As Women’s History Month continues to unfold, we’re delighted to highlight some of the remarkable female founders at Pear. We’re dedicated to supporting diverse entrepreneurs and are proud that 41% (and growing!) of our investments are in companies with at least one female founder! This is a truly remarkable statistic in our industry, and we take immense pride in it.
Throughout March, we’ll be featuring Q&As with some of these inspiring entrepreneurs. In this series, you’ll hear from them about their experiences in founding burgeoning startups and how they’re collaborating with Pear to turn their visions into reality.
This week, we’re excited to present this Q&A between Aparna Sinha and Orby AI’s Co-founder Bella Liu on Bella’s journey in entrepreneurship and some of the lessons she’s learned along the way. We began working with Bella and her Co-founder, Will, in August 2022 and have loved getting to work with their team from ideation to product launch.
Orby AI is still in stealth mode, and we cannot wait for the public launch in the coming months. We’ve been quietly at work helping the team build and scale their team and we’re proud of all they’ve accomplished in a short amount of time. I’m excited to share more about Bella’s inspiring story in this week’s installment of our Women’s History Month series!
Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?
My journey really begins with my upbring – growing up in a small town in rural China, my parents instilled in me the value of education, which was not always a given for girls in the area. Despite limited resources, they did everything they could to ensure that I received an education. I remember the time when I was in middle school, they sold our furniture and took on any extra work they could, so we could pay for my tuition. They motivated me to work hard and dream big. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be where I am today, and I’m constantly driven to pursue ambitious goals and take risks when the right opportunities arise.
AI is the next big revolution that will fundamentally change people’s lives in numerous ways. However, the reality is that AI had been showcased and demoed, but had not yet been successfully implemented in many real projects. This led me to join UiPath five years ago, where I worked on AI product and business development. AI automation was still at a nascent stage – I saw that it could be the right entry point for many organizations to adopt AI and see tangible value. I was right. The market and the company grew really quickly and UiPath IPO’ed as one of the largest enterprise software IPOs in recent years. While I was proud of the impact we had on our customers, I also saw that some customer problems were not solved effectively and require a completely different approach, so I teamed up with my co-founder Will and we started Orby AI. We are excited to work in a time when public awareness of AI is at an all-time high, and we believe that this is a once-in-a-lifetime revolution, similar to the internet and mobile eras. We are already seeing our product built on foundation models being used by customers to automate tasks, and we are continuing to break the technology boundaries and deliver meaningful value to customers.
We are excited to work in a time when public awareness of AI is at an all-time high, and we believe that this is a once-in-a-lifetime revolution, similar to the internet and mobile eras.
What’s a big or surprising lesson you’ve learned as a woman in tech? What advice do you have for women in their professional journeys as entrepreneurs?
Maybe not a surprise, but living it has helped reinforce and internalize it for me – having a solid support system at home and in the workplace is crucial. My advice to women in their professional journeys as entrepreneurs are to find people who genuinely support and encourage them along the way. This is actually applicable to both women and men because we all have times when we need help and support.
Personally, I experienced this kind of support during an intense period of company and product building when I was pregnant with my first child. Prior to my third trimester, I was not sure if I would be in a position to take a month off for child bounding and recovery. My co-founder, the broader team and I came up with a plan to make sure no balls were dropped, and they all stepped up to enable me to take time off. Everyone, including our investors, were super supportive. Support from my partner and our extended families enabled me to operate at full speed upon my return. This support system allowed me to focus on my health and family while ensuring we as a team are continuing to make progress.
My advice to women in their professional journeys as entrepreneurs are to find people who genuinely support and encourage them along the way.
How have you navigated any societal expectations or biases around gender roles and work-life balance as a business leader?
I follow the advice of one of my mentors and a respected woman business leader: “you just have to always know your stuff and get things done.” Regardless of any perceptions or bias, I think the key is to demonstrate expertise and deliver value.
During my graduate school years, I worked on a pro bono project for the World Bank to establish an impact investing fund in Bolivia. We worked closely with the business and government organizations in Bolivia and frequently met to discuss the project. In the beginning, I noticed that in the meetings, the local teams sometimes looked away when I was discussing with them. One of my local contacts later explained to me that it is uncommon to work with women in business. They did not mean any disrespect – they are just not used to it in their culture. I understood where they came from and decided to focus on delivering the work. In a few weeks, the dynamic in meetings changed, and they felt more comfortable to speak with me directly and even asked for my opinion on various topics.
How did you evaluate VC partners when going through fundraising?
While we did consider typical aspects such as investment focus, reputation, and network, we placed a strong emphasis on the specific partner’s value and shared vision. We believe that it is crucial to work with someone who is equally passionate about our vision since they will be a long-term partner in our business. We would take the time to get to know the partner and ask questions about their vision of what Orby can become. We have been extremely happy with our decision on our investors.
We believe that it is crucial to work with someone who is equally passionate about our vision since they will be a long-term partner in our business.
What’s next for Orby and why are you excited about your space and your team?
Our team is heads down in executing on our vision and roadmap, and I am really proud of the product and the team that we have built. Our customers are already using the product and getting value. We are continuously pushing the boundaries of our technology, and I can’t wait to share more with you!
Thank you so much, Bella. We are thrilled to be partners and cannot wait for the world to use Orby AI. As Women’s History Month continues, we look forward to sharing more stories from our incredible female founders and celebrating their achievements in entrepreneurship.