Dr. Vanessa Chan is an Entrepreneur, Board Member, Angel Investor, Keynote Speaker and Educator who has spent over 20 years innovating. She is a leading thinker in innovation & entrepreneurship where she thrives at the interface of technology and business. She is currently at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a Professor of Practice in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Undergraduate Chair of Materials Science & Engineering and a member of the Executive Committee for Penn Health Tech. Prior to Penn she was a McKinsey & Company partner, where she co-led their innovation practice and helped corporations with deep R&D portfolios, commercialize their technologies. After McKinsey, she invented consumer products, and competed on the Today Show’s Next Big Thing which led to her as a guest on QVC, selling her invention, Loopit (tangle-free headphones).
Vanessa is a renowned speaker who inspires others to embrace failure as a catalyst for change. She emboldens people to adopt a growth mindset in corporate led innovation projects, their career and their personal life. The latter comes from being half of a dual-income family where she and her husband both have intense, high-profile careers but have integrated their work-life to also be present and engaged parents. Vanessa’s journey has been covered in various news outlets including the WSJ, The Washington Post, a best-selling book (I Know How She Does It), CBS and various podcasts including “Women Killing It!”.
Vanessa is passionate about helping the Philadelphia ecosystem and does so as the co-President of the Philadelphia Chapter of Ellevate Network, as a partner in Robin Hood Ventures (an angel investing group), as the chair of the BRIC (Business Resource Innovation Center) for the Free Library of Philadelphia and as a member of the Board of Directors for the Kimmel Center. She also is on the Advisory Boards for three start-ups: Charge-it-Spot, Girls Auto Clinic and Simply Good Jars and a founding member of the Innovation Business Development Advisory Council for United Technology Corporation. Her passion for education extends into K-12 as an active Trustee for Springside Chestnut Hill (SCH) Academy, where they have developed a design-thinking based curriculum including a Venture Incubator for kids.
Vanessa earned a Ph.D. from MIT and a B.S.E from the University of Pennsylvania. She is married to Mark van der Helm, the head of Energy, Waste and Facilities Maintenance at Walmart and they have two school-aged daughters.