When ConsenSys, a Brooklyn, New York–based firm that builds decentralized applications and blockchain ecosystem tools on Ethereum, launched a $50 million venture arm, it turned to Kavita Gupta to run it. Working closely with Joe Lubin, the founder of ConsenSys and one of the early founders of Ethereum, Gupta began spearheading efforts to fund early stage Ethereum-based startups through ConsenSys’ rapidly growing network.
A native of India, Gupta received the UN Social Finance Innovator Award in 2015. She has done work at the World Bank, leading the organization’s youth innovation fund. Gupta also has vast experience in the investment world, with stints at high profile firms like McKinsey, HSBC and International Finance Corporation.
Following the recent Cyber Day event she presented on the UCLA campus, Bitcoin Magazinespoke to Gupta about her journey in working with ConsenSys Ventures.
On Working With Joe Lubin and Vitalik Buterin
A few years ago, Gupta had the good fortune of meeting ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin at a very small luncheon organized by the World Bank. “We had a three-hour conversation and I was a convert. Over the ensuing months, we kept brainstorming ideas about investments in the blockchain space. Hearing about Ethereum got me super excited!”
Since joining the team as the head of ConsenSys Ventures, Gupta’s respect for Lubin has continued to grow. “He’s extremely visionary. As you know, Ethereum is a huge ecosystem and, even though ConsenSys is at the epicenter of it, there are a lot of other players taking things in various directions. So I admire Joe’s patience and faith, specifically his ability to work tirelessly each day with a smile on his face in a now 600+ person company with locales in 28 countries.”
Gupta admits to having been a bit intimidated the first time she met Ethereum founder and mastermind, Vitalik Buterin, but was quickly won over. “Somehow I had it in my head that I shouldn’t approach him and that if I didn’t have a deep Ethereum coding background I’d look stupid. I kept saying to myself, he’ll think I’m just fluff. But to my surprise he gave me two hours of his time when I first met with him in China.
“He’s a very simple, very humble, very sweet, super genius guy. While others have their opinions about him, the Vitalik I know has a very, very high emotional intelligence. I really deeply respect him. Our entire team respects him.”
Gupta has had some experience interacting with infamous, groundbreaking men in the technology space.
“I attended MIT when Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz [were starting] Facebook while at Harvard. Many of us kept bumping into the two of them, which gave us the opportunity to express what we liked or didn’t like about the Facebook wall. We could easily reach them and talk to them as though they were a friend. I feel like working with Joe and Vitalik is kind of like this: two people you can just walk up to and say, ‘I have a question.’”
Advice for New Entrepreneurs in the Space
She chuckled loudly when asked about whether there are any misconceptions she hears from startup leaders when meeting them for the first time: “They often start out with, ‘Ahh, I’m doing a project on blockchain so my valuation should be $50 million dollars .’ I’m like, no, dude.”
For Gupta, it is important that entrepreneurs start with a solid product first. “Frankly, it’s sad to see even smart entrepreneurs focus their first six months on selling tokens rather than actually building a product. In my opinion, these startups don’t need $50 million to build a product. And for the life of me, I have no clue as to who all of these people are that are investing $50 million in these types of projects with little knowledge of or ever having met the founder.”
Her advice to new startups entering into the Ethereum blockchain space is to read and research voraciously. “There is amazing material out there. You don’t have to be a genius. You don’t have to come from a technology background. Just read online. There are many amazing Reddit threads if you have questions. There are so many meetups. ConsenSys does educational meetups and university programs everywhere. So just make it a priority to go and hang out and capitalize on these opportunities. Find people to exchange cards with and then go and have coffee together. That’s where all of the magic happens.”
Find people to exchange cards with and then go and have coffee together. That’s where all of the magic happens.
Coming from an engineering background at MIT as well as from an investment background, Gupta seems to have found her niche.
“Honestly, I’m kind of like a kid in the candy store. For me personally, the work that I’m currently engaged in is the best I could have even asked for.”