“I care a lot about helping other women realize their full potential and build their careers, so I mentor a lot of women, and men too! I love helping women make career decisions, advising them on the paths they should take and helping them develop professionally. I like to be practical; I enjoy doing that, and it’s my way of helping build a more diverse workforce. A few years ago, my high school principal interviewed me for the student newspaper about getting my MBA at Harvard. Because I grew up in a small village in Germany, I was probably the first student at my school to go to an Ivy League university. A few days later, my mom got a phone call from a student at my high school who wanted some advice about applying to universities abroad. We worked together over the phone and via email, and ultimately he got accepted to Oxford. Like me, he was probably the first student from our high school to do so. I always do my best to help people when they ask for guidance or mentorship, because I realize how important it is. When I was younger, I didn’t ask for help as much as I should have.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline Hofmann, COO and Co-Founder of Republic. She was a Junior Partner at McKinsey & Company in New York before diving into the startup world. As co-founder of Republic, she’s helped build Republic to over 50 companies launched on the platform, many of them founded by women and minorities. She holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and an MBA from Harvard.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in Germany in a small village, so it was a far cry from NYC, but I love the vibe and energy here, despite how different it is from my hometown. Before moving here, I lived in France, Spain and the UK, where I received an MS in International Political Economy at the London School of Economics. I first moved to the US to get my MBA from Harvard, and moved to NYC after graduation to rejoin McKinsey. A wedding, startup job, and two kids later, and I’m still here.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
One exciting project we’re working on is bringing blockchain technology to private investing — we’re fully tokenizing the Republic platform. When you think about it, holding investments in the form of tokens has the potential to dramatically change how people view startup investing, because it adds liquidity to an asset class that has traditionally been highly illiquid and difficult to access.
Working in crowdfunding as an investment class is an exciting endeavor in and of itself because the industry is so new, and using Regulation Crowdfunding for crypto projects is even newer. We’re constantly thinking about how to bring Republic and the industry forward even faster.
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?
I’ve been lucky to have a lot of mentors along the way, but there’s no way I’d be where I am without my parents. One of the things I’m most grateful for — and I appreciate this a lot more now that I’m a parent — is that they prioritized learning experiences for us kids over, let’s say, a nice vacation (and we did a lot of those too). They went out of their way to expose me to experiences that forced me to step out of my comfort zone, like spending a summer with a family in a remote part of Argentina at age 17, studying for a year abroad in high school and playing the piano at a fairly competitive level.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
Given my interest and educational background in international relations and political science, it’s really no surprise that I have a love for blockchain and all its current and potential applications. It’s already transforming how we make fiscal transactions, and its ability to decentralize government control globally has powerful implications. For example, Blockchain allows those who live in countries with censored internets to access blocked sites without fear of recourse.
- Democratization: One of the most important things blockchain accomplishes is the democratization capital and credit. This is especially powerful to people in developing countries who would otherwise pay very high interest rates on loans or lack access to them altogether. With blockchain, access to these loans and capital allows them to launch potential businesses, contributing the overall growth of emerging markets.
- Access: Many people in developing countries also lack access to bank accounts, which dramatically decreases their quality of life and prevents economic growth. Blockchain technology allows people to store their money securely on the public network through a digitized identity, so traditional financial institutions like banks are no longer needed.
- Globalization: Blockchain also stands to further globalization without leaving anyone behind. In addition to giving those in developing nations capital and credit, it allows people living under economic sanctions to do business with people around the world.
- Disintermediation of centralized power: At its core, blockchain cuts out the middleman when making any kind of transaction, be it fiscal, contractual, governmental or even when distributing media, to name only a few applications. This takes control away from monolithic institutions like banks, governments and social media platforms, putting that power into the hands of everyone.
- New industry applications: Blockchain can play a powerful role in the healthcare industry by transforming electronic medical records (EMR). Through the blockchain, we’ll be able to share and update EMRs easily across providers while improving patient privacy and accuracy in patients’ records. This will dramatically increase efficiency in the healthcare industry, saving both time and money.
What 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
A lot of money has flown into this market, and I think it’s fair to say that much of it came from investors looking for a quick return. So many blockchain projects we see reflect this desire for immediate profit, and we have to be extra cautious to ensure we’re building quality brands. We are highly selective when curating blockchain startups for Republic in order to ensure we’re funding projects that will both succeed and have an impact.
- Quality: We see a lot of blockchain projects, and we are very selective in what we are comfortable putting onto our platform. Quality is highly variable and some projects are outright scams and I think people are still figuring out what the right criteria are to assess early blockchain projects.
- Volatility: Cryptocurrencies are notoriously volatile — they can drop dramatically in valuation over just days, or even hours. I see it as the initial growing pains of this new industry and new asset classes, however, it is very distracting. All of this can make people hesitant to invest, but I have faith in it.
- Lack of regulatory clarity: We’ve always taken the stance that securities law apply, but regulators are catching up to the pace at which blockchain has developed.
- Energy consumption: The mining process that is necessary to conduct transactions on the Blockchain currently consumes a vast amount of energy. However, there are developers out there working to create new and more energy-efficient blockchain architectures.
- Industry and/or regulatory backlash: We all rely on crypto being convertible into fiat and central banks — banks and regulators play a role in enabling that. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are here to stay, but the fiat liquidity is driven by….but we’ve seen crackdowns from governments on crypto trading in recent months, so adoption of cryptocurrency by central banks and governments will be a tricky transition that will take time.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I care a lot about helping other women realize their full potential and build their careers, so I mentor a lot of women, and men too! I love helping women make career decisions, advising them on the paths they should take and helping them develop professionally. I like to be practical; I enjoy doing that, and it’s my way of helping build a more diverse workforce.
A few years ago, my high school principal interviewed me for the student newspaper about getting my MBA at Harvard. Because I grew up in a small village in Germany, I was probably the first student at my school to go to an Ivy League university. A few days later, my mom got a phone call from a student at my high school who wanted some advice about applying to universities abroad. We worked together over the phone and via email, and ultimately he got accepted to Oxford. Like me, he was probably the first student from our high school to do so. I always do my best to help people when they ask for guidance or mentorship, because I realize how important it is. When I was younger, I didn’t ask for help as much as I should have.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
I have been lucky to get great educational and work opportunities. With that, I believe comes a certain responsibility to do something meaningful with it!
- Don’t settle for what’s comfortable or just good enough.When you’re lucky enough to choose what you work on, I feel there’s an obligation to realize one’s full potential. I often think about the fact that there are probably plenty of more “comfortable” jobs, but I wouldn’t be able to look back on my day, week or year in the same way.
- Don’t be afraid of change.I made a radical change in my career, going from a comfortable role at McKinsey managing multiple teams to joining a startup with just nine people. It’s been a 100% worthwhile.
- Don’t always choose the well-trodden path.I have learned a lot from taking risks and walking down paths that my peers avoided. I went off to study and intern in four different countries — all by myself, and I also chose a career path that isn’t female-dominated.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
There are many people who I’d love to meet, so I’ll throw a few names out there, just to increase the odds!
I love women who are trailblazers and are not held back by odds that don’t work in their favor. Some examples include Christine Lagarde, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Angela Merkel.
Originally published at medium.com