Venture capitalist and attorney, Lindsay Karas Stencel, chatted with host Michael Redd about how success in competitive athletics translates to business success, her journey from elite athlete to high-powered lawyer, and her passion for supporting emerging and diverse voices in business and beyond.
I’ve always liked the idea of taking a concept and applying capital and talent and to turn that into what ultimately, in the best-case scenario, becomes a successful, high-growth company. Venture capital is a beautiful economic vehicle …” – Lindsay Karas Stencel
Lindsay recently joined Thompson Hine LLP as a partner and manager of the large Columbus law firm’s office of Early Stage & Emerging Companies practice. She was previously the chief legal counsel and a managing partner at NVT Ventures, a Columbus-based venture capital firm.
She also operates her own private practice firm, LKS Law, “… representing emerging and diverse venture fund managers across the country, startup clients and founders, investors, and small businesses,” and much more.
A trailblazer in the world of venture capitalism, she’s an advocate for health and wellness and work-life balance. Her mission is to challenge the paradigms and norms of business today to create stronger personal connections and better team dynamics.
She is also an adjunct professor at The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law (her law school alma mater), and a founder of Launch New York, a nonprofit venture capital firm based in Buffalo.
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In this episode Michael and Lindsay talked about:
- Why you need to make sacrifices to be the best
- How Lindsay became a national leader in a male-dominated field
- Her transition from wanting to become a doctor to accidentally owning a law firm
- The health scare that changed her life (for the better)
- How she rose above being a workaholic and burnout to find her own definition of success
- And more!
Lindsay: If I'm going to place a bet on anyone, I know what I can do, and I know that I can out hustle and outwork and outrun and whatever it is anyone else. So I would say at every major crossroads in my life, I placed a huge bet on myself.
Michael Redd: Hey, everybody, this is Michael Redd, and welcome to the Betting On Yourself Podcast, where I interview successful entrepreneurs, athletes and other top performers who rose to the top, took success into their own hands and bet on themselves. Lindsay and I go way back. She's one of the most driven, dedicated people I know, and an incredible athlete as well. For the last 12 years. She's been one of the partners and chief legal counsel for NCT Ventures, a Midwest focused venture capital firm here in Columbus, Ohio, that backs early stage technology companies.
Michael Redd: She is also an adjunct professor at The Ohio State University, where she teaches venture capital law. Her passion and drive have helped her become a trailblazer in the world of venture capitalism, paving the way for women in a male dominated industry. An advocate for health and wellness and work life balance, she is fiercely dedicated to changing the paradigm, the norms of business today to create stronger personal connections, and better team dynamics. We talk about what it's like growing up as a super focused athlete, always striving to be the best. Those moments in life that cause you to reprioritize, and why taking micro steps instead of giant leaps can be the key to helping you succeed.
Michael Redd: First of all, welcome to the show.
Lindsay: Thanks, friend. I'm happy to be here.
Michael Redd: Yeah, we've been friends for a very long time, and we were partners, we're still partners, technically. Our history goes way back. Before I get to the questions of betting on yourself, let's talk about that for a second. About being an athlete and how that mentality has influenced you in business. Both of us are athletes, I think you're a more superior athlete. For those who don't know, Lindsay is a freak of nature athlete. Tell me about that. How that translates into business and how that helps you for life?
Lindsay: Sure, sure. I'll back all the way up to early childhood days of competition and how that sets you up for what I think life and ultimately a greater degree of potential success. I don't even know if you know this, Michael, but when I was a youngster, I was a world champion baton twirler back in the day.
Michael Redd: I knew this. I knew that.
Lindsay: Sometimes I don't talk about it, because people are like, what does that even mean? Basically, it's a combination of extreme hand eye coordination, ballet and gymnastics all smashed into one thing. To be the best in the world at what you do takes a whole different level of practice and dedication and sacrifice and concentration, that when you learn at the age of 10 or 11 years old, it's just one of those things that then become so ingrained in you that you just know, when you look at any business undertaking. You know that if you're going to be successful, you have to make some sacrifices and take things to a whole different level, than maybe you've had to take it to before.
Lindsay: Then to take that one step further, once you're ahead of everyone, once you've honed your craft, and you've become the best, to stay the best, you have to kick it into this whole new gear, and just go. Because I think everyone, once they see what the standard is, they go, "Oh, that's what I have to hit. That's what I have to be." In order to continue to be the best, you just have to keep pushing and going. I think, learning that super, super early on, was wonderful. I'm incredibly grateful for that. Then I carried that through into playing lacrosse at the collegiate level and was a three time captain, two time defensive player of the year.
