Trailblazing Women: Jalak Jobanputra, Founder/Managing Partner of Future\Perfect Ventures

Jalak Jobanputra is Founding Partner of Future\Perfect Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund in NYC. She has 20 years experience in venture capital, impact investing, media and technology.
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This interview is part of a series on Trailblazing Women role models (Entrepreneurs and Leaders) from around the world and first appeared on Global Invest Her. You have to see what you can be.


"It's important to enjoy the journey. I see a lot of folks are focused on angles. Share what you do with the world, it's part of the process. It's important not to lose sight of that and see how you can give back. Don't forget how many people are less fortunate than you".

Jalak Jobanputra is Founding Partner of Future\Perfect Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund in NYC. She has 20 years experience in venture capital, impact investing, media and technology. She was previously Senior Vice President at the New York City Investment Fund (NYCIF), a private economic development fund, where she managed the fund's technology and digital media venture investments. She was also on the selection committee and served as a mentor and speaker for NYCSeedStart, NYC's first summer accelerator program, and helped launch the FinTech Innovation Lab, which has since been replicated in London

Jobanputra is also active in supporting education reform and social entrepreneurship and served as a Trustee of Achievement First Bushwick Charter Schools (Brooklyn) and sits on the Executive Committee of the Social Investment Council of Echoing Green. She is on the Board of Directors for the Center for an Urban Future, Advisory Board of Loreal's Women in Digital Initiative, and Access to Capital Subcommittee member of the US Secretary of State Women's Leadership Council.

She served as a 2010 Mentor for the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, a summer accelerator for social entrepreneurs worldwide. In 2003, she took a yearlong sabbatical from VC to consult on replication strategy for Gates Foundation funded charter schools, including the Big Picture Company. Jobanputra spent four months setting up microfinance programs and training women entrepreneurs in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania after receiving her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in 1999. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Communications from the Annenberg School and a BSE in Finance from the Wharton School.

In 2013, Jobanputra was selected as a "40 Women to Watch Over 40". Jobanputra was selected as an Outstanding 50 Asian American in Business in 2010 by the Asian American Development Center. In November 2012 she participated in an Aspen Institute delegation to Amman. Jobanputra is a Techstars NYC Mentor, Member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) and Advisory Board Member of Astia NYC, and is a frequent speaker and judge at entrepreneur and venture conferences. She is a regular contributor on BloombergTV and has been asked to speak on entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems by the Obama White House and throughout the US and is currently playing a leadership role in the tech community to help pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill.

Learn more about Future Perfect Ventures and read Jalak's blog, The Barefoot VC. Follow Jalak on Twitter: @Jalak

Who is your role model as a leader?

I look up to both of my parents. Neither of them are from the business world, they are both physicians, immigrants to the US (I was born in Africa). They both have resilience combined with compassion/empathy, which are two very important parts of being a leader. They needed to be tough and encountered a lot of political turmoil before coming to their new country. It is difficult to raise two children in a different place than what you are used to. I think that is why a lot of immigrants are successful, because they are leaving a lot behind. It's tough to leave your home country, and once you arrive, you need a lot of resilience to get by.

The other characteristic of a good leader is to have empathy; to be able to put yourself in another person's shoes. There is a compassion/emotional element to it as well as the business/leadership perspective. You will create a better product, if you can empathise with your customers, you can be a better leader to your employees if you understand what your they are going through. In every situation, I always look at the other person and try to understand what is their need and how I can address that. I 'd like to see more of in leaders.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

I always think about what more I want to do.

"Getting Future\Perfect Ventures off the ground and building the portfolio of 18 companies, all doing well, is my biggest achievement to date. I view myself as another female entrepreneur. This was my first fund on my own, even though I have 16 years VC experience."

My fund thesis is around distributed connectivity, and I have built a portfolio in areas such as machine learning and blockchain. A year and half ago, a lot of folks did not understand those areas, including potential fund investors. It has been really rewarding to build a forward thinking portfolio that is doing extremely well and exciting to see the market begin to embody the vision I originally had for the fund. I am thrilled with the way it's shaping up.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman leader?

"There are still people who underestimate you as a woman. That's something I have encountered much of my whole career and is something that really drives me forward. When we think of leadership, we still think of the 'white male'. Things are thankfully changing and am happy to be part of the change, but 'white male' is still the default people look at."

There are lot of hidden biases. How many times have Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet been referred to in the media? They are obviously accomplished leaders, but in the tech world, there are other women leaders out there that have had an impact apart from Sheryl Sandberg! We need to make them more visible.

"In the VC industry, only 4-6% of General Partners are women. There is a lot of awareness about this, but a lot of funds still don't have a woman General Partner with equal equity ownership. I believe there are women are out there who could serve in those roles."

We need to look at why we have these inequities in terms of the numbers in some of these industries and what are the biases that lead to that. Kanjoya, a company I invested in, uses software to look at the annual performance reviews of leaders. In the reviews, the term 'aggressive' was always used in negative way for women's reviews and in a positive way for men's reviews. It is a positive sign that some companies want to uncover these biases. Awareness is a first step.

How do you grow people in your organization?

By understanding what motivates people. I use empathy to understand the person and try to offer them opportunities to learn and experience the things they want to learn about. I make sure they have opportunities and expose them to new things. That's important. I never thought I would end up in finance, let alone be a VC. There are a lot of things you don't know about when you are earlier in your career. Being exposed to things outside your comfort zone helps you grow as a person and figure out what is right for you.

If you could do 1 thing differently, what would it be?

I would have liked to have more confidence earlier in my career. I have always liked to learn and been a curious person. I value those experiences along the way that also gave me skills.

"A lot of women want to check all the boxes before doing things (eg men will apply to a job when they feel they can do 60% of the job description, women when they feel they can do 90% of the job description). I was not immune to that. If I could do one thing differently, I would have moved on that 60% and would have been more aware of those differences. It is great that these statistics are now out there, so we know they exist. It helps women to negotiate better, push ahead more and take more risks."

What differences do you notice between men and women's leadership styles?

My personal experience is that it is hard to generalize on that.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Give someone as much rope as they can handle. I like people around me who are highly motivated, who are willing to take on as much responsibility as they can. I was lucky throughout my career to have people who allowed me to do that and let me grow.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

"That it's all going to work out! You can't predict where something will lead you. It's important to follow your passion and acquire skills along the way."

I would give this advice to others too - life is long and careers are long. When you are young, you have an ability to work in different places, acquire new skills to set yourself up for the future.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

I see the Fund continuing to grow. I really want to invest in great entrepreneurs on a more global basis, continue to encourage more diversity in the venture capital sector and advise governments on innovation to continue to make an impact on that too.

3 key words to describe yourself?

  • Resilient
  • Curious
  • Compassionate

Watch Anne Ravanona's TEDx talk on Investing in Women Entrepreneurs.

For other interviews with Trailblazing Women leaders on Huffington Post Read More Here

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