Investing in Start-Ups


When Nina Labatt graduated from college, she wanted to do what all the best and the brightest from her Stanford class did: join a prestigious investment banking firm, work hard and make her mark. She joined Goldman Sachs for two years, earned an MBA from Harvard before returning to Goldman Sachs for another four years, where she worked 80-90 hour weeks. When up for promotion to VP there, Nina decided to take a step back and do fewer hours a week, while still following the work that she loves. She ended up at a regional investment bank, and then served as CFO of a private company, director of operations for another company which eventually went public, and next worked 11 years as a CFO in the VC and PE world before joining Silicon Valley Bank.

Over the past decade, Nina has witnessed the evolution of the technology sector, where ground-changing companies such as FaceBook and Google and Salesforce happened, not just changing what’s possible in technology, but also shifting and changing the business opportunities and revenue models for businesses to follow.

In her current role as Senior Relationship Manager at Silicon Valley Bank, Nina works with CFOs from venture capital and private equity firms to serve their commercial banking and lending needs. She is a trusted adviser for many of her clients, helping them plan for the ebbs and flows of the economy, and also helping them raise their profiles within the organization, and perhaps adopt a larger management role with greater front-office visibility. She also works with the team at Silicon Valley Bank to identify and support early stage start-ups in hot technology areas including social media, gaming, mobile and cloud. Silicon Valley Bank is a bit different than other banks in that they target technology and life science companies (as well as premium wine), based in Silicon Valley and beyond, and serve these companies throughout the company life cycle.

As a successful professional and a mother of two young children, Nina has the following advice for professionals seeking work life balance:

  • Work hard when you are a new-grad, and make a name for yourself and build a network for yourself so that you may later in your career have the option to take a step back, and work fewer hours, doing the work you love.
  • Make the tough choices so that you can have work-life balance, and choose the right partners and support system to be there for you when you can’t do it all.
  • Set aside dedicated time for yourself and for your family.
  • When the kids are young, you may not have much time for things outside family and work. So get involved in your kids’ schools, and also in the charity(ies) supported by your work.

Nina’s parting comment about tech trends is to watch how technology will be further integrated into our conversations and communications, yet there will also be an opportunity to connect human-to-human, also leveraging technology.

Please join me in thanking Nina for sharing her wisdom and thoughts on technology trends and the start-up ecosystem.

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