Lindsay: Yeah, it's just one of those things you just keep pushing and pushing and you always think, hey, if someone's going to be nipping on my heels, I just want them to really be looking at my taillights. So how do I push in? How do I keep going even faster, and even more?
Michael Redd: I remember you telling me that story about the baton when we were having our multiple walks to Starbucks while working together at NCT, back in the day. Take me back to your childhood in a sense. Because people see you now as a partner at Thompson Hine, and you had your own CrossFit gym and all the successes that you've had with Launch New York, being the COO of Launch New York, the venture world, on and on and on. Your resume is long, but take it back to when you were a teenager or a kid. Was there a moment when you took a huge bet on yourself even back then?
Lindsay: I'm trying to think about that. I guess maybe I did, and it comes back to those early days of competitive baton twirling. When you're in high school, you're watching your friends do whatever they're going to do, and they're going to party and they're going to have fun, and you're like, "Hey, I can't do that." And you have to start to make decisions and sacrifices to say, "Hey, I'm not going to go out on a Friday, and I'm not going to do this and not going to do that."
Lindsay: Those things gave me the opportunity to become just one of the best at what I was doing in the world. and that was really incredible. But then that almost becomes almost addictive, because then you want to always stay the best. I just always looked at every new crossroads, and every new step as, if I'm going to place a bet on anyone, I know what I can do, and I know that I can out hustle and outwork and outrun, and whatever it is, anyone else. I would say at every major crossroads in my life, I placed a huge bet on myself.
Lindsay: When I started at NCT, for example, I was a wee little JD MBA. When you come out of law school in the MBA program, you think you're super smart, but you only know so much. So you need to get some laps around the life track, but no one was there to teach me how to be a venture lawyer. That wasn't a thing. But I bet on myself and I said, "Hey, I'm going to sink or I'm going to swim, I'm going to figure it out. I don't even know how I'm going to figure it out, but I'm going to." There was just a different level of adaptability and resourcefulness that I had to find in order to do that, to become, not just successful at it, but if I'm being candid, a woman who's successful in it. Because there's like 8% of venture capitalists are women, it's not a great stat.
Lindsay: So, I definitely didn't have a lot of folks at that time, 10 years ago, to say, "Hey, let me take you under my wing and show you the way woman to woman." That wasn't an option. So I had to bet on me, and I had to bet on being a whole different way. That said, I'm so comfortable with myself that I'm going to go, I'm going to do this, and I'm going to figure it out, and I'm going to be the best at what I do. Or at least, like to think that I am.
Michael Redd: You are, what I'm drawn to, to you is your tenacity and your grit, and never say die attitude. It's going to get done no matter what. That is so important. Talk to me about, just the transition from being an athlete to being an attorney. Was that always in the cards?
Lindsay: No, no, no. When I was in college, I was actually a biochemistry major, I was going to go be a doctor, because that's what I thought the world wanted me to do. Shocking as this might sound, lab and I didn't get along very well, because I had to be very quiet. I wasn't allowed to be social and bounce around the room, that was frowned upon. I had this moment where I was like, "Man, I've spent all this time in school, I have really great grades." I was going to go to medical school, that was going to happen. Then I was just like, "I can't do this with the rest of my life. I'm miserable."
Lindsay: I sat there and I thought about it and I'm like, okay, how do I figure this out? How do you pivot and cut to the next thing, the next step in your life? I looked at the skills that I had acquired before me, which were really analytical thinking. The nice thing about a lot of time and chemistry and physics, it teaches your brain to function in a very engineering-like way. So when we combine all of that and add that up into, law school's crazy competitive, so why not throw a hyper competitive human into a competitive environment?
Lindsay: That to me, just made a lot of sense. Then how do you transition from law school to attorney and be competitive there? It was keeping the same mindset, and I think that's why I was able to successfully accidentally build a law firm. Because I just knew what it took to close more clients, bring in more business, drive more revenue, get more knowledgeable in different things. I just saw each step, conquered, delivered, moved on to the next thing.
Michael Redd: Wow. Wow. It's so impressive, your story. So, you find yourself at NCT, which is, for all the listeners, which was a local venture capitalist firm here in Columbus, Ohio. You were Chief Counsel there for 12 years, I believe.
