I have always viewed the opportunity to have someone join our team as a way to expand who we are. It is a chance to grow, to ask more questions, to explore and discover. It does not change our core mission — empowering entrepreneurs is our modus operandi. We are ecosystem builders. We invest for long term success. And while we may work with hundreds of companies and manage millions of dollars in our different funds, we are still a small and close team at Real Ventures.
When we decided last summer to start our search for the next general manager for FounderFuel, we had a shortlist of “required skills” for this role. Beyond know-how, what we were really looking for was a mindset.
We had a tremendous response to our search and were honestly a bit overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of people applying. We dedicated time to meet, interview, challenge, review, discuss, answer questions and think. And through this process, it became clear that we had found someone incredible — someone you might say was made for the role.
At Real Ventures, we don’t believe in perfection. We believe in ambition and humility. In a strategic long-term vision and a clear short-term go to market. In refining focus each week, in defining and accomplishing goals at the same pace. In failing fast and recovering faster. In going deep. In marathons run as a series of sprints. In being aware when you are tired. Or behind. Or lost. In knowing when and how to ask for help. In my opinion, Katy Yam embodies these qualities and brings the combination of warmth, sharp insight and deep lived experience that will give our future FounderFuel cohorts an ever better boost on the thrilling ride that is venture building.
I invite you to read Katy’s own words below about why she chose to join us and to get a taste of what she has in store for this year’s cohort.
Sylvain Carle, Partner at Real Ventures and FounderFuel General Manager 2014–2016.
Elevating the work of brilliant minds
Katy Yam, FounderFuel General Manager 2020 and beyond
I could never have imagined that working to elevate others and their unique ideas was possible as a day job. I have spent years of evenings and weekends running TEDxMontreal, a non-profit where we uplift and refine the work of brilliant minds to showcase their ideas on the global TEDx stage. The idea that my passion for people and their projects could be something that I would devote all of my time to — well, it seemed kind of surreal.
That said, my professional journey has been exhilarating. But after nearly three years of global hypergrowth at Element AI, a recent personal tragedy ground me to a halt, bringing key aspects of my life sharply into focus. As I hit alt-ctrl-delete to reboot my life, I was unsure of what would come next and serendipitously this opportunity found me. I was enchanted not just by what the role of FounderFuel General Manager entails, but with whom I would be collaborating, and especially the calibre of people we would be investing in.
Today, as I take the helm of FounderFuel, I am stoked to work with a team committed to elevating entrepreneurs in pursuit of daring ideas. We have ambitions to improve the world by solving problems at scale. By adding venture capital to my toolbox, my evening and day jobs have now blended together, allowing me to invest wholly in helping good people succeed: founders, mentors, innovators and leaders in our communities.
The past few weeks have been a frenzy of activity, meeting the plethora of startups vying for one of the coveted spots in our program. Our reputation attracted over 175 applications this year, a testament to the vibrant ecosystem that my trailblazing predecessors Ian, Sylvain and Isaac have worked hard to create since FounderFuel’s inception in 2011.
As I look ahead to the start of our 2020 cohort, I am excited to engage with our stellar mentor network. They are the heart of what makes FounderFuel successful and the alchemy that powers the healthy startup community in Montreal and beyond.
As for myself, I believe I was born to elevate talented people by teaching and facilitating access to the skills they require to level up. FounderFuel has a “People First” philosophy that complements TechStars’ “Give First” mentality, cornerstones of my own ethos.
In this vein, it gives me great pleasure to introduce emotional intelligence training to our programming this year. We believe principles from Conscious Leadership and Insights Discovery can foster the softer skills required for success — ones often overlooked or dismissed in startupland.
Developing more resilient and flexible founders is essential because brilliant business models aren’t enough to ensure success. Cultivating empathy and balancing confidence with humility are characteristics that enable good leaders to recruit and maintain essential staff, investors, mentors and clients — critical as startups are not solo endeavours.
We believe that the early development of our founders’ mental fortitude will aid in navigating the pressure and personality traps that often befall entrepreneurs and cause startups to fail. We are fully committed to helping them thrive, holistically, in all areas of their lives.
I am thrilled to join the Real Ventures family to learn, teach and give in my new role and look forward to meeting you. I can guarantee more surprises up my sleeve for 2020 and a continued commitment at FounderFuel to nurture, grow and cultivate our beloved startup community for many years to come!
With love and gratitude,