Jennifer Lum is praised in the Boston startup community as being a key mentor. The Adelphic Mobile and Apricot Capital co-founder has helped entrepreneurs through 500 Startups, TechStars, as well as within the local college community, all while working to close Adelphic’s $10 million Series A, mere months after the team secured $2 million. With that kind of passion for entrepreneurship, one would think Lum’s lifelong dream was to start her own company.
“I orginally wanted to be a sports doctor,” she admits, chuckling. Lum had played a lot of sports growing up and, in turn, suffered a lot injuries. Those injuries had inspired her, however—at least until she enrolled in the University of Toronto. “I realized I was a horrible student,” she says. “Studying wasn’t very interesting to me, and I didn’t really have a strong path toward med school.”
So, she swapped science in for business and soon followed a friend who had just joined a budding startup in Toronto. Lum watched the company grow from 10 to 50 people, only to later be acquired by the company that’s now AT&T.
Following the acquisition, Lum entered the consulting world, calling the experience a “great training ground for [her] to learn best practices.” Yet, it didn’t take long for her to stumble upon a posting for mobile channel enabler m-Qube. “It was at a time when text messaging was just really starting to take off,” Lum says, reminiscing on her earlier conversations about mobile marketing.
“That moment was a defining point in my career,” she admits. “On one hand, I was on a fast track at my consulting firm. … On the other track was something completely new to me. [The job] had so many risks around it. But, something like consulting I could always go back to.”
Lum decided to make the leap while she was young, becoming m-Qube’s chief of staff. And although she was hired to work in the Toronto office, she started repeatedly flying down to Boston, working with the company as they went through three acquisitions—the final being Apple.
Following Apple’s acquisition, Lum admits she spent a long time trying to decide what role she wanted to fill next. She started meeting with investors and angels to learn more about their perspective, soon writing out small investments of her own. As she was connected with more tech entrepreneurs, she slowly became a more active angel and started wondering if it was time to work on a project broader than just mobile at a company that was later stage and outside of Boston.
“I found my opportunity to work as a founder,” she says. “In mobile again. And in Boston. But, the founder opportunity was one that seemed like a no-brainer at the time.”
Lum co-founded Adelphic with those she worked with in the past and had faith in. She also entered a market she had essentially grown up in, and she knew she had a network she could leverage.
Today, Lum can say she’s “starting to feel like [she’s] settling in to, and becoming more comfortable in, this mobile, early-stage environment.” Not always having this clear vision of what she wanted to do, however, did worry her. But, over time, she learned to go with the flow.
“It was hard for me to become comfortable with,” she admits, “but I’m pretty happy with the path I am on now, and I am looking forward to building bigger and better things while I’m on this path.”
How do you do that, though? How, as a founder, do you advance?
“People,” she admits. “I place a lot of importance on surrounding yourself, and working with, great people. People you trust, people you can communicate with and people you want to spend time with.”
Lum continues to learn from people she finds smarter than she is, and makes sure she’s constantly researching new fields and technologies. When mentoring, she urges others to do the same—and to take the leap, especially if they’re young.
“Surround yourself with good people, and with their support, just do it,” Lum encourages. “Just go for it.”