Toby Zhang is the CEO and founder of Shop LIT Live, the social media-powered shopping platform. Toby leads a talented management team focusing on driving growth and innovation. Previously, Toby was a partner at CRCM Ventures leading the firm’s investments in consumer and emerging technologies. During his tenure, his successful investments include Musical.ly (now TikTok), Ripple, Ginkgo Bioworks, Firework, Wink, Itui, Drone Racing League, and more. In 2016, Toby was voted Forbes VC 30 under 30.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born in Beijing China, and after migrating to the US, grew up in the suburbs of Maryland. My father was quite literally a rocket scientist and at a young age, I became fascinated with the ways his work helped us explore and understand the universe around us. On the other hand, my mother was an artist and she taught me that we should always strive to see the world around us through different perspectives and that oftentimes the answers are not always absolute. Growing up I was an avid participant in team sports with my favorite sport being basketball. I still play regularly to this day. Influenced by technology, creativity, and a team environment, I’ve continually sought education and career opportunities that combine all of these elements. This eventually led me to pursue formal education in engineering and business and to embark on my entrepreneurial journey.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
After completing my master’s in engineering at Michigan, I spent several years leading technical product teams at Microsoft. After that, I pursued an MBA at Wharton and transitioned from a builder of tech to an investor. I spent the next 7 years as a VC Partner at CRCM Ventures. During my tenure, I was blessed to work with many entrepreneurs and startup founders in their early days. Inspired by them, in early 2020 I started Shop LIT Live and transitioned from my investment role back into an operating role. We are now a team of more than 20 people and it has been an incredible journey!
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Companies of all stages should be continually innovating. Don’t be afraid to pivot and try new things when something isn’t working. Most successful companies have changed many many times along the way. Do what you love and do it with the people you love doing it with. Eventually, all the right things will fall into their place.