April 29, 2020

David Liu – Leveraging lessons learned from the military in investing

Shortly after I started my professional career post-college, I decided to make a major pivot and join the military. This was 2009, when the U.S. was in the middle of the financial crisis and the midst of two wars in the Middle East. The U.S. Army represented an opportunity for me to take myself out of my comfort zone, experience something different and try to make an impact on a broader scale.

I commissioned as a military intelligence officer and served in the Army for five years. As the Battalion S2 in an infantry brigade, my responsibility was to understand all facets of the operating environment and figure out how to defeat the enemy and improve that environment – not too dissimilar to the role of a Corporate Strategy team.

In addition to synchronizing our intelligence collection efforts, a big part of my job was to identify and interpret trends through data. I experienced daily the importance of separating observations from insights. For example, my team conducted time series analyses with historical enemy activity data to identify trends. However, changing our patrol patterns and conducting kinetic operations around these observations alone was not an effective way to improve the operating environment – enemy activity is a lagging indicator of security and operational progress.

The most rewarding period of my military career was when I returned to Afghanistan for a second deployment as a Security Forces Assistance Team (SFAT) advisor to an Afghan military unit. As advisors, my team and I helped our Afghan counterparts prepare for a new normal post-U.S. withdrawal – we were the last group of U.S. advisors to work with that unit. Our Afghan partners, like founders and entrepreneurs, lived and breathed their environment, and only when we were able to adjust our mission-oriented ways of thinking and fully embrace their perspectives were we really able to become truly effective partners and advisors.

Once back stateside, I knew that I wanted to continue to work in a role where I could help organizations grow and succeed through a combination of strategy, data and big picture thinking, and I plotted my next steps as a civilian. I realized that I needed to become proficient in the tools used in the business world, so I went back to school to pursue an MBA at NYU Stern.  Post-MBA, I wanted to gain finance and strategy experience as quickly as possible, which drove my decision to pursue a career in investment banking.

During business school, I became fascinated by how technology was changing consumer behavior and disrupting the traditional media and telecom landscape. I focused the majority of my elective coursework on Entertainment, Media and Technology and, after graduating, joined Citigroup’s Media and Telecom team as an investment banking associate.

After two years in investment banking, I joined Verizon’s Corporate Development (M&A) team.  It was a great time to join as it coincided with Hans Vestberg’s appointment as CEO and the advent of Verizon’s 5G ecosystem. As part of the Corporate Development team, I evaluated, executed and closed acquisition, divestiture and JV opportunities, including the acquisition of Vidder’s Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) assets as well as multiple network infrastructure related acquisitions.

I am excited to be part of the Verizon Ventures team. As a Principal focused on the Verizon network, my role allows me to work with some of the top network engineers and technologists in the world to identify technologies that will drive the growth of the 5G ecosystem. I look forward to working with entrepreneurs while leveraging Verizon’s SME expertise, as well as my own experiences, to accelerate the deployment of tomorrow’s technologies.



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Tags: Verizon Ventures , Corporate Venture Capital