Michael Redd: Talk to me about not being intimidated in a male dominant industry, when it comes to venture capital. When you initially started with NCT, how did it feel to be in the room? Did you always feel that you belong? The stigmas, talk to me about those nuances and the emotions behind it.
Lindsay: I think, to the credit of NCT, they never looked at things and said, male, female, black, white. They didn't look at that, they said, "Who's the best person for this job, and how do we bring them on, and how do we cultivate them and move forward there?" With my team there, I never felt like I didn't belong, I always felt like I was one of the people at the table. I felt like I had... I never felt not welcome there. But I would say, when I think about other people who would come to the table that weren't part of the organization sometimes. Be it vendors, or service providers, or other VCs. Be it, not so much locally, but folks that might have come in from other places. That was when I really started to notice that there was in fact, a difference to those people, when they looked at me.
Lindsay: They didn't look at me, and say, "Oh, here's a person who understands deal structuring and can provide some really creative solutions, and who understands these industries and can offer some advice and guidance." What they saw was a female that they didn't value as much. I can distinctly remember us bringing in a service provider one time and interviewing this person. He sat close to me, but not next to me, and every time I would ask him a question, he wouldn't look at me and he would look at someone else in the room, a male and an answer to them. Sometimes he would just ignore my questions, he wouldn't shake my hand.
Lindsay: The funniest part about all of this was, this guy wasn't smart enough to know that he was interviewing to work under me. One of my partners was smart enough to pick up what was happening in that meeting. He sort of looked, he goes, "Hey, well, I think I'm good with questions, but Lindsay, since so and so would be working with you, what questions do you have?" I was like, "Hey, I think I'm good here, but thank you, please leave." That was one of the... I can remember, I wasn't even 30 years old at that time.
Lindsay: That was unfortunately, a long time ago now. But that was, I think, one of the first times where I can remember feeling intimidated or having an experience where people made me feel less than because I didn't have a certain anatomical structure. Obviously, it was frustrating, but you think, oh, that person is... You think that's a one off thing and then when you start to see it more and more and more and more, then you realize, oh my gosh, it's such a pervasive issue. Then I said, "Oh, my gosh, I think I need to do more to have this be less of an issue for the generations that come after me in this space."
Michael Redd: In saying that, how important is it to be solidified in your identity? For anyone who knows Lindsay, knows that she has a swag about her. That's in her confidence and obviously in her dress. Talk to me about that, as far as being solidified in who you are, and knowing that you're worth being in the room.
Lindsay: I'm gonna be 1,000% honest here, that took a ton of work. Because when you come into the areas of finance and law, you are molded and shaped, and it's basically beaten into you and in the academic system is that, you should dress a certain way, you should act a certain way, you should think a certain way. All of those things tended to be conservative in your style of dress, don't be overwhelmingly boisterous or gregarious. If someone pushes you to hard in a law firm, don't stand up for yourself. You're a young associate, you should smile, take it and say, "Thank you, can I have another."
Lindsay: All of those things to me are very antithetical to who I am as a human being. I struggled, I think with those things on many levels. One, I was just uncomfortable, I don't like suits, I don't own a suit anymore, not one. It's just not my thing, but when you're told that's what you're supposed to wear, and that's how you're supposed to look, that's a struggle when that's not you. Then on top of it, I'm a straight shooter, I'm going to tell you what I think, how I think. I'm respectful, I lead with kindness and love, always, but some people, they tell you, they want to hear the truth, and they don't. So you got to get real comfortable in that.
Lindsay: Then honestly, I had a lot of mental health demons that I had to get past, and really work through what I would classify as trauma that had then compounded on itself. Workaholism is a is a real thing, burnout is a real thing, and I needed to get past all of that and put myself first. Once I started to do that, and I started to take better care of myself mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, socially, all of these things. It was amazing that what was happening on the interior, I just became even more free or able to put that out on the exterior.
Lindsay: Then I no longer became worried or ashamed, or whatever that I was wearing nothing but sparkles and feathers and flair in every outfit that I own, because that was just me. I did it, not because I was seeking attention because I'm trying to be fabulous in bright colors. I just did it because it was me, and that was my expression. It's really been a beautiful thing to watch a lot of people gravitate towards that and say, "Wow, you're just yourself and you dress like you and you act like you and you talk like you and you're so successful doing it." It's like, "Yeah, because I'm authentically me."
