Diverse international cultural experiences as a child set the stage for Eva Ho’s rise to venture capital visionary. As a recent general partner at San Francisco-based Susa Ventures venture capital technology fund since January 2013, she strategically invests in founders whose products are building value and defensibility through data, network effects, and economies of scale.
For the past seven months, Ho has also been working with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his administration to define long-term economic growth initiatives supporting the city as a launching pad where entrepreneurs and start-ups can thrive.
“I think that my early experience, my background has had great influence over almost every aspect of my life,” Ho says. “So much of it is my family, my father. He was really a true explorer.”
Ho learned from her father to continually seek out new learning opportunities and identify the positive in every challenge, specifically racism, economic struggle, and culture shock, all of which Ho encountered as a child.
“I think that my early experience, my background has had great influence over almost every aspect of my life.”
Home-schooled in a desolate African desert, Ho grew up to be a shy, curious girl. She immigrated at age seven with her parents and siblings to the United States, where the family lived in a housing project in Boston. Struggling to build a life for the family, Ho’s parents connected with social services and took labor jobs at a local restaurant.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard in 1994, Ho earned an MBA from the Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management in 1998. She then moved to Los Angeles, and her entire family followed.
Ho was working as director of strategy for Stamps.com in 2000, when the tech company began to fizzle. Seeking new opportunities, she arranged a meeting with Applied Semantics co-founders Gil Elbaz and Adam Weissman, and joined their company as director of marketing the same year. After Applied Semantics was acquired by Google in 2003, Ho assumed a new job as senior product marketing manager for Google and YouTube, and her business relationship with Elbaz endured.
“They’re really unique and special guys, and dreamers,” Ho says about Elbaz and Weissman. “They described their vision to me…I was kind of enamored by the picture that they painted. Almost two decades later, we are still working together.”
In 2008, Ho began exploring venture capital as a potential next move. Several large funds approached her, but she declined the offers.
“My DNA is very much entrepreneurial…I didn’t feel that I could make those firms truly my own,” says Ho, who was more interested in starting other companies at the time.
After dipping into a few angel investments, Ho decided in 2012 to formalize the investments with the launch of Susa Ventures. After learning many new lessons at Susa, she felt ready to commit to running a multi-fund franchise as a long-term, professional investor.
With support from the Susa team, Ho recently left the company to start Fika Ventures with long-time friend Tianxiang (TX) Zhuo, who most recently served as managing partner of Karlin Ventures (an affiliate of Karlin Asset Management private investment firm), and Arteen Arabshahi. The new $40M fund was publicly announced February 15 is planned.
“Every entrepreneur who has met Eva raves about their interactions with her and holds her in the highest regard,” says Zhuo. “While a lot of this is attributable to her sheer wit and deep problem-solving skills in challenging situations, the thing that comes through the most is her sincerity and how she goes above and beyond to help them in every situation.”
“Los Angeles is an incredible place to be … we could leverage so many great things in the city now to produce super useful products and tools in the civic, philanthropic, as well as the private sector.”
Based on past experience, Ho, Zhuo, and Arabshahi choose to support founders in Business to Business and marketplaces, among other spaces. Ho says that while Los Angeles has long supported consumer-oriented tech companies like Snap Inc., now tech-heavy infrastructure ventures are on the rise, and those are the types of initiatives that Fika Ventures will back.
“Los Angeles is an incredible place to be,” says Ho, who remains inspired by nonprofit founders in her social circle. “We could leverage so many great things in the city now to produce super useful products and tools in the civic, philanthropic, as well as the private sector.”