Set-backs” are just “set-ups”. Winners are defined by how they respond to adversity. How quickly they bounce back from set-backs. While most people see “set-backs” as a chance to “sit-back,” navel-gazing is for losers. I choose to look at every “set-back” as “set-up”. Ask “What’s next?”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mayra Ceja. Mayra has a decade of experience in venture capitalism and angel investing. Currently, Mayra is a Partner of Republic Crypto and also hosts Venture Unplugged, a podcast that features in depth conversations with entrepreneurs and industry leaders. Mayra received her BA from Princeton and her MBA from Wharton School of Business. After graduating, Mayra managed investor relations for Guggenheim Partners’ hedge fund and launched Princeton University’s first seed stage fund when she took from zero to 21 investments in 18 months.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Mayra! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My path to becoming an investor started after I graduated from Princeton, when I took my first job at Guggenheim Partners, a $3bn hedge fund. At Guggenheim, I learned investing goes beyond the numbers. It is an art, really, that relies on the ability to evaluate investments in people.
I left Guggenheim to go back to business school at Wharton. After business school, I launched Princeton University’s first seed fund for their endowment. I took the fund from zero to 21 investments in 18 months. Early stage investing is incredibly dynamic, and that experience taught me that you have to understand not only the people but the market conditions, and the technology.
I joined Republic because of the promise of where the markets and technology were moving, particularly in crypto. As a Partner at Republic Crypto, I manage, execute and oversee startup investments in highly-technical companies at the birth of this new market.
Now, I continue to follow my passion with my new podcast, Venture Unplugged.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The creation of my podcast, Venture Unplugged, came from the desire to provide greater access to entrepreneurs on an easily accessible platform for a wider audience. On Venture Unplugged, I feature conversations with brilliant entrepreneurs and investors — and to have the company I work for support it so directly has been amazing.
One of the best things that has happened since the development of Venture Unplugged has been having the ability to meet so many amazing company founders and learn from them. Our guests include Tim Draper, Leah Busque (founder of TaskRabbit), Matt Meeker (Founder of Meetup.com/TaskRabbit), and Nick Grossman (Partner at Union Square Ventures). It has been an incredible experience so far and I am excited to see how it continues to develop.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Someone once told me what a mistake it would be to “give up” a prominent career in investing and go into Crypto and work at a startup company. I was told about the things I would lose but I have gained so much by becoming a team member at Republic. Working in blockchain and investing has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life; it allows it me to explore new fields and hone my skills, and become an expert in what I do. It has given me an opportunity to create a platform where I can have in depth conversations with people like Tim Draper and share those insights with an audience. I have grown so much, personally and professionally. If that’s a mistake, I’m glad I made it!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Venture Unplugged podcast stands out because of our distribution partners like Republic, the access we have to top-notch guests, and the intimate format of the questions. With over 300,000 users on its platform, we do have a competitive advantage over new podcasts launching in the market. Republic supports diverse companies with diverse founders which for me, as a woman in a male driven industry, both in investing and podcasting, is inspiring. I intend on breaking barriers.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently working on season 2 and building from a theme that came from season 1 that “Entrepreneurship is hard”. There is a statistic that shows 9 out of 10 startups fail. One of the exciting aspects of the podcast is that it allows us to see how understanding and accepting failure can lead us to even greater happiness. One of my guests in season 1 is Justin Kan, the founder of Twitch and Atrium. In the episode, we discuss how he managed to grow Twitch to 1500 employees and eventually sold it to Amazon for $900 million. In the process, we also uncover some of his failures which include Justin.TV, the first reality tv show before there were reality tv shows. But it was that failure that gave him the insight to launch Twitch.
We also discuss emotional intelligence at work and how to become a conscious leader.
In addition to that we dive in deep on Justin’s daily habits for happiness which includes meditation, exercise, and giving up drinking. The thing that I’ve learned from him, and from a lot of my guests, is that happiness is an inside job. Check out Justin Kans’s episode here.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Stay Hungry. I think it’s easy for women to feel discouraged in the workplace, especially when their workplace is in a field typically dominated by men. Staying hungry and believing in yourself is crucial to fighting the imposter syndrome many women suffer. You are capable and you worked to be where you are; stay hungry and keep going.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
One book that I love is Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead to Win by Jocko Willik. It talks about how important it is to clarify the “why” for the team. Once you figure out the “why,” it gives the team a sense of what their tasks are for, what the purpose is behind their hard work and what the payoff will be once they complete their responsibilities. There’s a greater good, a higher purpose that they’re working for and as leaders, it’s important to make those goals not only clear, but achievable. It’s important to trust your team and it’s even more important for your team to trust you.
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 grew up in a small town in California, where most of my highschool classmates went to local community colleges. My 9th grade english teacher, Ms. Jane Gaylord, saw something in me and knew I had potential. She believed in me, pushed me to work harder, and encouraged me to dream bigger. Her believing in me played a huge part in why I worked so hard to get into Princeton. Having her support when things were difficult gave me the faith in myself that I needed.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Crypto, and technology overall, is a heavily male dominated field. As a woman in the field, I hope my visibility will serve as an example for young girls and women who aspire to work and invest in tech. I like the feminist angle because it’s more specific. By using my podcast as a platform, I am able to share deep and insightful conversations with top industry leaders and incredible professionals with my audience. Being able to sit down with investors and startup luminaries like Tim Draper and Justin Kahn has been a surreal experience but knowing that people are listening, young women are listening, gives me a satisfaction I’ve never felt before. I hope that my podcast inspires young people and sparks something in them the way it did for me.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Here are 5 lessons I learned
- Ship the product. As Steve Jobs says, “Real artists ship.” At the beginning of any venture it’s easy to obsess over product until it’s perfect. As a CEO, you learn to let things go because you need to start the customer feedback loop. You need to start getting your product in the hands of your customers. That’s the only way it starts; that’s the only way it gets better. Can you imagine if someone tried to sell the original iPod today? It was terrible! But Steve shipped it, and it kept getting better, and people wanted it more.
- Set-backs” are just “set-ups”. Winners are defined by how they respond to adversity. How quickly they bounce back from set-backs. While most people see “set-backs” as a chance to “sit-back,” navel-gazing is for losers. I choose to look at every “set-back” as “set-up”. Ask “What’s next?”
- Claim your success and define your brand. If you don’t define what you stand for, others will.
- Relationships matter. Don’t “network” Take care with every relationship you make. Don’t count them, make them matter.
- Stay the course. Persistence matters.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be to push for more women in the workplace to have a seat at the table. Women are brilliant and often, their ideas aren’t heard either due to lack of confidence in themselves or a lack of reception from their superiors. I want to lead by example and as a woman in a male dominated field, I feel as though I have a responsibility to bring attention to this issue.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Toni Morison says, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I think this quote it the epitome of what I am trying to accomplish. There is no other podcast like Venture Unplugged and I am proud to be able to create something that has so many elements of things that have not been done before.
What I am building is something bigger. I want to build a show where people come to learn, connect on a deeper level and be inspired.
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 with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to meet Serena Williams. She has a phenomenal career as a professional athlete, she created her own brand and also recently became a venture capitalist. I am curious to learn why she decided to transition into venture. Serena, if you’re reading this, I would love to have you on Venture Unplugged!
How can our readers be in touch with you through social media?
Thank you so much for all of these great insights!