Nina Karoon Kouyoumdjian

Nina Karoon Kouyoumdjian

Principal

Cota Capital

“In hindsight, I realize that some of the most successful tech startups were founded by ‘rebels’ who were not afraid to invest time in challenging the norm. “

Years in Industry: 4 years in tech

Who or what inspired your career in tech?
Working as a high yield bond trader on Wall Street meant being able to find, analyze, and act upon information faster than anyone else. It became very clear that those who had invested time in learning, building, and using technology were at a huge advantage. I became obsessed with building Bloomberg shortcuts, using electronic trading for smaller positions, and visualizing data in real time. This path ultimately led me to a job at Google, where I was able to deeply immerse myself in how one of the world’s leading technology companies operates at its core. After a few years at Google, I joined Cota Capital, a venture capital fund run by some of Silicon Valley’s top angel investors.

What’s been your best hack ever?
I find that spending a few minutes to mentally prepare for a conversation makes a huge difference in how effectively one can communicate. Even just outlining your thoughts is better than walking into a conversation without having any roadmap of where you want it to go.

What has been your greatest career challenge and how have you handled it?
Truly finding fulfillment in how you spend your time can be challenging when you are in the weeds of 100+ hour weeks. I found myself at various points in my career wondering if I was on an endless climb up the corporate ladder. What I find helpful at these points is to take some time to reflect, list goals, revisit strengths and weaknesses, and clearly articulate interests. Constantly being mindful and recalibrating when you need is key to find a job where you can not only be mentally challenged but also fulfilled on a daily basis. I wake up excited to go to work because I thrive off of the opportunity to partner with some the smartest entrepreneurs who are changing the world through disruptive technology.

What is your biggest career success to date?
Founding HIVE, the first Armenian VC and incubator, is one of the things I am most proud of. HIVE invests in startups which will use the funds to hire engineering talent in Armenia. To date, we have over 3,000 members and 10 portfolio companies.

Who are your role models?
Maureen O’Toole, Olympian and World Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year 6 times, has been a key influence in my life, as she instilled in me the drive to always push myself out of my comfort zone. As my Junior Olympic water polo coach, Maureen would often make our team play with our non-dominant hand or play with much more experienced teams so that we could grow as players. Actively choosing to surround yourself with people who may be stronger, faster, or smarter than you is not always easy or fun, but it definitely pays off.

If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
I think overcoming the fear of failure is one of the biggest roadblocks for teenagers. The stakes are so high at such an early age, many feel that they should stick to something they are good at instead of exploring something that interests them. In hindsight, I realize that some of the most successful tech startups were founded by “rebels” who were not afraid to invest time in challenging the norm.

What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
Kicking butt at the gym!

Flats, heels or kicks?
? Heels all day, every day! My husband-to-be is 6’6!

Best career advice book? 
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho: “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

Who are the women in tech that you most admire and why?
I really admire Mar Hershenson, Managing Partner of Pejman Mar Ventures. She has over 13 years of founder experience, having co-founded three start-ups in the mobile, e-commerce, enterprise software and semiconductor industries. She holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University with a combined hardware/software focus.

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