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7 Questions with Kevin Lionel Colas
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7 Questions with Kevin Lionel Colas
Name: Kevin Lionel Colas
Current title: Venture Partner & Chairman of the Board of Directors
Current organisation: Explorations Ventures, igniteXL Ventures and IHSD Inc.
Mr. Colas is a strategy and investment professional with 20 years of experience. Currently venture partner at igniteXL Ventures, a pre-seed/seed funds in tech and community driven consumer wellness, beauty and experience, and investing with family and friends or SPVs in partnership with OceanIQ Capital, SEC registered RIA with proper execution, legal, audit and tax reporting, in enterprise tech, solid blockchain applications/use cases, AV/EV/mobility, gaming, mobile/digital medias, fintech, edtech, proptech, ML/AI, additive manufacturing, native and tech or community driven CPG Brands in apparel & accessories, beauty & personal care, or food & beverage including plant based and new diets, biotech & remote/digital health.
Previously worked as Chief Investment Officer at OceanIQ Capital, a global multi-family office in Redwood Shores, CA, managing North of USD 120 million in assets under care across all major asset classes and delivering comprehensive family office services for families in the US, Asia and Europe with an pro-active direct investment activity in SPVs in enterprise tech, health & wellness consumer tech and CPG, biotech & medtech in a stage agnostic approach.
Before OceanIQ, Kevin worked with Hap Klopp, founder and former CEO of The North Face, a global leader in outdoor apparel and accessories, and Shawn Biega, a serial entrepreneur and executive sales in apparel & accessories, food & beverage and skincare & personal care, to raise funding for an active lifestyle, health & wellness consumer with enabling e-com & retail tech, new materials and ingredients, supply chain enabling fintech venture fund focusing on seed to A with follow on for best in classes in B. Prior, he led strategy consulting project teams for startups and Fortune 500 companies in IT, healthcare, consumer, industrials and telecom at Vaxa Inc., and the first sales analytics team for the healthcare insurance exchange GoHealth. Prior, Mr. Colas worked 7 years in asset management as portfolio manager at A2 Gestion, institutional equity sales at Merrill Lynch and RFP manager at State Street Corp, and in M&A as an analyst at Credit Lyonnais. He holds an MBA from Hult, an MPhil in finance from Aix-Marseille U., an MS in management from Skema and a BS in economics from Grenoble U.
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member of a large enterprise?
Find the right balance between fostering expression of all, tendency to take over the voice of others from some members, and limit the debate to come to decisions fast enough not to slow the organization and slow enough to make informed decisions respecting our fiduciary duty.
2. How did you become a board member of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have been a board member of startups since 2013 in France as an investor at Mr. Chaussure and Bleu Comme Gris, became board member of non-profit IHSD in 2017 and was nominated and accepted the direction of the board in 2018. Since then, I have been an advisor and still am of several startups including Lambden IO, Adeptmind, AmpUp and Aegis Custody for now. I am an investor and have GP carry in SPVs I led with OceanIQ Capital LLC funds series SPVs or a JV fund between OceanIQ Capital LLC and Forest Ventures LLC called Forest Mobility Fund LLC that also does SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicles). I am also investing for my family in solo or with friends in early stage seed to series B venture deal with a thematic approach (enterprise tech in selected sectors and sub industries, medias, gaming, technical apparel, electric vehicle, autonomous vehicle, mobility, fintech, travel) and I am venture partner in a pre-seed and seed consumer fund investing globally in tech and community driven consumer facing products, services, software and hardware at the intersection of wellness, lifestyle and beauty focusing on native DTC CPG brands with road to omni-channel distribution and consumer tech with an overall bias for the sustainability, inclusivity and women led thematics.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up at 7 or 8, prepare coffee for the house, feed the kids cats (we love our cats like kids ;) and soon the kid (my wife is expecting for Aug 2021), drink a coffee, unfortunately still smoke a cigarette (I know I have to stop thank you) while checking the news and my email, then I hit the shower, dress up, and under Sars-Cov2 hit my laptop to respond to emails received during the night, then meetings start by 9am unless exceptions for time zones accommodations and in general carry on until 1-2pm, when I reserve time to actually do things until sometimes advisory or portfolio companies video call meetings between 4 and 8 for Asian startups, then sometimes during the month I am executing public markets transactions on the accounts of my family in France that I manage since 1997.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The Director of Programs of IHSD is in her peer review period and I peer reviewed her and gave her very transparent and honest feedback trying to balance pros and cons. She has mostly pros but accepted very well the cons: mostly on their ability and the necessity to prepare herself better to share authority with the private side of the business after two series of situations where she had conflict with a peer at close level of authority brought in as potential directors at her level. And after I expressed concerns about the necessity to build a non threatening funnel for employees to express their concerns but also ideas, opinions and satisfactions or critics, she planned on being proactive on it to create and bring to the board with me the discussion. A transparent and non threatening process and funnel for employees of IHSD at any level from cleaning teams, assistant teachers, teachers, site supervisors and home programs providers and supervisors as well as HQ personnel to express their voices. I was happy with her reaction and I believe it's rare to deliver critics but real leaders without oversized egos, which in general is more efficient and value creative in the long run than egotistic personalities, take them positively and act on it. I was proud of her.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a large enterprise?
Make people accountable asking for timelines, tasks distribution and monitoring processes laid out in advance, respecting and fostering the voice of all, reframing the goal at sight often and the decision timing necessities, and distribute task according to affinities, competencies but also creativity power of people mixing teams to make them more efficient combining in certain cased complementary individual abilities or concentrating them in others aiming at an expertise bias.
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a large enterprise?
Board members should not interfere with daily operations and leave management teams the leeway and responsibility their are compensated for, and respect their authority but keeping an eye on excessive and abusive behaviors, non democratic decision processes and retaliations of employees unjustified, and standards of ethics, being fast in reacting to excesses to find the best solution short, mid and long term trying to foresee the impact of current issues in the management style, processes or compatibility of behaviors of managers vs the standards of ethics and good management and the sets of values of the company.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member of a large enterprise so far?
Large or small enterprises do not matter. It' s not systematically in the large organizations that we learn the most or encounter the most impressive and meaningful managers. Care, care for your team, care for their future developing them, care for their comfort not only throwing perks at them but making them feel family, care for their confidence fostering an environment of trust, transparency and honesty, what customers want after all too, not politics, personal interests and shenanigan, care for their voices, allowing all to speak freely without fear for retaliation, and express their ideas beyond the limits of their ranks, titles and hidden hierarchies of L6, L9 or other levels underneath so called flat organizations... One of my best experience was actually one of my first, while interning at 17 year old as assistant trader at Union Carbide Europe back in 1993, a time where trades were still written on paper, sent to the back office, checked on rams of paper one by one with check marks and annotations, all manually almost besides a few spreadsheets and ancestors software like Lotus 1,2,3 Suite using plotters to print graphs and prepare presentations. In that company my boss created a great ambiance where we were all in sync acting in concert for the good of the departments, celebrating birthdays with real warmth, where really no levels existed, where I have seen the CEO entering my office and telling me not to work too hard or an other C suite executive coming to ask how to use a graphic software to perfect his presentations... no barriers, no levels in respect and recognition of effort, competency and heart, this is powerful... and I never forgot this. And I always tried to emulate and implement the same relaxed but studious ambiance, trustful and warm environment in professional relationships. Have care for people and their situations in managing them, as long as everybody keeps its share of the bargain, far from politics, lies, going or taking in the back of people, or favoring personal interests ahead of the company and the team. I have tried in the teams I managed since then, keeping long lasting relationships with people I hired, managed and promoted.