Michael Redd: 100%. I so applaud you on being authentically you, and it does take time. I think self discovery is so powerful. I think you can relate so well to startups and businesses because you've lived it, about getting wrecked, taking care of yourself, debunking the theory of grind. Talk about that, how you went through two startups.
Lindsay: We're about to get real deep with it right now. One of the things that you learn as a high caliber athlete is, you learn a different level of pain that you can function at. I always joked about it for the longest time like, "There's a threshold level of stress that you can function at without having a heart attack, and I like to dance right around it." That, to some degree, I took great pride in because I knew no one could outwork me, no one put out hustle me, no one could out grind me or out grit me.
Lindsay: I still think all of those things are true, but what was happening was, work became a compulsion for me, because I knew I was so good at work, and people wanted to pay for that. Then it became, well, the more I do it, the more people will, not just pay me, but the more they would like me or the more they would love me or whatever you want to term that as. That just compounds and compounds and compounds. Before you knew it, I found myself particularly 2016, 2017, and into 2018 having immense depression related issues, panic attack related issues. Then moving into 2018 I started to have stress related issues so significantly that I was having... I would classify them as heart palpitations, but my heart rate would spike to 190 and I'm just sitting there. I'm not doing anything.
Lindsay: Thank God that I do CrossFit and everything that I do now because I can help hover at that rate for a little while before, I feel like I'm going to die. But it's still not healthy and I started to really say, "Man, something's not right here." Then I really got a universal wake up call and this is why I preach wellness so much to so many entrepreneurs and investors alike now. I started to get really sick in February of 2019. I was just constantly ill, constantly ill, and it didn't matter how many times I had been on antibiotics, it didn't matter how many times I went to the doctor, or the emergency room or whatever, I just couldn't get better. I was almost perpetually on antibiotics.
Lindsay: I blamed that on, you're traveling too much, you're working too hard, you don't sleep enough. All of those things are, in fact, true, but I walked into the... because I could only make it to the urgent care because it was the only time that I could fit in, go into a doctor's appointment. I walked into an urgent care on a Sunday afternoon in August of 2019, with tears streaming down my face. I said to the doctor, I'm like, "You're not giving me enough medicine, I'm not getting better. I don't understand. What do I do?" The guy is like, "I just think something else is going on here."
Lindsay: He said, "I'm going to refer you to this ENT, and maybe you need your tonsils out. I was like, well, that's going to suck, because at the time I was 36. That surgery is terrible if you're six, add 30 years to that, not good. So I was like, "Man, that would stink." I went to the EMT, they sent me for a CT scan. I did the CT a day after my 37th birthday, they read it to me two days later. The doctor looked me in the face and he said, "Hey, this side of your face over here, that's how your face should look." He points to this space in the front of my brain and he said, "You either have a massive infection, or you have brain cancer." Nothing stops you in your tracks when you're 37, 67, 107 like someone saying the C word to you.
Lindsay: In an instant, my whole world just flipped upside down. No longer did I care about crushing work, and getting all these things done for my clients, or my teammates or whatever. I couldn't even think about that because I was worried that I wasn't going to have another Christmas with my husband. Three weeks later, they put me into surgery and my doctor was awesome, Dr. Subi Das. So if you hear this, I still adore you, you're wonderful. Dr. Subi was... he was incredibly emotionally intelligent so he didn't tell me that he really was very worried that I had cancer.
Lindsay: I went into surgery on the 27th of September of 2019, and it was about a four plus hour procedure. I woke up, they brought me to, and Subi looks at me, and he's like, "I can't believe I'm going to say this to you, but I think I'm going to let you go home today." I was like, "What are you saying?" I'm also very drugged at the time, so any words that anyone was saying was a challenging concept to understand. He said, "Look, we just took out a three inch mass from the inside of your face." For anyone who's curious about how this happened without busting my face to bits, they took it out through my nose.
Lindsay: They took out a three inch mass, and what it had actually come back as was a benign brain neoplasm, which basically means I had a small benign tumor, but that tumor then got infected and my body encapsulated it like it normally would any standard infection. That mass continued to grow, but so did the infection, which is why I could never get better. It was a really beautiful thing because my body was like, hey... We never would have found it but for the infection, but my body also knew it couldn't let that infection run rampant because it would have killed me. My body knew I was worth fighting for, it just had to give me a chance to mentally, emotionally and all of those things catch up to that.
