Serena Dang is the founder and CEO of Teacup Inc., a voice-first digital platform with a mission of enhancing the aging experience of midlife adults and beyond. Prior to starting Teacup Inc., Serena was the founding member of 1Sharpe Ventures, an $100M venture capital fund investing in early stage tech startups. Before that, Serena was a vice president in capital markets at Nomura Securities, focused on trading and structuring securitized products within the fixed income group. She is an advisor to Trella, a US-China based greentech company; a board member of CTN, a non-profit providing technology access and training to disadvantaged communities; and is the head of North America for SheLovesTech, a global ecosystem advancing women in tech entrepreneurship. Serena has a bachelor of science degree from the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, and is an avid mountaineer and cyclist.
What drew you to a career in social impact?
My determination to have a career in which I leave behind a legacy led me to recalibrate how I thought about my professional journey. A few years after graduating from Cornell, I reached a point where I wanted to go beyond self-actualization and focus on being of service to others. My first full-time position was in Capital Markets at an investment bank. At the time, it was the best job to begin my career. I learned and grew so much that I gained confidence in my abilities to tackle whatever difficulties may be thrown my way. I am glad that investment banking gave me the tools to solve tough problems because there are many challenges that one may face in their social impact journey. As I embark on this journey, I feel joy and fulfillment through the tangible social impact I can see, hear, and feel daily. This has motivated me to work harder and give even more to the world and people around us, leaving a positive footprint in this short life of ours.
What most excites you about your work?
Definitely the impact! Nothing is more fulfilling or exciting than seeing a product you built have an immediate positive impact on others. Hearing them say how much our product has changed their lives is the best encouragement for me–it makes my day each time!
In your career thus far, how have you found mentors and made connections along the way?
The most meaningful connections have always come from a place of openness and kindness on both sides. Being willing to learn from others and expressing interest in meeting new people is the starting point. Very quickly, one casual conversation can lead to another. Before you know it, you’ve got a mentor and a whole new network of supporters and champions. I would not be who I am today without the support and encouragement of my mentors, friends, and the helpful and meaningful connections I have made along the way. I am super grateful to them.
Do you have any piece of advice for Cornellians starting out or transitioning into a career in social impact?
- Listen to your heart, not just your mind. Feel the impact through your pulses and let it guide you forward.
- Virtue is the ultimate currency that should be used to determine a person’s worth, not your monthly salary.
- Try only to surround yourself with these kinds of people:
- those that believe in you,
- those that you can learn from, and
- those that care about you
What role has the Cornell network played in your career?
The Cornell network has become a social safety net that I can always rely on and lean into, regardless of the life stages that I am in or the career paths that I pursue. There is always someone who has been there, done that, and is eager to impart their knowledge and guide you along your journey. I owe my success to my Cornell network and appreciate it tremendously.