In conversation with Leila Zegna
Founding General Partner, Kindred Capital

24.11.2020

 Please describe your current role

I am a founding General Partner at Kindred Capital, a UK-based seed fund with $200M under management across two funds.

How did you get started in venture capital and what was the career path to your current role?

I found myself in venture capital accidentally!  I had always been interested in founding and running companies, and it always started in the same way – find a problem you care deeply about solving, and build the version of the world you want to live in.  With Kindred, that’s exactly what I did again.  It just happened to be that this time the problem I cared deeply about solving was a funding problem for the brightest most ambitious early stage founders in Europe.  So my next company happened to be a venture fund, and that’s very much the way we think about it at Kindred – building a company alongside our portfolio company founders who are each building theirs.

What attracted you to the industry?

I am motivated by the ability to have a positive impact, and fundamentally motivated to help people.  As a venture capitalist, that’s my job each and every day.  I get to wake up with a mindset of abundance, focusing on what I have that I can give to others – I can take our capital, network, know-how, counsel, and use it to benefit each founding team we get the privilege of working with.  It’s a service industry, and I find that really gratifying to be in service to others.  Secondly, it’s an industry where you’re constantly learning.  If you stand still, even for a moment, the world has changed around you and your prior knowledge is obsolete.  That makes it an ever-fascinating, ever-humbling industry to participate in, and an industry where lifelong learning and curiosity is paramount. 

What were your motivations behind starting your own firm?

Whenever you start a company or a firm, you have this distinct privilege to construct the world you want to live in – from the people you partner with, to the founders you invest in, to your values and ethos, to the way you practice the craft.  We felt that there was fundamentally a more collaborative approach to venture capital: a way to limit the loneliness inherent in many founders’ individual experience, and to create a community of like-minded individuals who have a vested interest in each other’s success.  We saw that as a gap in the market in what was being offered to the brightest most capable European founders at the time, and we set out to change that by founding Kindred.  We called our model Equitable Venture, where we have changed the economic model of our firm – we give every founder we invest in a stake in the carry of the fund.  That means every founder has a piece of one another’s upside, and a real interest in each other’s success.  It’s a more generous, more collaborative, more synergetic way of building companies.  And ultimately, that’s the version of the world we want to live in.

What were some of the key challenges to starting a firm?

Our firm is different than the cookie-cutter venture fund, almost in every conceivable way.  The model is certainly different, with Equitable Venture, but also our partnership configuration is different.  We are a multi-generational, partner-only, equal partnership.  We don’t look and act like every other fund out there, and at first that was a real obstacle in raising our first fund – it was hard to put us in a ‘box’ and pattern match with prior firm successes that LPs may have experienced.  But what was at first a challenge is turning out to be our greatest strength.  As capital is becoming commoditised across the stack and across geographies, being differentiated and being unique is critical to future success.  

What advice would you give women considering a career in venture capital?

My advice would be to do it!  Over the course of building Kindred, I’ve also had the privilege of building a family, and we have three young children at home.  It’s been a journey doing both at once, and certainly not without its challenges, but I have found that a career in Venture Capital has been very unique in enabling me to do that, alongside strong and supportive partners who know that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.  In many ways, had I still been on the operating side, running a large P&L, having a team of 50 or 150 people working with me, it would have been significantly harder.  The founders that I’m lucky enough to work with who we have backed are all incredibly capable leaders, and they won’t succeed or fail because of me.  I am a service provider, an enabler, a supporter on their journey, but not the one building their companies or in the driving seat.  If you’re looking to have a career where you’re constantly challenged, constantly learning, and also have the capability to nurture a life outside of work, I think venture capital is a very unique industry to enable that, and I’m hugely grateful to my partners for encouraging that in me. 

What advice would you give your younger self?   

If you want it badly enough, and you’re willing to work hard enough at it, you’ll get there.  It’s the power of compounding returns.  It might take time, and it certainly won’t be linear, but never stop believing in the power of positivity, energy, and dedication to improving yourself every single day.