Lindsay: That was just such a beautiful universal wake up call for me to realize, you cannot run at 10,000 miles an hour each and every day and not expect there to be consequences. You need to take time for yourself. You need to take time to decompress. I fundamentally believe that, my issue was a combination of stress, lack of sleep, and lack of caring for myself the way that I needed to. The universe recognized that I was making some immense changes so it gave me the opportunity to correct that, and you better believe I'm going to take that opportunity and run with it.
Michael Redd: Man, wow. What an incredible story, and incredible advice for anyone who's addicted to being busy. To take care of yourself. I'm so proud of you, and you've shown incredible resiliency from it. Just proud to call you a friend from that whole episode. Who has inspired you to do what you do now?
Lindsay: To do what I do now, I take inspiration from lots of different things. I'm always one of those people, I have a lot of people and it's still weird to me, and I think Michael, you can 100% understand this. Where people are like, "When I'm in my career, I want to be like you." And I'm like, "But I want you to be you." I want you to be you, the best you that you can be and maybe there's things that I do that you can emulate, but I want you to be you. When I think about people who inspire me, I have bits and pieces and parts of different things that I pull from different people. When I think about that, some of the people that I think about, they are athletes. I think about like, Serena Williams, for example.
Lindsay: That woman damn near lost her life bringing her daughter into this world, and she continues to come and fight the good fight, to try to be a superior athlete each and every day. I think, more importantly than that, she sets this beautiful example for working mothers and non mothers alike, to say, work life balance is really important. She puts her family first always. I think it's just one of those things, she's super stacked, she's got glutes and thighs for days, and it's so beautiful, and she just rocks it. I'm so appreciative because it allows me to be a little thicker and not be as self conscious about that.
Lindsay: I just think, people like that. There's other people that I might pull from, from time to time too. Who doesn't look to a Beyonce or some other juggernauts in the music industry or whatnot to say, "Man, they're just queens." I look to men too. There's plenty of individuals who I look to and I say, "Man, those people, they're doing little things here and there that I'm just going to pull from and I'm going to emulate, but I'm gonna do it in my own way."
Michael Redd: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think it's one thing to glean from someone, and not plagiarize who they are. Sometimes the most scariest person to discover is ourselves. I see the strength in you and so appreciate that answer because you name some goat status people, greatest of all time people. Which is awesome. Your family, I'm sure have had a major impact on your perception of life. Talk about that dynamic growing up, and then also the work life family balance. The dynamic with your wonderful husband.
Lindsay: My family, they're wonderful. I'm still super blessed that I have both of my parents. I'm the oldest of four. So it goes myself, and then I have two brothers, and then I have a sister and everyone's healthy, everyone's happy. Growing up in a family of four or, excuse me, total six, but for kids, that's always a challenge. There's so many humans running around, so many personalities to balance. My parents did an amazing job of we never went without. I just look back sometimes and I'm like, man, how did you guys make all of this happen for four kids? I'm sure I wasn't easy to manage because when you have a highly talented athlete running around your home, that costs a lot of money to send them different places. How they ever managed this, they were just phenomenal and so I'm super grateful for everything there and a lot of the work ethic and stuff that they instilled in me.
Lindsay: Then, my husband is the polar opposite of me for anyone who is listening. I'm very outspoken, I blast into a room and I'm there, and I'm doing my thing, and I'm living my best life. My husband is very quiet, he's very reserved, he's very patient. He's incredibly kind and thoughtful, and I would have never appreciated my husband as a partner and a teammate if I wouldn't have had some of the other experiences, I will call them, in my dating life prior to that. We've been together for over 10 years and he's really amazing.
Lindsay: We made a conscious decision back in 2016 for him and his career to take a backseat to mine. We became acutely aware of the fact that a lot of people were wanting and needing a lot of my time, and I was able to be the VC and startup guru, if you will, in the several ecosystems. That meant, not both of us could be working full time, and maintaining a house and taking care of dogs and running businesses and all that. He stepped away from his job, and effectively helped me launch or accelerate, I should say, my career.
Lindsay: That's really hard for a man to do, I would say, with a strong personality female I would imagine. Especially, because unfortunately, the world today's still looks at things a little bit like it did 50 years ago. I would just say this, I don't care about money, I don't care about those tangible things. My biggest champion, and my biggest cheerleader is my husband. How amazing is that? How incredible is it when you show up to an award ceremony, and the person who's cheering the loudest, who's normally the quietest person in the room is your husband.
