Our mission to make entrepreneurship a shared economy is itself a movement. We’re working and hoping to get everyone to participate in private investment, and that, in turn, will fund more businesses that generate wealth and create jobs. Entrepreneurship is a huge force of good that has benefited humanity in many ways. 1.4 billion people have been lifted out of poverty over the past 30 years through job creation. If everyone participates and not just the wealthy few, I think we can eradicate poverty altogether. We’re still in such early stage, but I hope the movement of building our future via investing will snowball into mainstream awareness and participation.
I had the pleasure to interview Kendrick Nguyen. Kendrick is CEO and co-founder of Republic, an investment platform that provides both accredited and non-accredited investors around the world with curated startup investment opportunities. Republic also facilitates compliant investing in blockchain-enabled projects under the brand Republic Crypto. Republic is an affiliate of AngelList and CoinList, the latter of which he is a founding adviser. Prior to Republic, Kendrick served as General Counsel and Venture Hacker at AngelList and, before that, Fellow of Stanford Law School and the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University. Formerly a securities attorney, Kendrick has been working on several initiatives aimed at defining a compliant but pragmatic protocol for conducting compliant coin offerings, and has briefed the SEC, Congress, and foreign regulators on this issue. He frequently lectures on the topics of intersection of law and entrepreneurship, and his views have been cited in a number of court decisions and publications. An immigrant from Vietnam, Kendrick has a strong interest in improving access to capital for underserved entrepreneurs in the US and beyond.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Before getting into tech, I practiced law and worked in finance in New York City, followed by a fellowship at Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance. Drawn by AngelList’s democratization mission, I joined as its first General Counsel in 2014, where I also focused on international expansion and product strategy. When retail investment crowdfunding became legal here in the US in 2016, it opened the door for everyday people to invest in startups, regardless of net worth or income. That, I believe, represents the true potential of entrepreneurship — one that is democratized and accessible to founders and investors alike. We launched Republic on that conviction.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the most interesting things that’s happened since starting Republic was the drastic shift in the public’s focus towards crypto. We began to see crypto as a valuable tool that enables new ownership models, beyond just equity. We also saw a lot of parallels between the crypto community, and our platform, which relies heavily on our community of founders and investors to be successful. It’s been amazing to be a part of the growing industry, and to watch the movement gain traction as quickly as it has.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Republic would be nothing without our fantastic team. We host a diverse team with interesting backgrounds. Our COO, Caroline Hoffman, attended Harvard Business School, later joining one of the top consulting groups, McKinsey & Company. Our Head of Partnerships, Bianca Caban, attended Harvard, then Columbia Business School, later starting her own investment firm, focusing on funding Latina entrepreneurs. The rest of our team is just as exciting, and I can’t think of a better group of people to work with every day.
Though we host startups with founders of all races and genders on our platform, our diverse experience helps us focus on underserved and underestimated founders, to help bring access to venture capital funding to them when they may otherwise not have had it.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We are currently working on tokenizing the entire Republic platform, meaning any investor will be able to purchase a Republic token to fund both crypto and equity startups raising with us. The token will have increased liquidity and transferability and more economic rights than our traditional investment instrument, which is the Crowd Safe. Anyone across the world will be able to purchase these tokens whilst remaining in compliance, which supports our mission to make investing in startups accessible to more people.
