- Insider is taking you behind the scenes of our best stories with our series The Inside Story.
- This week we’re spotlighting Insider startup and venture-capital reporter Candy Cheng.
- Cheng is a TV veteran who produced shows for Bloomberg and CNBC before joining Insider.
- You can read Cheng’s reporting for Insider here.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
You’ve followed the tech and startup world for a long time and have produced interviews with the likes of Tim Cook, Bill Gates, and Jack Ma. What trends are you following now?
I get this question a lot, and the truth is, as a startup and VC reporter, you kind of have to keep an eye on everything all at once. As one smart investor told me, tech has gone from being a vertical to a horizontal. One could argue that every company is now a tech company, so that is how I approach my beat. We cover everything from fintech to consumer-tech startups in every stage, from seed to unicorn, ranging from funding to IPO scoops.
This is less of a trend and more of a personal passion. I try to find the international angle to every story I cover. I spent a lot of time earlier in my career covering China’s BATs – Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent – and continue to have a passion for writing about Asian tech startups such as Coupang, the Amazon of South Korea, as well as why US companies like Airbnb have a business in China.
You worked for years as a producer at Bloomberg and CNBC before joining Insider as a reporter. Why were you drawn to the TV world? Why did you make the switch to print?
This is going to sound cheesy, but I used to have this quote from Edward R. Murrow printed out and taped on my desk: “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.”
Whenever I have a bad day, or when I used to wake up super early, or stay up extra late, to work at “Weekend Today” or “SNL” as an NBC Page, I would look at the quote to remind myself why I decided to get into the business.
As for making the switch from TV to print, I did a four-month job rotation on Bloomberg’s VC and startup team in the fall of 2019 and really loved the reporting process. When COVID hit at the start of 2020, I was pulled back to help with TV coverage, but I never stopped reporting and writing stories. So I guess you could say timing really worked out perfectly when Alexei Oreskovic, Insider’s tech editor, called me with this opportunity to join the startup and VC desk as a full-time reporter.
What’s a day in the life of Candy Cheng like?
I have a toddler, so my day starts early. I normally wake up between 5:30 and 6 so that I can shower, scan for news, answer emails and Slack messages, and drink a hot cup of coffee before my toddler wakes up. Most of my big interviews are scheduled in the morning so that I can spend the rest of the day writing and reporting.
I used to be pretty bad about setting aside time for lunch, but I’m trying to be better about that. One trick I’ve learned in recent months is to schedule lunch calls instead of on-camera Zoom meetings. That way, I can eat my lunch while I chat with a source, or sometimes we will do a walk around the neighborhood while I take a call. I try to wrap up work around 4 or 5 so that I can take my son to the playground, and then I usually log back online around 8 to finish writing or talk to sources. Those of us who are working parents know this as the second shift.
How does being a mom make you a better reporter?
Since becoming a mom I’ve become a lot more mindful of how precious time is and how to better manage my time. I joke that my toddler decides my deadlines, because I have to be extra productive during the hours when I do have childcare.
What have the challenges been covering your beat during the pandemic?
It’s a really exciting but also challenging time to be a VC and startup reporter right now because of how intense the news cycle is. Airbnb and DoorDash went public my first month at Insider, and the news cycle has not slowed. There are days that seem to stretch out into the late evenings without a break. One of the biggest lessons I’m still trying to learn is how to say no and not feel FOMO when a competitor ends up with the scoop or exclusive on a story I passed on. There simply is not enough time in a day to do it all.
Any crazy stories to share from the past year?
Yes, but it’s off the record and probably best if I tell this tale over drinks IRL 🙂
What advice would you give others looking to make a career pivot?
Be your authentic self and trust that your reputation and your relationships will follow. I was very nervous about leaving the Bloomberg nest after spending 10 years building a career there, but so far nobody has hung up on me – yet.
What makes you excited to be a journalist right now?
I love storytelling, so I think there’s no better time to be a journalist. There are so many options available for cross-platform collaboration and content creation right now. My favorite type of stories are the ones that have legs that carry across various platforms from print to social media to TV and digital and beyond.