eaping from Tech Exec to Board Member Takes Effort and a Mentor
This article was originally published on March 12, 2020 at https://gritdaily.com/women-in-tech-karina-costa-board/
Every once in a while, a tech startup, or an individual behind a startup, experiences a meteoric rise. It doesn’t happen too often, but, when it does, there’s an opportunity for others to learn from it. And, it’s an opportunity to celebrate their success. Karina Costa, President of LynQ and newly minted member of their Fiduciary Board, is a serial entrepreneur who has been on the women-in-tech scene ever since she turned 22. To date, she’s been associated with ~100 tech companies; and she’s just getting started.
LynQ Technologies, Inc. made their debut at CES 2020 earlier this year to launch their first-in-world tech; a people-compass device which is a 21st century way to find other members of your group. That’s where we first met Costa and her team and learned about their new tech. Per their vision, the company is extending the edge of connectivity through its decentralized network for long-range data transmission. launched their “people compass”
LynQ’s proprietary network technology is embedded in the people compass device, worn or carried like a key fob and works whether you’re skiing in the mountains or trying to navigate a crowded music festival when you get separated from your friends. As long as the device is not obstructed from orbiting GPS satellites, it will accurately pinpoint and guide users on a clearly mapped path to find each other. The concept is that this tech works in the absence of WiFi, internet or cellular signal; it isn’t dependent on having sufficient phone battery charge and provides accurate geo-locating even when the topology is poorly mapped.
Climbing to the next level
Last month, LynQ announced a successful seed round. The tech company raised $6 Million and has earmarked the monies to grow its team as well as invest in its proprietary network architecture. Participants in the round included ff Venture Capital, Sony Innovation Fund, Chetrit Ventures, and Plus Eight Equity Partners. Grit Daily caught up with Karina Costa to hear about LynQ’s next steps, her additional Board position role and the importance of mentorship.
Grit Daily: First, congratulations on both your seed round and Board position. Tell us how that Board position came to be.
Karina Costa: Once we added more investors, we knew that we needed to improve the representation on our Board and to bring a broader perspective that spanned industries. Originally, our Board had three members and now, we have five.
GD: You’ve been in the role for a few months now, any surprises? How does the reality of holding a Board position compare with your expectations for it?
KC: Having been at the helm as LynQ’s President for nearly two years, Board responsibilities are not wholly different. Upholding fiduciary responsibility, doing the right thing for the company, managing the growth and whatnot are essentially the same. What’s different is the learning opportunity that being a Board member presents. Separately from the tech conversations, people dynamics are a critical aspect correlated with the success of the company. That was why we brought in additional board members such as John Frankel, all of whom have extensive VC experience. A good board of directors up levels our ability to track operations, map out our mid- to long-term tech plan, forecast our sales and better manage all the financial indicators.
GD: A few months in, are you ready to take on other Board roles yet?
KC: That would be really hard! Operating a company in high growth such as LynQ is a lot of work and responsibility, definitely a hard schedule to manage. Perhaps one day post-LynQ, I would love to go back and help other companies.
GD: Without divulging anything confidential, what do you see as your high-level goals for the next 90 days and 1 year in for you and LynQ?
KC: The capital we raised will be applied towards the development of our technology and fueling our growth. We have a BIG vision ahead of us that I’m excited to share. Our technology is changing how devices are connected, enabling them to transmit peer-to-peer for miles without networks or infrastructure, in a manner that’s flexible and uniquely difficult to intercept and detect. Our technology adds mobility, security and network independence to data – extending the edge of connectivity while allowing freedom from it.
With the closing of our round, we’re heading towards a licensable software model that can be integrated into any device and, within seconds, each is able to create their own secure, decentralized and rapidly deployable network, capable of communicating with any device.
And our aggressive growth plan is set for the next 18 months. VCs like 18-month plans versus 1-year or 2-years, so that’s typically the runway that companies like us work with. This approach is likely related to the need to think about fundraising again one year into a capital infusion, which leaves you with about six months to complete the next round before you run out of cash and hence, is all based on an 18-month plan. Our Board is experienced at working with companies at our stage and companies in high-growth phases. Collectively, they have tremendous experience taking companies successfully from a seed round to a Series A – and we all know how high those failure rates are so we’re fortunate to have such great experience on our Board.
