Kim Vogel: An Inspiring Embodiment of the American dream
We live in a unique time with an unparalleled pace of change that affects every area of our lives. The world of business has exploded with innovation that has helped usher in new industries and advances that couldn’t have been foreseen just a decade ago. Technological advancements are at the root of virtually every commercial innovation, and some leaders have proven themselves exceptionally adept at harnessing innovation to succeed. One such person that has made her mark as a successful leader is Kim Vogel. Kim has brought her entrepreneurial mindset to her key leadership role as the President and Co-founder of Base Venture.
Kim’s journey to becoming an influential leader began early on with her work as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) at KPMG, followed by earning her MBA from the Harvard Business School and working as a vice president at Montgomery Securities. Kim forged her path toward entrepreneurship and innovation in the late 1990s as the CFO of Semaphore Partners, one of the first digital marketing agencies. Kim was one of the original members of the executive team that grew the business to become a global powerhouse with clients like General Motors, Orbitz and more. Innovation was at the core of Semaphore Partners, and it designed many of the first websites and intranets for its clients. After Semaphore Partners was sold to a marketing conglomerate, Kim became a business and finance professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Kim rekindled her passion for innovation and entrepreneurship when she became one of the early executives at a pioneering mobile banking and payments technology company called mFoundry. This innovative company helped to redefine the way that people bank by introducing the then-crazy notion of banking on the phone. mFoundry was one of the first companies to introduce mobile banking to the world and one of the earliest to present the ability to deposit a check on a mobile device. Kim served as CFO of mFoundry for almost a decade, during which the company grew to become the largest provider in North America before it was sold to FIS (NYSE: FIS) in 2013.
Kim’s latest business is yet another example of leadership through innovation as President of Base Venture. Kim and her partner, John Pizzi, co-founded the technology company in 2015, which has already become an innovative force in the investment management industry. Base Venture develops innovative solutions in the areas of financial reporting, data visualization, and process management. The enterprise’s award-winning platform, “FundManager.io”, helps organizations simplify and automate how private funds are administered and managed. By providing users with data intelligence, “FundManager.io” radically simplifies the process of fund management and provides a platform that is intelligent, scalable, affordable and secure.
In an exclusive interview with Beyond Exclamation, Kim shares her inspiring journey from the beginning to become one of the most successful leaders in the finance industry.
What were your goals while growing up? Did you always wanted to be where you are right now?
I could have never fathomed in my wildest dreams that I would be where I am today. The world I live in today is night and day from what I was exposed to growing up. I am truly the embodiment of the American dream. Super hardworking parents that made a ton of sacrifices to ensure their children had a better life than theirs is how my parent’s lived and made choices when we grew up. I am the daughter of a hair stylist and a warehouse worker. I was the first in my family to go to college and at that point in time, I knew little to nothing about graduate school and certainly couldn’t conceive of going to Harvard. However, step by step when I would accomplish one thing, I would start looking, researching and working towards whatever I thought should come next.
There was a time in my life where I was actually reluctant to dream. I felt like my life was unfolding in bigger and better ways than I could even think to dream of. I think I was just dreaming to small. Now it’s just the opposite. I realize the power of setting goals and dreams. Now I try to dream as big as I possibly can. I see how if I just put the thought in my head, no matter how much of a reach it might be and then it is amazing how the powers that be just start aligning things and the path to get there unfolds.
What drove you to enter in this field? What was your life like before BaseVenture?
I believe so much of one’s story depends on when they enter the workforce. A lot has been written about the success of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and others based on how their age intersected where technology was at a pivotal point in time. They were in their early twenties when the mainframe, IBM and other foundational technologies and companies were ready for the next thing. For me, where I ended up was a lot about timing as well. My post MBA story began in investment banking as the .dot com bubble was beginning to inflate. I was an accounting and finance person working at an Investment Bank and all the hub bub was around technology. We were taking company’s public left and right and there was a lot of activity going on. The energy around me was powerful and exhilarating. So when I had enough of Investment Banking and wanted to work inside a company, and of course being in San Francisco at that time, technology was the logical place to go.
I certainly wasn’t an engineer and frankly did not stay up until the wee hours of the morning hacking, coding or tinkering in any way like many of my colleagues did but I loved the energy around technology, the rapid growth and the chance to build something from nothing. So it was just the next logical step forward for me. I never recall consciously saying I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Being that technology wasn’t my background, I quickly found I was very comfortable building and being part of exceptional teams. I enjoyed building those teams and having solid partners to join forces with. I always feel like I am only as strong as those I am surrounded by. The story of Base Venture is similar in that after we built and sold mFoundry, the leading mobile banking and payments platform at the time, John and I were very much ready to start another company. We loved building … technology, teams and of course companies. That is how we got here.
What are your first thoughts when you hear words like leader and businesswoman? What prompted you to move beyond brilliance initially as a leader?
I truly enjoy building and leading teams. I think that is what drives me the most so hearing words like leader and businesswoman are a byproduct of doing what I like to do. I think a lot about how I have come to grips with enjoying challenges. Don’t get me wrong, some can be terribly daunting but challenges are merely problems to be solved. Being a leader is about building and perfecting your problem solving skills. So every new problem is an opportunity to perfect and build upon these skills. Life for me is always about the next challenge. My mom always jokes when I feel like I have accomplished something big or step over the finish line of something I have been working hard at, she says “You won’t sit long, what’s your next project, I know you have one stewing?”
