When Rei Wang (07C) entered college, she pursued a degree in international studies with hopes to work in government or diplomacy. Soon after graduation, however, Wang began to notice that her career was looking very different from the vision she had as a freshman.
“Starting at Emory, I realized I wanted to do something more tangible,” Wang said.
Wang found “something tangible” as CEO of Dorm Room Fund, a student-run venture capitalist firm that supports student startups through investment. The company has invested $500 million in nearly 250 startups founded by both undergraduate and graduate students.
The idea of supporting student-run businesses appealed to Wang’s belief in student potential.
“Students do amazing things,” Wang said. “The idea of a fund run by students for students is a very compelling narrative. … Investing is such an honor. You feel like a fairy godmother. You are giving someone money to make their dreams come true.”
While at Emory, Wang was a member of the co-ed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi) and worked as design manager for the Wheel, where she often called local small businesses to sell ad space. Wang said her time on the Wheel taught her many of the skills she now uses as a CEO.
Working at the Wheel “was my first taste of what it was really like to be an entrepreneur,” Wang said. “I didn’t have any sales experience or training, but the Wheel taught me how to effectively run a small business.”
Wang is now working on the early stages of another startup, The Grand. With The Grand, Wang aims to tackle the alarming increase in loneliness levels nationwide by “building a platform for all generations to see, value and support each other in a way that reminds us we’re all in this together.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can do to create intergenerational community, and to help people feel more valued, more connected and less lonely,” Wang said. “Is there a way we can apply the skills, knowledge and wisdom that older adults have and help them share that with younger generations?”
Born in northern China, Wang lived in Beijing and later in Cambridge, England, before settling in Boston where she grew up. She discussed how her career path reflects her upbringing in the same household as her grandparents and great-grandparents.
“One of the reasons I am such a strong believer in [an] intergenerational community, and why it is the focus of my next startup, is because I grew up in a multigenerational household,” Wang said.
Long before she would be named in Forbes’ 2018 Venture Capital 30 under 30, Wang was a typical undergraduate who did not know the many paths her career would take after graduating. She credits Emory’s liberal arts curriculum for teaching her how to think critically and adapt.
“I learned how to hold my own opinions, really. I learned how to intake information and hold my own point of view,” Wang said.
Wang said this is the basis of what she does as an investor: instead of reading articles and books to write a paper, she goes into the field and speaks with other startup founders and project experts.
“My job [at Dorm Room Fund] is to meet with smart people all day long and learn from them what their industry is working on,” Wang said. “I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but now, I am a lot smarter in all of those areas than when I started.”
Wang advised current students to not feel limited by their major.
“When I declared my major, I thought I would only ever be able to do work related to international studies,” Wang said. “Now, I am about to become an entrepreneur, which is not a traditional job that international studies majors have. … What Emory is teaching you is how to think for yourself, so don’t be afraid to take a non-traditional path so you can figure out what is right for you.”