Aurora Feng on the Pear Fellows

An interview with Aurora Feng regarding her experience as a Pear Fellow, an immersive VC apprenticeship powered by Pear VC.
February 24, 2024
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Background

Aurora Feng is a senior at Stanford University, double majoring in Economics and Anthropology and minoring in Symbolic Systems. She joined the Pear Fellows last year. I talked with Aurora about the application process to get in, the program, and what advice she would give to prospective students who are interested in the fellowship and venture capital.

Highlights

  • Typically, Pear Fellows are deeply involved with their school’s entrepreneurship scene, have completed a venture capital internship or fellowship, and are people-oriented since they will be meeting with lots of founders to help with sourcing efforts through events and meetups.

  • Pear Fellows are responsible for sourcing founders from their schools. Many of the founders they meet are from facilitating events, hackathons, contests, and startup clubs. They learn more about venture by reviewing deals and sitting on calls with the Pear VC team.

  • Many Pear Fellows have gone on to have successful careers at top venture capital firms, but alum involvement is not a core part of the program offering.

Interview Transcription

Edited lightly for clarity.

Kieran: Hi Aurora, thanks for joining me today. Do you want to introduce yourself?

Aurora: Hi, my name is Aurora. I’m a senior at Stanford, studying Economics and Anthropology and minoring in Symbolic Systems. It’s great meeting you today.

Kieran: How did you hear about the Pear Fellows program?

Aurora: So, I joined Pear last year during my junior year, and I learned about Pear in my freshman year. So, my freshman year was covid, and I did a bootcamp with Stanford ASES, one of the entrepreneurial societies on campus, where the Founder of Pear gave a talk. That’s how I first learned about Pear and its fellow programs. In my junior year, I wanted to get more involved with student venture capital in the United States. Before that, I worked in venture capital in different countries. So, I applied and got in.

Kieran: Can you give an overview of the application process? I saw the written application on the website. What happens after that?

Aurora: So, Pear recruits fellows from certain universities. It’s Stanford, Berkeley, and a couple of schools on the East Coast – Penn, MIT, and Harvard. Different schools have their recruiting timelines. For Stanford, it’s typically the first two weeks of the Fall quarter. That’s the end of September, the start of October. They usually do info sessions on campus. You chat with them, and then you submit your application. It’s a few short answer questions and a video where you share your favorite company or a trend that you find interesting. If you get selected for an interview, you talk with the Head of Builders, who is in charge of student programs. If you pass that round, you move to the final round.

Kieran: What questions did they ask you during your interview?

Aurora: It varies each year. So, last year, a Pear Venture Associate interviewed me. We mostly talked about the stuff that I was involved with on campus. I’m involved with a few startup business organizations. They were interested in where I was meeting the most talented founders, my unique sourcing strategies, and how I maintain founder relationships with people that I think are worth investing in. Also, they were interested in what general industry startup trends I was following. It’s a super casual, 10-15 minute conversation.

Kieran: You joined your junior year. Were most of the people in your cohort juniors and seniors?

Aurora: My cohort had five fellows. Two of them were juniors. One was a senior. Two were sophomores. So, it’s a nice balance.

Kieran: When you say your cohort, is it just Stanford students? Is it pretty confined to each school?

Aurora: Yes. I know Berkeley has five fellows, one of whom joined as a freshman.

Kieran: What happens when you join the program? Can you give an overview?

Aurora: So, there is a yearly summit for new fellows. That’s every November when they fly everyone to the Pear office in Menlo Park. After that, it’s sourcing on campus and talking to founders. So, last year, our primary job was facilitating different demo days and hackathons. I worked as a judge for TreeHacks and Friends and Family. Pear was one of their sponsors. We also hosted a Pear competition. We were in charge of interviewing founders, encouraging people to apply from Stanford, and doing the initial screening. This year, we’re trying to do more on-campus outreach and make this a more structured program. We’re considering adding a campus newsletter so people interested in building startups can subscribe. We’re also considering collaborating with people from other campuses. I know Berkeley fellows are doing a newsletter. They plan to interview founders and list interesting startup activities for students to join.