What have been the best and toughest parts of your journey? What has led you to stand where you are today? If possible, kindly help us with statistical insights as an overview of your individual achievements.
Along with my stellar team, building the pioneering mobile banking and payments technology company called mFoundry has been one of the best parts of my journey. This innovative company helped to redefine the way that people bank by introducing the then-crazy notion of banking on the phone.
Have you achieved all that you had desired? Tell us about the moment when you realized that your hard work has finally paid-off. What keeps you driven and determined towards work?
I truly believe we get out of life what we put into it, and we are all co-creators of our own respective destinies. That being said, there is still a lot of work to do. My life journey continues to be a work in progress, and I feel there is so much yet to see, experience, and accomplish. I think a key characteristic of successful people is the love of learning and never feeling they have achieved all they have desired. There is so much to experience and do in this world. There is an endless supply of next steps. I am really proud of what I have accomplished but I also hope that I never feel I have accomplished everything. I hope, just as I have always done, that after my next big accomplishment that I just start to explore the next challenge and set the next goal.
Now that I am older, I try and spend a lot of time acknowledging how my hard work has paid off. I think one of my biggest realizations is how the timing around the work we do ISN’T closely aligned with when the rewards and benefits are received. So much of the work has to be done early in life while the benefits and paybacks come down the road. I worry about the young adults in my family. I see how so much of their future depends on the decisions they are making in their late teens and early twenties. Those foundational years are pivotal and working hard early on sets the path for life. I still work hard, don’t get me wrong. Still too many hours however I also spend time looking around at what I have, the relationships that surround me and most of all the flexibility I have and constantly pat myself on the back knowing that this only exists because of all the hard work I did decades ago and along the way.
What are some of the most important achievements, highlights, biggest challenges or roadblocks of your journey as Co-founder/entrepreneur?
My biggest setback happened early on in my career and I am so thankful for that. I was laid off at 23 years old from my very first professional position along with half of the office but I took it personally. I quickly landed another position with better pay and more time which gave me the opportunity to apply to Harvard Business School. I don’t think I would have applied otherwise given the grueling hours of public accounting. HBS completely transformed my career path, exposing me to things that I would have never thought possible. I learned setbacks are shortcuts to our ultimate goals, if we allow them to be.
What are the most important characteristics that make an individual a successful entrepreneur? How do you impart the same upon your colleagues, employees and children?
Having a partner that complements me with different skills makes me feel super powerful. It allows me to be confident that I can bring valuable insights to the table while also knowing I do not have to be a master of all things. So, now as I look back over the three companies I have built, I realize a solid partner is what attracted me to join each company and made each company successful. All three of these companies were technology companies, all with products based on engineering code and for better or worse I can’t read a single stitch of code. I am fascinated with the productivity, utility and efficiency that technology brings and add my part to the development process and help shape our products with a focus on these aspects.
What seeded the vision of BaseVenture? Brief us about the services that BaseVenture provides and tell us why customers choose you?
I co-founded the BaseVenture with John Pizzi in 2015 and am proud to say it has already become an innovative force in the investment management industry. Base Venture develops innovative solutions in the areas of financial reporting, data visualization, and process management. The enterprise’s award-winning platform, “FundManager.io”, helps organizations simplify and automate how private funds are administered and managed. By providing users with data intelligence, “FundManager.io” radically simplifies the process of fund management and provides a platform that is intelligent, scalable, affordable and secure.
John and I founded the company after we built and sold mFoundry in 2013. We loved the industry, the players and the emerging world of FinTech. Building on our last successful exit is truly what seeded the idea of Base Venture. We looked at the systems and infrastructures that existed around wealth management and knew we could build something much better. So we just got to work.
Amidst all your responsibilities and roles at BaseVenture, how do you manage to balance between professional and personal life?
Work life balance is always a challenge and something I am constantly juggling with to try to ensure I am not tipping the scale too far in any direction. With a sixteen year old daughter and a four year old son, there are a lot of demands that unfold daily. First and foremost the biggest enjoyment I have in life is being a mother. I remind myself every day that I have worked so hard to ensure I have the flexibility in my schedule to be active part of whatever my children are experiencing. I think balancing becomes much easier when your priorities are clear. My priorities couldn’t be clearer, my children come first.
My other secret weapon to balance is my amazing mom. My mom really helps pick up the pieces if they start to fall. She is always there and I have the peace of mind knowing that if I can’t be with my kids, she is there to direct them as I would if I were at home with them.
What are your individual plans going ahead? What does the future hold for Kim and BaseVenture?
I truly believe we get out of life what we put into it, and we are all co-creators of our own respective destinies. My life journey continues to be a work in progress, and I feel there is so much yet to see, experience, and accomplish. I want to continue to drive and grow BaseVenture forward and ensure it can be as successful as possible and in meantime I want to sew all the seeds for the “next big thing” that may be waiting for me on the horizon.