With a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Berkeley, a master’s from MIT, and an MBA from Stanford, Hayley combines a data-driven, engineer’s mindset with deep experience in global financial markets. Prior to joining the Vision Fund, she was a principal at Blueport Capital.
What put you on your current path?
I’ve always been interested in technology. I studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate and went on to get a master’s degree in the same field. I’m just as passionate about technology as I was then, but when I started my career in investment banking, after MIT, I became more interested in the work that goes into turning a technological breakthrough into a successful business. It was an unexpected shift, but it’s led to a fascinating career.
Why does technology capture your imagination?
I see technology as a catalyst for big, positive changes in the world—provided it’s supported by a sound business model. Take fintech, for example. We work with founders who are using technology to bring financial services to people who were skipped over in the past, with huge implications for their lives. I’m seeing the same kind of impact in the education space and areas like smart building tech, which is helping to create more resilient, sustainable, and adaptable buildings. These are huge, potentially transformative technologies. I love being part of the team that brings these innovations to scale.
How do you approach your work with founders?
As an engineer, I’m rooted in data, and I’ve learned to take the long view. With that as my starting point, I try to be a sounding board and help founders get clarity about their goals. I’m a big believer in giving feedback and being as transparent as possible, so even in that first meeting, I try to share something of what I’ve observed, especially about the elements of a founder’s vision that have me feeling excited. Even if I’m in the due diligence phase, even if I’m not seeing a match for our investment priorities, I try to make the encounter worth the founder’s time.
What’s the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned in your career?
I’ve come to value exposure to different contexts, ideas, and world views very highly. I was born in China, but my family moved to Oklahoma when I was in middle school. Having those very different contexts exposed me to a lot of ideas about the world and gave me a sense of what might be possible. I think that kind of exposure to multiple contexts is essential for founders, too. They’re trying to build a business within a specific market and industry, but they don’t always have the exposure to global markets and other industries that would provide alternative paths to inspire them and enable them to capture their full opportunity. I try to bring that broader context to them.