She calls it “a trifecta of really great luck.”
Soo Jeon was looking for a career transition. The former founder and Senior Associate at the Aspen Institute’s China Fellowship Program was interested in getting involved in impact investment when a conversation with Eve Blossom led to the perfect opportunity.
Blossom wanted to help investors from diverse backgrounds break into the industry with her non-profit Material Change Institute. The institute provides a year-long comprehensive executive program aimed at lowering barriers of entry to underrepresented investors.
The Institute’s new partnership with Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), which launched in March 2022, also provides access to CDL’s world-class network of investors, mentors, scientists, economists, professors, entrepreneurs, and thousands of vetted ventures.
Jeon joined Material Change’s first cohort and was matched with CDL mentor Ray Muzyka to shadow his work with companies in the CDL Health stream.
CDL offers a nine-month, objectives-based program for seed-stage science- and tech-based ventures. Founders learn from experienced founders and investors like Muzyka, who is a medical doctor, entrepreneur and angel investor.
“He was super, super inviting for me to join any of the sessions, especially for the company he was mentoring,” Jeon said of Muzyka.
“During the full-day CDL sessions, I was bouncing across different venture teams that he was placed in. I had full access to the Slack channel to hone my skills in evaluating companies, but also got privy to what happens in an advisory role,” Jeon said.
Some advisors act as subject-matter experts, such as attorneys who advise companies on intellectual property law, Jeon noted. Others are doctors who advise health ventures from a clinician’s point of view. Others are investors.
“And then we have Ray, who’s kind of both,” Jeon said. “He’s an active angel investor, and then also has a medical background, so he evaluates things differently. So, I think being in those large session groups was very insightful.”
Muzyka said he and Jeon worked together to mentor early-stage health ventures.
“The teams and I welcomed hearing her fresh perspectives, as a broad range of advice is always helpful when facing different challenges,” he said.
“We also spent one-on-one time together discussing foundational concepts in early-stage investing such as different investment structures, and best approaches for due diligence in early-stage health technology companies. It was a genuine pleasure and honour working with Soo Jeon, and we’ve continued to stay in touch after the formal CDL/Material Change program year ended!”
Jeon also said that while she was familiar with the startup ecosystem, having already founded her own ventures, she was not familiar with the world of investment. She also didn’t feel familiar with the Western healthcare system.
Material Change and CDL provided her with opportunities to learn about both.
“It really helped me gain confidence,” Jeon said.
Additionally, she met like-minded professionals who see how often minority- and women-owned companies struggle to get funded — and want to change that.
“For me, I don’t have my own fund and I’m not raising a fund, but in a decision-making role, I can have an impact to accelerate a company’s scaling.”
Now that she’s been through Material Change’s fellowship and been exposed to the network at CDL, Jeon said she’ll have a more equitable outlook and be able to create opportunities for underrepresented founders.
“More than changing my career trajectory, I think it really empowered it.”