First of all, it’s important to note that Eric Zhu is not your typical 15-year-old. While Eric’s skepticism of authority and resistance to institutions is typical of his Gen Z traits (he’s been sent to the principal’s office multiple times), Eric has a surprisingly complex knowledge of the startup world. I’m here. He speaks the language of the founder and already he’s embedded in the sci-fi tech scene.
You may ask, “How can a 15-year-old do that?”Simply put, Eric busy. By leveraging our Discord server and booking cold calls via Calendly during the COVID-19 quarantine, Eric has already met with hundreds of prominent voices in the startup ecosystem. Moreover, despite his age, his knowledge is deeply relevant and remarkably insightful.
What struck me most about Eric when we spoke was his disregard for the “right” way of doing things. Many have tried (and failed) to get his VC support through traditional means, but Eric had never even considered such means. Instead, he built his web scraper to schedule (“non-consensually”) meetings with fund partners like Eric Bahn via his Calendly. And, as if that wasn’t unconventional enough, he attended those meetings from one of the stalls in the school bathroom.
Oddly enough, it worked.
To date, Eric has raised over $1 million for Aviato and is also a partner at Bachmanity Capital, which has just completed a $20 million early-stage deployment round. What is the moral of the story?
Audacity wins the day.
And if the names “Aviato” and “Bachmanity Capital” sound familiar to you, they’re from HBO’s Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley series. Not to mention that Eric also has a sense of humor.
In telling his story to me, Eric told me how he got into the tech scene while living in Carmel, Indiana (“a kind of remote place,” as he puts it). Interestingly, Eric attributes the beginning of his own journey to his Roblox, from where he discovered Hack Club. Eric said he was banned from his community online on Hack Club within 24 hours of joining, but connected with his group of other teens who reached out “because they thought it was funny.”
Eric learned how to code and founded AcademiaEdge, a non-profit organization that offers free programming classes to students. The pandemic came after hosting a hackathon with Elon Musk’s son. But rather than backtracking in time like most middle schoolers, Eric quickly recognized the opportunity to move forward.
With nothing but an internet connection, Eric joined the “Gen Z Mafia” and began using his connections to outsource menial jobs from startups to independent contractors. he said to me “San Francisco was like his Discord server back then.” [in quarantine]”
One of these startups, Fintech firm Carbon Zero Financial, ended up taking Eric on as an intern (“because we found out you can’t legally get a job at 13”). About a year later, Eric branched out and felt he was ready to build E-Social. E-Social is an educational technology platform that has over 50,000 students on the waiting list and at the same time he has scaled to 50 schools.
After completing his stint as a Venture Scout (implementing the infamous Calendly scraper), Eric faced his latest challenge: Abiato.
You may be wondering: What is the moral here? ” Networking is changing, and Eric’s story proves that its traditional rules are crumbling. His career, albeit short, was a creative networking masterclass. He needs to take some notes.
A LinkedIn profile alone isn’t enough to break the mold, and cold emails (or warm emails for that matter) may not be the solution. Today’s networking is more about creativity than nascent social capital.
Why not give Roblox a try?
My first article in March was a pessimistic view of the current fundraising environment, but Eric’s story gave me hope for the future. There are several reasons for my shift.
First, Eric was able to complete a $1 million round for Aviat within three months using a simple tactic. “Pitching sucks,” he said. “You never want to be transactional in the first conversation.”
For Eric (and hopefully other Gen Zers soon to enter the VC space), the startup ecosystem is more about relationships than clout. This change in trajectory is crucial for venture capital firms to achieve their lofty goals. why? Changing the world is only possible by leveraging real connections. Eric has an intuitive grasp of this principle, and I’m excited to see this next generation of founders/investors.
The second reason I made the shift was Eric’s relentlessly positive outlook and his contrarian approach. He admits that many may not agree with his method (he calls these people “MBAs”), but he never flinched or surrendered. is not. His brand is unashamedly his Gen Z. Eric posts shit on his personal Twitter account, allowing his 32,000 followers to follow his ongoing battle with high school administrators. In other words, he uses his Twitter memes to generate excitement about the brand. And he’s not afraid of the fallout.
Additionally, Eric notices subtle differences and apparent contradictions within the VC space. he is aware of his position. Specifically, consumer technology is hype-driven and high-profile funding, while the real money is “hidden” and less attractive (semiconductors, big Think data), he recognizes. Eric knows his own adventures tend to the former. As such, he is prepared for assumptions that people (myself included) may derive from his approach. But as I’ve seen first hand, the “MBA” premise alone doesn’t tell the whole story.
I might risk overquoting Thiel in my recent writing, but his contrarian outline makes Eric’s story clear so far.
“The most contrarian thing is to think for yourself, not against the crowd.”
Whether you agree with his method or not, Eric Zhu does just that.