Zhang Shoucheng, Stanford physicist and tech venture capitalist dies after ‘battle with depression’

Yingzhi Yang
Zhang Shoucheng, Stanford physicist and tech venture capitalist dies after ‘battle with depression’

Chinese-American Zhang Shoucheng, a well-respected physicist and venture capitalist, died on Saturday, following a battle with depression, according to his family. He was 55.

Zhang, a tenured professor of physics at Stanford University, was internationally recognised for his work in quantum science. He was also the founding partner of Danhua Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund investing primarily in early-stage technologies.

In an email, Zhang’s family said that he had “passed away unexpectedly … after fighting a battle with depression”. They did not reveal the cause of death. The Post obtained the email from some of its recipients.

“As we face this devastating news, we are deeply grateful for the support and condolences that we have received,” they wrote. “We would ask, however, the public to respect our privacy as we grieve over this immense loss.”

Danhua Capital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zhang was born in Shanghai in 1963 and attended the city’s Fudan University at the young age of 15. He went on to pursue a PhD in physics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he trained under Nobel Physics Prize winner Yang Chen-ning.

Steven Kivelson, a fellow Stanford physics professor, described Zhang’s death as an “inconceivable loss”.

“Shoucheng has long been an intellectual leader in the theoretical physics who is widely admired for his extraordinary creativity ... as well as for his devotion to the many brilliant students and post docs he has mentored,” he wrote in an email.

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Zhang’s contribution to the quantum field earned the recognition of not only his peers but also of the Chinese government. In 2009, Zhang was hand-picked to be part of an expert panel for the state-run “Thousand Talents” programme that aims to attract overseas scientists.

US Pentagon and intelligence officials have branded the decade-old recruitment drive as a platform to “facilitate the legal and illicit transfer of US technology, intellectual property and know-how” to China, according to reports earlier this year.

In 2013, Zhang set up Danhua Capital, also known as Digital Horizon Capital, which focuses on funding artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, and blockchain technology, among others.

The California-based firm has raised capital of US$434.5 million across two funds, according to Crunchbase. Its major backers include the Zhongguancun Development Group, a state-owned company funded by the Beijing municipal government.

Danhua lists 113 US companies in its portfolio, most of which fall within emerging sectors such as biotech and AI that the US administration has identified as the Chinese government’s “strategic priorities”, in a recent investigative report on China’s trade practices.

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Prominent blockchain start-ups invested by Danhua, according to its website, include Ontology, a public chain project whose digital token is among the world’s top 30 most valuable cryptocurrencies.

Many in China’s blockchain community took to social media to mourn Zhang’s death.

“We should record his name on blockchain and remember him when it is springtime again,” wrote David Li, founder of Singapore-based blockchain start-up Trinity, on WeChat.

“He was a super nice professor. I was really happy every time we worked together. I cannot understand why he suddenly passed away,” wrote Du Jun, founder of Beijing-based blockchain VC firm Node Capital, on WeChat.

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This article Zhang Shoucheng, Stanford physicist and tech venture capitalist dies after ‘battle with depression’ first appeared on South China Morning Post

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