Skip to Content
MIT News: Alumni profile

A path to technology: from China to Silicon Valley

Tami Zhu, MBA ’97

Tami Zhu
Courtesy Photo

Tami Zhu grew up with a wandering blind eye, a rare condition known as amblyopia. Not only did she struggle with her vision, but she was teased by other children. “It hurt,” she says. But she adds that it shaped her character and helped her to persevere in the face of adversity and look beyond physical limitations.

Zhu earned a bachelor’s in computer science from Peking University and a master’s in computer science from the University of California, San Diego, before pursuing her MBA at MIT Sloan. Today, she is a successful technology executive specializing in artificial intelligence and investment. She was a senior leader at AOL Ventures, IPG Mediabrands, and Excite@Home. 

Combining her US experience with her cultural background, she became the US-based CEO of two Chinese AI startups: Rokid and Kika Tech. She moved both companies from China to Silicon Valley to give them a global technology presence, raising more than $250 million in funding. 

She started a tech-focused hedge fund called SIP  four years ago and successfully raised a second fund  from a broader group of investors in 2020. SIP II saw nearly triple-digit rates of return during its first two years, and she is planning to raise an institutional fund in 2022. 

Zhu says she always saw the tech field as her destiny. The daughter of two professors, she was raised in China in a fiercely competitive family. When she was 12, her dad was a visiting professor in the US and told stories about the innovation he saw in Silicon Valley. Named one of the most influential women in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times in 2017 and by Silicon Valley Business Journal in 2018, she is now a Distinguished Career Institute Fellow at Stanford. 

“My mother always told me, ‘You only have monovision. You need to work twice as hard.’ I always really worked hard. It became a habit,” says Zhu, whose eyes were corrected eight years ago. She is grateful “beyond words” for her experience at the Institute. “I integrated the coursework and the knowledge into my work style, but the greatest impact on me was MIT’s rigorous spirit,” she says, adding she desired MIT so much she skipped her honeymoon to pay the tuition.

After living in 39 locations in 13 years, Zhu has settled down in the Bay Area. When she’s not working, she speed-hikes 30 miles a week and spends time with local MIT classmates. She lives with her immediate family, her golden retriever Pokee, her mother-in-law, and her parents.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.