Five Minutes with Kavita Gupta, Founding Managing Partner at ConsenSys
by Rebecca Heaton
At ConsenSys, Kavita heads a unique VC-hedge fund, investing in next-generation blockchain technologies revolutionizing our current systems. Kavita is certainly an influencer in the investing space and is never just in one place. She has set up innovative investment funds across East Africa, Middle East, South Asia and recently in the US for past 16 years through World Bank, IFC, McKinsey and The Schmidt Family office. She is the Recipient of the UN Social Finance Innovator Award in 2015 for being an integral part of the founding green bond team at The World Bank. She is also on the board and is an advisor of various accelerators and foundations across the world like Google Accelerator Social Track, MIT Solve (Sr. Advisor), Vatican’s Right Now foundation for impact investments, Mandela Foundation etc.
How do you play a role in finding and nurturing female talent?
When I was growing up, I didn’t see a lot of women on big stages. I think sharing your journey is really important. Especially today with digital media, people can really learn and connect, and you can base your goals on what other women have achieved. I have always been really active on empowering women in sciences and venture capitalism, even before women in tech became the buzz word. I have been apart of Youth2Youth at the World Bank, which has over 3,000 members around the world, and we created a special women community to mentor women and help them explore their career options.
Why is it so important to promote women in blockchain spaces?
First of all, supporting women in any field is very important. Blockchain is an increasingly interesting space because it’s a new technology and it’s attracting lots of young people. There is already an increased number of women in the space. I think if we start supporting women in the school and college system itself, we can start in the right place and in the future won’t have to be having the conversation we’re having now. We can set up a trend on how to be inclusive early on.
What advice would you have for a woman in STEM seeking venture capital?
STEM gives you a kickstart because it gives you an analytical background. For women coming into venture capitalism, I would ask: Do you have a passion? Are you willing to dedicate a good part of life to be apart of it? It’s not always fun or glamorous. The other thing is, it has been traditionally a bro culture. It is changing for sure. But are you strong enough to stand by yourself? Are you willing to work a little extra to show you’re here for the long term? Working on a trading floor, I had no other women among me. We’ve got so used to having no women around and you just focus on yourself and keep going. You don’t want to feel different so you try to adapt. Every Thursday all the traders would go out for a steakhouse dinner and I was the only woman and vegetarian. I would go with them because I wanted to be apart of it. It was never a topic to discuss — they were never very accommodating. If we’re going to make it more accommodating by letting more diversity in, we have to keep working hard. You have to do the extra things to stand out so it’s not easy for them to pass you on. It is an interesting time because there is so much interest in the stories of women and the stories of women of colour, but I still think it will take another generation.
“Working on a trading floor, I had no other women among me. We’ve got so used to having no women around and you just focus on yourself and keep going.”
Managing a $50 million fund must be very stressful. How do you unwind at the end of the day?
I always say keep really good friends, mentors and family close, and at least do two activities or hobbies. I am very blessed to have some close friends across a couple of cities because I travel a lot. Music and reading books are the two things that zone me out. I try to block the day-to-day stuff out and not take calls. Right now, I am reading a book about a prodigal daughter who becomes the first woman president.
So far in your career, you’ve worked around the world and have been recognized by the UN. What are your goals for the next five years?
Five years is too long of a time! In the next two years, we are announcing our second fund which is a $100 million fund, expanding the team, and I want to try and create a women in investment mentorship cycle and have an internship program. I think we should have a more defined program out there. We are also creating an education program with a big focus on women. I started the first program in India and I want to do it here. On a personal side, I hope to be able to pick up more hobbies.