Lindsay: That's cool, and I just can't express how grateful and how blessed I am for that. We smile all the time, we laugh all the time, and we just have a great time together. That's not to say that everyday is perfect. Both of us are different and those personalities will combine and collide from time to time, but he's the person that I need to manage through this chaos and craziness we call life. I'm really, really lucky to have someone like that by my side.
Michael Redd: With all the companies that you've started, the whole CrossFit gym that you had and you're doing a lot of other things. Do you prefer to be a founder or do you prefer to be a VC? Obviously, doing both, but which one are in love with more?
Lindsay: That's interesting. I think now in my life, I am much more interested in the VC side of it, because I get to have a greater impact on developing people and helping them see themselves the way that a lot of us might see them in the world. I think I get more of an opportunity to do that as a VC across multiple industries and multiple people than I do just as a founder in my one business, or multiple businesses. As it might be for me from time to time. Venture's a beautiful economic vehicle that when used in the right way can, I believe fundamentally change the world for good. That is a big deal for me, as I think about the next 10 to 20 years of my life.
Michael Redd: I don't know to me more people who love venture more than you.
Lindsay: That's probably true.
Michael Redd: You ooze venture. What is it about venture that wakes you up every single day?
Lindsay: Oh, geez. Honestly, it depends on the day because that's the beautiful thing about venture. You don't wake up and... So many people are like, "Lindsay, tell me what your day is like." I'm like, "What day? Like any day?" Because every day, it's different and you get to deal with so many different personalities and so many different industries. For me, I loved the fact that you can take something from this nascent conceptual idea, and turn it into something that fundamentally changes the world, hopefully, for better.
Lindsay: I don't believe that making money and doing the right thing are mutually exclusive. I think you can do both of those. When your heart and your mind are in the right place, and you put your pocketbook behind that, I think you can make some massive, massive improvements in the world. For me, now, the biggest thing is marrying up... The thing that gets me up every day, is marrying up how do we take a more balanced approach to life, a more holistic wellness approach to life and marry that with venture capital? Which has started, well, it's continued to promote what I call the porn hustle culture. I don't necessarily think the porn hustle culture of quantitative work versus qualitative work is the answer going forward.
Lindsay: I think we've learned through COVID that we need more human connection, we need more balance. Mental health and physical health and spiritual health are incredibly important. If you're not functioning at your best and highest self, how can you possibly be making great decisions in business and in turn, you're not going to be producing very great investor returns for the people giving you money. I, every day wake up thinking, how do we change some of those paradigms and norms so that people can take great care of themselves and build great companies too.
Michael Redd: Healthy people, healthy product?
Michael Redd: Is that fair to say?
Michael Redd: Yup. You got it. You got it. That's so strong, so powerful. With that being said about venture and the startup world, what do you look for in startups, and in companies?
Lindsay: I know, it's the thing that everybody says first, but for me, it really is the team, but it's not just, is it a strong CEO, CTO, CRO type of human. It's, those people need to be strong, but the teams that sit underneath them to develop the entirety of the organization, and how that organization interacts amongst itself, and its stakeholders. That, to me is a big thing. I'm really looking at the people who are leading those organizations, I'm acutely aware of, do we have any narcissistic tendencies that are going to really throw this thing off the rails? And how healthy are these people? What is the culture there?
Lindsay: Then, I spend a lot of time thinking about, what are the next big worldly trends. We saw COVID expose some pretty glaring holes, I would say in the fabric of our lives. I really get excited about opportunities that fundamentally improve the way that we do business that we communicate that we exchange capital. I think all of those things are changing, and I am excited to be on the forefront of all of them.
Michael Redd: How have you seen venture evolve in Columbus, over the last 12 years?
Lindsay: Oh, my gosh. It's been so crazy, because I try to explain this to people and when I started in venture, venture wasn't a thing in the Midwest or Columbus. Very few people understood what it was. When I joined NCT, there was like three venture firms and one of them had announced that it was going out of business. I liken it to the evolution of man, and it was pretty primordial, in terms of just coming out of the ocean and trying to figure out how do you spend some time on land with some legs. It's been beautiful to watch the development of the ecosystem. Not just the ecosystem, but the maturation of people in the way that they see deals, and that they are seeing themselves. Not just as doing a deal in Columbus, but it's doing a deal within the venture ecosystem.
