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Katherine Wu: “There is something wrong with shaming people (especially women!!) who want to make money and who want to learn more about how to make more money”

There is something wrong with shaming people (especially women!!) who want to make money and who want to learn more about how to make more money. For example: salary negotiations will tilt towards the side with the most information. Obviously, if you know how much your friends are making, those are datapoint that will help […]


There is something wrong with shaming people (especially women!!) who want to make money and who want to learn more about how to make more money. For example: salary negotiations will tilt towards the side with the most information. Obviously, if you know how much your friends are making, those are datapoint that will help you. But I think there’s something taboo about talking salary figures etc with women, and that stigma is really detrimental to women. Same goes for talking about investments in casual conversation.

As a part of my series about the The 5 Essentials of Smart Investing, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katherine Wu. Katherine is an investor at Notation Capital, a New York-based venture capital fund that focuses on investing in early-stage startups. Notation Capital invests in technology companies that combine software and data in novel ways in order to create a fundamentally better experience for customers. Katherine is passionate about the crypto industry and its developments worldwide, particularly from a public policy and legal perspective.


Thank you for doing this with us! Our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

You know, I never thought that I would become of these ‘finance people’. In fact, when I told my parents that I got a new job as a venture capitalist, I was met very quickly with confusion: “But math was never your strong suit!” Which I thought was pretty funny.

What I have always done, however, is to pursue those things and interests that always made me feel like I had the most to learn from. When I was in law school, I got really intrigued by the whole bitcoin/ crypto thing that I was hearing about, so I started digging into it (purely just from googling stuff and reaching out to any one that was writing and publishing interesting thoughts online). Up ‘till that point, I had wanted to be a corporate attorney, and had a lot of fun during law school and at my various legal internships. Incidentally, the one I enjoyed the most was at the SEC, where I worked within the market abuse unit to bring charges against insider trading and market manipulation- I learned a lot about both securities laws, as well as the behind-the-scenes of a government case. In my current role as a VC, I learn new and interesting things from founders, other VCs, and industry experts every day. So, though I never set out to end up in the finance industry, I landed in my current position because it truly allows me to dig into subject areas that both excite and interest me.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I don’t know if this sounds as ‘interesting’ or ‘amusing’, but the real lesson that I’ve learned over the course of my own career path is that risk calculation can look very different when you flip the ‘pro’ and ‘con’ columns. I’m not saying that you should throw all caution to the wind when calculating a decision, but sometimes when you put the factors under ‘cons’ into the ‘pro’ column, it may help you realize that those factors that you thought were risky really aren’t dealbreakers. My personal example with this was when I received an offer from a startup while in my last year at law school, even though I had a return offer from a big bank that I had interned at over the summer. The immediate reaction from everyone around me was “what if your company fails?” as a dealbreaker….but once I moved ‘company fails’ over to the pro column I realized that I was very quickly able to reason that fear away. I knew that I would be getting an experience that was so valuable that I would make that jump EVEN IF my startup failed! (It hasn’t). In the end, it has been entirely worth it 🙂

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At my current role at Notation Capital, I spend a lot of time learning about what people are working on in the present in order to potentially solve problems for the future. And that’s very exciting. Almost all of the teams that we back have a strong technical focus that combines software and product. I’m incredibly grateful that I have an opportunity to be able to financially back these companies and founders and have a small part in shaping the future!

I am a judge for the Can’t Be Evil contest for Blockstack. Developers build secure, privacy-focused applications that Can’t Be Evil, reclaiming data ownership to those producing the data.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers?

I think this article sums up some of my points really well, and I have also shared some of my thoughts here and here.

If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

The gist of it is that I think that there is something wrong with shaming people (especially women!!) who want to make money and who want to learn more about how to make more money. For example: salary negotiations will tilt towards the side with the most information. Obviously, if you know how much your friends are making, those are datapoint that will help you. But I think there’s something taboo about talking salary figures etc with women, and that stigma is really detrimental to women. Same goes for talking about investments in casual conversation (it seems like my guy friends are always talking about investments and trades they are making) — and even having that stigma removed can be a lot healthier when it comes to learning more about your personal finance. I think there are definitely blogs and media out there trying to change the conversation (like Refinery 29’s money diaries), but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to finance discussions IRL.

Ok, thank you! Now to the main question of our interview: You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.

The good news is, there are more tools and apps today than ever before that are geared toward managing your personal finances and putting idle money to use (rather than just having everything sit in one account). That being said, I think it’s important to still put some manual work into knowing your own finances. The good and bad thing about increasingly popular subscription models (and if you’re like me, tend to fall for that brand marketing) is that those are the easiest to lose track of- so make sure that you’re actually reviewing those statements and bills and understanding what exactly you’re spending your money on! I had done this recently and totally forgot that I had at some point subscribed to a floss company that charged me $10/month to send me floss in pretty packaging (I know, I know). It’s totally unnecessary and without actually sitting down and reviewing my statements, I would have continued to forget about it. Additionally, the reality of student loans and other debt may make the concept of ‘saving up’ seem nearly impossible, but that means that it is only the more important to be aware about your ‘impulse spends’ like uber and postmates. The other thing that is really humbling and the hardest thing to do is to have patience. I think my generation (and the next!) have grown so accustomed to having information and access to things quickly, but most of the time, investments and returns just don’t happen that way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Honestly, I feel like I’d be nowhere without both my mentors and my sponsors — who have, through both emotional support and direct action, lifted me up in so many ways (both career-wise and in my self-confidence).

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

To be honest, I don’t really follow too many quotes or mottoes, but my guiding principle in life and in everything that I do is simple: “Don’t be an asshole’. Sorry for the language. I know that a common ‘growth hack’ that is popular is to gain followers and exposure by picking fights or talking in extremes, but I never subscribed to that, nor do I believe that is the way that I want to act around people.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Hah, this is a tough one to answer. And there are so many people who are working on actual solutions to make the world a better place (and if you are, you should contact me!) so I will start from a very simple place: I would love to encourage more people to sit down and find their own ‘superpower’. In other words, what is something about you that frequently gets praise from other people (it could be family, friends, acquaintances, professional network)? I think the first reaction a for a lot of people is to want to push that compliment away or try to negate it, but I would encourage people to think more into it. Are you the person who all your friends rely on to plan vacations and trips? Or are you the person who always knows where all the cool concerts are playing? Or maybe you are that person who can walk into a room full of strangers and make friends immediately? Those might not sound like much, but there’s an underlying skill there that may allude to that ‘superpower’!

Thank you for the interview. We wish you continued success!

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About The Author:

Jason Hartman is the Founder and CEO of Platinum Properties Investor Network, The Hartman Media Company and The Jason Hartman Foundation. Jason has been involved in several thousand real estate transactions and has owned income properties in 11 states and 17 cities. His company, Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. helps people achieve The American Dream of financial freedom by purchasing income property in prudent markets nationwide. Jason’s Complete Solution for Real Estate Investors™ is a comprehensive system providing real estate investors with education, research, resources and technology to deal with all areas of their income property investment needs. Jason’s highly sought after educational events, speaking engagements, and his ultra-hot “Creating Wealth Podcast” inspire and empower hundreds of thousands of people in 164 countries worldwide. While running his successful real estate and media businesses, Jason also believes that giving back to the community plays an important role in building strong personal relationships. He established The Jason Hartman Foundation in 2005 to provide financial literacy education to young adults providing the all important real world skills not taught in school which are the key to the financial stability and success of future generations. We’re in a global monetary crisis caused by decades of misguided policies and the cycle of financial dependence has to be broken, literacy and self-reliance are a good start.

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