Yao Huang started where pretty much everyone else starts: you go to college, graduate, then get a job... but then, like many of us, she got bored. “And when I get bored, I want to try something a little bit more challenging.”
This was at the beginning of the internet boom, so she started a tech company with a bunch of technical friends. “Then, I never went back.” And back then, entrepreneurship wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t hot – everyone thought that you were unemployed or didn’t want to go do work!
Today, Yao is a total badass. She is the Founder and Managing Partner of The Hatchery, an organization instrumental in developing the New York technology ecosystem with an international advisory consultancy and incubator. She was named by Forbes as one of eleven women at the center of New York’s digital scene, by Beta Beat as one of 25 Women Driving New York’s Tech Scene, and as one of TechWeek’s 100 most influential people in tech.
So, needless to say, Yao has her fingers in a lot of pies, but today we’re going to focus on the realm of social impact investing and how she is creating the future of learning.
Social Impact Investing & The Recycling Money Mindset
There’s a wonderful trend over the past few years towards structuring companies that both make revenue and truly help others. Not just through charity or as an obligatory signal of corporate social responsibility, but by actually using the financial vehicles that we already have and just thinking about them in a different way.
You can give back and do good without giving up profit, growth, and all the traditional things that you think of in building a company.
Of course, it does still come down to money, but you have to change your mindset. “Stop thinking about charitable donation and think about recycling. That's step one.”
Step two is understanding that you don’t have to wait until you have boatloads of money or you retire to do the big thing on your bucket list, to really create an impact. “You can actually be what you believe through your entire life,” Yao says, “and not just when you're comfortable!”
Imaging giving $100 and, instead of it just being spent on food or supplies and then being gone, you make $10 back. Now you have $10 more than you had before, which you can reinvest and give again.
This isn’t some magical, utopian idea – this philosophy already happens all day long in our financial environments through loan vehicles. The money just isn’t usually being invested with any purpose beyond getting a return.
“You can take a little bit more consideration into the impact of the money that you are growing for others, the money that you are giving to others, and how that impacts the main causes that you're considering: children, women, diversity, animals, water, whatever. And then, you can also make money.”
This is social impact investing.
The Future of Human Learning
Although technology has changed dramatically over the past few decades, education hasn’t. 100 years ago we learned from books and instruction in classrooms and today we learn from ebooks and online courses. The delivery method is slightly different, but the functional activity remains the same.
But if you want to learn, if you want to really absorb something, you're going to need to experience it. You don't just read about riding a bike – you actually ride a bike, you fall off, and then you do it again!
“So, we think we can have people learn by doing without leaving their chair, using virtual reality with an AI component embedded.” Basically, Yao and her partners are working to “make life happen for real inside VR” for teaching people just about anything and everything: how to learn English, how to be a good leader, how to sell, or even how to remove stress and anxiety from your life.|
“We can put you into each of these experiences to see how you behave, see how you are, so you can actually go through before you actually go through it in real life. Practice life before it happens, virtually.”