4 women VCs driving LA tech forward: Alyse Killeen

April 20, 2014

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Outside of her day job as Principal at Future\Perfect Ventures and Investment Team Member at Clearstone Venture Partners, Alyse Killeen heads up a membership-based group for women who work in venture capital and advocates Bitcoin. Here's the lessons and advice that have kept her going:

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

Both of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs, and my maternal grandfather built and scaled San Francisco’s now largest Mechanical Contracting business. In high school I spent summers and vacation periods living and working with my grandparents to learn how to build a business and a brand. The brand was built on integrity and strength of relationships, and the business on grit, the intentional design of smart efficiencies, and continuous origination. I held a range of positions during my time working alongside my grandfather, most memorably Project Manager of Overdue Accounts. This position provided a good study in human behavior, and practice in management of difficult relationships, especially as relationship management impacted brand and time efficiencies (often inversely in the short term). 

 

WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH? HOW DID YOU BECOME A VC?

In my undergraduate studies I focused on the field of Psychology, concentrating on coursework that considered the principles of evolutionary psychology and/or health psychology. Recognizing a gap in the literature on occupational stress and cardiovascular outcome, I proposed and obtained funding for a research study that advanced the subject. Ultimately, after a year’s work of building quantitatively valid measurement tools, recruiting a subject pool, and gathering and analyzing collected data, I delivered an honors thesis paper. The opportunity to innovate and build as a researcher, and in doing so, to contribute to the progression of literature and knowledge in the sciences was exciting; so exciting that I chose to continue my research work as a graduate student. As a graduate fellow I studied stress and immunological function, published a Master’s Thesis, and worked as a student therapist carrying a caseload of clinical patients.   

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'S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU'VE RECEIVED?

Keep going.  

 

CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MENTORSHIP AND ADVOCACY?

A mentor avails himself or herself as a resource from which you can learn. An advocate actively seeks to avail opportunities for your development and advancement, and promotes your value even in circumstances when opinions at the table are mixed (and they sometimes may be if you don’t fit the mold). A great boss doesn’t have to be either a mentor or an advocate. I am grateful for the advocates I've had emerge from unexpected places, and have been blown away by the generosity of peers. 

 

WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT BITCOIN?

The Computer Science advancement of the blockchain protocol, and what we can already imagine that the protocol enables, is thrilling. Fundamentally, the record keeping and verification of transactions that creates “trust” – now done by central institutions – can instead be done on the blockchain network through mathematical rules of operation. The impact of this is immense. It enables a truly global internet economy, in which, for instance, merchants can accept payments regardless of customer location and the risk attributed to that location. 

1 billion people have access to banking and credit while 6.5 billion people have no connection to institutional finance. However, 2 billion un-banked people ARE on the internet. Bitcoin allows the un-banked and under-banked to integrate into the global economy. 

Because trust exists in the network itself, the cost of having a third party arbiter (a central institution) is eliminated. The cost to transact is the size of the transaction in kilobytes regardless of the value sent. In addition to transforming the multi billion dollar remittance market, this cost structure enables true micro transactions, and opens new markets (think, for instance, automated negotiation of micro-charges for the use of hotspots, so that your phone switches from one hotspot to another as you walk down the street). Micro transaction ability will propel development of the Internet of Things. 

Currency – Bitcoin - is just an initial application of the blockchain. The blockchain protocol can be used for stock ownership, voting, asset ownership, etc. David Johnston’s law states, “What can be decentralized will be decentralized” and this, along with the global impact of decentralization, is what excites me most about Bitcoin.

 

CAN YOU SPEAK MORE ABOUT YOUR WOMEN VC GROUP AND YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR IT?

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.

 

WHAT THREE APPS/SITES ARE YOUR LIFESAVERS?

1. The FireChat app by Open Garden, which I use to message friends and team members when there is no wifi or spotty wifi access, like at conferences or on a flight

2. R.L.M.’s 17BII+ Financial Calculator for iPhone

3. Zeroblock (acquired by Blockchain) for real time data on Bitcoin market activity, and a curated news feed

 

Connect with Alyse on Twitter @alysekilleen.
 

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