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Female Founders: Julia Valentine of AlphaMille On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Ask yourself this question: given my goals, what’s the ecosystem that I need to be a part of to thrive? Who are the three people that can start connecting me to it, and how can I get on their calendar?

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Valentine.

Julia Valentine is a solution-focused FinTech Advisor to boards and management teams. Throughout her executive career, Ms. Valentine has held leadership positions at JPMorgan Chase, D. E. Shaw and Mousse Partners, one of the largest family offices in the world.

As a Vice President at JPMorgan Chase, Ms. Valentine led some of the bank’s key technology projects, including the implementation of the global Equity Derivative portfolio into the Value-at-Risk system, the implementation of the Program Trading solution, and saving $4.5M annually on risk infrastructure through automation process re-engineering.

Ms. Valentine has extensive new product development experience in the areas of retail, private and investment banking. She served as the Vice President of New Business Initiatives at JPMorgan Chase. The products she launched generated $70M annually. Ms. Valentine also served as the Chief Technology and Operations Officer at the $110Bn WI pension fund.

With extensive experience in effectively managing global teams in developed and emerging markets, Ms. Valentine is a value-added advisor for FinTech firms requiring expert assistance with business strategy, new product offerings, strategic partnerships, and investments in technology and operations that help banks modernize and serve the digital natives. Her broad areas of practice include Technology & Operations assessment, technical architecture, system selection and implementation, vendor outsourcing, building hybrid technology teams, cloud strategy, cybersecurity, digital transformation, change management, data management, data science, ML/AI, RPA, blockchain, process optimization and governance.

Ms. Valentine holds an MBA from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance from the New York University Stern School of Business, magna cum laude.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I started in Technology working for sell-side Wall Street firms. After JPMorgan sponsored by Executive MBA from Columbia University, I decided that working for smaller, more agile investment firms fit with my result-oriented personality better. I worked for a venture/PE/hedge fund D. E. Shaw, then one of the largest Family Offices in the world, then as a COO/CTO of a $110bn pension fund. I’ve kept my commitment to creating agile business models and using agile software development methodology, and it became the philosophy behind AlphaMille.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

We got an out-of-the-blue request to design and build a $20bn cryptocurrency platform. The speed of Technology innovation is not letting up, but it’s still shocking how opportunities come knocking.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We had a call with a potential client who has built multiple businesses. We were discussing a potential technology solution, and then we asked him about what he used in one of his previous businesses, and how well it worked for him. He had a solution that he really loved, it had already been built for him, so we asked why he wouldn’t just use it again. He told us that we were the world’s worst consultants because we talked ourselves out of business. We had a good laugh about it. I think we’d do it again.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

AlphaMille advisors have been instrumental in getting us where we are. Merilee Kern, who’s an amazing marketing and PR strategist, has been shaping our strategy. Marty Secada, the founder of IVYFON, one of the largest Family Office networks in the world, has opened up a fascinating world of family office investment and how it intersects with the deal flow.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Founding a company and having it funded requires an ecosystem. We work with a lot of women founders and women investors, and we purposefully built AlphaMille as a vehicle that connects our clients to the ecosystem — think agile business model — that gives them access to the best technology, vendors, investors, ideas and capabilities.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Ask yourself this question: given my goals, what’s the ecosystem that I need to be a part of to thrive? Who are the three people that can start connecting me to it, and how can I get on their calendar?

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

It needs to become a burning desire, and it needs to show up at a time when one’s completely ready for it mentally and financially.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

Thinking that you need to be a recent graduate.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

You need to be able to develop multiple skillsets — sales, communication, technology, etc. — some of which might be difficult to develop. You need a great mentor next to you so you can model what you’re lacking. One of our partners, Alex Elman Foley, is an experienced entrepreneur who knows how to go through the startup stage because she’s done it many times. She’s our voice of reason and communications expert. Founders need the adaptability to model people they want to become.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Who cares about before you started. Deal with the here and now. If you’re smart and stay in the game long enough (and if it’s your game), you’ll prevail.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Science has given the world miracles — medicine, buildings, cars, planes, phones — that humanity hadn’t had for millions of years. Technology has been transforming our lives for the better. We work with startups, investment funds, family offices and banks that are making this world better with every innovation they make. We power that through our advisory, through our technology solutions. A few of our partners work on helping people and companies improve communications skills and diversity, equity and inclusion.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

When I connect to people on LinkedIn, I offer them introductions to anyone in my network they’d like to meet. It’s one of the ways to offer support when people need it most — when they’re building something, and the outcome is uncertain.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’d like to have lunch with Ali Niknam, CEO of Bunq, and Nikolay Storonsky, CEO of Revolut. They are building cutting-edge FinTechs.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.