We also recently launched a partnership with Seedrs, an equity crowdfunding platform based out of the UK. The partnership will allow us to host some startups raising on Seedrs so they can receive funding from both US and UK investors. The goal here is to encourage relationships with startups and investors from the US and the UK and Europe.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I think it’s hugely important to prioritize employee happiness — it’s a win-win to do so. When you value and respect your employees, you increase morale, which increases passion, creativity, and performance. At Republic, I champion the “open door policy” and routinely remind my team that if they have any concerns they can share them with me. We also make a habit of planning offsite activities to facilitate team building and camaraderie.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m particularly grateful towards Naval Ravikant, the co-founder of AngelList. Without him, I would not be in tech, and would not be able to do what I love. Now, after working with him to build AngelList, I have the privilege of working with him to build Republic.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It’s incredibly rewarding to be building a company with impacts beyond the bottom line like Republic. Whether it’s supporting underserved founders to give them access to capital to fund their projects, increasing access to investment opportunities for average people-not just the wealthy-in addition to hosting startups that create new technologies to solve urgent problems. Whether it’s a startup that uses nanotechnology to protect pregnant women from insect-borne illnesses, or breakthrough treatment for ADHD using natural supplements, we’re proud to be hosting startups on our platform that are actually changing the world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It doesn’t get easier! It’s easy to adopt the mentality of “Once I launch version one it’ll get easier,” or “Once I close this funding round we’ll be good to go.” I think using milestones to track progress is important, but even more so is recognizing that these milestones shouldn’t be an indicator of easier times to come. Startups are a continuous roller coaster. You’re going to have great days, and you’re going to have not-so-great days. Push through, be persistent, and build your vision.
- Passion is everything. I’m lucky in that I’m deeply passionate about the mission Republic is fulfilling, but not every founder I see shares that same excitement about the problem they’re solving. Often, I see founders excited about starting something, rather than starting the thing. Once the novelty of starting a startup wears off, you’re left with the problem you’re trying to solve, and if you can’t get excited about that, it’s going to be hard to stay motivated through the hard times.
- Culture is key. You want your team to enjoy coming to the office, and you need a cohesive bond between the group to do great work. This is one of the pieces of advice you hear often, but I don’t think people put enough emphasis on it, especially in the early days. The founding team members — the first four, five, six people — are the ones that will set the culture for years to come, so focus on making a conscious effort to create values and adhere to them.
- Things take time. You may not close the deal as fast as you want to, or launch the product as quickly as you’d hoped, but the important thing is to keep your team on the right track, pointed in the right direction. Patience is key. You’re playing the long game. If your startup is successful, you’ll be working on this for five, six, seven plus years, so don’t let a small delay stress you out too much.
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.
Republic’s mission to make entrepreneurship a shared economy is itself a movement. We’re working and hoping to get everyone to participate in private investment, and that, in turn, will fund more businesses that generate wealth and create jobs. Entrepreneurship is a huge force of good that has benefited humanity in many ways. 1.4 billion people have been lifted out of poverty over the past 30 years through job creation. If everyone participates and not just the wealthy few, I think we can eradicate poverty altogether. We’re still in such early stage, but I hope the movement of building our future via investing will snowball into mainstream awareness and participation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love the quote “It always seems impossible until it’s done” by Nelson Mandela. This quote can so easily transfer to business and entrepreneurship. Mandela had one of the most incredible journeys in modern history, going from prisoner to President after tearing down an oppressive socio-political institution, and I can only imagine that when he was in prison it was easy to sink into despair and hopelessness. As a founder, it’s imperative to keep the faith during tough times, because they’re inevitable. When things look bleak, when it looks like your idea or business might sink, those are the times when you need the most fortitude. If every founder gave up when it looked like their business might fail, most of the technological breakthroughs we enjoy today would never have come into existence.
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.
I’d love to sit down with Kevin Durant. He’s not only been named MVP in the NBA finals two years in a row, he also made some noise when he joined the Golden State Warriors as a free agent a few years ago. I love that he maintains autonomy within the league and signs deals on his own terms. More importantly, he just helped launch the Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen Horowitz along with Chris Lyons and has been named a limited partner in the firm. The fund is designed to support black entrepreneurs in technology and to expand their presence in the VC world. Both endeavors are far overdue, in my opinion. I’d love to hear about Durant’s journey from NBA to venture capitalist, to learn about his experiences navigating Silicon Valley, and, of course, learn what it feels like to win the NBA championship.
Originally published at medium.com