Alumni Profiles: Tom Hopkins (MBA’05D)

Sometimes you need a push…

The birth of my eldest child was the jolt I required to apply to INSEAD.

As a Chartered Accountant, I was working for PwC at the time and most of my clients were large insurance companies, but my passion lay with smaller entrepreneurial businesses. The MBA was a way to expand horizons and assist in a career change, and fatherhood made me realise it was now or never.

After a wonderful year in Singapore, I entered the world of venture capital. Most VCs themselves are small businesses so there is great variety of roles within each firm; a day can range from a portfolio company board meeting followed by an investment committee meeting, and then a pitch to a potential investor. And obviously you get exposed to a great number of business models as well as truly amazing entrepreneurs.

All this is very rewarding in itself but ultimately I wanted to run my own business. Again, it took a life changing personal event – cancer in the family – to provide the required push.

So in 2015, after almost 10 years in venture capital at two different firms, Kin Capital was launched.

Kin is trying to address some of the inefficiencies in the venture capital market, where you get small teams who should be focused on the deals but get distracted by all the necessary but onerous admin like investor reporting, fundraising and compliance etc.

Therefore, Kin offers a range of services to firms operating in the venture capital sector – think of it as providing the picks and shovels to the guys doing the gold mining. The business offers fundraising, fund management, custodial and regulatory umbrella services.

It is still early days. We now total six people, plus two part time, in the business and work with funds investing into charities, film projects, university spin outs, consumer brands and much more – providing variety as well as my VC fix.

The UK is certainly in an interesting position at the moment in regards to technology and innovation. And with the backdrop of impending Brexit, the government is currently undertaking a patient capital review to understand how UK growth businesses can be supported to fuel UK Plc. We hope to be in a position to be part, however small, of the solution.

Life as an entrepreneur is a roller-coaster ride and all-consuming but in a rewarding way. A lot is written about work life balance, and I’m not sure if it is ever possible to divorce the two. When you are running your own business it is part of your life and it is your passion so work / life lines are even more blurred.

I enjoy thinking about the business whenever I can and actually I think my wife, and now three children, would say they have seen a positive change in me as a person, probably because I’m doing what I always wanted to do.

The INSEAD MBA got me the career change I wanted but also gives you the confidence that you can run a business and go it alone. Starting your own business is not for the faint-hearted but if this your goal then life is short, and sometimes you need to have faith, or be pushed, to back yourself…

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at uk.manager@insead.edu

December 2017

 

Alumni Profiles: Purvi Gupta (MBA’15J)

Climate change and its impact on women

It seems like only yesterday that I was surrounded by 15Js raising glasses of champagne while drenched in sweat in our formal suits and dresses. (The heat wave in Europe had a role to play.) We were fearless, ready to go out and be leaders in the world. My career path pre-INSEAD is familiar to many – I had lived in multiple cities – Singapore, Mumbai, London, Delhi, Lucknow; studied at one of the top engineering schools in India – IIT Madras; and joined McKinsey after six years at pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Earlier this year, I became part of Homeward Bound – a global women’s leadership programme that admits 80 women with science and technology backgrounds annually. This has added an additional dimension to my professional life and helped me discover my passion while I keep my day job as a consultant. Homeward Bound’s vision is to elevate the role of women leaders in addressing climate change. The program involves workshops and skill building conferences through the year, all run virtually, culminating in an expedition to Antarctica in Feb 2018. I will board a ship with the 80 women – most of them strangers –living, eating, sleeping and learning at close quarters for three weeks. Due to the critical role Antarctica plays in the climate system, the expedition is an important part of the journey to build our capability as leaders for the sustainability of the planet.

You probably knew that climate change affects developing countries much worse than the developed world. But did you know that women are affected much more than men? In countries like India, Laos, Somalia and Nigeria, women bear the main burden of water collection. The distances travelled, especially in unprotected areas, to get water, and the lack of safe, private toilets make women and girls more vulnerable to violence. This slows or halts education of girls and takes time away from income-generating activities. For example, in Dengalmal, a village in India, men have two or three wives – called the ‘water wives’ – solely to ensure the household has enough water to drink and cook.

In the context of climate change, gender does not simply refer to women or men, but to the different roles, rights, and responsibilities of men and women, which is generally associated with unequal power and access to choices and resources. There is an increasing recognition of the differential impact of climate change on women by bodies such as UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which have made gender equality part of their mandate. Due to their different experiences, women have an important role to play as leaders and agents of change, a role that is often overlooked in climate negotiations, investments and policies.

Through the year, I have been able to formalise my commitment to the role of women as leaders, and find my passion in sustainability of our planet. I draw from my own experiences at an engineering school where only 10% students were women, and at INSEAD with 30% women. For me, the values of INSEAD are coming true – diversity and global collaboration have the potential to alleviate some of the most pressing issues facing us.

As part of my commitment to gender parity and climate change, I have become an event organiser, a public speaker, a coach, a blogger, and climate change activist – definitely an unexpected journey but one that has become an indispensable part of my daily life apart from my professional commitments. I crossed the barrier of social blogging and now regularly write about research and stories related to breaking stereotypes and the link to climate change. I conquered my fear of public speaking and actively talk at community events and business conferences. I never knew I could successfully organise events – both social and content-driven.

Next year, I plan to visit various colleges in India sharing my journey for gender parity and climate change to motivate the next generation of leaders. I am also keen to leverage my skills and knowledge to help a non-profit related to girls/women in science create long term impact. Most of all, my definition of leadership has evolved immensely – I now see leadership as a mindset – and believe that each of us can start by leading change today.

You can get in touch with Purvi at Purvi.Gupta@insead.edu

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at uk.manager@naa.insead.edu .

November 2017