Lindsay: That's been a big, big shift, because for a long time, we did deals and we said, "Well, these are the terms, we're the only folks willing to give you money." Whatever organization that might have been. You could set your terms and you didn't care how that looked to the rest of the venture market. Now we've really leveled up if you will to understand that we have to have deal terms and opportunities that are attractive. Not just for us here in town, but across the country and outside of the country even, for the you know, best opportunity for success.
Lindsay: Then naturally, it's been really exciting to see, a couple unicorns percolate up to the surface here in Columbus. I'm excited to see some life changing, generational changing wealth be put into the hands of some of these founders. I hope that they stay here, and I hope that they reinvest in the community, because that's the next level up that we really need. We've had the winds, and now we need to have the people who've had the winds reinvest in the next generation of people who are coming up. Yeah, it's been a wild ride and beautiful to watch.
Michael Redd: On top of that evolution, I think, change is relevant for now. In the sense where, we need to see more African American, Latino women, in general, minorities be in position to be managing partners and GPs of fund.
Lindsay: Yes, and not just in name, actually having a decision making position at the table. I get a little irked, I'm going to go off for a minute. I get a little irked when I see folks say, "Oh, well, we have a diverse team. We have men and women, and black and white." But the only people who can make decisions, the only people who are part of the general partner, the true general partner making decisions are three middle aged white dudes, no offense to the middle aged white dudes listening.
Lindsay: That's not okay, that's not true diversity. I think that the white men who are having seats at the table, they need to say to people who aren't yet at the table, "Hey, come be at the table." I also think that the people who want to be at the table need to demand a seat at the table, and a decision making seat at the table. I think it's a two fold issue that involves people from both sides leaning in pretty hard.
Michael Redd: Couldn't have said it better myself. Great words, you're such a giver, you give back in so many ways. You took a bet on yourself and became a professor at The Ohio State University's law school. Talk about that experience and how pouring into young people has been so gratifying for you.
Lindsay: Yeah. That's been a super humbling thing because, one of the things that as always pushed me, although I exude confidence now, there was a lot of demons that had to be uncovered that said, I wasn't good enough, smart enough, talented enough, whatever. Those are some of those things that push you every day to be better, better, better. I always thought, oh, man, there's no way that I'm smart enough to be a law school professor. Those are some big old brains in those buildings.
Lindsay: They actually approached me about it, which was downright mind blowing, and overwhelmingly humbling. I think I cried about it for an hour after we had the meeting, because I was so excited to do this. Doing it is, yes, that's a dream to teach in the halls of the place that is responsible at some point in time for building the me of today. So that's amazing. The biggest thing for me in teaching at law school is, law school in the real world of practice of law are hyper disconnected.
Lindsay: In law school, you learn the law, the theory of the law, and then they throw you into the world and they're like, go be a lawyer. Those are very different things and no one really prepares you for that. I've made it a mission of mine to make sure that my class is very real world based. We do a ton of drafting to best prepare them for the real world instead of just throwing them to the wolves and hoping for the best, because I don't think that sets anyone up for success. Let's do the things that are going to make these people more successful, better attorneys and keep them here doing amazing things.
Lindsay: The other thing that was really, really important to me in teaching at the law school is that, law school does a lot of damage on the psyche. There's a statistic that is something alarmingly awful, that goes something like this. People enter law school and by the time that they leave, 60% of the students when they walk out the door have either a mental illness or health related issue or they have a chemical dependency. Law school is incredibly abusive on humans. It was really taxing on me when I was in law school, and I ended up in a really bad emotional spot from that.
Lindsay: I've made it a personal mission of mine that every student in my class knows and understands that a, this is just a pitstop. Sometimes the pitstops don't go as great as we would love them to. Next, we're going to get through this, and I know it's crappy, and it's hard, but let's keep pushing. Then next, this isn't the real world. Most importantly, I tell every single one of my students, if you have an issue, you're not alone. If you need somewhere to stay, you have an emotional issue, you don't know who to call, they all get my number, they all get my email at the beginning of every semester.
Lindsay: I am dead serious about that, because the last thing that I want to ever hear is that someone just couldn't deal with the struggles and the pressure of school. So they decided that they didn't want to be here with us on earth anymore. I take that incredibly, incredibly seriously, and I'm super honored and humbled that I get that opportunity to try to help people understand that this too shall pass. And they will be brilliant stars, like they are out in the real world.
