A crucial component of the LA tech scene has been the VCs who help companies scale. Built In LA is featuring four women VCs to share their stories and advice on leading LA's tech scene. To recommend a female VC for a future installment, email [email protected].
Jamie Kantrowitz, Managing Director at MESA Global
YOU'VE WORKED AT COMPANIES SUCH AS GOBBLER AND THEN WORKED ON THE VC SIDE. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE ASPECT AT EACH SIDE OF THE TABLE?
I love being on the company side to truly envelop myself in building a brand and being dedicated to one mission. On the other hand, I love investing and advising, as it allows me to be involved in many companies and ideas at once and help shape an overall landscape.
AS AN ANGELENO, WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE LA TECH COMMUNITY?
Los Angeles feels like it's at the beginning of another renaissance, but this one will have our community front and center. It's going to be a great decade for LA Tech.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR WOMEN STARTING OUT IN THE TECH WORLD?
While I don’t really subscribe to the gender lens, my main advice for anyone starting out is find a company and team that you are inspired by. There is so much great innovation out there – but only a handful will really get under your skin, and gain a hold of your heart. When you find yourself thinking about it at 2 a.m., gushing about it to anyone who will listen, and obsessively tinkering and improving it, then you have hit the goldmine. And this has little to do with money, but rather finding a role that enables you to be the best and most passionate version of yourself.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?
It was as a waitress (and accountant and GM at times) at my family’s small Chinese restaurant in Boston when I was 11. As immigrants who never ran a restaurant before, it taught me some strong lessons on work ethic, persistence, teamwork and importance of customer service. While I didn’t necessarily realize it then, it has come to serve as my often unconscious selection criteria/bias when spotting founders, teams and colleagues.
Alyse Killeen, Principal at Future\Perfect Ventures and Investment Team Member at Clearstone Venture Partners
After completing my MS degree, I was ready to be back on the front lines of company building. I worked with brick and mortar-based retail startups, generally focusing on helping new businesses enter the U.S. and establish operations. I’d intended to move on to found my own ecommerce company, but had an opportunity to test drive the role of venture capitalist. It was a great match! Supporting a diverse group of founders is the ultimate fulfilling work. I have deep respect and affinity for entrepreneurs, especially those driving for cultural impact, and am happy and humbled to be as helpful as I am able to be.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR YOUR WOMEN VC GROUP?
I co-founded and now co-chair the board of Women in Venture Finance and Innovation, an invited membership-based group for women who work in venture capital, or who have previously worked in venture capital. The agenda is to create an infrastructure helpful to career development and impact in the venture capital and the innovation ecosystem. We are a professional network, and a group of collaborative content creators, soon launching an editorial site. The group also hosts small dinners for group members and industry leaders to connect, and will look to foster general community development in Los Angeles by hosting events for a larger audience.
YOU WERE WITH VELOS PARTNERS BEFORE FUND FORMATION. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST LESSON FROM THAT PROCESS?
I think one of the biggest lessons for me was that almost nothing needs to be done completely from scratch. Someone usually has come across the same problem before, and it’s amazing what resources are available when you look. I’ve found that leveraging peers is one of the best ways to access those resources.
WHAT'S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU'VE RECEIVED?
My dad always told me that early on in my career I should prioritize roles that would teach me what I wanted to learn, rather than focusing on the ideal sector or the highest remuneration. He helped me to make lists of skills I wanted to obtain and strategize on how I could go about obtaining those skills. I believe this was hugely valuable advice.