The world will get better than it already is. Despite the continuous bad news that seems endless, we can build awareness that will lead us to be better. Awareness is key — I am sure that in most of the households in this country, we as parents are reviewing our education tactics apart from our own unconscious bias. I can’t sleep at night without knowing that I have learned something new today that will avoid certain biases that I used to practice. We are now part of the solution and not anymore part of the problem. We were not aware it existed.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Laura González-Estéfani.
Laura Gonzalez-Estefani is the founder and CEO of TheVentureCity, a venture accelerator designed to make the global entrepreneurial ecosystem more diverse, international and accessible to fair capital. Laura accelerates the growth of promising, early-stage startups in need of advice and empowers high-growth companies raising capital across European, Latin American and U.S. innovation hubs. Since founding TheVentureCity in 2017, Laura has supported 40 companies through its Growth Program and an additional 21 companies through its first fund.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Laura! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in Spain — in Madrid, to be more precise. I have amazing memories of my big family, and our house always being full of people. My Mom worked on broadcast TV and my Dad was an entrepreneur.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes! “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success” by Adam Grant. It was interesting to learn, through factual evidence, that although the world is full of sharks that make the most noise, the world truly belongs to those who give. The message was refreshing. It taught me that you can learn, do great business, and earn people’s trust by being a giver — no need to fake being someone else or play aggressively to win the game.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I spent nine years at Facebook, and this quote was on every wall. It’s so inspiring and true. Now as a mother and entrepreneur, I think about it even more — I even ask my kids that question often! The power of thinking without fear feels limitless … You can do anything — being able to remove the burden of fear gives you so much power.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is acting in a way in which others want to follow you, and believe in you. It is not a title, but an action. It is a mix of drive, vision and generosity. I understand leadership in many ways — as a mother (try to negotiate with a kid and get them to do what you want without command!), as a team member and as an ecosystem builder. Within the three roles, I lead by doing. Being an example is what I try to practice.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I always think about what the impact would be if I didn’t get what I wanted. Is it really that bad? Would I be able to find a plan B, C, D … Plan X? I think that things happen for a reason, and if they don’t happen, there may be someone else I can negotiate with to make it happen. I am very clear in my belief that sacrificing my values or principles to get something is not worth it. That said, I am tremendously competitive and ambitious — just not at all costs!
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
As an immigrant in this country and someone who admires the United States and its people, I am shocked by recent events. I never thought that this was a racist country, but learning about what happened leading up to the Black Lives Matter movement is terribly sad. The country is so unconsciously biased and we need to rewire our brains to remove those — things, expressions, gestures and anything else that generates such sentiment in other people around us. I am obviously shocked as well by all those statues from Spanish conquerors and religious people that are being removed. We should never forget the past to avoid making the mistakes again in the future. As always, education is key to preserving the world.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
I am a woman in my forties with three kids, originally from Spain, and now an Investor in the tech industry, I check a lot of the “boxes”! When I started to think about TheVentureCity, I imagined my day-to-day dream job: who I would want to learn from and work with, what problems I would want to be solving, and where. The result is what we have today — 40 companies in more than 20 countries, with founders of different ethnicities, cultures and beliefs. It was not planned or calculated; it was an executional response to what I had in my mind. You know that when you ask a kid about his friends in school they don’t see the differences of geography, race, or culture? They just love to play with their friends in school. Well, this is the same at TheVentureCity. We just love to work with our friends from all over the world.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
For me it is a simple reason — we are more successful, we have more fun, and we make better decisions when we surround ourselves with people of diverse backgrounds and views. If we all thought the same way, dressed the same way and practiced the same religion, we would all just see the same single angle of things. Which in return translates to risky decision making. BUT if we build diverse teams, think differently and see risks in different areas, we understand different growth potentials and we make much better and safer decisions. And at the end of the day, we make more money. Diversity is profitable!!
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
The best idea always wins no matter the company hierarchy, no matter where it comes from. Whatever is best for your customers, investors, ecosystem.
1. Believe in brain power and the ability to solve problems. Brain power is not a matter of age, gender, culture, or ethnicity. It’s a matter of a single gifted person contributing to the system. There should be no limits geographically — we don’t believe in bucketing people per origin, culture or other things.
2. Due diligence should be mutual — I’ve learned this as a founder and investor. It should go both ways, from the founder to the investor and from the investor to the founder. Equal rights and responsibilities in all the steps of the process.
3. Never give an “empty no.” Always give the founders reasons why or why not so that they can learn and move on. Not giving a reason is disrespect. Sharing the why it is key for success in the future.
4. Be analytical. Data talks, and there is so much wisdom in facts. Intuition alone is too subjective. Find the balance, get the facts and make decisions fast. There should be no room for bias.
5. Be limitless. Have fun, learn, question, practice different things and think big.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain why?
I certainly am. The world will get better than it already is. Despite the continuous bad news that seems endless, we can build awareness that will lead us to be better. Awareness is key — I am sure that in most of the households in this country, we as parents are reviewing our education tactics apart from our own unconscious bias. I can’t sleep at night without knowing that I have learned something new today that will avoid certain biases that I used to practice. We are now part of the solution and not anymore part of the problem. We were not aware it existed.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I would love to have a coffee with Malala!
How can our readers follow you online?
@lauragestefani on Twitter, or Laura Gonzalez-Estefani on Linkedin & Facebook.