Meet Kasia Zalewska, a political scientist by education who turned to entrepreneurship when she first came to Germany. Her journey in fundraising for startups then led her to explore the world of venture capital where she currently works as an Investment Associate at WestTech Ventures.
What role does technology play in your everyday life?
Professionally I have to stay up to date with all the new tech and trends out there. But privately I’m a tech opportunist. I will try a new gizmo if I see a measurable benefit for myself. Either by saving my time, relieving myself from unpleasant chores (thank you world for the robotic vacuum!) or simply to entertain. Digitalization is something inevitable and avoidance makes no sense. Therefore, I say it’s better to get used to that and take as many benefits for yourself as possible.
Tell us a bit about your journey? How did you get to where you are now?
It’s hard to say when my adventure with tech started. Maybe when I was a kid reading every science fiction book I found? Or when as a student I had to go through a crash test course on how to replace a hard drive, RAM and ventilator in my pc, because it was the fastest way to get back to writing some very important paper? But for sure the turning point was when I moved to Berlin a couple of years ago and I got involved in my first tech startup. We built the company from scratch, from idea to fully operational business. I was involved in literally everything and that’s how I caught the entrepreneurial bug.
Later, I used that experience to build another company, on a completely different field. And I wanted more! Seeing how a company goes from zero to hero is super exciting and kind of addictive. I´ve realized that at this point it doesn’t have to be my own business, helping others is also satisfying. That´s why I´ve decided to make a step forward into unknown and joined venture capital. This way I get to work with plenty of founders. At the same time I put my experience to good use but also learn new things almost every day!
What and who were the influencers of who you are today?
I believe that the best way to learn something is by close observation and action. That is why, as much as I enjoy to listen or read the wisdom of all the smart people out there, the biggest influence on me has been people I met, during work, education or everyday life situation. They motivate me to be better or to try new things.
Very often it was learning by others’ mistakes. Observing how badly someone managed people taught me more about running a business than any business book. For that thank you to all who make mistakes! Learning from your mistakes was the best school of life. Last but not least, my husband. Simply saying I wouldn’t be who I am today, without his constant support and a stubborn belief that I can do more.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned as a founder and woman in tech?
The hardest thing in life is to keep a balance between your innervself, your life and work. All of them are important and favorizing one over another is a recipe for trouble. It’s hard to fight this common view in the startup world because still the measure of your productiveness is the amount of time you spend at work. Acting against this rule is often seen as selfishness and discriminate you in the eyes of your boss.
I’m a young mother and I’m not gonna hide that fact or make excuses that I have a private life outside work. Even more, I see it as my strength! Raising a kid has cosmically boosted my effectiveness per square minute, my motivation to get job done, my multitasking and creativity.
Try to go on a 2 week road trip with an 8 months old baby and you will know what I mean. The list is going on and on. That is the lesson I´m trying to teach tech world. Having a great private life will only make you a better worker. Like a good AI: you need input from different sources to improve your algorithm 😉
What is the thing you’re currently most excited about?
I recently got back from maternity leave so currently I am very excited about work. Especially that I’ve started a completely new career in venture capital and things I´m doing here are extremely interesting! Talking to people and learning new things about different industries and business models is part of my job and I love it. I got to feed my inner curiosity of the world and in addition, someone is paying me for that! Could it be better?
Which job in tech, other than your current one, would you like to have?
If I weren’t an investor than I would probably go back to entrepreneurship. Or I will learn to code. Or go to UX course. This list is open-ended and every possibility there is equally exciting. I love that in today’s world you don’t have to stick to the profession which you chose as a young person with a limited view of the world. When I was choosing my studies I had absolutely no idea what a startup or venture capital is. Account or product manager, business developer or associate were nonexistence in my world. I wish someone had shown me that there are way more options there that fit my interest and skills.
If you could host a dinner party with 3 influential people in tech, who would you invite and what would the setting be?
That’s tough. For sure, dinner will be cooked by Yotam Ottolenghi cause his food is simply delicious and fits all tastes. I would like to see at the table people experienced in using tech in traditionally not very techy fields. Like Melinda Gates on her philanthropy work or Sadiq Khan on London’s smart city approach. Of course, one seat has to be reserved for my husband. I always need someone to listen to me constantly say: “omg did you hear that!”
Kasia comes from Poland where she studied political science and spent the first few years of her career working in marketing. After she moved to Germany (2013) she connected with one of the serial entrepreneurs of the local scene to help him build his new venture in the adtech space. Once the bird was ready to fly, she joined her forces with a team of architects to put on the market new carbon-negative material. Having worked for a few years with startups and being engaged in their fundraising, she decided to check on the other side of the table – venture capital. She joined the Berlin-based WestTech Ventures where she is taking her first steps in the investing arcana.
In the meantime, Kasia is a happy mother, who has travelled the world, read all sci-fi books out there and cooked half of Ottolenghi’s recipes.