Park Fellows alumni spotlight: Chia-Lin Simmons, MBA ’02
An innovator and leader in harnessing technology to change people’s lives, Chia-Lin Simmons has devoted much of her energy to nurturing early-stage businesses. That devotion began as early as 2001, when as her Park project she chose to build a business incubator to help foster businesses out of Cornell. “Engaging in that project made me realize how important it is to have organizations that help fledgling businesses to grow. That project gave me the opportunity to take on and tackle something that is a large strategic problem and take my part in trying to make that change,” says Simmons, who continues to nurture startups, especially those owned by women.
“Women-led ventures made up less than 5 percent of all venture deals and 2.9 percent of all venture funding in 2016, actually losing ground from previous years,” says Simmons, who started #BindersProject to help connect female entrepreneurs to angel investors and venture-capital firms. That’s just one of Simmons’ many efforts to mentor and sponsor women and minorities, who tend to have a difficult time forging a career in technology. With many years in prominent strategic and marketing leadership positions with Google, Time Warner, and Audible, Simmons enjoys using her expertise and knowledge to foster diversity in the industry. To that same end, she’s very active on Twitter, where she has more than 25,000 followers. “A number of people follow me for technology industry diversity topics,” says Simmons.
She also launched her own startup, LookyLoo, a retail focused AI company that fuses social media, big data, and machine learning. “Becoming the founder of my own company has opened me up to take on challenges that I was always afraid to do,” says Simmons.
Another big step was to join the board of directors of Servco Pacific, a large multinational, diversified automotive-products company. Even though she’s considerably younger than the typical board member, Simmons decided to challenge herself. “I don’t know if I would have had that fearlessness prior to business school,” she says. “The Park program helped me feel confident. I actually can do more than I think I can, and reach out for those opportunities when they present themselves.”