5–1/2 Questions for Loretta McCarthy
Co-CEO and Managing Partner, Golden Seeds
Loretta McCarthy is Co-CEO and Managing Partner of Golden Seeds, an investment organization that invests in early-stage, women-led companies in the United States. Golden Seeds is one of the largest and most active angel investment networks in the country. The organization is recognized as a leader in the movement to fund women entrepreneurs and for its advocacy of women entrepreneurs, gender diversity and a commitment to the education of angel investors.
Since 2005, Golden Seeds has invested nearly $170 million in more than 225 women-led companies. Loretta manages the national Golden Seeds angel network of 350 members. She is a frequent speaker — in the US and internationally — about early stage investing, women entrepreneurs and gender diversity.
Previously, Loretta was Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at OppenheimerFunds and was an executive at the American Express Company.
She serves on the board of directors of Prolitec, Inc., an indoor air quality company. She was previously on the board of directors of Foresters Financial. Loretta served on the board of directors of the Women’s Tennis Association, the governing body of women’s tennis worldwide. She is a past President of Sanctuary for Families, which provides services to women who are victims of gender violence. Ms. McCarthy holds an MBA from the University of Colorado and a BA in Business Administration from the University of Arizona. She lives in New York City.
Golden Seeds: One of the nation’s most active early-stage investment firms, Golden Seeds is focused on the vibrant opportunities of women-led businesses.
5–1/2 Questions for Loretta McCarthy
1 — When was the last time that you were inspired to action?
I am often inspired to action when I see an issue or a topic where I believe that I can make a real difference. So for me, very often it’s the topics that relate to women and girls, and the advancement of an opportunity for women and girls. And it very much relates to the work I do at Golden Seeds because we spotted, [quite some time ago] a very big gap in the funding of women entrepreneurs.
So I will say I have devoted a large part of my life to issues related to women, and gender violence — and also women tennis players, where I have done a lot of work seeking equal prize money and other fairness for women as tennis players. And also women as investors — not just as entrepreneurs — but as investors.
The reason I’m inspired to action on these topics is often when I see something where I care deeply enough then put a lot of time in on it myself — particularly when I can see where skills that I have can make a difference. [Golden Seeds was a good example] of the combination of an issues that I care deeply about — and where my involvement could really make a difference.
And with Golden Seeds — it’s has really been a story of the data — and that data can be very inspiring. We saw data many years ago that said — of all of the $25 billion going into startups less than 3% of that was going to women. Every so often you can land on a data point and say, “there is something really wrong here, and we are going to rally around this issue and fix it. “
So that was really a very big challenge to fix it. And we now know that sometimes it’s easiest to go blindly and just solving an issue without quite knowing how complex it is — but in this case, it was really as simple as that: We didn’t like the data.
2 - What was the biggest Game Changer for you, in your early career?
It was about 1980. I had had a few years of career experience already, but there was a time where at which I changed jobs and I was living in the Midwest, and I got a phone call from a search firm that offered me a position that changed my life, and changed my career — Because I changed industries from Retail to Wall Street.
I was working at American express. And it became a situation where I was plunged into something where really there was a very high chance that I wouldn’t succeed because it was so very different from what I knew before. And, it was a game changer because it forced me to say, “all right, here I am. What are the attributes I have that are really going to be useful here? “
I needed to come up the learning curve as quickly as possible so that I can succeed — while at the same time I am making the case that I do bring a lot from my prior experience to this situation. So I think for many of us and for the many of the people who follow CJ, I think that there is a question of how, when you’re plunged into something where you’re really quite unfamiliar with it, how do you balance what you bring to the situation? And then how quickly can you learn to be relevant?
It was a big change and a big risk — but it really didn’t take too much convincing, you know. I saw it as an, as an exciting opportunity and a challenge to use whatever skills I thought I had.
3 - Who is an entrepreneur you admire and why?
I have become quite fascinated with an entrepreneur that has been within the Golden Seeds network for a long time. Her name is Susan Catalano. She is a PhD scientist and is the founder of a company called Cognition Therapeutics. She and her company has been working for a very long time on a treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Today, she is the Chief Scientific Officer there,
But the thing that is so fascinating to me about this woman is that I had the opportunity to observe her up close when she was just working with the earliest data, mice data — like when you start working on drug discovery.
