Sheila Marcelo of

I don’t know Sheila Marcelo, but I’m already cheering for her. Her company,, went public last week. Our family is a regular user of the site. The IPO is an enormous accomplishment for her, the employees, and the investors.

But, for me, I think it’s cool that Sheila is a female Asian. It breaks stereotypes and allows Asian girls to think: “I look like her–maybe I too can start a company and take it public?”

For the record, I’m against affirmative action. I don’t believe in quotas based on race. I’m for level playing fields.

But, it’s hard to ignore facts like this: during a summer internship, my Harvard-educated supervisor would make jokes about Jews; for a long time, Rob Soni and I were the only Asian partners in the Boston VC community; a senior VC one time told me they’d never hire an African-American into their firm; and, female founders are a small percentage of the total (I’ve written about that here).

I’ve learned that bias or outright discrimination is still common in some circles. The good news, however, is they are the overwhelming minority (no pun intended). And, things are getting better. People are more mindful.

A few years ago, for example, I was surprised and humbled to receive an award from the Massachusetts Asian American Commission. State Treasurer Steve Grossman kicked off the awards ceremony. Other winners and/or speakers included Joe Chung of Red Star, Niraj Shah of Wayfair, and Harvard B-School Dean Nitin Nohira. Man, I felt like a fish out of water amidst such luminaries.

During the awards ceremony, I was literally squirming in my seat, as I felt so uncomfortable with the attention. I had to say a few words on stage, and so, I decided to talk about our family’s journey away from discrimination and to a new country. I said I was accepting the award on behalf of my parents, not me. Afterwards, many people came up to say how the story touched their hearts.

And, that’s when I began to feel better about the night.

Like it or not, I was serving as an example to others. I was being perceived as a role model. I decided I was OK with the attention, if it would help motivate the next generation.

So, Sheila, I don’t know you, but so many of us are cheering for you. You’re a role model. If you’re ever up for a cup of coffee, let me know. It wouldn’t be about business. It would be personal.

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