Leadership comes in many forms. Every leader develops their own formula for what it means to lead through hard work, risk, successes and failures. True leaders inspire and motivate the people around them to achieve more.
We live in a unique time with an unparalleled pace of change that affects every area of our lives. The world of business has exploded with innovation that has helped usher in new industries and advances that couldn’t have been foreseen just a decade ago. Technological advancements are at the root of virtually every commercial innovation, and some leaders have proven themselves exceptionally adept at harnessing innovation to succeed.
One such person that has made her mark as a successful leader is Kim Vogel, the President and Co-founder of BaseVenture. Kim is a technology entrepreneur and senior finance executive with more than 25 years of experience helping companies to finance, grow and monetize their business. Kim has focused her career on building innovative, high-growth businesses with transformational products.
Success, One Step at a Time
Kim’s journey to becoming an influential leader began early on with her work as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) at KPMG, followed by earning her MBA from the Harvard Business School and working as a vice president at Montgomery Securities. Kim forged her path toward entrepreneurship and innovation in the late 1990s as the CFO of Semaphore Partners, one of the first digital marketing agencies. Kim was one of the original members of the executive team that grew the business to become a global powerhouse with clients like General Motors, Orbitz and more. Innovation was at the core of Semaphore Partners, and it designed many of the first websites and intranets for its clients. After Semaphore Partners was sold to a marketing conglomerate, Kim became a finance professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Kim rekindled her passion for innovation and entrepreneurship when she became one of the early executives at a pioneering mobile banking and payments technology company called mFoundry. This innovative company helped to redefine the way that people bank by introducing the then-crazy notion of banking on a mobile device. mFoundry was the first company to submit a mobile banking app to the Apple App Store and one of the earliest to introduce the ability to deposit a check via a mobile device. Kim served as CFO of mFoundry for almost a decade, which grew to become the largest provider in North America and was later sold to FIS.
Kim currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for Saint Mary’s College of California. Kim expresses, “This involvement in academia keeps me close to those who are just starting their careers and gives me an opportunity to share my story and lessons garnered along the way.”
Building is Contagious
Part of Kim’s leadership drive is the thrill and reward of building teams. “I love building great teams, developing innovative & groundbreaking products, and most of all, working with really, really smart people.” Whether in the board room or in the classroom, one of the central tenets of Kim’s leadership is to inspire and nurture the teams that work under her. Kim has always taken a special interest in helping to develop people at the start of their careers and she is very proud and gratified to see many of these people having grown to become executives in their own right.
Kim is the first to admit that entrepreneurship and leadership don’t come easy, and that the path can sometimes be a challenging one. As Kim tells it, “Setbacks are an inevitable part of a successful path forward, and I had to learn not to spend too much time drowning in them.” While there is a popular myth about the thrill of the start-up life, Kim has learned from experience that starting and building any company, let alone a technology company, is very hard work that is marked by steep ups and downs. One of Kim’s favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill, who said “Success is the ability to get from one failure to another with enthusiasm.”
Kim uses fund raising rounds as one of the most important barometers of the success of a start-up. As she tells it, “Investors want to understand that they are going to be part of something great – not just big, but huge – so you need to make sure with every round of funding that you are taking the company to the next level. The best way to accomplish this is to nurture and build the right teams and make innovation a driving force of what they do.”
BaseVenture – Envisaging a Revolution
Kim’s latest business is yet another example of leadership through innovation. Kim and her partner, John Pizzi, co-founded a technology company called BaseVenture in 2015, which has already become an innovative force in the alternative investment and wealth management industries.
BaseVenture is a cloud-based software company that develops innovative solutions in the areas of financial reporting, data visualization, and process management. The enterprise’s award-winning platform, “FundManager.io”, helps organizations simplify and automate how private funds are administered and managed. By providing users with data intelligence, reporting, workflow management, and document storage, “FundManager.io” radically simplifies the process of fund management and provides a platform that is intelligent, scalable, affordable and secure.
BaseVenture’s most recent round of funding was led by the global leader in the financial technology sector. As Kim puts it, “This is a game changer for us. The merits of the relationship are just beginning to unfold and the momentum is exhilarating.”
The product development team at BaseVenture operates using the agile Kanban method. Each feature developed is initially defined and documented to start the process. The highly experienced software development team builds the software using up to date best practice methods and tools. To ensure the highest quality results, the software development team uses peer code reviews, while the quality assurance team validates all output using a rigorous testing process.
“Because of the industry’s enormous size and expectations that it will double in the next 5 years, there’s so much at stake and it’s crucial that stakeholders rely on technology designed to relieve industry-specific challenges,” Kim believes that the industry needs to shift away from tackling its challenges by merely adding more people and instead look to technology to help automate key processes, provide the necessary transparency and address increasing regulatory concerns. “We have tackled head-on the toughest and costliest operational and compliance related problems that our customers face, using modern, easy to use software in the cloud to solve these problems,” says Kim.
Beyond serving the alternative investment industry from a technology standpoint, BaseVenture is well underway in its goal to be a key thought leader in shaping the narrative of how the industry must evolve to meet the changing needs. It is carving out a role as a catalyst that helps the industry to modernize and believes that serving clients is merely one component of that. The team at Base Venture authors an active blog in which it informs the industry of the latest news in the alternative investment space, provide insights into industry research, and predicts key industry trends.
Bequeathing the Keys to Success
Kim strongly believes that great communication skills are a prime driver for effective leadership. She explains, “Good communication is learned with practice. I think it is ironic that when these skills are more important than ever, the mediums for communication are becoming more isolated.” According to Kim, the gist of leadership is all about motivating and empowering other people, which can only be achieved through strong communication and connection.
Kim says that another trait that an effective leader should possess is one coined by Jeff Bezos as “high-velocity decision making”. Kim considers it the art of producing the highest quality decisions with limited information as quickly as possible. Kim feels that this shouldn’t be thought of as just a personal skill, but rather it is an environment that leaders cultivate. Most decisions should probably be made with 70% of the information you wish that you had. If you wait for more, you are probably acting too slowly. Push forward and quickly course correct bad decisions because although they are inevitable, they are certainly less costly if reversed quickly.
Lastly, Kim recommends surrounding oneself with the smartest colleagues that can help nurture and develop unique skill sets. “Building great companies is a team sport and you will never be able to do it by yourself. Always try to create and be part of your own ‘dream team’. It is not only a ton of fun, but it is what it takes to make companies successful.”