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.

 

 

Meet Natalie Panek: Rocket Scientist and Advocate for Women in STEM

Natalie is a rocket scientist, adventurer, and advocate for women in technology. As a Mission Systems Engineer at MDA’s Robotics and Automation division, Natalie works on the next generation of Canadian space robotics and space exploration programs. She seeks to pursue the road less traveled while working towards her dream of becoming an astronaut.

As told to Meghan Jeffery

 


My first job ever was working at the Calgary Science Center where I welcomed guests on stage prior to shows in their Discovery Dome Theatre. Looking back I realize that job is where I really became comfortable speaking in public in front of large audiences.

I would tell my 20-year-old self to work outside of my comfort zone as much as possible and participate in hands-on projects that provide opportunities for building, making, tinkering, experimenting etc. In the engineering and tech world there is no better experience than literally getting your hands dirty.

My dream job when I was a child was an astronaut. And it still is my dream job today; a long-term goal of space travel that I am always working towards.

My proudest accomplishment was persevering to land a coveted internship position at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. I applied for this scholarship four times and was rejected all four times. After the fourth rejection I had the idea to call the Chief of the Office of Higher Education at NASA and was offered an internship on the spot after the short phone conversation. Never underestimate the power of perseverance.

I went into tech because I love working on challenging problems with the flexibility to brainstorm creative solutions. Plus at my job we build hardware that actually goes to space, which is totally cool. It will be neat to say that I was part of a team that put a rover on Mars.

My best advice to young people starting out in tech is to dream big, dare to achieve the impossible, and stay optimistic. Optimism can make or break a team especially when things go wrong (which they inevitably do!).

Related: Interested in more females in tech? Meet Michele Romanow, serial entrepreneur and newest dragon on Dragons’ Den. 

My best advice from a mentor was realizing and understanding that it is OK not to know all of the answers all the time.

I balance work and life by making time for priorities – and I think being an engineer teaches you very well how to manage priorities. While I love what I do, I don’t think looking back on my life I’ll wish I spent more time on the computer, but I’ll always want more adventure.

My biggest passion is the outdoors. What I find particularly interesting is how interrelated my career in space and passion for the outdoors has become, especially from a conservationist/activist perspective.

Natalie_Panek_400x400The best extra-curricular activity I got involved with was building a solar powered car as part of a university team that we raced across North America. And I was a driver during the race. Crossing the border between two countries in an experimental test vehicle was unreal.

Women in tech means shedding myopic mentalities and leveraging communities with diverse perspectives to positively affect our future.

Millennials are in a unique position, having been shaped by technology, to harness the digital age that we live in to revolutionize the way we live and work.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know that I play competitive ultimate Frisbee.

I stay inspired by embracing curiosity. I think it is extremely important as we grow to maintain childlike wonder; to look at the world with wide eyes and so many amazing opportunities for lifelong learning.

The future excites me because there are unlimited opportunities to learn and explore. The vastness of space and of the world around us makes us want, and need, to know more.