Exeleon Magazine

Maggie Vo: A Trailblazer in Finance and Venture Capital

Maggie Vo Fuel Venture Capital

Maggie Vo’s journey from Vietnam to the United States is a testament to the remarkable strength and determination she possesses. Born and raised in Vietnam, Maggie embarked on a solo adventure at the tender age of 17, driven by her aspirations to build a successful career and achieve the fabled American Dream. Today, she stands as a trailblazing figure in the finance industry, serving as the Managing General Partner and Chief Investment Officer at Fuel Venture Capital.

In this exclusive interview, we delve deeper into Maggie Vo’s remarkable journey, exploring her vision for Fuel Venture Capital, her ideas related to the gender gap in the VC space, and her role in empowering women.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader that you can remember?

I was born and raised in Vietnam. I came to the U.S. by myself when I was 17 years old with the goal of building a career in the U.S. and achieving the American Dream. With a full scholarship, I graduated from Centre College with a double major in Financial Economics and Mathematics.

To take my knowledge to the next level, I studied for and passed all three Chartered Financial Analyst exams on my first attempt. All of these qualifications propelled me into being a leader and positioned me well to tackle the demanding and challenging role of Managing General Partner and Chief Investment Officer at Fuel Venture Capital.

I began my career in finance at Prudential Vietnam Fund Management, and later, Prudential Property Investment Managers in Singapore. Right before joining Fuel Venture Capital, I was a portfolio manager for a global long short equity hedge fund. In 2018, I decided to make a transition from the public markets to the world of venture capital since I recognized that value is continually shifting to actors in early-stage private-market deals.

At Fuel Venture Capital, under my leadership as the Managing General Partner and Chief Investment Officer, the fund’s portfolio of high-growth tech startups has grown from four to 33 companies with $700 million in AUM.

What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the finance space?

I’ve always been very academically inclined, with a particular interest in math and finance, which lent itself perfectly to my goal to have a career in investment, which has always been my passion. Once I started my career after college, my goal back then was to build a broad understanding of all the asset classes.

While in my position as a portfolio manager, managing a global long short equity strategy, I noticed assets under management were finding their way from the public market to the private market, technology companies were staying private longer, and that most public companies were larger, older, and in more concentrated sectors. These reasons prompted me to transition to the private market, specifically towards venture capital, where I can offer my clients access to exponential returns. Venture capital offers exponential returns because value creation happens at the early stages of a company’s life cycle.

On the other hand, in my current position as the General Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Fuel Venture Capital, I can be more hands-on and leverage my knowledge and experience to help founders and create an impact on startup companies.

Brief us about your company – Fuel Venture Capital. What is the vision for the company?

Fuel Venture Capital was founded in 2017 in the heart of Miami with a goal of providing FUEL for the world’s most innovative startups outside of Silicon Valley and becoming a diversified choice for global investors to gain exposure to the creative economy. Today, Fuel is managing over $700 million over multiple funds and has a portfolio of 33 companies across different sectors and regions such as Terran Orbital, Betr, Aexlab, Curve, CookUnity, Recargapay, Lunar, and Soundtrack Your Brand.

Fuel VC is Industry agnostic and globally diversified in its venture sourcing, Fuel VC targets groundbreaking early and late-stage companies using disruptive technologies as a main differentiating factor to transform how businesses and consumers transact (Fintech), consume on a daily basis (Marketplace), how they work to make a living (Enterprise Saas), and how they ultimately enjoy their lives (Entertainment Tech).

Fuel Venture Capital’s “founder-focused, investor-driven” approach is led by a diverse team of experts from the public markets who bring decades of combined experience in investment banking, wealth management, executive leadership, and entrepreneurship. This wealth of knowledge and expertise allows the firm to serve clients with fiduciary rigor and build a powerful network of investors and founders, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of groundbreaking advancements. Our vision is to become the top-of-mind Global Venture Capital Fund known for ELITE intellectual firepower, work ethic, communication, results, and values.

As the Managing Partner and CIO, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?