GD: Most of the successful leaders go to a mentor (or two) when they make big transitions as you did, first as President of someone else’s tech company then as their Board member. Do you have a mentor?
KC: Yes, I do. David Mandell, partner at VentureVoodoo Partners, has a tremendous track record as a Techstars founder, a mentor and as my friend. He’s that person who’s there for you to take the tough questions that you can’t ask anyone else. Growing in my role within a fast-growing company as LynQ has been more involved than I originally anticipated and David is there for me, checking in every other week to offer guidance and to simply listen. In my former capacity as a leader at Techstars, I gained many insights and pointers on how to manage people and growth. Now, I’m learning how to become an effective executive and board member and mentorship is certainly making a difference.
GD: People often cite how challenging it is for them to find a mentor. What’s your advice?
KC: All founders should have a mentor and they should have two selection criteria for their mentors. One, do you connect with your prospective mentor? We’re human and, as humans, we need to get along with other humans and have healthy, constructive and productive relationships. Second, will your mentor challenge you? If your prospective mentor is going to nod and agree with you on everything but never push your buttons or nudge you out of your comfort zone, you’re not going to grow. Trust is critical. And your mentor needs to have direct experience in what you’re going through or s/he won’t be able to advise you.
GD: As a mentee, what do you need to do for the relationship to be successful?
KC: Founders need to be self-aware and honest. They need to take an intellectual inventory to figure our where they have gaps and might need help. Then ask themselves who can fill those gaps as a prospective mentor. Self-discipline and adherence to the plan are really important. It’s too easy to leave it ad hoc or blow off a standing call because “something else came up.” You have to meet at least every other week by video or call but you do have to meet a couple of times per year in person for a deep-dive. It’s important for both the mentor and the mentee to meet regularly; otherwise, you’re spending your precious and limited call time catching up on what’s going on versus diving into the issue or whatever is on fire at that moment. Mentees need to respect their mentors and keep up with the relationship – don’t be surprised if you let a lot of time go by then reach out to your mentor and s/he isn’t responsive. Your distance has alienated them and you need to do a better job staying in touch with your mentors going forward.
GD: We reached out to your mentor, David Mandell, who was gracious enough to take a few questions. David, what’s the challenging part about being a mentor?
David Mandell: One of the hurdles to being an effective mentor is fighting the urge to want to immediately help. By nature, we walk through scenarios and brainstorm to solve the problem with the desire to “fix” it. The reality is that most mentees already know what they need to do. As a mentor, you need to listen as they process what they need to do and come to terms with whatever it is they have to do. Mentors must nudge their mentees to stay on the most straightforward path and hold them accountable so that the mentees don’t avoid taking the action because of a series of excuses or anxiety. I’ve learned that, to be a good mentor, you need to push your own need and desire to fix the problem and simply listen to understand what the issues are, why your mentee has anxiety about it and to encourage them to keep going because they’re making the right decision. You’re almost there to free up some of the guilt they may have and to reduce their anxiety.
GD: Why do you mentor others?
DM: The challenge with leading or building a business is the inherent need we all feel to always have the answers and be in control. Those of us that have been there understand that most challenges you deal with are not the things you read about in the media or books. They deal with unexpected real-life issues. Being able to help other entrepreneurs through those challenges is not only incredibly helpful for the people going through it, but also helps you to revisit our own life and learn a bit more about who you are each time. And, to improve with each interaction.
GD: Thank you, David. Karina, is there anything else that you’d like to share?
KC: Everything takes time and it always seems to take longer than you think it will or plan for. For two years, we collected orders, accumulating more than 20,000 backorders that we could not fulfill. We weren’t ready. Then, we finally launched at CES 2020 and now people can buy our tech devices at LynQ.me and more than 10,000 people already have. It’s been incredible. As far as LynQ goes, we’re just getting started!