#19 Gabby Cazeau
Principal at Harlem Capital, NY (US) early stage VC with $174M AUM deeply committed to empowering diverse founders. Ex Program Manager at Microsoft, Ex Engineer at General Mills (NYSE:GIS)
Gabby Cazeau is a Principal at Harlem Capital, New York-based early-stage VC firm with $174M AUM on a mission to change the face of entrepreneurship by investing in 1,000 diverse founders in the next 20 years, exemplified in Fund I with 23 investments, from which 61% being Black or Latino led companies and 43% women-only led companies, and a recently oversubscribed Fund II. She first met the Harlem team as a spring intern, before returning as a Venture Fellow and eventually finding her place as investor.
Gabby previously worked as Program Manager Intern at Microsoft in the Mixed Reality team building business applications for the HoloLens and mobile devices. Before Microsoft, she worked in R&D, Product and Process engineering roles at General Mills, public listed (NYSE:GIS) American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores with $1B+ in sales worldwide and a $39B+ market cap.
Gabby has an MBA from Yale School of Management and holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis where she was a John B. Ervin Scholar.
👤 Brief intro: Engineer, product + business, investor, helping diverse founders
🥇 Win: studying engineering, good framework to solve problems
🚫 Fail and lesson: not taking enough risks, be more confident
🚀 Ideal founder: customer-obsessed
💸 Ideal investor: balanced, critical analysis + optimistic believe
📈 Markets: generalist but into new commerce, ecommerce enablement creators, fintech
Could you give us a brief intro about you and your origins?
I’m Gabby from Maryland (US) and I love solving problems, especially those tied to a big piece of inequality.
I studied chemical engineering and initially worked in Research & Development at General Mills (NYSE:GIS) in Minneapolis.
After a while, I got more interested in tech, entrepreneurship, and the business side of building and creating. I started considering going to a business school and in that journey I interned at Harlem Capital.
I started working with underrepresented founders, got really excited about the mission of helping diverse entrepreneurs, and just loved the whole experience. I worked with the firm through business school and now I am a Principal at Harlem Capital.
What would you say has been the biggest win in your life?
A significant highlight for me was studying engineering.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve done but I believe it gave me a valuable framework for how to look at the world, solve problems and figure out what to do when you don’t necessarily know at first.
Related to the above, and your biggest failure?
Probably it’d be not taking more risks on myself earlier in life.
It comes back to not having the confidence to bet on myself. I think people are remarkable, however sometimes we do not realize what makes us special. Initially I lacked that confidence and consequently, I took fewer risks, losing opportunities that could have been interesting.
However now in retrospect, the big lesson for me is to always be your biggest champion.
What is your ideal founder profile?
I resonate with founders that are customer-obsessed, when a founder dreams and breathes the problem they are solving, embodies it, and is deeply driven to get it done.
It is about chasing a north star bigger than themselves, with a passion so strong that they can get other people excited. While they are aware of the obstacles they will face, they are persistent and able to find a solution when it might seem like there are not many. Also founders who are great storytellers and analytical thinkers are also a great combination.
What is your ideal investor profile?
I think what great investors do well is balance opposing facts all the time.
There’s deep critical thinking in terms of evaluating the market, business, team, and product. While at the same time able to build optimistic views of the future despite the challenges a company may face and deep belief in the team’s ability to win. I think great investors are also willing to adjust their views. It is better to be right than consistent all the time.
And then, especially in the early stage, investing is about people. You have to love people, care about the founders, about their dreams and hopes. But also you have to be able to support them through the journey. The understanding of the importance of these relationships are a must.
What present and future markets are you most interested in?
At Harlem Capital we are generalists and founder-led, looking to help incredible founders building their vision of the future.
Personally, now I am interested in new forms of commerce, e-commerce enablement, the creator economy, and fintechs that target improvement of access to services.
Could you share with us 3 startups you like and why?
Sote. They’re building digital logistics infrastructure in Africa. Their mission is to grow the GDP of the African continent by facilitating the growth of trade. They aim to provide a combination of ERP solutions, underwriting models, and software-driven supply chain services across the continent. I’m excited to see more investment going to African founders and innovation in the tech ecosystem there.
Stytch. User infrastructure for modern applications, that allows companies to improve security and user experiences through passwordless authentication.
Perch. They provide an app that allows users to build credit using their recurring expenses they are already paying for, such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify or rent. By using a person’s existing payments and subscriptions to demonstrate responsibility to U.S. credit bureau partners, Perch can establish a person’s credit history. I like the focus on expansion of access to services and credit building.
Could you share with us 3 investors you like and why?
Mary D’Onofrio (Bessemer Venture Partners). She does a remarkable job in enterprise cloud software showcasing the value to public and private markets and has made some great investment bets in the space.
Jillian Williams (Cowboy Ventures). She has a deep understanding, relevant background in fintech and keen eye to detect valuable opportunities on the B2B side and understand what resonates with consumers on the B2C side.
What are the 3 books you feel everyone should read and why?
“Tuesday with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson” by Mitch Albom. A powerful book about what really matters in life - people, relationships, spending time with others. Important to be a great investor
“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck. This book frames so well the concept that how we think shapes every part of our lives.
“Rising Strong” by Brené Brown. Interesting one about the power of overcoming obstacles and the depths of emotional intelligence.
What is your advise for diverse founders and investors that don’t fit in the current status quo? What is missing regarding diversity and what can be improved?
My advice would be to find your community to support you on the journey whether as a founder or as an investor, people with values that are aligned to yours and can end up becoming your tribe.
What are we missing? It can be challenging for founders to find the right supportive community, especially if you are not in a big city like New York or San Francisco that have more opportunities. It’s even more apparent now that we are distributed and people are everywhere.
What can be improved? We can increase capital going to women and underrepresented founders. There was a decrease of that capital allocation in 2020 and we need more investors supporting those founders. For investors it’s key to be conscious about your pipeline and networks. Look at your data, you can’t change what you can’t measure. Office hours are great, but having diverse investors on your team and funding diverse companies is more important.
Big thanks Gabby for sharing your views with us!
Big thanks to you, reader, for your time and interest!
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