strong influence on your success?

“There are two people in Boston who have been incredibly supportive of me and Adelphic from day one of deciding to build the company. The first is Antonio Rodriguez from Matrix Partners. Matrix is the lead investor in Adelphic. Antonio has consistently provided great support, objective advice, and has worked hard along side our team to build the company.

          
[Pictured: Antonio Rodriguez (Matrix Partners), Joe Grabmeier (CFO, Adelphic), Justin Siegel (CEO, Mocospace), Reed Sturtevant (Project 11), Jennifer Lum, Katie Rae (Project 11)]

Additionally, Katie Rae, Managing Director at Project 11 has gone above and beyond multiple times to help me both professionally and personally. She has literally moved mountains for me. I am very grateful.” 

7. Can you discuss your view on being a woman in tech?

“I don’t believe I’ve done anything different from my male counterparts in fundraising for Adelphic. If you are a talented and capable entrepreneur who is focused on building a big business with great technology, that should be enough and gender should not come into play.

Funding female founders is a great way for venture firms to build relationships with future, high-potential partner candidates. It is important that firms make founders aware of the potential career transition from operator to VC. I know a number of very smart young women who joined top venture firms as associates, but all left for business school or a corporate job. This may highlight an opportunity for firms to do something differently in order to grow or retain talent within the firm. This all takes time. There is a great opportunity for change, but it needs to be an active and on going process.”

All founders in the Boston area should get to know Jennifer. She balances her many roles as a co-founder & CSO, Board Member, Investor, and Startup Mentor with extreme grace. Thanks for servings as a mentor to our Rough Draft students and for taking the time to chat with us Jennifer!

Natalie Bartlett is the Community Lead at Rough Draft Ventures.  You can find this post, as well as additional content on the Rough Draft Ventures' blog.  You can also follow Natalie (@Np_bartlett) on Twitter by clicking here & Rough Draft Ventures (@roughdraftvc) by clicking here.