And I observed how this woman — it does happen with many entrepreneurs — how she basically committed her entire life to this work. And she gave up so much in her life in the quest to find that a treatment for Alzheimer’s, which is the holy grail of medicine in many ways. Her company has had considerable success in their continued scientific trials, but watching the devotion of an entrepreneur, and her focus, and her really unrelenting determination to change the world — and that is what this company will do. If they succeed, they will save lives, they will extend lives. And it, it really takes giving it your all in absolutely every way. I will always admire Susan Catalano.
4- Was there a time or incident that you got really really lucky in business?
Yeah. I think that you can be very unlucky! But I’ll talk about lucky. And sometimes I’m lucky.
I think you can be lucky sometimes based upon who is your boss.
I have had several situations in my career that had actually situations that have gone both ways, but I would say that very early on, I was put in a department where I had a boss who did decide to spend a lot of time ensuring that I succeeded. Bosses don’t always do that. And this person actually started advancing me and my career in ways that were actually very visible there.
And I realized that in a way that was my good fortune, you know, you, once you’re in those situations, you have to do well. You have to prove that particularly as this person is spending some energy, making sure that you have these further opportunities, you have to deliver on it. But I also have to say it was my good fortune that somebody, unrelated to me, just decided to assign me to her [this boss, mentor].
And it makes me think, as I’m answering this question, that the, the role of being a boss or a supervisor of someone is of course important for the work you’re trying to have these people do — but you can also have immeasurable impact on people’s careers. If you’re just paying attention, mentoring, coaching — noting how well they’re doing, pushing them, giving them opportunities that they may not have anticipated and your giving them wings to fly. It’s very easy as a boss to get bogged down and just the burden of the work, but the role you play in the creating opportunities for other people is really incalculable.
5- What does a person do, that you then don’t take them seriously anymore?
I am very keen to respect the confidences of colleagues and friends. And so I would say that when I encounter someone who is careless about what I would consider confidential information — it might be personal, it might be professional — but if they’re careless about it, because they just enjoy kind of [gossiping] and spreading the word about something that is putting someone else, either at risk or in a compromised situation. So I do lose faith in those people quickly.
5–1/2: …. And … the bonus question:
In a parallel universe, you’re a successful and famous entertainer — what field, why?
In a parallel universe, I would be a tennis player — a professional tennis player, and here’s why:
It’s a field I have followed a great deal and have known a few people in that field. And I am completely fascinated not only by their athleticism in every way. You don’t get to the top of the game without being talented athletically of course, but relative to many other fields, this to me is particularly rigorous because it is usually a solo performance. You’re out there by yourself, maybe with one other person. There is a huge amount of discipline involved with getting to that level — many years of discipline, and also everything about that endeavor is very strategic. So these people have to be very smart, every time they step on a tennis court, about how they are strategically approaching that game. That moment, that competitor.
For more 5–1/2 Questions Interviews, see:
5-1/2 Questions with CJ Cornell
5 1/2 Questions from The Metapreneurs "5-1/2 Questions" from CJ Cornell is a new series of mini-interviews with leaders…
“5–1/2 Questions” from CJ Cornell” is a new series of mini-interviews with leaders in the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem around the world. In less than a half-dozen short questions, we’ll try to learn more about each leader, and what makes them successful and unique.
The questions are designed a little like a “Magic Eight Ball” (my GenX colleagues know what this is): A set of questions, posed at random. Plus, at least one question, or half-question, is designed to find out something about their personality that most people might never suspect (I mean expect).
CJ Cornell is a serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor, mentor, author, speaker, and educator. As an entrepreneur, CJ Cornell was a founder of more than a dozen successful startup ventures that collectively attracted over $250 million in private funding; created nearly a thousand new jobs; and launched dozens of innovative consumer, media, and communications products — that have exceeded $3 billion in revenues.
He is the author of the bestselling “The Age of Metapreneurship — A Journey into the Future of Entrepreneurship.”
And the upcoming “The Startup Brain Trust — A Guidebook for Startups, Entrepreneurs, and the Mentors that Help them Become Great.”