Kieran: When you source student founders you’re excited about. How do you work with the Pear VC team?

Aurora: Typically, you source founders through founder events or activities. We host a lot of activities like a founder speaker series and meetups. If we find something interesting, we send it to the Head of Builders. I’m interested in healthcare, so I work with their healthcare partner, too. Some people approach me since they are building in healthcare. I review the deck, and if I think it’s interesting, I connect them with Pear’s healthcare partner and sometimes join the deal flow call.

Kieran: You mentioned earlier you did some VC internships in other countries, and you were excited about Pear because you wanted to do this in the US. What was the most valuable part of the program regarding your learning and growth?

Aurora: The summer before my junior year, I worked for a venture capital firm in Brazil. One of my mentors was a Pear Fellow and graduated from Stanford. The world of venture capital is very small, and everyone is connected. Before that internship, I worked for a venture capital firm in China. The venture capital scene in Asia and Latin America differs from what people are curious about in the US. When I was working in Brazil, a lot of the stuff they were looking at was similar to the tech scene in Asia in 2015. That was an interesting trend, and I wanted to see what people care about now in the US compared to Asia, Brazil, and other parts of the world. Since I’m here in the heart of innovation, I thought, why not do something in the valley?

Kieran: It seems like they were interested in your involvement with the entrepreneurship scene at Stanford, and you had VC exposure and experience. What do you think they are looking for in terms of who would make a good Pear Fellow?

Aurora: They typically take people with previous venture experience, even though they say it’s not required. Based on my experience, the Pear Fellows I’ve worked with have all worked at venture capital firms. Another Stanford Pear Fellow worked at a climate tech venture capital firm. They want you to be interested in investing, know how to source deals, and how to evaluate a company. I think you have to be a people person. You need to be able to start a conversation and quickly get to know someone within a short period. I think that’s why their interviews are all concise, 10-15 minutes.

Kieran: Venture capital is a very competitive industry. How did you break in to get that experience so that you could eventually get this opportunity with Pear?

Aurora: I was in China due to covid. So, I took advantage of that and worked with a Chinese venture capital firm. That’s how I became involved with tech and venture. I didn’t intentionally build my venture network. I was exploring since I like tech. I’m more interested in early-stage ventures than later stage. I also really like talking to people. That combination makes me an ideal candidate for venture capital. I spent the summer after my sophomore year in Brazil. So, that was my route. Other fellows have their ways of breaking into venture. Another common way I see is building your startup or something on campus. The founder-to-venture pipeline is pretty common.

Kieran: There’s an overlap between the Pear Fellows at the schools. Is there any overlap between the Pear Fellows and other internal Pear programs, like the female founder circle, PearX, etc?

Aurora: Not really, between the internal programs. We’re trying to bring the Pear Garage and Pear Fellows together more. We host a lot of speaker series where we see other fellows. We meet more people involved with Pear when they do the PearX accelerator program twice a year.

Kieran: There have been lots of alums that have landed full-time gigs at good venture capital firms. Are they involved with the Pear Fellows in any way?

Aurora: There isn’t any alum involvement. Some of the Pear VC internal team is past MBA Pear Fellows.

Kieran: Is there anything that I didn’t ask about that you think is important to know for someone considering applying to the Pear Fellows?

Aurora: Not specific to the Pear Fellows, but students interested in venture capital should start building their network as early as possible. You can start a blog, get coffee with founders on campus, or create a club. There are multiple ways to get involved with venture capital. You don’t have to be a venture fellow or get a venture capital internship. They usually don’t have a lot of headcount for these roles. Some people have started their own funds. There are so many ways to get involved with early-stage investing, so don’t let not getting into a fellowship stop you.

Kieran: I love that. Explore all your paths. Thanks, Aurora, for joining me today.

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