Forever Duke Q&A: Lynn Chen A.M. '06

Sterly Wilder ’83, associate vice president for alumni affairs, talks with Chen, an entrepreneur and founder of China Logics, a cross-border advisory firm that works with start-ups to devise market-entry and fundraising plans. As China Logic’s chief consultant, Chen travels between the U.S. and China to identify investors and match them with start-ups. A former Groupon sales director who developed a passion for entrepreneurship as a child, Chen is the founder of several start-ups. At Duke, Chen completed a master of liberal studies degree; she went on to earn an M.B.A. from Columbia University. She has been involved with DukeGEN and the Duke Women’s Forum in New York.
March 6, 2017

What’s a day like in your life as an entrepreneur?

It’s chaotic! A lot of the ecosystem for an entrepreneur is staying involved and developing. So, I reserve two nights per week to go to networking events. Sometimes DukeGen comes to New York. I meet a lot of entrepreneurs through those events. The challenges we face are similar, and I’m reminded that this is a community that is always there for me.

I’m currently advising two start-ups whose founders are Duke alums: M.S.Q. Ventures, started by two Fuqua alums who are basically doing a cross-border boutique banking business; and The Pill Club, which is like a “Dollar Shave Club” for women’s birth control. Through my consultancy business, China Logics, I work on projects for more established companies in the health-care tech space. And then, of course, there are my own start-ups. Those things keep me busy! I usually work to midnight.

On your LinkedIn profile, you’ve declared you are “crazy about start-ups and smart, driven entrepreneurs.” Where did that passion for entrepreneurship begin?

I think the entrepreneur bug started with my family. I grew up in China, and my mother started a business selling electronics in the 1980s. She started with one store and turned it into a wholesale business. When I was five years old, I started hanging out at the store with her, interacting with the customers. That early experience showed me that I wanted to help others, to see more entrepreneurs live their dream. I get energy from that.

What is your advice to Duke students and alumni who would like to pursue an entrepreneurial path?

There’s never going to be a perfect time. When you think: Can I take a leap? Can I leave my full-time job? You should think rationally—but in the end you need to listen to your heart. You also need a contingency plan. How much time will you give yourself to pursue your dream? If you’re thinking about starting a company, you really need to think about who you can start it with. If you haven’t worked together—if you’re just social friends—that really doesn’t guarantee your venture success together. So you need to think about who will be on your team—and then start something immediately to test it out.