Enterprise investor Kat Kennedy able to elevate Utah’s tech ecosystem

Enterprise investor Kat Kennedy able to elevate Utah’s tech ecosystem

Tech veteran and newly minted enterprise capital investor Kat Kennedy bought an early lesson in what fairness appears to be like like, although on the time it was nearly everybody pitching in to do the work that comes with rising up in a rural agricultural neighborhood.

“The place I used to be raised, on a cattle ranch, I used to be fortunate to be raised by a father who put us to work on that ranch,” Kennedy mentioned. “I used to be fortunate as a result of he by no means handled myself or my sister any otherwise than he handled my brother when it comes to how we might contribute to the work on the ranch.”

However what was the traditional chores routine for Kennedy and her siblings as youngsters struck others as an oddity, a few of whom would ask her father, “Why are the women on the market working?”

“Fortunately I had a dad who not solely caught up for a way mandatory it was for us to do this work but additionally how distinctive we had been at it,” Kennedy mentioned. “And that actually set the tone for my profession.”

And Kennedy’s profession arc has been noteworthy, first as a software program developer following her info know-how research at Utah State College, which led to a possibility a couple of decade in the past to affix somewhat recognized Bay Space software program startup known as Degreed, an upskilling platform that helps people and organizations construct skilled abilities and certify experience.

Kennedy was worker No. 1 at Degreed, however headed up the ranks as the corporate grew, finally rising to change into the corporate’s president and chief expertise officer. And alongside the best way, she helped develop Degreed from a fledgling effort to a $1.5 billion firm.

Kennedy mentioned one of many alternatives she had in serving to to scale up Degreed was taking part in a number of funding rounds, efforts that generated over $400 million in enterprise funding, and studying that the relevance and significance of these enterprise backers went a lot deeper than the massive checks they wrote.

“I used to be fortunate to be part of each fundraising course of,” Kennedy mentioned. “I really actually loved it and cherished interacting with (the traders). I noticed how they operated and the worth they introduced … and I simply fell in love with the work that they did and wished to, in no matter capability I might, emulate that work.”

That love was on Kennedy’s thoughts when she met with enterprise capital agency Kickstart Seed Fund in 2019. However whereas Kennedy wasn’t fairly able to pivot from her function in constructing a venture-backed firm to the investor facet of the equation, the seed had been planted, and some years later she was prepared for a brand new chapter.


Kickstart basic accomplice Kat Kennedy poses for photographs on the enterprise capital group’s workplace constructing in Cottonwood Heights on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret Information

When Kickstart introduced Kennedy becoming a member of the agency as a basic accomplice in early August, firm founder and basic accomplice Gavin Christensen mentioned her expertise, ardour and grit had been an ideal match for the profitable pre-seed/seed stage funding group.

“Kat has an unmatched ability set with regards to scaling firms,” Christensen mentioned in a press assertion in regards to the hiring information. “Her gritty, entrepreneurial spirit and keenness for serving to different entrepreneurs was precisely what we’ve been in search of.

“Kat’s addition permits us to scale at a time when so many enterprise companies are pulling again, not solely on investments however on constructing their groups. Kat really embodies every part we worth right here, and we’re excited to see what the longer term holds together with her perspective on board.”

Kennedy additionally highlighted her emotions about Kickstart being the right match for the sort of investor function she needs to fill.

“What I like about Kickstart is their technique round deploying capital particularly right here within the Mountain West and that in addition they deploy on the earliest, pre-seed and seed stage,” Kennedy mentioned. “I believed the empathy I might convey could be most useful on the early stage.”

Kennedy can also be bullish on Kickstart’s founder-first mentality with regards to the businesses the agency has chosen to again because it launched in 2008.

“I consider with the fitting founder and founder staff you may make plenty of companies work,” Kennedy mentioned. “By way of my very own expertise I noticed how requisite that was to getting an consequence.

“As a result of pains will come and down instances will come. However for those who, as a founder, are relentlessly targeted on a sure drawback and you’ve got a imaginative and prescient for what the longer term could be, you’re going to have the ability to see by these difficult instances that can come to any enterprise.”

Kennedy’s expertise additionally uncovered her to the variety and fairness challenges that run rife all through the tech trade, not simply in Utah however throughout the nation.

“I’ve been in so many rooms the place I used to be the one lady,” Kennedy mentioned. “More often than not, these rooms had been fairly pleasant. However each now and again there could be bias, whether or not overt or unconscious, questioning my capabilities or how I had bought to that room.”

Kickstart famous in press outreach that Kennedy’s appointment makes her certainly one of just some feminine companions within the state. And, regardless of years of efforts to extend range amongst enterprise capital decision-makers, a big gender hole nonetheless exists. Girls make up solely roughly 11% of investing companions at companies within the U.S. and, as a result of enterprise capitalists play a vital gatekeeping function in deciding whose concepts, merchandise and improvements obtain capital, solely round 13% of enterprise capital {dollars} go to startups with a lady on the founding staff. 

However Kennedy is able to be a catalyst for change with regards to constructing range within the funding/startup ecosystem, and it’s a purpose she mentioned is being vigorously supported by Kickstart’s accomplice group.

“One of many issues I need to do in my function now as a basic accomplice is a name to motion for a special profile of founders to return in and pitch,” Kennedy mentioned. “There could have been some hesitancy as a result of they didn’t see somebody who seemed like them on the opposite facet of the desk.”

Kennedy additionally provided phrases of encouragement to these beginning companies, or seeking to pursue funding careers, that fall exterior the white, male-dominated demographic of the startup and tech funding worlds and famous the significance of function fashions for younger entrepreneurs and traders.

“To anybody who’s feeling bias … I might say that it’s so vital that you simply push by it,” Kennedy mentioned. “Not solely do we want your contribution to the workforce, we want you to set the instance that it’s potential.

“It’s so vital that I not solely contribute, however I accomplish that with out questioning my very own functionality. As a result of that results in nice outcomes for the businesses I serve, but additionally as a result of there are folks watching that I might not be conscious of and it issues for them to see me in that house.”

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