Michael Redd: With all of what's happened in 2020, with COVID really disrupting all of the world's transactions and what's going on in the world. Then also, with social unrest that we've had to deal with, racism, all the issues that we've seen throughout 2020. What's your advice to entrepreneurs and leaders during these times?
Lindsay: I think some of the biggest advice that I think people can take away from this is, all of us have a responsibility to each other, and to just be better. If you're a startup founder, you have a responsibility to your team, and to the community that you're in to set a great example for what the world can and should look like moving forward. If you're an investor, I think we have an ability to help shape some of that moving forward. Ultimately, it starts with two things, it's action and saying something.
Lindsay: If nothing changes, nothing changes so, action is required. If nothing is said, if people are silent, that's just as bad as doing nothing at all. For me, I take it really seriously, promoting DEI, and I mean that in a very, very inclusive sense. I think that everyone that is in a position to make hiring, firing, all of those types of decisions, you have a responsibility to your teams to make sure that those teams look like the rest of the world around us. Then if you've got folks that just can't handle that, maybe they don't have a place on your team.
Michael Redd: Well said. Last question from me is, if you had the opportunity, what would you go back and tell your 16 year old self?
Lindsay: Oh, gosh. I might just start crying now. I held it off earlier, but I don't know if I could do it now. I think now looking back, man, I would just tell myself, who cares what they think. Who cares what they say? Who cares? You are so enough, and your light shines so bright and let it shine, and some people are just not going to be okay with that and you need to be okay with that, too. That took a long time to get comfortable with. It's easy for my 38 year old self to tell my 16 year old self, "Hey, when someone's horrible to you, let it roll off your shoulders." But you let that ring in your head and you just never should. Now, I'm just looking at it now. One of the things that I say to myself is, be that person that your younger self needed you to be.
Michael Redd: Wow. so beautifully said. I want to ask another question. I did lie, I'm sorry about that, I have one more question.
Lindsay: It's okay, this is great.
Michael Redd: What do you say to that person that is not driven or motivated. Is it too late? I'm in my 30s, I'm in my 40s, I'm in my 50s, in my 60s. How do I begin to stir up the gift and the opportunity within inside of me and realize my potential? What do I do? Do I surround myself with people? What do I do?
Lindsay: Well, I think one of the biggest things is to just begin. I tell this to lots of people, and it's begin, the rest is easy. We get really caught up in thinking about, oh, my gosh, you need to get to this endpoint, or I should be here or I want to start this new business, I want to do whatever. We think, it's such a big, overwhelming hard task, but really, part of it is just to begin and take a step forward. It might not be the perfect step, but it is still moving you forward.
Lindsay: I always try to break it down into micro, micro steps. What little micro thing can I do today, to move this ball forward. Maybe it's just sending an email, maybe it's just asking someone, if they'll have a coffee with you, because you want to learn about what they're doing or how they got into their career. That's a step in the right direction. I think, all too often, we think we have to go from zero to 100. Really, we just need to go from zero to point one. Consistency is the biggest key, it's not going to happen overnight. You've just got to stick with it. The tortoise won because the tortoise was consistent, and you can be a tortoise and be super consistent and still win or whatever it is that you want to do, too.
Michael Redd: A little known fact, the genesis of my investment career and venture began with this young lady I'm talking to. So I will always be eternally grateful for you launching me and helping me with this whole venture experience that I've had over the last going on 10 years. Thank you so much, and thank you for being on Lindsay.
Lindsay: Thank you for having me, and I would say thank you for doing this and getting the message out there about betting on you. At the end of the day, the person who cares about you the most is really you. So, take care of you, take a bet on you. You know what you can do. So I appreciate this and I appreciate your friendship and all that we've worked on over the years. I'm super grateful for you.
Michael Redd: You're awesome. That was Betting On Yourself with Lindsay Karas Stencel.
Michael Redd: Besides being extremely likable, and genuine, Lindsey is an inspiration, and a valued friend who continues to amaze me. This is a great reminder that if you really want to be successful, it starts with simply taking the first step and believing yourself. Thanks for listening to today's episode. To read the show's notes, learn more about my work or connect with me, visit michaelredd.com. New episodes released every week on Monday. So make sure to subscribe if you want to stay up to date. Until next time, I'm Michael Redd and remember, you are the secret to your success.
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