Great startups are the product of great people. Let us introduce you to one of our superstar founders from the #FIL2021 cohort, Kim Abbott. Kim is the CEO and Founder of Vested Impact, and she is redefining what it means to be a ‘millionaire.’
Hi, I’m Kim, the CEO and Founder of Vested Impact. I am an engineer by background, leading Engineering innovation in the corporate sector. I was also previously responsible for building a platform at the UN that uses data to assess and monitor the impact of the $8bn the UN spends on Peacekeeping operations.
About Vested Impact
Vested was created in mid-2019 with the aim of redefining the word ‘millionaire’ to mean a person who impacts millions of lives. Vested Impact assesses the impact of a company’s products and services on addressing societies’ greatest challenges.
What made you start your company?
The World is $3 trillion a year short on enough money to solve the UN Sustainable Development Goals – these are the biggest problems from refugees, gender equality to climate and energy. The good news is that the world is changing and more than ever people want their money to go to investments that ‘do good.’ There is an estimated $25tn waiting to be transferred into impact investments over the coming years.
However, that money is ‘waiting’ and not being invested because of 2 core problems:
- Asset Managers don’t know where to advise their clients to invest to have the best impact.
- We cannot objectively trace and monitor that impact over time.
So, using my background and experience, I started Vested to address these problems.
What is the dream for your company?
We want to help people make money and a difference. Ultimately, we want to solve the world’s biggest problems by ensuring that money is invested in those companies which truly make our world better.
What drives you to make your company a success?
The prospect that if Vested succeeds, we change the World is central to what we do. Having a company where the more you succeed the more the world benefits is an easy driver to keep you and your team going every day. It’s an overwhelming weight and prospect at times too!
What makes your firm truly unique?
Vested is different because it doesn’t focus on the company’s ESG risks, but rather on the inside out effects of how a company’s products and services contribute to solving societies’ biggest challenges. We measure what matters: Impact. For us, it’s about looking at the same things everyone else does but seeing something no one else has seen by bringing a whole new perspective & class of data to investing.
Has the pandemic made you re-evaluate any aspects of your company?
The pandemic has really reiterated how important Vested is, in that we need to understand the social impacts of where money goes, who it impacts and how. It also assured us that our systems can adapt and the data we use can react to unexpected changes like COVID-19.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I think most entrepreneurs don’t become entrepreneurs out of choice, but rather out of necessity. I knew the vision I had for the world and what I thought I could do. I realised that businesses doing this didn’t exist; and that I could only do this work if I created it. Starting my own company was the obvious decision. It’s not an easy decision though, passion aside, it involves a huge amount of courage to leave the security of well-paid jobs. Particularly when building a purpose-driven company, it sometimes seems like such a small trade-off to at least try and make an impact.
I used to ask myself “What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?” But I realised the right question is “what’s worth doing even if I do fail?”. What do I love doing so much that the word failure doesn’t even have a meaning; and what is worth doing even if I don’t make the landing? This is it.
What is the greatest challenge you faced when starting up your company?
Fundraising is hard, being taken seriously as a female founder is tougher. I think the greatest challenge, however, often comes from yourself and maintaining your self-belief. Despite the support I had around me, it’s amazing how often I lost confidence in what I was doing simply because of the fast-talk of someone with a loaded agenda. It takes a huge amount of self-belief to stick by your vision and back your business, especially when it’s something new and disruptive.
What sort of leader do you aspire to be?
Leadership is not about titles or flow charts, it’s about one life influencing another, and for that reason the key traits I try to foster in myself as a leader are: courage, empathy and integrity. I think being a leader is a never-ending lesson in humility. If you are an effective CEO, you end up hiring people smarter than you are in every function. You also end up reporting to a Board smarter than you are, filled with people who have been there before, and finally, you end up serving consumers who are way smarter than you in knowing exactly what they want. But I’ve learnt that all you can do is to recognize and utilize the brilliance around you and commit to collaborating with all these amazing people to get to the best solutions.
What does a successful career look like to you?
Having an impact. I measure mine, and Vested’s success, not based on how much we make, but rather how much impact we have. Overall however, I think success is also persevering and knowing that you had an impact on other people’s lives while staying true to your values. Of all the things that have worked for me and contributed to my successes thus far, integrity is the biggest one. Because I realised that if you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, then they’re not values; they’re just hobbies.
What is your favourite Lockdown hobby?
I am a huge lover of drawing and art. I draw hyper-realistic pen drawings and can sit for hours on end drawing. For all the endless thinking and churning your brain does as an entrepreneur, I find drawing is the only thing I do that truly switches off the buzz and helps me relax.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when Lockdown ends?
Travel to see my friends! Having worked with the UN, many of my friends are scattered around the World, so travel was such a frequent occurrence in my life. I really miss seeing my colleagues, friends and exploring new cultures.
Who in your life is your rock during challenging times?
Someone told me when I started my business to build a Board that will kick you in the butt when needed. I agree with this advice, but I would add that you also need a Board that can give you a hug. As a founder you need a hug much more than the kick! And the greatest asset I have is my Chairwoman, Kathy Jenkins. She has the business acumen to navigate me through any business challenges, but also knows me as a person well enough that she can tell when I just need a listening ear or a break.
What’s the most important life lesson Covid has taught you?
COVID-19 taught me, like many, the benefits of slowing down. As an entrepreneur is easy to just work, work, work. COVID was a forced ‘pause’ for a bit and made me realise that I can do more, by doing less, and that taking a break and slowing down every now and then actually makes me more productive then being constantly ‘on’ and working.