My days are fast paced with constant demands from different groups, whether it be from our global funds with investors or portfolio company founders who live in different time-zones. I am an active and assertive venture capital partner; therefore, I like to roll up my sleeves and get to work to help with strategy, recruiting, fundraising, business development, and more. No day is like the next and no day is ever boring.

Having been recognized by various panels and received multiple awards, how do you look back at your journey? Would you change anything if you had a chance?

I have been recognized as the 26 most important VCs in Miami by Insider, received 40 under 40 awards from South Florida Business Journal and was recognized as an Entreprenista 100 Award Honoree. It’s always a massive honor being recognized by various magazines and organizations, but more important than the honor is the actual work that goes into the day to day. The ability to work alongside founders and leverage my knowledge and skillset to make an impact is exactly the reason I left the public market to join the private market.

As a Vietnamese woman who came to the U.S. at a very young age by myself, it’s important for me to build my own success, but it is more important for me to leverage it to help others. I feel proud to have become an influential voice in promoting diversity and inclusion. I have made all efforts to encourage young women to break into the male-dominated financial industry, to raise funds for female founders to help scale their companies exponentially, and to give back to the local and global communities. As an advocate for diversity, I was recognized as an Influential Business Woman by The South Florida Business Journal and South Florida Business & Wealth, in addition to receiving Miami Dade County’s Among the Company of Women award. Miami is a very diverse city, it’s important that our capital and companies reflect that.

There’s a huge disparity when it comes to VC opportunities for women. How are you and your team helping empower more female entrepreneurs?

Like most of the financial services industry, the venture capital ecosystem has been dominated by men on both sides of the table. Whether you’re an investor expanding your portfolio or a founder seeking financial support, chances are that you are an Ivy-league-educated male. This is due to the idea that successful VCs and founders have to be grown out of a certain background such as coming from a top school, specific industry, or gender.

Women have to face the stereotype that they lack technical knowledge and there’s a stigma that women tend to be less rational in investment decisions than men. We need more diverse talent at the top level of the VC house. The people who are writing the checks are a driving force for diversity in the VC ecosystem and the lack of female representation in firms has a ripple effect on the founders they invest in.

Additionally, there are very few mentors, women or men, willing to be role models and help shepherd the career of junior women in VC. So, before they reach the upper rings, they’re opting out. If women can find communities that welcome them, train them, and mentor them, then they can gain expertise outside of the top VC firms and, I believe, will become more easily integrated into the venture world.

At Fuel Venture Capital, we have built our team with a culture of inclusion and diversity from the outset. As women, we support and uplift one another and make sure there is always a woman at the table. We formed strong networks and communities with other women in finance and in the Miami tech ecosystem to develop mentorship and sponsorship programs which will foster the growth and development of future generations of powerful women. We encourage our portfolio companies to establish diverse hiring practices and actively seek out companies with a diverse founding team.

Finally, what does the future look like for you, both personally and professionally?

We believe that the world is still in its infancy as it relates to the technological evolution of computing, AI/ML, predictive analytics, automation, and collaboration. The recent significant advancement in the field of natural language processing and the notable breakthroughs of ChatGPT have opened a world of more possibilities, disrupting numerous industries and inspiring entrepreneurs to explore new frontiers. Startup companies are currently at the forefront of the next platform shift led by generative artificial intelligence (AI), which is revolutionizing communication, content creation, and information access.

At Fuel Venture Capital, we are currently raising a fourth fund that has a target size of $300MM and a target number of 30-35 portfolio companies and we are excited to continue to Fuel innovative ideas into successful, world-changing companies.

I envision a future where gender equality is not just a goal but a reality, where women have equal access to education, career advancement, and leadership positions. I strive to be a role model for my daughter, encouraging her to embrace her ambitions, pursue her passions, and seize the opportunities that come her way. I am excited to see what the future holds for my daughter as she grows up.

Important Links:

Read Digital Version.

Visit Fuel Venture Capital Website.

Contact Maggie Vo on LinkedIn.

Visit Web Version of the Magazine.

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